Planning a California North Coast Road Trip

So I’ve mentioned a few times that Greyson and I went on an amazing road trip up the North Coast of California. We managed to hit a bunch of must-see spots, both well known and off the beaten path.

Planning a CA North Coast Road Trip // tahoefabulous.com

I’ve already written about one of the hidden gems we visited, Sinkyone Wilderness State Park, but I thought I’d share the other stops on our amazing road trip.

Road Trip Map via Google Maps

  1. Truckee, California to Inverness, California (200 miles, 3.5 hours):We stayed at the Cottages at Point Reyes Seashore in Inverness, California for Greyson’s sister’s wedding. I’ve written about what to do in Point Reyes in the past – it’s an amazing place full of tons of things to do.
  2. Inverness, California to Westport, California (163 miles, 4.5 hours via Hwy 1):We headed north on the legendary Highway One, on our way to Fort Bragg and Westport-Union Landing Beach. In the Fort Bragg area, I knew I wanted to return to Pacific Star Winery and eat fresh seafood. I got my wish, and we tasted wines and watched a new batch of grapes be unloaded at the winery while the staff gave us a tour and let us taste test the different grape varieties. We ate dinner at Sea Pal Cove restaurant, where I had local rockfish fish and chips.  I had been to the area before, and I knew that I wanted to stay in a private that I had discovered allowed camping on the sand, north of Fort Bragg on Westport Beach – Westport Beach RV Park. Though it is also an RV park, the tent camping sites are secluded from the rest of the park, and all we heard all night were crashing waves.
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Beach camping at Westport Beach near Fort Bragg, CA. Photo by Greyson Howard
  1. Westport, California to Sinkyone Wilderness State Park, California (75 miles, 2.25 hours via Garberville, CA):I’ve already written about the amazing Sinkyone Wilderness State Park, but I just want to emphasize again how incredible it is! If you enjoy the outdoors, it should be on your California Bucket List. On our way to Sinkyone, we stopped for lunch in Garberville at the Eel River Cafe – a cute diner with good food in generous portions.
  2. Sinkyone Wilderness State Park, California to Redwoods State and National Parks, California (142 miles, 3.5 hours): On our way to the Redwoods, we drove through the Avenue of the Giants, a well known drive that’s definitely worth getting off the highway for.
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Avenue of the Giants. Photo by Greyson Howard

 

One of the main things Greyson wanted to see on this trip was Fern Canyon in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park(part of Redwoods National and State Parks). We found that Gold Bluffs Beach Campground was the closest access to Fern Canyon, and open on a first come-first serve basis in early October during our trip. We arrived fairly early on a Thursday, and by Thursday night the campground was pretty much full, despite it being a weeknight during the off season. If you plan on staying at Gold Bluff Beach, Fern Canyon is a pretty much year-round attraction, so plan on getting to the nearby campgrounds early in order to find a spot. Our campsite was tucked away behind some bushes for a wind break, and a quick walk to the ocean beach, surrounded by the gold cliffs that give the area its name. Fern Canyon can be accessed by a less than quarter mile hike from the parking area, but we chose a longer 7 mile loop through old growth redwoods to access the back side of the canyon. The longer hike was definitely worth it, full of wet forest plants and creatures that we don’t get to see in the Sierra, and not very strenuous at all.

Banana Slugs in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park
Banana Slugs in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

Fern Canyon was like nothing else I’ve ever seen – sheer walls entirely covered with ferns – and worth a trip to the Redwood State and National Parks just on its own.

