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One Tank Trip for Northern California Camping
Northern California's geography is as eclectic as the people who call this area home. Here, there are spectacular sandy beaches on the Pacific coast. To the east, lie the ruggedly beautiful Sierra Nevada mountains, and in the center, one of the most vital agricultural areas in the country. It's this kind of diversity that brings millions of travelers to this area every year.
Starting off in San Francisco on this one tank trip, it's easy to see why so many people left their hearts here after a visit to this incredible city. If you can imagine, San Francisco started off as a small town of only 1,000 people, and has steadily grown to be one of the most diverse cities in the nation. Well known for its steep streets, beautiful architecture, and chilly summer fog, it is also the most densely populated city in the US. One of the most popular destinations in the city is historic Fisherman's Wharf. If the views of the Bay don't draw you in, then the great seafood will! Now stripped of the traditional waterfront life that once existed here, today the Wharf is an open shopping mall. The atmosphere here is mesmerizing, attracting visitors from all over California (and beyond) for the world class dining, shopping, street performers, and vendors. What would a trip to San Francisco be without a trip to Chinatown? A residential area that includes authentic markets, restaurants and more, it's the quickest trip you'll ever take to Hong Kong's past and present. And of course, there is one of the most easily recognized bridges in the world, the Golden Gate Bridge. Built in 1937, this suspension bridge connects the northern tip of the San Francisco Peninsula to Marin County, and is one of the most beautiful examples of modern engineering. Who can pass up a tour to one of the most famous former prisons in the world - Alcatraz – where the mere mention causes thoughts of one of the most famous unsolved prison breaks in history? Alcatraz and the people who lived, worked and were incarcerated here, have an enduring and fascinating history worth exploring.
Leaving San Francisco, we're heading south to Point Reyes via CA-1N, turning left at Sir Francis Drake Blvd. This leg of our Northern California RV camping trip is a little less than 2 hours, but will definitely be high on your list as one of the most scenic. Point Reyes National Seashore encompasses over 71,000 acres of breathtaking shoreline filled with estuaries, windswept beaches, grasslands and salt marshes, and is home to a rich biological diversity you'd be hard pressed to experience anywhere else. Over 45% of North American bird species have been sighted here, making it a natural stop for any bird enthusiast. 80 miles of the most pristine and unspoiled coastline makes Point Reyes a wonderful spot to glimpse any number of native wildlife, including white deer, fox, river otter and maybe even a coyote. The city is also home to the Point Reyes Lighthouse, built in 1780, where travelers are free to tour this beautiful historic treasure and are encouraged to explore the grounds.
Heading out to our next Northern California RV camping destination, double back on Sir Francis Drake Blvd and take a left onto CA-1N for the scenic trip to Bodega Bay. From its location on the stunning coast, travelers to the town are treated to some of the most spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean and Sonoma Coast, complete with the sight of migrating whales. It is here travelers can indulge themselves in the best Northern California has to offer. Whether you're looking to ride horse-back on the beach, dust your board off and hit the waves, kayak the local waters or indulge yourself in regional coastal cuisine, Bodega Bay has a little taste of all the greatest things that make this area so special.
From Bodega Bay, we're heading out on this one tank trip to CA-1 S and merging on to CA-12 E. Merge onto US-101 N via the ramp to Eureka and in no time, you'll be right in the heart of our next destination, Santa Rosa.
Santa Rosa is a place of convergence, where wine and farm country mingles with the beauty of redwood forests and ocean views. Newcomers will find deliciously scenic vistas and a plate full of activities right in the heart of Sonoma Wine Country, which is sure to delight even the pickiest of travelers. There is no shortage of great adventures here! Start at the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center, where the most loved comic strip characters of all times are preserved and displayed. Next, get a taste of history at the Sonoma County Museum where you'll find art exhibits from fine local artists. If museums don't do it for you, how about shopping at the Historic Railroad Square? You'll feel like you stepped back in time as you shop for antiques, dine in local restaurants and wander this beautiful square. Oh, and if you're a railroad buff, you should definitely pay a visit to the Northwestern Pacific Rail Room Gallery located in the historic Train Depot. If you're looking for something a little more rugged, the Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve is an 805-acre park which contains some of the oldest and tallest redwoods in the state, and you won't want to pass up the opportunity to see these majestic beauties up close and personal. Of course, being in the heart of wine country gives travelers to this area ample opportunity to tour local wineries, taste some samples and buy a few bottles to take home with them! Some of the finest wines in the country are made right here in this region, and after spending just a few hours exploring, you'll soon discover what makes this area so special. Of course, the only thing that would make a trip to Santa Rosa even more unforgettable would be for you to take a balloon ride for spectacular views of wineries and the surrounding areas.
Once you've gotten your land legs back, we're back on the road to our next stop, Napa. Head out on US-101 S, taking the exit for Ca-116 E toward Sonoma/Napa. Turn left at CA-121 N/Fremont Dr, and left again at CA-121 N/CA-29 N. Finally, take the first exit toward Downtown Napa. Napa is one of the premiere destinations in the world and no matter what time of year you visit, you'll be surrounded by breathtaking beauty and plenty of opportunities to indulge yourself in some of the finer things (including wines), this area has to offer. By far, the most popular way to explore Napa is by bicycle. Napa just can't be fully appreciated by car, and you'll be glad you took the opportunity for a leisurely bike ride on country lanes through some of the most well known wineries in the country. Once you're finished with your mobile tour, those tight muscles could probably use some spa time, and Napa has you covered! Or how about some leisure time at the Historic Napa Mill? This downtown riverfront delight is filled with music, wine, and award-winning restaurants, the perfect way to round out our trip with a little jazz and a bite to eat.
Heading out of Napa on CA-29 S, the last stop on our adventure is the city of Vallejo, an approximate half-hour drive away. As the most famous naval shipbuilding and repair facility on the west coast, and the first permanent home of California's state government, Vallejo has a rich and varied history. Vallejo is a city filled with the beauty of historic buildings, cultural diversity, and some non-stop adventures! Art galleries, casinos, golf, museums, amusement parks; no matter what your adventure tastes, Vallejo has an impressive sampling of opportunities for any traveler. You won't want to pass up a tour to historic Mare Island. Visitors will find incredibly beautiful and historic buildings including St. Peter's Chapel, renowned for its Tiffany designed stained glass windows. Mare Island has a fascinating maritime history, and one worth exploring on your visit. Make your way to St. Vincent's Hill Historic District, a 33-square block area surrounding the St. Vincent's Catholic Church. This area is one of a few nationally registered districts this side of the Mississippi and contains houses and historical structures, which add to the beauty and allure of Vallejo.
For the first time visitor, Northern California feels like Eden...and for the seasoned traveler? They know it is.
Other Area Sponsors in Northern California:
Cal Expo RV Park
Capitol West RV & MH Park
KOA-San Francisco North/Petalum
Napa Valley Expo RV Park
Olema RV Resort & Campground
Back to One Tank Trips for 2011
Woodall's Recommended California RV Campgrounds