- Gaze at Crater Lake, the deepest and clearest lake in the country, and learn how it was formed
- Explore the many waterfalls in the Cascade Range
- Relax in the crystal clear waters of Waldo Lake
- Explore the beautiful vineyards in the Willamette Valley
- Discover a new favorite restaurant in Portland
|Day 1||San Francisco to Redding - via Sacramento||Redding, California|
|Day 2||Explore Lake Shasta - Onto Mount Shasta||Mt. Shasta, California|
|Day 3||Exploring Mt. Shasta and Surroundings||Mt. Shasta, California|
|Day 4||Mt. Shasta to Crater Lake||Crater Lake National Park|
|Day 5||Crater Lake & Wizard Island Boat Tour||Crater Lake National Park|
|Day 6||Crater Lake to Bend Oregon via Waldo Lake||Bend, Oregon|
|Day 7||Best of Bend Oregon Mountain Biking | Half-Day Tour||Bend, Oregon|
|Day 8||Bend to Portland via Smith Rock State Park||Portland, Oregon|
|Day 9||Willamette Valley Wine Tasting | Self-Guided Day Trip||Portland, Oregon|
|Day 10||Depart Portland|
Day 1: San Francisco to Redding - via Sacramento
Head out to the northern parts of California today, our goal is Redding. There are not a lot of scenic stops along the way. However, if you have some time, Sacramento makes a nice detour, and only adds around 30 minutes extra driving time to the route. While there, you can make a visit to the Old Town to soak up some gold history.
This storied town was built almost overnight when veins of gold were discovered in the Sierra Foothills in 1849. A massive tide of humankind, all intent on finding their fortune, raced to the Gold Country. Sailing as close as they could get to the gold via waterways, they pulled anchor at San Francisco Bay and sailed east on the Sacramento River. The gold-hungry prospectors were forced to pull up at the confluence of the American and Sacramento Rivers. At this spot, Sacramento was born, with many buildings constructed out of leftover ship timbers and sails.
As you walk through Old Sacramento (now a preserved National Historic Landmark), you can get a sense of the raucous early years. Take your time to stroll through the cobblestone streets and restored buildings. Spend some time in the excellent museums, including the Sacramento History Museum which displays Gold Rush artifacts and offers underground tours and ghost tours of the historic district.
Grab some lunch in the Old Town, or inside the restored paddlewheel boat - the Delta King.
From Sacramento, it's just a 2.5 hr (162 miles) drive to Redding. Once in Redding, it's time to head to your hotel for a bit of R&R. For dinner tonight, you could splurge with a visit to Clearie's. This high-end eatery is a local favorite for its friendly and cozy atmosphere, as well as amazing cocktails - did someone say smokin' martinis?
Day 2: Explore Lake Shasta - Onto Mount Shasta
Shasta Lake, located just 15 miles north of Redding, is the state's largest reservoir. It has 370 miles of shoreline and five major lake arms, each with its own distinct character. There is much to explore on the lake, but your destination today is a paddle up the McCloud arm.
On your way to Lake Shasta, stop by the Heritage Roasting Company, a small non-profit coffee roaster/cafe that has a friendly small-town feel, and the coffee is amazing. Grab a breakfast sandwich for now, and a sandwich for your lunch later in the day, maybe with one of their amazing Brownies for dessert?
Pick up your kayak from Holiday Harbor in the morning, and head out onto the McCloud arm of the river. This arm is famous for the grey rocks that rise out of the water. These rocks were formed from ocean sediments many millions of years ago. They make a beautiful picture against the blue-green water of the lake. Padding can be hot work, so feel free to jump into the lake at any point to cool off. Whenever you are hungry, there are plenty of nice coves to pull out of the river, have a picnic lunch, and enjoy a spot of sunbathing. There is no rush to get anywhere today. It is just a day to enjoy the peaceful water, beautiful scenery and fresh air.