Fern Canyon. Photo by Greyson Howard
Fern Canyon. Photo by Greyson Howard
  1. Redwood State and National Parks, California to Nevada City, California (328 miles, 6.25 hours via Chico): The only problem we ran into on our whole road trip came on this leg. We had planned to stop in Chico, California for our last night and do a tour and tasting at Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, and just get a cheap motel room when we go into town. It turns out that we arrived on the Saturday of Parents Weekend at Chico State, and there wasn’t a room to rent within 50 miles. We ended up just having an early dinner/beer tasting at Sierra Nevada, and we pushed on to Nevada City. We grabbed a couple of beers at Matteo’s Public, and were asleep before ten in our room at the Emma Nevada House.
  2. Nevada City, California to Truckee, California (102 miles, 3 hours via Hwy 49 & 89): Since our inadvertent night in Nevada City meant that we were further along on our road trip, we decided to take the long way – Highway 49 to Highway 89 through Downieville. This route has beautiful views of the Sierra Buttes, and our quick stop in Downieville had us lamenting the fact that we didn’t have our bikes. This meandering, scenic route was the perfect end to a perfect Northern California road trip.
Looking back at the Sierra Buttes from Hwy 49
Looking back at the Sierra Buttes from Hwy 49

And finally, in true data-nerd form, here’s my spreadsheet of trip mileage, travel time and a few notes, for reference:

CA North Coast Road Trip Plan // tahoefabulous.com

Try This Beer – Sierra Nevada Brewing Company

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company isn’t exactly a tiny, unknown microbrewery in need of promotion, since you can buy their beers in pretty much every state. But I recently got a chance to visit their headquarters in Chico, California and try some of their beers you can’t get in the store or are much more difficult to find.

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Greyson and I went for an early dinner at their Taproom (be sure to order the beer cheese if you’re there!) and split two samplers. The samplers were pretty small, which is why we ended up going for two. We were glad we ended up being able to try so many different beers, and the samplers were very reasonably priced (I want to say somewhere in the $5 range? Sorry, I don’t remember!). One note – they don’t tell you which order to drink the beers, which is usually standard when ordering samplers for maximum taste enjoyment. We organized them by IBUs, going from least bitter to most bitter, which seemed to work just fine.

I tracked my tastings using the Untappd app (which isn’t my favorite, but it’s the best I’ve found so far. Any suggestions?) Spoiler alert – I really, really enjoyed most of them, but the overall winner for delicious drinkability (#1 qualification for growler purchase) was the Pilsner *- a result that surprised myself! We shared the growler with 2 friends when we got home, and it did not last very long! The Best Bitter was another surprise for a close second place and I would also recommend in the growler volume.

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company // tahoefabulous.com

Here’s what I tried (all descriptions from Sierra Nevada Brewing Company website):

Knightro Dry Irish Stout: A fully nitrogenated beer designed as our take on the creamy dry stouts of Ireland with a decidedly Sierra Nevada twist. Knightro is black in color, but surprisingly light in body with rich caramel and chocolate malty flavors. It has a creamy mouthfeel and gentle carbonation from the use of a high percentage of nitrogen instead of the typical carbon dioxide. My score: 2.5/5

Narwhal Imperial Stout: Narwhal Imperial Stout is inspired by the mysterious creature that thrives in the deepest fathoms of the frigid Arctic Ocean. Featuring incredible depth of malt flavor, rich with notes of espresso, baker’s cocoa, roasted grain and a light hint of smoke, Narwhal is a massive malt-forward monster. Aggressive but refined with a velvety smooth body and decadent finish, Narwhal will age in the bottle for years to come. My Score: 4.5/5

Northwest Hemisphere Harvest Wet Hop Ale: Northern Hemisphere was the first wet hop ale and it inspired the wet hop craze here in America. Wet—undried—hops go straight from the fields into our kettles within 24 hours. Because hops are incredibly perishable, using hops wet preserves all of the precious oils and resins for a unique drinking experience as evidenced by the intense herbal green flavors and citrus-like and floral aromas. Northern Hemisphere is part of our five-bottle Harvest series which features single hop, fresh hop, wet hop, and wild hop beers. My Score: 5/5

