As a San Franciscan, I became tired of fighting through the traffic and tourists with summer road trips to popular destinations, like: Southern California, Yosemite, and Tahoe. When my brother drove from his home (at the time) in Seattle for a family visit to San Francisco, we were ready to map out a 1,000 mile journey for his return drive back to Seattle. Because we had traveled well together on our family trips, we were ready to embark on our own adventures. I knew that with short summers in Oregon and Washington, we needed to take full advantage of the warmest time of year.
DAY 1: ASHLAND, OREGON GETS THEATRICAL
We bypassed many scenic wonders along the way in California, like Mt. Shasta to get up to Ashland, Oregon (about a 5 1/2 hour drive). By doing so, we knew that food options dwindled quickly beyond Redding, CA, so we fueled up at the In-n-Out Burger joint.
Our first official stop was dinner in Ashland – most known for their long-running Shakespeare Festival (although a number of the plays are not Shakespeare). Having booked tickets to see the Count of Monte Cristo in the evening, we wanted to make sure to get dinner and explore this cozy town. We decided to eat at a local’s favorite: the quirky Willy’s Trattoria, best known for homemaking a serious selection of pastas. The pricing was a bargain, so we were able to splurge on a glass of wine with dinner. Afterwards, we walked through the small downtown towards the theater to see the play in their semi-open venue. Before the play began, we enjoyed the “Shakespeare on the Green” concert just outside. As our day came to a close, we set up our first camp at the rustic Lake of the Woods Campground.
DAY 2: DIPPING INTO CRATER LAKE, OREGON
Crater Lake National Park is bubbling with outdoorsy activity and is a favorite national park for Oregon visitors. Arriving in the afternoon, we made a pit stop to see the needle-like rock formations called Pinnacles at Sand Creek Canyon. Then, we hiked up to the tallest point in the park, Mount Scott, which is about 5 miles round trip to the 8,929 foot peak. As the heat rose, we hiked down to the lake to take a dip in the pristine blue water.
Due to a fast-growing forest fire in the northeast, we decided to set up camp outside of Crater Lake and closer to Bend before the pass closed. We drove through Deschutes Forest to Little Crater Campground, which hugs the shore of Paulina Lake. This remote campground is worth the trek and is where locals camp. Be sure to get there before the weekend to grab a camp spot or reserve ahead of time. After a long day, we were blown away by a meteor shower courtesy of Mother Nature!
DAY 3: WHAT’S BREWING IN BEND, OREGON?
Waking up early the next morning, we powered up on my brother’s signature quick-cooking oatmeal topped with granola and almond butter, then drove towards Bend. We arrived at Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe, where we rented single kayaks for 2 hours. Since the store was next to the launch point, we decided to keep it simple and kayak right up the Deschutes River that runs through Bend. If you’re able to plan for a full day of kayaking, I suggest checking out Tumalo’s kayaking adventures.
By afternoon, we worked our way over to Bend Brewfest. This 3-day festival features hundreds of exceptional micro-breweries, cider companies, and mobile foods from the Northwest. It happened to be right next to Deschutes River, where we had just finished up kayaking. Our favorite taster was Rogue Ale’s specially released beer called Honey Kolsch.
After quenching our thirst with local beer, we headed over to Thump Coffee for a pick-me-up and strolled around downtown Bend. As dinner hour approached, we filled up at Bend’s popular tapas spot, El Barrio, before driving the remaining 45 minutes to Smith Rock State Park.
DAY 4: GO CLIMB SMITH ROCK STATE PARK, OREGON
This destination hardly crosses most road tripper’s radar, but for rock climbers, this is a sport climber’s mecca. With over 1,000 bolted routes, it’s a sight to behold with gorgeous tuffs and steep basalt rocks jutting out of the desert floor. Also, their affordably-priced campground provides amenities such as a shower house containing spacious private shower stalls and running hot water!
My brother and I decided this would be our big climbing day, so we got an early start and climbed some fun routes until daylight started dimming. Even if you are not a climber, hiking through the river canyons is a stunning alternative.
DAY 5: TAKING IN THE CITY LIFE OF PORTLAND, OREGON
Waking up early from Smith Rock State Park, we drove a few hours to Portland, Oregon. Having been to this city before, I was excited to take full advantage of this city’s well-known food scene! Our first pick for lunch was the Bollywood Theater, a funky Indian-street-style eatery. We went to their location next to the popular ice cream chain-joint, Salt & Straw. Although we were quite full, we couldn’t pass up their Stumptown Coffee & Bourbon Chocolate Gooey brownie in a waffle cone.
From there, I met up with some family friends who took me to a quirky Portland event called Adult Soapbox Derby at Mt. Tabor Park. It was as entertaining as it sounds. After a few hours, I’d worked up enough of an appetite to enjoy the back half of #burgerweek. We went to food cart alley and ate burgers from Rockin’ Robyn’s Sassy Burgers while listening to a local band.
We wrapped up the evening stopping at Burnside Brewery, then the arcade bar called Ground Kontrol. **Fun fact for folks from out of town…in all areas where alcohol is available, the establishment must have food available AT ALL TIMES which includes serving alcohol until closing at 2:30am.**
DAY 6: TOWERING FIGURE OF MT. RAINIER, WASHINGTON
Before leaving Portland, we savored Southern-style biscuits from Pine State Biscuits on Division Street. On our final day, we decided to explore breathtaking Rainier National Park in Washington.
We drove nearly 4 hours to get there, but once we arrived at the trailhead to Spray Park, we knew it was worth it. Summertime at this national park is the most ideal time to hike/camp because of the moderate temperatures and exquisite natural landscapes.
The hike we selected is apart of the iconic backpacking route called the Wonderland trail (it runs a total of 94 miles around the base of Mt. Rainier). We chose to do a scenic 7.3 mile hike from Mowich Lake Trailhead to Mist Park Viewpoint, which is roughly a gain of 2,600 vertical feet. On the hike, we saw a diverse range of natural beauty such as a wooded forest, waterfall, wildflowers, and sweeping views. We definitely ended our road trip on a high note!
DAY 7: SEATTLE -> SAN FRANCISCO
Since I had been to Seattle a handful of times, I hopped on an early flight back to San Francisco. If you have some extra time, I highly recommend that you enjoy the Emerald City because Seattle is Reining in Food and Fun (a Food Guru blog) all year long.
–Guest Blog Written and Photography by Ariel Sultan of Food Guru