My pick for today’s Photo of the Day comes from California-based photographer Alexis Wiener. She enjoys exploring and photographing the coast of San Diego, which is fortunate for the rest of us because her photography is imaginative and captivating. I can’t say for sure, but the flowers in this photo appear to be a Salvia Sage of some sort. If you know the exact type of flowers these are, please let me know in the comments. Regardless, they are vibrant, sprawling, beautiful and part of what makes the California coast so entrancing.
Neon colored fruity cocktails consumed poolside with college students and bad house music in the background not really your thing? Spring break can be a lot of things, and it doesn’t have to fit the classic stereotype of sunburned jocks taking tequila shots in Cabo.
Spring is that perfect time of year when it’s not quite summer but the weather’s nicer so you can take full advantage of the great outdoors while still avoiding the larger crowds of tourists. If you’re willing to invest a little time in adventure planning, you can get some serious payoff. This is the time of camping and road trips after all.
So start packing your tent and down sleeping bag and get ready to explore. And although you might not be boozing at Senor Frogs, feel free to bring a flask of high-quality whiskey. It’s perfect around a campfire.
Explore Red Rock Country, Southwestern Utah
Some of my best spring break trips have been spent in southwestern Utah. This is the hotspot of mountain biking, canyoneering and just good old-fashioned exploring. If your mountain biking legs are itching to get out, you can’t do any better than the White Rim Trail. Arches National Park is always busy no matter what time of year, so either be sure to reserve your campsite in advance or opt for the less frequented Canyonlands; Squaw Flat Campground in the Needles District is easy to access from Moab, but is far enough out that you’ll definitely feel off the grid. You’ll freeze at night, but during the day you’ll get dessert spring heat and low crowds. Be sure to bring ample down and wool for when the sun sets.
Hike in Yosemite National Park, California
One of the most iconic and most visited National Parks in the US, you should do whatever you can to avoid Yosemite National Park in the peak of summer. Springtime, however? Have at it. Because you are at elevation, you will need to pack layers, and you’ll need to be ok with the potential of waking up to snow on the ground, but you’ll have a beautiful park with a touch more peace and quiet than most people see it in. Take a day hike to explore a small part of the John Muir Trail.
Highway 101 Road Trip, Oregon and California
It might not be warm enough to do the Pacific Coast Highway in a convertible, but a drive down the coast of Oregon and California in springtime is a beautiful thing. There are plenty of state parks along the way, which are much less crowded this time of year, and you’ll pass through enough cities that you can log in some urban adventures.
Bike in Yellowstone National Park, Montana
In the summer you can barely see a buffalo without a tourist and a camera right next to it, and cycling within the National Park would be near suicide, but in the early spring when the roads are plowed and the crowds have yet to arrive en masse, cycling is an excellent way to explore Yellowstone. It’s still a time of year when you are subject to the desires of the weather gods, so you will want to check with the local park service which roads are open.
A Hut-to-Hut Trip at Mount Rainier, Washington
Cross country skiing and snowshoe in the Mount Tahoma Trails Association‘s hut and yurt system. The trail system lies just outside of Mount Rainier National Park, and includes two cabins and a yurt for overnights. You’ll want to be sure to check availability online, and weather can quickly change your winter adventure into more of a muddy hike, but the views of Mount Rainier from High Hut are stunning and certainly worth it.
[Photo Credits: Anna Brones]
My first drive down Highway 1, properly called State Route 1, was during the summer of 2007. My two best friends and I constructed a loft bed in our van and we took off driving down the coast… from the tip of Oregon and, eventually, down to San Diego. Images from the trip, in my mind and in my photo albums, have regularly sent me into a west coast reverie. Now that my most recent birthday is fresh under my belt, I think I spent the celebratory weekend well: driving up Highway 1 this time.
I didn’t get to go far, but the picturesque drive is one for the savoring, no matter how short. So I savored what I could get. My first attempt at driving up the Highway 1 was cut short because of flooding. When I approached the highway the second time, I nervously drove my uninsured rented car through a foot or two of moving water and I crossed my fingers, hoping that’d be the last of the flooding. And, for the most part, it was. And then I spent a day driving up the coast, trying to keep my eyes on the road.
For the sixth day in a row, incessant rain had been predicted. But the sun came instead of the rain that day and photographer Ben Britz and I drove. And we stopped to take photos. And we continued driving and stopping until the sun went down. Here are some of the photos from the trip.
