A 9 days itinerary through the Northern California on the road.
Why go there? What to do and what to see? What stages do we have to consider? Where to sleep? And above all what do we have to expect?
These are the most frequent questions I was asked after my latest journey to the Golden State: a different path – unusual and very beautiful – among the Northern Coast, the Route 1 and the San Francisco Bay Area.
So, using at best the experience ran up during my previous travels to this state and the deep knowledge of all the places visited, I studied a complete itinerary to allow everyone who wants it to enjoy the best of the Northern California on the road.
All this without renouncing to anything, leaving from and arriving to the San Francisco Int. Airport or – in case of more advantageous flights – even from the San Jose Int. Airport.
A 9 days itinerary and about 1700km – with deepen links to click on to find out more about the single tours – to combine at your arrival or your leaving with at least 3 nights in (or near) San Francisco to be able to visit it extremely calmly, how it deserves.
Northern California on the road: a 9 days itinerary
California on the road – Day one
Arrival at the San Francisco Int. Airport – usually late in the afternoon. Rental car collecting and stay overnight
[You can decide whether starting the on the road from the day after your arrival and delay the two days in San Francisco at the end of the tour or vice versa]
California on the road – Day two
From San Francisco as far as Bodega Bay through the Sonoma County – 200km
- Stop in Glen Ellenper, breakfast at the Glen Ellen Village Market and tour of the Jack London State Historic Park, the park hosting the house-museum and the estate of one among the most famous American writers, Jack London.
- Stop in Healdsburg, one among the most beautiful towns in the Sonoma County, in its neighborhoods, farms and vineyards where to stop and taste local wines and products – cheeses, vegetables, meats
- Armstrong Redwoods State Park, an idyllic giant redwoods park near the Russian River
- Bodega Bay, tour of “The Birds” movie locations by Alfred Hitchcock – click here to find out more – and stay overnight
California on the road – Day three
From Bodega Bay as far as Mendocino, Mendocino County – 170km
- Point Arena, trekking (2 hours about) at the Stornetta Public Lands to discover the naturalistic islands created by the San Andrea’s Fault
- Mendocino, tour of the town and some movies and TV series locations (among them the “Murder, she wrote” one, Jessica Fletcher). Here there’s the detailed itinerary.
- Point Cabrillo Lighthouse
- Fort Bragg and Glass Beach
- Stay overnight in Mendocino County, possibly in a B&B straight on the Ocean
California on the road – Day four
From Mendocino as far as Arcata – 260km
Stages along the Hwy 101:
- Avenue of the Giants, with stop at the Shrine Drive Thru Tree
- Tour of Eureka
- Detour northwards to the Tall Trees Grove, a path of the Redwoods National and State Park (you can require the pass at the Visitor Center, the trekking is about two abundant hours) where you can admire the highest Redwoods in the world
- Going back to Arcata, tour of the small town and stay overnight
California on the road – Day five
From Arcata as far as the Lassen Volcanic National Park – 300km
Leaving early in the morning through the Hwy 36 towards Reddings and then along the Hwy 44 to reach the Visitor Center of the Lassen Volcanic National Park to visit and explore the biggest dome-shaped volcano in the world.
Stay overnight in Shingletown.
California on the road – Day six
From Shingletown as far as Oakland – 380km
- Sacramento, tour of the Old Town
- Berkeley, tour of the university campus
- Arrival and stay overnight in Oakland
California on the road – Day seven
A full day dedicated to the tour of Oakland. Here you find the complete itinerary.
Stay overnight in Oakland.
California on the road – Day eight
From Oakland as far as San Jose – 90km
- San Francisco Premium Outlet, a stop for shopping in the cheapest mall in the whole Bay Area
- Arrival in San Jose, tour of the Mission San Jose, the San Pedro historic district, the elegant Santana Row and the Winchester Mystery House, the most “haunted” house in the USA
- Stay overnight in San Jose
California on the road – Day nine
From San Jose as far as San Francisco Int. Airport – 60 km
Stages through the futuristic and technologic Silicon Valley:
- Google Visitor Center
- Palo Alto, Stanford University, tour of the campus
- Facebook Headquarter
- San Francisco Int. Airport, giving back the car, leaving
Northern California on the road: useful cues and tips to build one’s own path
Planning and having this type of itinerary is extremely easy and above all it can be done by everyone, above all since the km – about 1700 for 9 days – are not so many for a road trip in the USA and the stages studied for every single day allow to cut the longest travel’s routes.
My tip: include the tour of San Francisco staying overnight in Oakland (with a remarkable saving about hotel and parking) or at the end of the on the road in order to be able to rest after quite a lot of road and so go around easily on foot and/or by the efficient transits, BART trains first of all.
The roads are all in very good conditions. The only more complicated stretch – because of the passage through the hills and the winding roads of the Shasta Trinity National Forest – is the Hwy 36 one, from Arcata as far as the Lasssen Volcanic National Park.
A (very) useful suggestion.
Always get informed before leaving about the conditions of the Route 1: during the rainy season the road is subjected to landslides. In case this occurs, long detours on the US5 are required (in this case it’s better to plan them in advance).