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One Tank Trip for Northern California Camping
Total mileage / average drive time:
70.1 miles – 1 hour, 33 minutes
A trip to Northern California will land you in some of the state’s most pristine and rugged scenery where the distinct smell of sharp, crisp redwood forest air tingles your nostrils and invigorates your senses. Tucked quietly in this area you’ll also discover a thriving community that has a passion and respect for this extraordinarily beautiful land it calls home. Those who travel here find peace and serenity among the tall, centuries-old redwoods surrounded by the sounds of nature, and at the same time have the opportunity to savor the pleasures of one of the world’s most beguiling wine-growing regions.
Your exploration of Northern California’s California wine country begins in Fairfield, a southern gateway to the Napa Valley. Before you do anything else, stop at the Jelly Belly Company, which attracts nearly 500,000 visitors a year. Who doesn’t love jelly beans? From the moment you step inside, you’ll smell the aroma of cinnamon, peach, chocolate, or whatever other jelly bean is being cooked up that day. On the company’s free tour, your guide will show you the inner workings of the factory where over 150 deliciously sweet treats are made every day. There is, of course, a secret to making the world’s most famous jelly beans, and with any luck, you’ll find out on your tour. Now that you have a good sugar buzz going, stop next at Sepay Groves where olive oil and vinegars are crushed by monks and bottled fresh onsite. There’s a wide variety of products made here — from pomegranate balsamic vinegar and chipotle extra virgin olive oil to chardonnay artichoke salsa. We all know everything is better bought at the source, and the quality of Sepay Groves’ award-winning olive oil will not disappoint. Next stop is Rush Ranch where you can hike, enjoy some birdwatching, or photograph nature. Stretching across more than 2,000 acres of marsh and rolling grassland, the Rush Ranch contains several historical buildings and self-guided trails. On the property you’ll find one of the last remaining brackish tidal marsh habitats in the U.S. — quiet, serene, and the perfect place to hike off those jelly beans!
45.8 miles – 1 hour, 1 minute
From Fairfield head north for a little under an hour to arrive at our next stop, Calistoga. If you’re interested in a side trip, the city of Vallejo is a straight shot west on I-80 and home to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom amusement park. From Fairfield to Calistoga is a distance of 45 miles, taking you right through Napa, which is also an exceptional side trip for tasting wine and visiting historical sights. Calistoga is widely known in this area as the place to go to “take the waters” or in today’s parlance, to partake of some spa therapy. From small intimate day spas to enormous 89-room resorts, you’ll find more than enough places to soak in the famous geothermal spring waters; take a soothing mud bath, which is strangely akin to being covered up to your neck in warm brownie mix (!) and surprisingly relaxing; or get a much-needed massage. With a few hours at one of Calistoga’s spas and stops at a couple of the local wineries, you’ve got a recipe for a true hedonistic adventure. It might surprise you to learn that California has its own Old Faithful Geyser and you’ll find it right here in Calistoga. With Mount Saint Helena and the craggy Palisades Mountains as a backdrop, the geyser is a major attraction in the area, shooting thousands of gallons of water skyward about every 30 minutes. Nearby is the Petrified Forest where you can take a guided one-and-a-quarter-hour-long meadow walk and learn all about volcanic activity and the petrification of the redwood forest some three million years ago. The moderate .7-mile walk is also a good chance for you to see rare native wildflowers, live oaks, and manzanita trees.
24.2 miles – 32 minutes
A little over half an hour to the northwest of Calistoga is Geyserville. A tiny hamlet located just west of the Russian River, Geyserville lies in the heart of the Alexander Valley and is surrounded by some of the best wineries in North America. Here you’ll find exceptional vintages — from sweet Rieslings to the more full-bodied Shiraz, so be sure to pick up a few bottles for your home wine cellar. One fun way to wrap up your wine country adventure is a visit to the nearby River Rock Casino, where you can play a few hands of poker or blackjack, toss a few coins in the slots, or satisfy your taste buds with the culinary delights offered here. The casino also boasts a breathtaking view of the Alexander Valley countryside.
Man oh man, have you ever had such a day? Jelly beans, geysers, spas, wine, petrified forests...only in Northern California!
Check out the 2011 One Tank Trip For Northern California
Check out the 2010 One Tank Trip For Northern California
Woodall's Recommended Campgrounds in California