Willamette driving to Sonoma/Napa - sights to see/Redwoods?

Hi All,

Making the cross country trip in Feb to visit Willamette then take the drive down to Napa and Sonoma. I have ~10 days so trying to juggle a good 1-1.5 days of tasting in these areas with some downtime too.

Looking for suggestions on driving from Willamette down to Sonoma/Napa. I figure the Coast is a nicer trip and even if its another ~2-3 hours, doing it once in your life why not? Its not like double the amount of time. That said in February, maybe its not as pretty and scenic?

Also coming from the East Coast, I’ve never been to a Redwoods Forest and I am a avid fan of the outdoors so interested to visit some Redwoods if possible. I am not looking for a 8 hour hike or a 4 hour train ride, but it would be nice to take a break, stretch the legs, have a nice small easy hike to go see some Redwoods then hop back in the car to continue.

So any thoughts/suggestions on the drive part of the trip? May post specific questions later about the towns/tastings, but before I figure out that piece I need to figure out the time allotted to drive between the two regions.

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We’re going up to RNP next week. There are a few suggestions on nps websites for quick hikes (under an hour) + scenic drives you should do when you don’t have a lot of time.

https://www.nps.gov/redw/planyourvisit/things2do.htm

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Eric, you have a lot of Redwood forests from Oregon to Sonoma to pick from. If you decide to see a Redwood forest when you arrive to Sonoma County, I highly recommend Armstrong Woods State Park in Guerneville Sonoma County just several miles from most of the towns, wineries and tasting rooms you will want to visit. Armstrong Woods has gorgeous redwoods and a variety of hikes to choose from.
Added bonus another 10 miles to the West and you are at the Pacific with the Sonoma Coast Park running for miles! Lots of beautiful sights to see along the coast, two being Goat Rock and Bodega Head.

If you need other info on wineries, tasting rooms, restaurants, breweries, other sights and things to do ask away.

Tom

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Appreciate both responses. My desire to see the Redwoods is more than just a tourist check mark - I’ve been backpacking around the country and hiking all over the world so I really do enjoy the outdoors. But it is February and my wife isn’t as much of an outdoor hiker as me, so if we can find a nice park with a few mile easy hike it could suffice to make both of us happy.

I am just debating is I-5 worth saving a few hours vs PCH and/or would I see a nicer Park driving down the coast and breaking the trip up into 2 days versus 1 long day.

A client threw a curve ball at me and told me to spend 1-2 days in Mendocino but I just don’t think I have time to do it all in 10 days. We are already cool with NOT spending time in Portland or San Fran, just focusing on the smaller towns from Willamette down to Napa/Sonoma.

Eric I would look up Grove of Titans, off of Crescent City. Looks like it’s a 1.5m through newly built platforms so we don’t trample all over the root system.

Also if your end goal is Napa/Sonoma wouldn’t the 101 be better than the 5?

You could take 101, stop in crescent city, then head south through Ave of Giants & end up in Healdsburg.

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Eric, here is the Armstrong Redwoods Park website with more information. The hikes there vary from flat leisurely easy to strenuous hard. I am also a hiker and hike with 800 ft elevation gain 4x a week.

Tom

Definitely take 101 over I5 and make it a two day trip. 101 will take you right thru the Avenue of the Giants, and you can get off the highway at a number of exits and hop on the slower and more scenic AotG. Then get back on 101 and in Leggett where Hwy 1 cuts off toward Fort Bragg, take it unless you get car sick. The first 25 miles or so as Hwy 1 cuts over to the coast is EXTREMELY curvy and wooded/beautiful. The curves are heavily banked like on a racetrack, and while IIRC the speed limit is 50 mph, you will be hard pressed to go that fast even with a fast sportscar (I do). Many curves are 15 mph, but with the banking you can take them at 30 or more. Then past Fort Bragg, Hwy 1 takes you right to Mendocino.