Hoptimum: Hoptimum is a hurricane of whole-cone hop flavor. Hopped, dry hopped and torpedoed for incredible hop flavor and complexity, Hoptimum is the pinnacle of whole-cone hoppiness and the biggest Imperial IPA we have ever produced. It features resinous hop varieties: Magnum, Chinook, Simcoe and a new experimental hop variety exclusive to Sierra Nevada. With intense hop flavors and aromas of grapefruit rind, pine, herbs and tropical fruit, Hoptimum is an aggressive drinking experience. Originally created as part of our Beer Camp program, Hoptimum throws down the gauntlet to all other IPAs. My Score: 5/5

Pilsner*: Our Pilsner won a gold award in the bi-annual “Olympics of Beer,” the 2010 World Beer Cup, in the German-Style Pilsner category. This traditional Bavarian lager is straw colored with a pinpoint balance between nutty malt flavors and aromatic noble hops. Our Pilsner is an excellent example of this light-bodied traditional style. My Score: 4/5

Nooner Session IPA: There’s no better way to start a lazy afternoon than with a group of friends and a few beers. Nooner IPA is a session beer that’s light in body yet big in hop flavor. By using intense, whole-cone American hops in our Hop Torpedo we pack this small beer with a hefty hop punch. Traditionally, IPAs have been bigger, stronger beers, but this session beer offers the same hop assertiveness with an easy drinkability. My Score: 4/5

Flipside Red IPA: Just when it feels like the dog days will never end, suddenly, the switch is flipped, the air gets cooler and it’s clear that autumn is on the way. Featuring a ruby-red hue and abundant tropical fruit and citrus hop flavors, Flipside Red IPA is the perfect beer for the final flash of summer. My Score: 2.5/5

Best Bitter: Brewed with imported English malts, this medium-bodied, copper-colored beer is a rendition of the popular English Bitter. Best Bitter is a true “session” beer that features a smooth toasty, biscuit-like malt character and finishes with a clean, spicy hop note. My Score: 5/5

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company is a brewery with an environmental focus, delicious beers, and is always supporting great local and regional causes, and I’d heartily recommend their beers you can regularly find in stores (especially their original Sierra Nevada Pale Ale in a can). If you ever get a chance to visit their brewery in Chico or sample some of their less available brews, you won’t regret it!

Try This Beer: Orlison Brewing Co.

I have a special connection to Orlison Brewing Co: it started in my neighbor’s barn! I’ve tried Orlison’s Lagers every step of the way, and I couldn’t be happier about their success!

Orlison Brewing // tahoefabulous.com

Here’s what they have to say about themselves:

“Orlison Brewing Co., located in Airway Heights, WA, is a small craft lager brewery looking to convert ale enthusiasts everywhere into true lager fans. Originally founded in 2009, years of tried and true brewing methods provide our team with the knowledge and capabilities needed to create the best craft beers available in the Pacific Northwest. We are also the first Inland Northwest brewery to can our beer, a distinction we are proud of.

Our motto, Brew No Evil™, is a statement of our commitment to brewing the cleanest, clearest and tastiest lagers available today. Our award-winning crisp beers stand as a representation of everything we want our customers to enjoy in a real lager. Whether you’re interested in a smooth, light Pilsner like our Havanüther or Orlison’s IPL, our crazily hoppy lager, try out a glass of real beer from Orlison Brewing Co. today.”

As a tried and true IPA (the hoppier the better!) fan, I was a little skeptical of the appeal of a lager. And, let’s face it, the vast majority of lagers I’ve tried are in the Busch Light/Budweiser realm. Not true about Orlison’s lagers.

Orlison Brewing Co. only brews the finest craft lagers. Brew-master Bernie Düenwald stays true to his heart by producing clear, crisp and refreshing lagers. With only the finest Northwest ingredients we create full bodied and delicious finishing lagers that stand apart in the craft ale world. A Lager takes longer to ferment, requires a cooler temperature and closer monitoring than your typical Ale. These cool temps and attention to detail give lagers their distinctly crisp, refreshing taste and set them apart from other craft beers.”

While all of Orlison Brewing Co.’s lagers are worth drinking, my favorites are their IPL (India Style Pale Lager), Pilsner 37 (a portion of the proceeds from this beer go to Team Gleason – a charity that provides life improving technology and services to individuals with MS) and the best light beer I’ve ever had – the Havanuther.