Whenever you are ready, paddle back and drop your kayaks back at the marina. Your last stop of the day is to visit the Lake Shasta Caverns. Thought to have formed roughly 250 million years ago, a tour through the caves provide a fascinating view of beautiful stalactite and stalagmite formations. Also, the caverns are at a constant 58 degrees Fahrenheit, no matter the temperature outside, so it is a great way to escape the heat in summer.
After the tour, it's time to head to your hotel in Mt. Shasta. For dinner, try Cafe Maddalena, an elegant Mediterranean restaurant with a small garden for outdoor dining during the summer.
Day 3: Exploring Mt. Shasta and Surroundings
There is so much to explore in the Mt. Shasta region that you could spend a month here and not repeat any of the hikes. However, with more limited time, here are a few ideas for you to get fully immersed in the area's natural beauty.
Maybe stop by The Oven Bakery before your hike. They serve Northbound Coffee, locally roasted in Mount Shasta. They also have some mouth-watering pastries and bread, great for breakfast, as well as perfect for lunch on the hike.
Best View of Mt. Shasta - Climb Yellow Butte
Distance: 3 miles
Elevation gain: 600 ft
Trail type: Out and back
One of the least visited areas in the Mount Shasta region, Yellow Butte is a hidden gem in a valley of great hikes. With very few visitors climbing the butte, you have an opportunity for one of the best views of Mount Shasta and the Shasta Valley, unfettered by other hikers and the pitfalls of well traveled paths. To the north, the valley stretches to the Oregon border, to the south lies the gorgeous Mount Shasta, to the west you'll see the Trinity Divide and the Mount Eddy range, and to the east you'll find the northern regions of the Cascades and Sheep Rock. This short climb is very well worth the time and effort. A sunset hike would be ideal, as it is a bit cooler and will offer an amazing backdrop for the big event. You'll find eye candy on the way up as well- wildflowers abound as you climb the old forest road.
While you are here, you can take a small detour to visit Pluto's Cave. These are a set of little known and little-traveled lava tubes. These tubes were formed 190,000 years ago as Mount Shasta was erupting. The caves stretch nearly two miles into the final section if you are brave enough and have the proper footwear and light. Please be aware, there is no exit, so you will have to work your way back out as you came in. There are species of bats that inhabit this area, so make sure not to disturb them as you venture through the caves!
Hiking Mt. Shasta - Avalanche Gulch Trail
Distance: 4.5 miles - 6.5 miles
Elevation gain: 1000 ft - 3500 ft
Trail type: Out and back
Ascending Mt. Shasta can't really be done on a day hike, but for those that want to get up close to the volcano, the Avalanche Gulch hike is a good place to start. The trailhead is 11 miles up the Everitt Memorial Hwy, and the first part of the trail up Avalanche Gulch is called Bunny Flat. At the trail parking, you will see a healthy mix of day hikers and mountaineers all getting ready to hike up the volcano. The trail ascends the south side of the mount through open conifer forests to the Sierra Club Hut at Horse Camp. From the trailhead to Horse Camp and back is 4.5 miles, so this is probably a good distance to tackle if you have kids. The next section will get much harder.
Those that are still energized can tackle the next leg, from Horse Camp to Lake Helen. Journeying to Lake Helen adds another 3 miles (round trip) to your hike, and another 2,500 feet of elevation gain. Most of the year, you will encounter snow on this leg of the trail, so please be prepared for this. Follow the footsteps of other hikers that lead the way through the winding gulch. It is uphill every step of the way, but don't forget to look back! With every step, the view down gets more impressive. It will be pretty obvious when you reach Lake Helen, as you reach an expansive flat area on your right. The lake is frozen most of the year. If you are lucky, and you arrive at the end of summer, you might glimpse some glacier green water. Here, you will meet friendly forest rangers, checking permits and answering questions. Enjoy some well-earned rest before heading back down the mountain.
Best Waterfall Hike - Faery Falls (Good for Kids)
Distance: 1.5 miles round-trip
Elevation gain: 300 feet
Trail type: Out and back
Nestled in Ney Springs Canyon is the hidden Faery Falls. The 1.5-mile round-trip hike to the falls will lead you through the old Ney Springs Resort and up the beautiful canyon surrounded by evergreens and crag outcroppings.
