Road Trip Day 8: Mt. Tamalpais, Muir Woods, San Francisco

Ok, first of all, I’m terrible at blogging and have taken way too long to write this final road trip post. In my defense, it’s been a stressful few weeks and I’m only now getting a chance to breathe. Enough excuses though: join me for day 8, where I kick off the final leg on Mt. Tamalpais!

As I wasn’t going to be around for sunset, I decided to wake up bright and early (well not exactly “bright” at 4:30am after getting almost no sleep in a hostel) and drive up Mt. Tamalpais for sunrise.

As it turns out the road doesn’t open until 7am, which means I only managed to get up there about 45 minutes after the sun rose. A little disappointing to not get any photos of that early morning pink sky, but pretty magnificent nonetheless.

PNW Road Trip Day 8 Mt Tamalpais California

There was hardly anyone else up there — I only passed other people twice — but the first group I passed warned me that the view was completely fogged in. Uhhh awesome? That’s kind of the whole reason I wanted to go up there! How incredible to look out across the horizon and see nothing but a blanket of fog! It was pretty trippy not having any perception of how high up I was or what was hiding underneath the fog.

PNW Road Trip Mt Tamalpais California

PNW Road Trip Mt Tamalpais California

PNW Road Trip Mt Tamalpais California

Mt. Tamalpais was particularly beautiful with the morning light glinting off its rolling, golden hills. This was probably the only point of my solo adventure where I would’ve liked to have someone with me. Soaking in the morning sunshine high above the clouds felt like a dream and I could’ve used someone pinching me to remind me it was real life (sleep deprivation may have also been at work here.)

PNW Road Trip Mt Tamalpais California

PNW Road Trip Mt Tamalpais California

PNW Road Trip Mt Tamalpais California

PNW Road Trip Mt Tamalpais California

PNW Road Trip Mt Tamalpais California

PNW Road Trip Mt Tamalpais California

PNW Road Trip Mt Tamalpais California

After a couple of hours up top, it was time to drive down to Muir Woods. I wanted to make sure I got there pretty early as a woman who was staying my hostel warned me that it could get very crowded.

PNW Road Trip Mt Tamalpais California

Surprise: even though I arrived before 9am it was pretty crowded. I hadn’t had breakfast yet, so I hung out around the park’s entrance for a while before venturing further, waiting for the cafe to open. The very brazen Muir Woods chipmunks were entertaining company.

PNW Road Trip Muir Woods California

Finally fed, I headed into the forest. I’ll admit, I was expecting something a little different after how few people there were at the Avenue of the Giants the previous day. Luckily most of my fellow visitors respected the sanctuary-like atmosphere of the park and kept pretty quiet. (Except you, group of tourists walking around blasting music out of a literal boombox.)

PNW Road Trip Muir Woods California

PNW Road Trip Muir Woods California

PNW Road Trip Muir Woods California

Ever seen Fern Gully? That’s what Muir Woods feels like.

PNW Road Trip Muir Woods California
PNW Road Trip Muir Woods California
PNW Road Trip Muir Woods California

PNW Road Trip Muir Woods California

Having woken up so early, my internal schedule was pretty wonky by this point. My flight wasn’t until the evening, so I still had plenty of time to kill before returning the rental car. So I made the pretty amazing decision to find an In-N-Out. When in California, right? #worthit

Next up was an attempt to find some Golden Gate Bridge lookout points, so I ended up at Battery Spencer. Hoo boy was it crowded. It was a good thing I had so much time before my flight, as I drove around in loops for a ridiculous amount of time waiting for parking spots to open up at each lookout point. Unfortunately for me the very fog that made my morning on Mt. Tam so incredible was now destroying my view of the bridge, and the rest of San Francisco for that matter.

PNW Road Trip Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco California

PNW Road Trip Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco California

PNW Road Trip Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco California

A little discouraged, I finally drove across the bridge into San Francisco. (Fun fact: it’s a toll bridge with no toll booths, and the rental car company charged me $36. For one toll. I’m not bitter, nooope.)

I had also wanted to check out the view from Marshall Beach, but the fog was showing no sign of clearing and the view was non-existent. Next I decided to see if Twin Peaks offered a better perspective. Well…I have never been in a windier spot in my life. I started climbing up one of the two hills, but I honestly thought I was going to get knocked over and sadly retreated back to the car. Microclimates strike again!

PNW Road Trip Twin Peaks San Francisco California

Since I’d already been to San Francisco a few years ago and hit up a lot of the touristy spots, I didn’t have much else planned for the day. It was only early afternoon by this point, but I’d already been awake for 9 hours. I decided it was time to head to the airport a little earlier than planned so I could catch up on a little rest, after a truly spectacular morning.

