California Road Trip: Part 1, The Oregon Coast

Last summer our family went on an epic road trip…destination Disneyland!  At the end of July we packed up our truck and trailer and hit the road, determined to see and do as many things as we possibly could on our 3 week round trip.  And what a trip it was!

Camping Road Trip {A Pretty Life}
Our cute little trailer…it has seen quite a few campgrounds with us.

I wanted to be able to look back visually on this trip, so I decided to blog our adventure.  And who knows, maybe someone out there will find our experience useful for their own family road trip!  I’m going to split up our trip into different posts because there is so much to cover, and just way too much for one post.  So I’m going to kick off our epic road trip adventure with our drive to, and along the Oregon Coast.  This portion of our trip was incredibly gorgeous, but in hindsight we did it wrong.  Well maybe not wrong, but we would definitely do it differently next time.

We enjoyed the Oregon Coast very much, but I wish we had approached it a lot differently.  We drove down towards the coast through Washington State, but in hindsight we really should have begun our coastal driving further up north west by Seattle.  I feel like we missed so much of the coast having missed this section.  Because truthfully, you don’t get to see the coast all that much along the drive on the Oregon Coast.  I was very surprised by this because I had expected to see the coast pretty much the whole drive to California and this just isn’t so, in fact most of the drive you can’t even see the ocean.  So the fact that we started the coastal part of our drive at Beachside, Oregon, we had already missed a lot of the ocean views.  Overall though, the drive to California was beautiful and we enjoyed it very much!

California Road Trip {A Pretty Life}

We left from Calgary and travelled down through Washington State, along the Oregon Coast, through the San Fransisco Area, to Los Angeles, then back up towards Las Vegas, through Salt Lake City, Utah, into Idaho, Montana and then home…all over a 3 week period.  We had loooooooooong travel days, saw some amazing things, enjoyed great family time, tried new foods and activities and camped our faces off.  It was definitely an unforgettable trip and we had a great time…mind you I’d never do this road trip again the way we did it (if we were to do it again we’d do many many many things differently).  It was a once in a life time drive, but very fun and memorable!

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Anyway let’s start at the beginning, in Alberta!

The Cowboy Trail {A Pretty Life}2

From Calgary we drove along Crowsnest Pass down into the tip of Idaho before entering Washington.  I have to say that the stretch along the Crowsnest Pass is one of my favourite drives of all time…the prairies set against the mountains, lush green hills and farm land as far as the eye can see.  It’s a stunning drive.  I love where we live.

The Cowboy Trail {A Pretty Life}

From here we entered the U.S., ready and excited to really begin our California adventure!

Bonners Ferry, Idaho

Our first big stop was in Bonners Ferry where we hit a Walmart to stock up on groceries and snacks…we had some stuff with us, but as Canadians know, the US grocery shopping experience is quite different than ours, so we look forward to US grocery stores!  The food selection is pretty amazing!  Anyway, as we were leaving Bonners Ferry I saw this van at a little roadside shop, and had to stop and take a picture because how could I not?  🙂

Driving through Washington State

After our quick stop we hit the road and continued our drive through Washington State.  We we shocked at how dry it was here.  So dry it was scary…I’ve never seen anything like it.  In fact, about 2 weeks after we were through this area, they were hit with some devastating fires.  Even though it was scarily dry, the drive was beautiful.

Spokane {A Pretty Life}

Our next big stop was Spokane, Washington, and I really loved this area (it was my first time here).  Even though we were only in the city long enough to grab Chipotle for dinner (hollllllaaaa), and snap a few pictures, I was in awe of all the architecture.  So many beautiful buildings, old and new, that I wanted to explore and take a gazillion pictures of.  If we’re ever back this way, Spokane will be a must stop and stay city.  We drove around for about an hour or so and were able to snap a few pictures before we carried on.

Gonzaga University, Spokane

One spot that really caught our eye was Gonzaga University.  The brick buildings and landscaped grounds were so beautiful.

Gonzaga University, Spokane

My babes.

Champoeg State Park, Oregon 2

After driving through Washington State, we headed to our first camping stop in Oregon State, which was Champoeg State Park.  We stayed here a couple of days so we could explore the area a bit, and I wish we could have stayed longer!  This whole region is brimming with farmers markets, u-picks, and hops fields.  My kind of place. Dreamy.

Oregon Hops Fields {A Pretty Life}

While we were exploring the area we came across so many hops fields…I had never seen hops fields before so I was pretty amazed by them.  Fields and fields of hops all lined up in perfect rows.  I had no idea it grew like this…it was really quite beautiful.

Oregon Hops Fields {A Pretty Life}2

In between hops fields and quaint little towns, there we many fruit u-pick farms.  I love u-picks so much…being able to pick and gather our own food is such an amazing experience and one I try to give my kids as often as I can.  It’s so important to me that our kids know where their food comes from, and not only that the experience of eating sun warmed fruit and vegetables is one of life’s greatest pleasures.