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What Chuck says. It’s an amazing drive. I would highly recommend renting a convertible for the trip if you went in late spring or summer.

If you like tidepools, Westport Beach is not to be missed at low tide. We like to stay for a night at Howard Creek Ranch Inn, right by the beach – with the caveat that we haven’t been in a few years.

Driving down 101 also takes you close to Briceland, one of my favorite wineries in California.

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This is all very helpful, thanks! Maybe we’ll do Day 1 getting near AotG and wake up Day 2 and drive through that area and wind up in either Mendocino or Santa Rosa - depending on if we want to add Mendocino in, or just go straight to Sonoma and then off to Napa. I am an IHG/Hilton guy and I see an HIE in Eurkea, I am sure it is not much but to break up the trip maybe that is the plan, head to Eurkea as the Day 1 night stop. Unless you have any other suggestions for comfortable small cities around there for the stop over.

Please take pics and post itt. This is a drive I’ve wanted to do with some friends myself.

A friend sorta convinced me to do I5 down to Grant’s pass and then head over as opposed to going out to Lincoln city and then down 101. I’m still not sure he’s right…….

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The drive on 101 to Healdsburg takes about two hours longer than driving I-5, and it much more scenic and relaxing (very few semi-trucks on 101). I’m not sure if driving down highway 1 is really necessary. It takes a lot longer and is a very curvey road. I would definitely head over to the coast directly from the Willamette Valley. The stretch from Waldport to Crescent City is very scenic.

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When you drive from Mendocino to Sonoma you’ll pass through a lot of coastal redwood groves. Hendy woods has some nice casual hikes among redwood and it’s on the way down to Sonoma.


Btw if you’re in Mendocino definitely try to eat dinner at Harbor House Inn. One of my favorite restaurants in CA. Tough res tho so would need to plan earlier. Of even stay there a night which gives you a priority dinner res.

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The drive down the Oregon Coast from Lincoln City is a beautiful drive. There are a few small towns with amazing seafood choices. Newport is a favorite stop of mine. There are also 3 nice casino’s on that route-Chinook Winds, Three Rivers, and The Mill-if you’re looking to try your luck on the way :rofl:

If you go through the Avenue of the Giants you’ll be quite close to Board favorite Briceland. If you can set up an appointment with Andrew, it’s well worth the visit - the wines are exceptional. I haven’t been to that area yet, but it’s near the top of my list.

A sidebar: We were at Armstrong one day in the fall of 2011 and this was during the time The Arnold was governor and there was a budget stalemate going on. Beautiful place, highly recommended, but on that day there was no TP in the bathrooms only signs referencing why there was no TP. My point, just be prepared…

Definitely not the best time of year for the trip. Be sure to check the weather forecast before spending the extra time on the scenic route, fog or low clouds or heavy/constant rain would have an impact on your ability to enjoy the drive.

Ha I’ve been prepared for that in China, never would have thought so in my own country. Maybe I’ll steal a few squares before we depart the hotel!

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Thanks Lee I am aware, but we tend to like to travel during off season for less crowds plus with President’s Day 1 less vacation day and to boot we use points and I was able to find award tickets so yeah good weather or not, we’ll make it work. I figured most of the trip is for tastings and eating and that is indoor activities so we should be ok. Even if the weather is bad we’d probably still do the longer route because if doing it over 2 nights I’d have a hotel stay booked in advance which I guess I could cancel and move around but I guess we’ll see.

In general appreciate all the advice! Now I just need to figure out how much time we want to spend in Willamette, Sonoma and Napa and see if squeezing in Mendo will work. I am ok skipping Portland and SF for these smaller towns but still dont want to be too rushed.

If you do choose to squeeze in Mendo (which I think is a worthwhile detour), you could check out Van Damme State Park. We usually do Fern Canyon Trail when we’re there which is a pretty moderate hike. And, consider grabbing some candy cap mushroom ice cream at Cowlicks in Fort Bragg.