So there you have it! All 8 days of my road trip, complete. I hope these posts inspire you to explore the Pacific Northwest, or step out of your comfort zone and try out some solo travel of your own!

Previously:
Day 1: Seattle and Whale Watching!
Day 2: Olympic Peninsula
Day 3: Washington to Oregon
Day 4: Cape Kiwanda and Cannon Beach
Day 5: Multnomah Falls and Portland
Day 6: Oregon Coast and Crescent City
Day 7: Avenue of the Giants, Point Reyes

Road Trip Day 6: Oregon Coast and Crescent City

Despite the fact that my hotel had a pretty neat looking cafe in the lobby, I ventured out to Bunk for breakfast so I could see a bit more of Downtown Portland before leaving for California. No pictures of my breakfast sandwich because I housed that thing immediately. Road trip tip: eat a big, delicious breakfast every day. Trust me.

On this day I was heading back to the coast to drive the Samuel H Boardman State Scenic Corridor in southern Oregon, before crossing the California border and ending my day in Crescent City.

PNW Road Trip Oregon Coast

I have no idea what this beach is called. Oregon has a ton of scenic pull outs on the 101, but there’s really no signs warning you of them until you’re right on top of them and have to make a decision to pull off the highway at full speed. So yeah, unfortunately I didn’t manage to make it to many of these scenic overlooks due to the whole not wanting to careen off a cliff into the ocean thing. Luckily this one had enough warning.

PNW Road Trip Oregon Coast

I should have planned more for my trip down Samuel H Boardman, I didn’t realize there would be so many stops not visible from the road! It turns out I missed the most picturesque one (Natural Bridge, let’s cry about it together), and really an ideal time to make this drive would have been sunset, but it is what it is. Still gorgeous, though.

PNW Road Trip Oregon Coast Samuel H Boardman State Scenic Corridor

PNW Road Trip Oregon Coast Samuel H Boardman State Scenic Corridor

Crescent City was my first motel of the trip. Well, they called it an “Inn” but they were kidding themselves. Crescent City was an odd little town, it may be that I was staying on the wrong end of it, but there didn’t seem to be a whole lot going on. I did manage to find an interesting restaurant nearby (Hawaiian BBQ!) and went for a walk to the ocean to catch sunset.

The walk ended up being much further than I anticipated, which was actually a blessing because it gave me ample time to photograph the sleepy streets during the best light of the day.

PNW Road Trip Crescent City California Sunset

PNW Road Trip Crescent City California Sunset
PNW Road Trip Crescent City California Sunset

PNW Road Trip Crescent City California Sunset

Honestly, Crescent City was the stop I was the least excited about. I only picked it because it seemed like a good midpoint between Portland and my next destination in California so I wasn’t expecting very much (the motel didn’t help).

But Crescent City surprised me with a gorgeous sunset over the ocean, so I take it back.

PNW Road Trip Crescent City California Sunset

PNW Road Trip Crescent City California Sunset

PNW Road Trip Crescent City California Sunset

PNW Road Trip Crescent City California Sunset

PNW Road Trip Crescent City California Sunset

I had a long walk back but I decided to take a different route along the harbor to make the most of the purple skies. It was surprisingly peaceful — I could hear sea lions barking in the distance!

PNW Road Trip Crescent City California Sunset

PNW Road Trip Crescent City California Sunset

PNW Road Trip Crescent City California Sunset

PNW Road Trip Crescent City California Sunset

And here we are, back at my motel. 5 minutes later I caught my first Pikachu in Pokemon Go, it was pretty awesome.

PNW Road Trip Crescent City California Sunset

Next up: Avenue of the Giants and Point Reyes

Previously:
Day 1: Seattle and Whale Watching!
Day 2: Olympic Peninsula
Day 3: Washington to Oregon
Day 4: Cape Kiwanda and Cannon Beach
Day 5: Multnomah Falls and Portland

Road Trip Day 5: Multnomah Falls and Portland

I left another misty morning behind in Cannon Beach and drove east towards Portland (and the sunshine!) My first stop was a minor detour to snap a picture of the Roloff Farms sign in honor of my family’s guilty pleasure love of the show Little People Big World. Don’t judge.

I wanted to make it east of Portland to Multnomah Falls with plenty of time to explore, so I dropped off my bags at my Airbnb and hopped right back in the car. As you drive east, Mt Hood looms large in the distance. It’s incredible. I can’t believe people get to see that view on their commute every day. (Sorry, didn’t take a picture, safety first!)

Multnomah Falls is just one of several waterfalls along a stretch of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. It’s also the most visited, due to it’s completely spectacular status as the second highest waterfall in the United States.

PNW Road Trip Multnomah Falls Oregon

I mean, look at that sucker! Breathtaking or what?