Photos by Ben Britz
Summer might be over, but it’s never out of season to take a road trip down the Oregon Coast. From summer sunshine to winter storms, following the Oregon’s Pacific coastline by way of Highway 101 provides for spectacular views, quirky stops and more fish and chips than you could ever want. Here’s your quick and dirty guide to making the best of it.
Before you take off for the coast, spend a few days exploring Portland. Oregon’s largest city is known for its coffee culture, diverse array of restaurants and excellent microbrews; definitely the ideal place to kick off your road trip. Stop by Powells to pick up a map and even a guidebook to the coast; although driving down 101 is pretty straightforward — just go straight — it’s nice to know what towns you’re going through and where state and county parks are located so you can play on the beach.
Classic coastal cities worth a look
Portlanders love weekend trips to the coast, and the most popular route to get there is Highway 26, which takes you to the quaint coastal city of Cannon Beach. Here Ecola State Park and Indian Beach are popular with the surfing crowd; expect many Subarus and VW Vanagons that play double duty as surfboard transport and apres surf tailgate parties. For an authentic eating experience, take time to grab a bowl of chowder or a crab melt at the Ecola Seafood Restaurant; it’s a no frills kind of place, perfect for when you’ve got sandy feet leftover from your beach walk.
There’s really not a whole lot to do in Tillamook; it’s a small town surrounded by farms and on a road trip the smell of cows will certainly permeate your vehicle. But it does have one attraction that draws hundreds of tourists everyday: the Tillamook Cheese Factory. Learn and see just how the famous Oregon cheese is made and when your done, stand in line for free samples. The Tillamook Cheese factory also serves Tillamook ice cream — another Oregon favorite — but as a warning, the scoops are big; make sure your eyes aren’t bigger than your stomach.
Newport happens to be my personal favorite city on the Oregon Coast. It’s got a good coastal village feel, especially in the summer when the small beach-side cottages fill up with people intent on spending their vacation in a relaxed and charming atmosphere. For the classic coastal ambiance, head to the Historic Bayfront, featuring Oregon’s largest commercial fishing fleet. Along the main drag lie many a fish and chip shop, kitschy souvenir shops and even a Ripley’s Believe it or Not. Newport is also home to the Oregon Coast Aquarium and Oregon’s famous Rogue Brewery (classic beers are the Dead Guy Ale and the Shakespeare Stout).
What to do
The Pacific Coast Highway is known for its amazing views and driving along it is an activity in and of itself. But for the classic Oregon coast road trip, you’re going to want to plan time to stop and do other things. On the northern coast near Astoria, you can cross over the Columbia River and visit Cape Disappointment, the place where the members of the Corps of Discovery — ie the Lewis and Clark expedition — had their first glimpse of the Pacific Ocean.
Towards the central coast, between Florence and Coos Bay, is the Siuslaw National Forest – Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. Here you’ll find the impressive dunes, sometimes towering to 500 feet, that have been sculpted by the coastal winds. If you’re not a fan of dune buggies, you can still hike up the dunes for incredible views and photo ops of the largest expanse of coastal dunes in North America.
No road trip will be complete without a trip to the Sea Lion Caves. Part tourist trap, part natural curiosity, the Sea Lion Caves are said to be the world’s largest. Located just north of Florence, a visit to the caves allows for a close-up look at sea lions in their natural habitat. The visit entails an 200-foot elevator descent down into the caves where the sound of sea lions is almost deafening — these sea lions have nothing on the ones at San Francisco’s Pier 39.
In the summer, true road-trippers will have their tent and sleeping bags in the back of the car; sleeping next to the beach is a favorite summer pastime. Keep in mind that parks fill up quickly in the summer; either get to the campsite early or make a reservation. But if you’re exploring the coast during more dreary weather, you’re probably not going to want to bear the elements. If time allows, consider renting a cabin, which will allow you to explore the beaches and towns close by and get a better feel for the local community. Another option is renting a yurt, allowing you to get the feel of camping without the hassle of being in a small tent.
Good towns to stay in — because of accommodation availability and things to do nearby — include Astoria, Seaside, Cannon Beach, Newport, Bandon and Coos Bay. Check out the Travel Oregon website for an extensive search engine of coastal accommodations.