The hike itself begins at the bottom of an old road. After half a mile of walking, you will come to the abandoned Ney Springs resort. The resort was popular in the late 1800s as a spot for visitors to take the mineral waters. Very little of the resort remains today. If you are curious, take a walk by the old pools. The water in the pool is extremely slick and still bubbles up from below.
As you continue up the single track road from the resort for about a quarter mile, you will come upon a trail heading down towards the creek. The trail will take you to a nice viewing area right in front of and above the falls. From there, you can work your way down to the bottom. This makes a truly refreshing late summer or early fall hike due to the mist from the falls.
Best Views of Glacial Lakes - Castle Lake & Heart Lake (Good for Kids)
Distance: 2.6 miles - 3.0 miles
Elevation gain: 400 ft - 900 ft
Trail type: Out and back
Starting from the Castle Lake Picnic Area, the trail is self-explanatory. The first half mile is the toughest on the legs, as it is more vertical, but it is by no means strenuous. This part of the trail itself is rather soft until you level out and reach the saddle at 0.6 miles. From there, the trail can get confusing, as it seems to cobweb up the mountainside in various directions. Do not hike directly to the overlook, as you will end up bushwhacking your way out. Instead, keep left as the trail will take you to the easternmost side of Heart Lake.
On the hike up, you will get views of Castle Lake and see Castle Peak in view. Soon, you will be able to spot Heart Lake through a cluster of pines. The trail comes down to the shore at a point between the two coves that make up this heart-shaped lake. The trail precedes around the north end of the lake to a fantastic viewpoint. Look out over a ledge and down at Castle Lake and the green pine-covered valley. Black Butte and Mount Shasta rise prominently beyond.
From here, continue west along the ridge. The beginning of the overlook is only 0.3 miles away after leaving Heart Lake. After passing through a small meadow, you will reach a narrow trail that climbs through some brush before reaching the small cliffside clearing. Follow the trail to the peak of the overlook, with a fantastic 360-degree view.
While the trail is short, this trip makes an excellent all-day trip in the summer. First, spend some time swimming and picnicking on Castle Lake and start the hike in the mid-afternoon. Take some time to take a dip in Heart Lake along the way, as the shallow waters warm nicely during the summer months. Try to time your visit to the overlook so that you arrive around dusk and catch the sunset. The trail is short and easy enough for a descent after sunset.
For dinner, visit the Highland House in the Mt. Shasta Resort for a special meal. Ask for a table near the window for a magnificent view of Mt. Shasta as you enjoy your meal.
Day 4: Mt. Shasta to Crater Lake
This morning, head out across the board to Oregon, and the amazing Crater Lake. You don't want to leave too late so that you can maximize your time at the lake. The drive takes around 3 hrs. If you need a stopover for some lunch along the way, or just to stretch your legs, a good halfway point is the town of Klamath Falls. The Green Blade Bakery, an artisan bakery delighting customers with its sweet and savory products, would be a good place to stop for a bite, in addition to freshly baked bread, you will also find calzones and sandwiches. It's also a good idea to grab some lunch for later, as dinning options are limited in the park.
Your first adventure in the park is to visit Pinnacles Overlook. Located in the southeast corner of the park, Pinnacles Overlook is something that many visitors miss. Take the six-mile detour off of the Rim Drive and park in the small parking lot- the Pinnacles are located a short walk from there. A fascinating sight, you can see the years of wind and water erosion at work.
After seeing the Pinnacles, you will make a drive all the way around Crater Lake. It's a good idea to allow approximately two hours so that you don’t feel rushed as you are taking in the scenery. On the drive, you will find a number of pull-outs where you can park your car, take in a different view and snap some photos. Make sure that you stop at the Pumice Castle Overlook and the Phantom Ship Overlook. Both offer up-close views of two of the park's most famous attractions.
After your visit, head to your accommodation in or near the park. Relax for the evening, tomorrow you will be visiting the lake up close.