Orlison Brewing // tahoefabulous.com

You can find Orlison is near you by clicking here.

Try This Beer: Mighty Mo Brewing Co

So I thought I’d just pop in with a quick beer recommendation: Mighty Mo Brewing Company in Great Falls, Montana.

Mighty Mo Brewing Co // tahoefabulous.com

We stopped into this awesome local brewery on a long drive between West Glacier and Gardiner, Montana. My dad and I tried a few of their beers (all delicious!) including the Rendezvous Red Ale and Smoke Jumper Strong Scotch Ale. I settled on the Rising Trout Pale Ale, which I thoroughly enjoyed. If you’re anywhere near Great Falls, Montana and looking for a fun space with great beer, I couldn’t recommend Mighty Mo Brewing Company and more highly!

Highlights from the weekend: Eastern Sierra Edition

We left South Lake on Friday and meandered our way towards Bishop. We drove up to Virginia Lakes, snapped some photos of Mono Lake, ate the world’s best gas station food at the Whoa Nellie Deli, and set up camp at Pleasant Valley Campground near the Happy Boulders. I also had a chance to hang out with my old roommate, having beers in her beautifully xeriscaped yard.

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  • Since we were camped near our first bouldering destination, we got a slow start on Saturday morning. But eventually, I had my coffee and we headed down the bumpy road. Bouldering at the Happys was really fun, though I chickened out on some of the taller boulders. It was a million degrees, though, so I’d definitely bring plenty of water and a hat. We left the Happys and headed into Bishop for lunch. We lucked out and stumbled on Raymond’s Deli. It was so good that I was tempted to eat there for every meal after (As of 2/2018 Raymond’s is now closed!). I had a BBQ Roast Beef sandwich with Ortega chillis called the 51/50. It’s a lot of food, but I recommend it highly!

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  • After lunch we moved on to the Buttermilk Boulders. The view from this spot was incredible! I thought that the bouldering here was more challenging than at the Happys. That could be related to the fact that I had my first real bouldering fall and sliced open a couple of fingers on a sharp flake. Ooops. That was the end of bouldering for the weekend.

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  • My bloody hands meant that we went back into Bishop to find some hot running water and soap. Cleaning out the large flap of skin on my finger was not pleasant. Bet you’re super disappointed that I didn’t take pictures! Since we were in town, we grabbed some bread and cheese and beer for dinner back at our campsite. We got the “famous” sheepherder bread from Erick Schat’s Bakkery.
  • Our leisurely outdoor dinner plans were scrapped by a massive windstorm! We ate while crammed in the front seats of the Element, taking turns running outside to re-stake the tent. Eventually the tent blew completely away! We managed to catch it and re-stake it closer to the car for a little more shelter, and it stayed attached to the ground for the rest of the night. The windstorm eventually calmed down around dusk, though all of the other tent campers in our campground had given up and left!

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  • We headed out of town the next morning, very dusty, but refreshed. Before we left Bishop, we grabbed bagels from Great Basin Bakery. Since Tuolumne Meadows were reportedly still full of snow, we decided to ditch that part of our plan, and slowly worked our way north towards Tahoe. We detoured to Convict Lake, but it was a little cold for the short loop hike. In Mammoth, we to fill my growler at Mammoth Brewing Company and checked out their gorgeous new tasting room. I filled my growler with 395 IPA but also loved Hair of the Bear, a seasonal doppelbock. For lunch, we had burgers at Toomey’s. (which I thought was a little overpriced, but pretty good with an incredibly friendly waitress). Our last stop was the Travertine Hot Springs in Bridgeport. I love a good hot spring, and these are amazing, with gorgeous flowstone, views of the Sierra and multiple pools at different temperatures. They were pretty crowded though, especially for the middle of the day.

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It was a totally fun weekend, and I’m excited for more throughout the spring and summer. Though I can do without the sliced up hand!