National Parks Road Trip: Circle of Discovery!

National Parks Road Trip in Northern California and Southern Oregon

National Parks Road Trip in Northern California and Southern Oregon

Love national parks? Love road trips? Combine the two on one fabulous Circle of Discovery route in Northern California and Southern Oregon! This itinerary features 7 national parks with wondrous features: the tallest redwoods in the world, North America’s deepest lake, rare marble caves, and true dark skies, to name just a few. Here are your 7 reasons to make the Circle of Discovery National Parks road trip!

Redwood National Park

Gallery image 1 of 3
Gallery image 2 of 3
Gallery image 3 of 3

Motor up to the epic Redwood National Park in Northern California’s Humboldt County. The coastal redwoods here are the tallest living things on earth, and the region is designated as a World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve. Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park (located within Redwood National Park) has miles of trails winding around these giants, along with famous Fern Canyon, often called the Jurassic Park hike because parts of the blockbuster franchise were filmed here.

Best Southern Oregon Road Trips

Oregon Caves National Monument

Gallery image 1 of 3
Gallery image 2 of 3
Gallery image 3 of 3

Get ready for a marble-ous experience. Known as the “Marble Halls of Oregon” and formed by acidic rains, Oregon Caves National Monument features one of the few marble caves in the world. There’s hiking and nearby camping, and the surrounding forest here is home to one of the largest Douglas firs in Oregon. Perhaps Sasquatch is among them …

Best Southern Oregon Road Trips

Crater Lake National Park

Gallery image 1 of 4
Gallery image 2 of 4
Gallery image 3 of 4
Gallery image 4 of 4

Located on the crest of the Cascade Range in Southern Oregon, Crater Lake National Park lies inside a volcanic basin created by a massive eruption that collapsed the 12,000-foot-high Mount Mazama 7,700 years ago. Its marquee feature is its namesake oasis, the deepest lake in the country and the seventh deepest in the world. The lake’s pure blue beauty is mesmerizing, surrounded by sheer cliffs mirrored on the water, turquoise blue ripples fringing the small sandy beaches on the rim, and enchanted all the more by Wizard Island, a gently rising volcanic cinder cone amid the lake. Several hikes in this park offer differing perspectives of Crater Lake, including Garfield Peak, a moderate 3.4-mile out-and-back hike, and Discovery Point Trail, following the rim of Crater Lake for 1.5 miles.

Best Southern Oregon Road Trips

Tule Lake National Monument

Gallery image 1 of 2
Gallery image 2 of 2

Discovery is also learning about the darker parts of history. California’s Tule Lake National Monument includes the Tule Lake Segregation Center, the largest, most controversial of sites where Japanese Americans were incarcerated during World War II. It also includes Camp Tulelake, which became a prisoner of war camp and additional facility for detaining Japanese Americans. The Tule Lake National Monument presents an education and understanding of the unjust treatment many Japanese Americans faced on the home front.

Best Southern Oregon Road Trips

Lava Beds National Monument

Gallery image 1 of 3
Gallery image 2 of 3
Gallery image 3 of 3

Are you a cave fanatic? Then you’re going to love Lava Beds National Monument. Drive the Cave Loop to discover some serious California cave country, with over 700 caves in this volcanic landscape. You can visit some easy walk-in caves like the Mushpot, or check out more challenging options like Labyrinth Cave (hint: you enter via ropes or ladders and navigate some tight spaces!). Only the bravest will stare down the famous formations in Crystal Ice Cave.

Best Southern Oregon Road Trips

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Gallery image 1 of 3
Gallery image 2 of 3
Gallery image 3 of 3

One of the more underrated parks, Lassen National Park is a quiet shining star located forty minutes from Redding in Northern California. Peak baggers will relish the hike up to Lassen Peak, the southernmost active volcano in the Cascade Range. The 5-mile (round-trip) trek makes a challenging and spectacular day hike. But nighttime is special here, too. The local saying is “Half the park is after dark!” because this national park is one of the last sanctuaries of natural darkness (no light pollution). Oh the celestial wonders you’ll see!

Best Southern Oregon Road Trips

Whiskeytown National Recreation Area

Gallery image 1 of 3
Gallery image 2 of 3
Gallery image 3 of 3

Whiskeytown is more than just a great name for a cover band, and we’re willing to bet you’re going to want a double shot of it! Located just 8 miles west of Redding and surrounded by mountain peaks, Whiskeytown National Recreation area is nearly 40,000 acres of all things outdoors: waterfalls, campgrounds, beaches, hiking trails, and a beautiful lake at the center of it all.

Best Southern Oregon Road Trips

*Know Before You Go: Please be sure to find out and follow the local health guidelines at your destination. Plan ahead and be patient as amenities and activities may be limited or could change. Have a mask, wear a mask where mandated, and maintain social distance as a courtesy to others and to protect yourself and your loved ones. Enjoy your trip! A little planning, a little patience, and you’re gonna have a lot of fun!  Here’s more information on Southern Oregon’s health guidelines and updates!

Trending Stories Northern CA

View all Stories
  1. Image that represents the story
    Sponsored

    Hidden Stairways of SF: Urban Hike

    This guided hike sold out fast, but new dates have been added! Get outdoors and explore the hidden stairways and gardens of San Francisco anew. Small group and socially distanced.

    View
  2. Image that represents the story

    Lookout for This View!

    Sierra Buttes Lookout, at a lofty 8,591 feet, is a memory maker for its pucker-worthy stairway to the tower’s balcony. It's a 5-mile (round-trip) hike to reach it. And the reward? Epic!

    View
  3. Image that represents the story

    Ah, Good Point

    Ready for a rewarding view? Head to to one of the Peninsula’s favorite promontories: Mori Point. Climb your way up the Bootlegger’s Steps to the Mori Point headland for awesome vantages of the San Mateo Coast.

    View
  4. Image that represents the story

    Sleeper Hit

    It's all about the water, and the camping, at Utica Reservoir in Stanislaus National Forest, a High Sierra reservoir perfect for kayak explorations and pitching your tent lakeside..

    View

Trending Stories SoCal

View all Stories
  1. Image that represents the story

    Duck, Duck, Goose!

    Try to get a first-come, first-served campsite at one of the Lakes Basin’s lakeside campgrounds. We love Goose Lake Campground, where there are just 14 sites and no motorized boats.

    View
  2. Image that represents the story

    Shealor Stunner

    Robust mountains, striking slabs of granite, and deep green pine reflections make Shealor Lake near Kirkwood resort a jewel of the El Dorado National Forest. Reach this alpine oasis on a 1.3-mile hike.

    View
  3. Image that represents the story
    Sponsored

    National Parks Road Trip: Circle of Discovery!

    Love national parks? Love road trips? Combine the two on one fabulous Circle of Discovery route in Northern California and Southern Oregon! This itinerary features 7 national parks with wondrous features.

    View
  4. Image that represents the story

    Peak-a-View!

    Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the entire country and the seventh deepest in the world. For one of the very best perspectives of this shining blue beauty, hike up to Garfield Peak.

    View