Day 5: Crater Lake & Wizard Island Boat Tour
Get an early start this morning and head to the Crater Lake National Park. A good starting point is the visitor center, which is full of great information about the formation of the lake and the history of the park. After the visitor center, head to the main viewing area, where your first view of the lake will take your breath away. The water is intensely blue and the clouds in the sky cast shadows that seem to dance on the crater walls. Walk along the pathway that winds around this side of the lake and stop at the Sinnott Memorial Overlook. The Discovery Point Trail is also a good option to walk around the lake and enjoy the scenery, but don't go too far, as you have other appointments to keep. After walking a short ways, head back to the car, and grab a sandwich for lunch from the Rim Village Café before you leave the area.You are going to drive to the other side of the island, to the Wizard Island Boat Dock, for your tour this afternoon.
The drive to the other side is around 30 minutes, but give yourself some additional time to walk down the rather steep Cleetwood Cove Trail (1.1-mile descent) to the boat dock. Your tour starts at 12:45 pm- if you are early, you cantake the time to have lunch at the side of the water. If you are brave enough, you can take a dip in the chilly waters of the lake.
Your program on the boat will combine a tour of the lake's perimeter with a 3-hour visit to Wizard Island. Wizard Island is a 763-foot cinder cone created by an additional, smaller eruption on the caldera floor after Crater Lake first filled with water and the volcano collapsed. While on Wizard Island, be sure to hike the Wizard Island Summit Trail. This moderate hike is approximately 1 hour to the top of Wizard Island, with a path leading to the 90-foot deep crater at the summit. Total trail length is 2.2 miles round trip.
Tour duration: 5 hrs
After the tour, if you are looking for dinner, the Crater Lake Lodge offers casual dining with a beautiful lake view setting.
Day 6: Crater Lake to Bend Oregon via Waldo Lake
Grab an early breakfast at your hotel, and pack some sandwiches for lunch. You are leaving Crater Lake behind today and heading to Bend, Oregon.
Before getting to Bend, you are going to take a slight detour to visit some amazing sights along the way. Your first stop is to visit Salt Creek Falls. This relatively unknown waterfall descends a majestic 286 feet into a basalt basin, and you can see it right off the highway. A short, non-paved hiking trail down the canyon will take you to a lower viewpoint, where you can admire the falls. If you have a bit more time, the lacy 120-foot Diamond Creek Falls can be accessed with an additional 1.5 mi hike.
After admiring the waterfalls, it's time to continue to your next location - Waldo Lake. Waldo Lake is known as one of the purest lakes in the world. This is due to the fact there are no permanent inlets to the lake, and thus the lake doesn't support plant growth. This lack of plant life contributes to its purity and you can see to depths of 120 feet.
Consider exploring the lake with a dip in the crystal clear waters. With a floating dock and incredible views, the north campground of the lake makes for a good base for this. Just be aware that the waters can be quite cold! Also, Waldo Lake is as famous for its hordes of mosquitos in early summer, so don't forget to bring insect repellant or consider visiting towards the end of August or September.
After your picnic lunch and your fill of swimming, it's time to head towards Bend, your home for the evening. Bend has miles of hiking and biking that run right through town, and Mt. Bachelor nearby, it's an outdoor lover's paradise. You will explore some of these amazing trails tomorrow, but for tonight, you will explore the other part of what makes Bend famous - breweries. There are over 2 dozen breweries in Bend, and you can access them all on the Bend Ale Trail. Tonight take it easy and visit Deschutes Brewery for a 45-minute brewery tour (reservation required) and enjoy its award-winning beers along with hearty burgeres and pizzas.
Day 7: Best of Bend Oregon Mountain Biking | Half-Day Tour
Start your day with a hearty breakfast at a local institution, Nancy P's Cafe and Bakery. You can't go wrong with any of the baked goods here, from the fresh blueberry scones to the delicious veggie quiche. Eat up, as you will need your energy for the biking day ahead.
Mountain biking in Bend is some of the best in the whole country. Today you will be taking a guided tour of some of the best trails in the area, personalized to your interest and skill level. First, you will be fitted with bikes and safety equipment, before being shuttled to the trailhead with friendly and knowledgeable guides who will be leading you through 3 hours of exhilarating riding.