PNW Road Trip Multnomah Falls Oregon

PNW Road Trip Multnomah Falls Oregon

PNW Road Trip Multnomah Falls Oregon

I stupidly left my hiking boots at the Airbnb when I checked in and only had my Birks on for the falls, not realizing there would be a bit of hiking involved. But I just went for it anyway, I saw some people attempting it in wedge sandals so I figured it wouldn’t be too bad. Birkenstocks are outdoorsy shoes, right? It all worked out, and I made it up to the second level to get a closer view.

PNW Road Trip Multnomah Falls Oregon

PNW Road Trip Multnomah Falls Oregon

PNW Road Trip Multnomah Falls Oregon

On my way back to my car I inexplicably heard someone calling my name. It turned out to be a friend of mine from high school, also sightseeing a the falls while in Oregon for a business trip. What are the odds?? The world is truly a small place.

After catching up for a bit she had to catch a cab back to Portland with her workmates, and I decided to investigate a bit more of the historic highway. I stopped next at Horsetail falls, where I hiked up a pretty steep trail in order to walk behind the upper level of the falls. It was pretty neat, definitely worth the blisters.

PNW Road Trip Horsetail Falls Oregon

PNW Road Trip Horsetail Falls Oregon

PNW Road Trip Horsetail Falls Oregon

PNW Road Trip Horsetail Falls Oregon

My last stop along the Columbia River Gorge was to get a view of the gorge itself. A nice man at an information desk pointed me towards the Vista House. I was promised gorgeous views, and I wasn’t disappointed.

PNW Road Trip Columbia River Gorge Vista House Oregon

PNW Road Trip Columbia River Gorge Vista House Oregon

PNW Road Trip Columbia River Gorge Oregon

PNW Road Trip Columbia River Gorge Oregon

PNW Road Trip Columbia River Gorge Vista House Oregon

At this point I was getting pretty hungry for dinner since I stupidly skipped lunch. I ended up at Pine Street Market in Portland, an upscale food hall with family-style seating. I was a little overwhelmed by choice as everything looked amazing, but I ended up with a Vietnamese inspired burger…and maybe some ice cream after. YOLO.

Photo from The OregonianPhoto from The Oregonian

After dinner it was getting close to sunset, and my Airbnb, The Society Hotel, had a swanky rooftop deck. A quick word about the Airbnb — it’s actually a hotel, run Airbnb style. The bathrooms were communal, which I was a bit nervous about, but they turned out to be modern and spotless. I definitely recommend staying here — it was great value for the location, not to mention they have a cafe in the lobby!

Which brings me back to the rooftop deck. Honestly I would recommend the hotel for this alone. I spent one of the most relaxing evenings of my life up there, soaking in the sunset and the warm summer breeze, editing photos while listening to Spotify’s Evening Chill playlist. Perfection.

PNW Road Trip The Society Hotel Portland Oregon
PNW Road Trip The Society Hotel Portland Oregon

PNW Road Trip The Society Hotel Portland Oregon

Next up: Samuel H Boardman State Scenic Corridor and Crescent City, CA

Previously:
Day 1: Seattle and Whale Watching!
Day 2: Olympic Peninsula
Day 3: Washington to Oregon
Day 4: Cape Kiwanda and Cannon Beach

Road Trip Day 4: Cape Kiwanda and Cannon Beach

I was staying in Cannon Beach for two nights to double my chances of catching a good sunset (more on that later), so I had a little day trip down the coast planned to Cape Kiwanda for day 4.

PNW Road Trip Cape Kiwanda Oregon

As you can see, Cape Kiwanda also features a massive sea rock, which is awesome. I can’t really explain why I love big rocks out in the ocean so much, but I do.

Aside from the view out to sea, Cape Kiwanda is also known for some hiking. I had originally planned to do so, until I arrived and saw how steep and sandy the initial climb was (you can kind of see it in the distance of the picture below.) I just wasn’t in the mood for negotiating the largest sand dune I’d ever seen that day, although I’ll admit I’m a little disappointed in myself because I knew from pictures that the views up there are spectacular. Which brings me to a disclaimer about this road trip.

Because I was traveling alone, I wasn’t comfortable doing certain hikes on my own. Not because I wasn’t capable, but out of an abundance of caution. So I did miss out on a few things I wanted to see, but at least I made it back in one piece.

PNW Road Trip Cape Kiwanda Oregon

PNW Road Trip Cape Kiwanda Oregon

PNW Road Trip Cape Kiwanda Oregon

PNW Road Trip Cape Kiwanda Oregon

Still, even though I skipped the hiking portion of Cape Kiwanda I had plenty of fun exploring the tide pools below.