U Pick Farms in Oregon

We spent a couple of hours picking ripe peaches right from the trees, and gathering handfuls and handfuls of the biggest and sweetest blackberries that you ever did see.  We left with boxes of fresh fruit, sticky chins, purple lips and fingers and very very full bellies.  But what an experience!  The farmers were so open and welcoming, and seemed genuinely happy to have us on their farm, inviting us to eat as many fruits as we could manage…it was a great time!

Oregon Farms {A Pretty Life}

Another thing I loved were the little roadside stands where you could buy farm fresh eggs and vegetables…such a great way to stock up our food supplies!

Campfire Peach Crisp {A Pretty Life}

And since we had so many peaches, I had to get creative with them so they didn’t go bad!  We enjoyed quite a few Campfire Peach Crisps!

Beachside State Recreation Site, Oregon

After a couple of days at Champoeg, we began the drive along the Oregon coast, starting at Beachside State Recreation Site.  We started at this location at the last minute, and I’m so thankful we did, because this beach was breathtaking, and quite honestly the most gorgeous ocean access of the whole trip.  As I mentioned before we likely won’t do the whole California road trip thing again, but we will definitely come back to this part of the world and stay here for a week or two.

Beachside State Recreation Site, Oregon 2

Beachside State Recreation Site, Oregon 4

The beaches were soft white sand as far as you could see…I didn’t want to leave.

Beachside State Recreation Site, Oregon 5

And neither did he!  😉  But we had to because we were on limited time…that’s the problem with a long road trip…you have to keep moving.  But the good thing is that a new adventure is just around the next bend!

Sea Lion Caves, Oregon

Our next stop was the Sea Lion Caves (thank you to my friend Sheryn for the heads up).  When we pulled up to this attraction I have to admit I was a bit leery…it looked a little gimmicky, but we were here and the kids were excited so we decided to go in.  I’m so glad we did!  This is quite the place.  Once you get through the tacky little shop, you go down a giant elevator to America’s largest sea cave, where you can view hundreds of sea lions that live here (it’s not a zoo, the animals are free to come and go, but they congregate here for living and breeding).

Sea Lion Caves, Oregon 2

When we were there, the sea lions weren’t actually in the caves, but were sunning on the rocks outside.  It’s a really interesting place to visit…and has stunning views!  Since it’s along the drive, I would say this is a must see attraction (be prepared to pay fairly heftily for it though…)

Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area

Back on the road!  After driving for a little while we decided to make a quick stop to stretch our legs.  We came accross the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area which was a perfect place to do this.  I’ve never seen sand dunes like this before, so it was a pretty neat stop.  The dunes were busy with people quading and ‘skiing’ down them…

Harris Beach State Park, Oregon 2

Our last stop in Oregon before we entered California was Harris Beach State Park (this was one of my least favourite camping stops on our trip and I definitely wouldn’t stay here again – we had the impression it was oceanside camping, but it’s not really – I mean the campground is by the ocean but it’s not oceanside, so we were pretty disappointed).  Aside from the actual campsite, the views and beach on the other side of the road were gorgeous.

Harris Beach State Park, Oregon

And it is here where our Oregon Coast drive ends, and the next leg of our journey takes us into California!  We’re getting excited as we get closer to Disneyland!

Jedidiah Smith Redwoods State Park, California 2

Just over the Oregon/California border we stopped in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park to look at the giant redwoods…because you can’t go to California without checking out the redwoods!

Jedidiah Smith Redwoods State Park, California

Gigantic, dizzying trees as far up as the eye can see.

Jedidiah Smith Redwoods State Park, California 3

It was beautiful here, but we couldn’t stay long…back on the road we go.

Driving along the Oregon Coast

So that was the quick and short of our drive along the Oregon Coast…a very condensed version for sure!

Next up is San Fransisco, and I can’t wait to share our trip to Alcatraz Island, and tour of the Kendall-Jackson Estate with you!  Then it’s off to LA to visit Universal Studios, California Adventure Park and Disneyland!

Have you ever driven along the Oregon Coast?  What did you think?  Any must see/visit/eat places?  Leave a comment!

In case you missed any other posts from our California Road trip, you can see them here:
Visiting Alcatraz Island
Tips for Visiting Universal Studios
Disney California Adventure Park
Our Kendall-Jackson Winery Tour
Tips for Visiting Disneyland

Have a wonderful day!



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  1. LOVE IT! This post is so timely because Dewey and I were just saying that we need to plan a road trip soon. We would have to hotel or B&B it along the way but I think that would be fun too. 🙂

  2. I was looking up info on Universal Studios and read your great post- then I saw the link to this post and had to check it out, because I’m from Oregon! In fact I grew up in a town about 2o minutes from Champoeg. Very cool to see this beautiful state from a new perspective! I’m so glad you had a great trip.