After the ride, enjoy a beer (or kombucha) with your fellow riders before heading back to Bend. This afternoon you can explore downtown on your own, or take a City and Brewery Tour. If you opt for the tour, you will visit some of the iconic sights of Bend, such as the Mirror Pond and Deschutes River, and learn a bit about the city's history. Your guide will help you understand how a tiny town known for its timber industry evolved over the years into one of the top destinations in Oregon. Along the way, stop at a couple of the best breweries and enjoy samples of Bend's famous craft beer.
Tonight for dinner, take a break from beer and head to Ariana on Galveston Avenue for dinner. Ariana has been the cornerstone of fine dining in Bend for quite some time. The husband-wife duo continues to wow dinners with simple and refined food that incorporate seasonal produce from Central Oregon.
Day 8: Bend to Portland via Smith Rock State Park
Today you will be leaving the outdoor playground of Bend for its larger sibling, Portland. Although the two cities are very distinct in size, climate, and culture, Portland is also big on craft brews, bikes, trendy restaurants, and foodie experiences.
The drive itself is around 170 miles (3.5 hrs), but you will make a few stops along the way. Before heading out of Bend, grab breakfast at the Old Mill District. Located right next to the Deschutes River, this is a nice place to enjoy some outdoor breakfast and coffee. An alternative option is Strictly Organic Coffee, where you can enjoy one of their breakfast wraps with your cup of joe. Don't forget to pick up a sandwich for later before leaving town, as you will most likely be hiking around lunchtime.
Your first stop of the day will be Smith Rock State Park, located about 35 minutes north of Bend. The centerpiece of the park is its namesake hulking castle-shaped rock, which stands a half-mile high, and the zig-zagging river that runs along its base. There are ample hiking trails through the canyons and along the ridges of the park; here are a couple of recommendations to experience some of the most amazing views:
Misery Ridge Loop
4.0 miles loop
1043 ft elevation gain
If there is one trail to hike in Smith Rock State Park, it's Misery Ridge Loop. It's one of the most challenging trails in the park, but undoubtedly one of the most rewarding. It's named for its grueling uphill climb, but the stunning vistas from the top are worth it if you are up for the challenge.
1.6 miles, out and back
244 ft elevation gain
This trail offers views without as much of a workout, making it worth a try when hiking at Smith Rock State Park. You'll start with a gentle descent into the canyon from near the welcome center. Continuing left along the river, you will see Asterisk Pass (notice the boulder resembling Woodstock from the Peanuts comic strip). Smith Rock, a popular climbing area, is just ahead, and you can take a break on the banks of the river and watch the many climbers heading straight up its towering face. Once you go around the river's bend, there is an epic view of the Crooked River and stone face. From here, you can return the way you came back to the welcome center.
As you continue onto Portland, the next stop along the way is Trillium Lake, located 85 miles (1.5 hours) northwest of Smith Rock State Park. The lake is only 7.5 miles south of Mount Hood, and the still lake waters form a perfect mirror to enjoy Mt. Hood's snowy peak. A very easy 2.0-mile loop around the lake is a great way to take in the sights of the mountain and surrounding forest and enjoy the quiet serenity of the lake.
From Trillium Lake it is only 60 miles (1.5 hrs) to Portland. Settle into your hotel before heading out for dinner. Portland is well-known in the foodie scene for meals such as whole hog dinners or pork belly three ways. However, there is a new movement of vegetarian fine dining that is worth exploring while you are here. One such restaurant is Farm Spirit, focused on locally-sourced vegan fare with innovative prix fixe menus that change regularly with the seasons. Farm Spirit doesn't try to recreate meat dishes, but rather just celebrates the flavors of seasonal produce. Make sure you reserve well ahead: the restaurant is small, and only has capacity for 16 guests.
Day 9: Willamette Valley Wine Tasting | Self-Guided Day Trip
The Willamette Valley is the largest wine appellation in Oregon and one of the world's premier Pinot Noir producing regions. Not only does this cool-climate region produce award-winning Pinot Noir, but you will also find exceptional Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Blanc here.