PNW Road Trip Cape Kiwanda Oregon

PNW Road Trip Cape Kiwanda Oregon

PNW Road Trip Cape Kiwanda Oregon

After grabbing some lunch, I drove back north towards Cannon Beach. I had heard there was a great view of Cannon Beach from Ecola State Park, so I stopped there for some pictures. If you’ve watched The Goonies, you may remember a similar view from the film.

PNW Road Trip Ecola State Park Oregon

PNW Road Trip Ecola State Park Oregon

After Ecola State Park, I killed some time before sunset by walking around Cannon Beach to soak in my last views of Haystack Rock, which never failed to impress.

PNW Road Trip Cannon Beach Oregon

PNW Road Trip Cannon Beach Oregon

PNW Road Trip Cannon Beach Oregon

PNW Road Trip Cannon Beach Oregon

PNW Road Trip Cannon Beach Oregon

Sadly, my two-night stay here yielded no sunsets. Those micro-climates are tricky! So just watch this photographer’s video and let’s pretend that’s what I saw, too.

Next up: Multnomah Falls, Horstail Falls, and Portland!

Previously:
Day 1: Seattle and Whale Watching!
Day 2: Olympic Peninsula
Day 3: Washington to Oregon

Road Trip Day 3: Washington to Oregon

I woke up pretty early on day 3 (sleeping in a tent with a rooster nearby will do that to you.) As I mentioned in the last post, I was served up a delicious breakfast by my Airbnb host before making my way down the Washington coast to Oregon.

PNW Road Trip Ruby Beach Olympic Peninsula Washington

First stop: Ruby Beach. With the morning fog still rolling in from the ocean and the beach nearly deserted when I arrived, it felt like I stepped onto another planet. While similar to La Push, Ruby Beach also somehow feels completely different. The beach is rockier, the driftwood is more scattered, and the tide pools are further inland. I had an amazing morning exploring here.

PNW Road Trip Ruby Beach Olympic Peninsula Washington

PNW Road Trip Ruby Beach Olympic Peninsula Washington

PNW Road Trip Ruby Beach Olympic Peninsula Washington

PNW Road Trip Ruby Beach Olympic Peninsula Washington

PNW Road Trip Ruby Beach Olympic Peninsula Washington

PNW Road Trip Ruby Beach Olympic Peninsula Washington

As time passed, a few more people turned up to explore the beach as well. I was enjoying having it to myself, but I did appreciate having some people in photos for scale to help show just how insane these rocks are.

PNW Road Trip Ruby Beach Olympic Peninsula Washington

PNW Road Trip Ruby Beach Olympic Peninsula Washingotn

PNW Road Trip Ruby Beach Olympic Peninsula Washingotn

PNW Road Trip Ruby Beach Olympic Peninsula Washington

I loved this little rock tunnel, for some reason it reminds me of The Little Mermaid.

PNW Road Trip Ruby Beach Olympic Peninsula Washington

PNW Road Trip Ruby Beach Olympic Peninsula Washington

I even managed a sneaky selfie with my camera remote! Sadly it didn’t work as far away from the camera as I would’ve liked, so this is the only selfie I have of the whole trip. Whoops!

PNW Road Trip Ruby Beach Olympic Peninsula Washington

PNW Road Trip Ruby Beach Olympic Peninsula Washington

PNW Road Trip Ruby Beach Olympic Peninsula Washington

PNW Road Trip Ruby Beach Olympic Peninsula Washington

I didn’t want to leave Ruby Beach, but I still had a good four hours of driving left before I made it to my destination of Cannon Beach, Oregon, so I had to move on.

The drive down the Olympic Peninsula is truly gorgeous, with highway 101 flanked by enormous trees for most of the drive out of Washington. Crossing the Columbia River into Astoria, Oregon was particularly spectacular — I wish I had stopped to take some pictures, but the drive was so relaxing that I simply pressed on. I stopped briefly in Seaside (a busy beach town with indoor arcades, sort of like Point Pleasant for fellow my NJ readers) for an extremely late lunch before arriving at my hotel in Cannon Beach.

PNW Road Trip Cannon Beach Haystack Rock Oregon

PNW Road Trip Haystack Rock Cannon Beach Oregon

Cannon Beach, situated just south of Ecola State Park, is much quieter than Seaside. I was hoping to photograph sunset here with the main landmark, Haystack Rock as my backdrop. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t cooperating. Damn those pesky microclimates! Can’t complain too much, though, as it was still a picturesque way to end the day.

PNW Road Trip Haystack Rock Cannon Beach Oregon

PNW Road Trip Haystack Rock Cannon Beach Oregon

PNW Road Trip Haystack Rock Cannon Beach Oregon

Next up: Cape Kiwanda, and another night in Cannon Beach

Previously:
Day 1: Seattle and Whale Watching!
Day 2: Olympic Peninsula