Friday, February 04, 2011

West Coast Road Trip -- from Canada

Dear Road Trip USA,

I am a university student from central Canada that is currently in the works of planning a summer road trip to California. If all goes well, my friends and I will be able to find an old beater van and hit the road right after final exams are over. Just wondering if you have any advice for our adventure? I am starting to look into all of the top spots along the Pacific Coast - the Redwoods and the Golden Gate are both must-sees. We are lacking a ton of cash, but our hearts are ready to hit the road. Any advice would be great!



Dear Lexi --

Many thanks for writing in to Road Trip USA -- hope your plans for a summer road trip down the West Coast come together well!

Getting a van and hitting the road with some friends sounds perfect -- if you can camp out and cook your own food, you can have a great time without splashing out too much cash, especially if you are mechanically inclined and capable, so you can keep your "old beater" traveling safely down the highway.

Canada is a big country -- you are coming down from the west? If so, I'd recommend you check out western Washington (especially the Olympic Peninsula) and the Oregon coast on your way. But the Redwoods are indeed a big sight to see -- they are found all along northern CA coast, with the best of the bunch standing in what's called the "Humboldt Redwoods State Park" -- these are more impressive and accessible than the trees in Redwood National Park (which is pretty amazing, as well)

Among all the trees, there are some pretty interesting small towns, too: Arcata and Eureka are historic and energetic, thanks to the many students at nearby Humboldt State university. Crossing over the Golden Gate will bring you to another interesting town -- San Francisco, which can get an expensive place to visit -- check out the excellent youth hostels there, and in the nearby Marin Headlands, where there are miles of hiking and mountain biking trails, and gorgeous redwoods in Muir Woods National Monument.

One thing to pay attention to is that the weather right along the coast can be cool and moist, even in summer, while the sun will be shining just a few miles inland. So if you ever feel the need to escape the foggy damp, just drive a few miles to the other side of the coastal hills, and you can warm up 20 degrees in 2 or 3 miles. Another thing -- since you aren't Americans, when you cross the border make sure you don't give even the slightest hint about maybe, possibly wanting to work to earn some cash while you are traveling -- if you do, the border guards may not let you in, which would be a major bummer (to use an old hippie term...)

Finally, don't forget that away from the coast, California has some more amazing scenery -- Yosemite National Park for one, plus many miles of forests and lakes in the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountains, from Mt Whitney to Mount Shasta.

There's lots to see and enjoy -- I hope you have a great trip.

Happy Trails,

Jamie Jensen
Road Trip USA


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