Located around 45 minutes south of Portland, the Willamette Valley makes a great day trip. However, with over 600 wineries to choose from, it can be a challenge to decide where to visit.
The wineries suggested here are not too far from Portland, yet offer a sense of the wide range of wines the area produces, from sparkling wines to award-winning Pinot Noirs to biodynamic rieslings. Our recommendations include the winery that established the region as a premier wine destination as well as some more recent additions that have shaped the industry.
Take it easy in the morning and head out of Portland with a stop for brunch along the way. A good option is Ruddick/Wood in Newberg. Known for serving locally-focused, seasonal, new American food, this tavern is a great start to your day. Choose from a daily selection of baked goods or fresh takes on breakfast sandwiches (such as beet & bacon). There will undoubtedly be enough options to please everyone!
From here, head to your first winery of the day, Argyle Winery. Argyle is famous for its sparkling wines. However, you would be remiss not to also try the other wines they produce, including Rosés, Rieslings, and Pinot Noir. In fact, Argyle is one of the only wineries in the US to grace Wine Spectator's "Top 100" in all three categories - red, white, and sparkling. Enjoy your tasting in the winery's ultra-modern tasting room, located in a former hazelnut processing plant in Dundee. You can choose between indoor and outdoor seating for the tasting. No matter what you decide, you will see the winery's spirit of sustainable construction and operations, from the repurposed timber that makes up the tables and fixtures, to the beautiful native gardens on the grounds. Tastings range from $20 - $50, and reservations are recommended.
No visit to the Willamette Valley is complete without a visit to Colene Clemens Vineyards. With sweeping 360-degree views of the winery's surroundings from Bald Peak to the north to the Coast Ranges to the west, you will undoubtedly want to linger when you visit. The wines match the breathtaking views, with the estate Pinot Noir listed in the Wine Spectator "Top 10" list. Tastings include a flight of 4 wines either in the winery or on the patio overlooking the vineyard. Reservations are required.
The next stop on your tasting adventure is The Eyrie Vineyards, a step back into the history of Willamette Valley wine. The founder of The Eyrie Vineyards, David Lett, first planted Pinot Noir in Oregon in 1965. Wine Spectator's Matt Kramer writes: "he (David Lett) established the very tone of Oregon winegrowing: artisanal, individualistic, even idiosyncratic..." Today, David Lett's son Jason Lett now harvests grapes from the original vines planted over 50 years ago. Join one of the tastings to learn about the wines and the history of the valley. Reservations are required.
Your last stop of the day is Brooks Wines. Known for a focus on biodynamic farming, Brooks Wines is the only winery in the country to be a certified B Corporation and Demeter certified for biodynamics. When you visit, sit back and relax in their beautiful tasting room, or perhaps join a Garden & Estate tour, sipping wine as you stroll through the winery's biodynamic gardens and insectaries. Learn about the history of the vines as well as the vision of the winery. Reservations are required.
After your tastings, don't hurry back to Portland just yet. Enjoy the rest of the evening with dinner in the valley. Nearby in McMinnville are some great options, including La Rambla, a longstanding restaurant that is a favorite of locals and travelers alike. It's best known for its paella, but don't forget to save room for fresh churros con chocolate for dessert.
Day 10: Depart Portland
For your final morning, head to the old town and grab a coffee at the Stumptown Coffee Roasters. They are one of the best purveyors in a city renowned for its coffee, and you can't go wrong with anything you order. After enjoying your coffee, head around the block to a Portland icon - Voodoo Doughnut - for your breakfast. Try their signature Voodoo Doll doughnut, shaped like a doll with a pretzel stake through the heart! Or if you are adventurous, try the Ring of Fire: a chocolate cake doughnut dusted in cayenne pepper and topped with a dried red chili pepper. One of their creations may not be enough. so take a box home with you to try all the flavors.
Enjoy a stroll through the old town before heading to the airport for your homeward-bound flight.