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-   -   Best time of year for California, Pac NW trip? (

idroba 01-25-2015 02:59 PM

I am also making an assumption... Pacific NW may mean only the coastal areas of the NW vs. the Inland NW. But I think of the term Pacific NW as the entire area.

Oh how I love to split hairs. Sorry, just my nature.

And I agree about Washington State Parks. They can be beautiful, but are not cheap at all. Unfortunately many states have, along with Washington, the exact same problem. National Forests and National Parks are still a good value, especially with a senior pass.

gecko 01-25-2015 03:13 PM

What are you looking for? :-)
Tom T's is the most comprehensive advice.

We are windsurfers, based in Los Angeles. We start the season by going your way for warmer water and windy conditions, and leave in early March (timing carefully to miss Spring Break!) We check weather very carefully, because in higher elevations along the route, snow can be encountered!

We return to California in April, and the odds have become much better to avoid snow. We stopped in both Santa Fe and Telluride last April, and had to time Telluride very carefully between storms!

We move north during the summer, mostly in pursuit of wind. We spend June in Northern California, and then move up to Hood River, OR on the WA/OR border. June on the CA coast is best described with the local term "June gloom," but with the massive changes in weather patterns, who knows what's actually going to happen. June 2014 was relatively clear, but July was not--go figure! But generally, if you want to cruise the winding but beautiful coast in California, July-October is great. If you're going inland to sample the many different wine regions, for example, earlier in Spring is better--it gets very hot inland. Yosemite is at altitude. A beautiful place to visit all year round, snow may come late into May, although as you know, it has been very dry here in the past few years. Most places in California get toasty (90-105) inland in the summer with rotating weather patterns, and climbing over the Sierra's in NoCal's heat in the summer and early fall can be quite a load on your tow vehicle.

But EVERYWHERE in California during the summer will be quite crowded. If you can, plan on the spring or fall, and for anything in the summer, make sure that you make reservations well in advance.

If you're returning the same way--from the Northwest back through CA and then out 40 as Tom suggested (10 or 8 early in spring to avoid elevations and snow is good advice), I would expect you're fine through the end of October or at least halfway through.

Of course, coming from Texas, you're no stranger to strong winds. Last April, we spent a not much fun day in 45 gusts from the side approaching Lubbock. Then more of the stuff on the nose in Flagstaff. The rig handles it all beautifully, but it is not relaxing driving, to say the least. Typically, there are strong spring breezes out of the West (headwinds for you, tailwinds for us) through southern NM, AZ and eastern CA. When we can, we look for those northeasterly days when in Texas heading west.

As long as you allow plenty of time to adjust to whatever the weather throws at you, you're going to have a great time!

gpt 01-25-2015 05:01 PM

my daughter and SIL just moved to the PNW from San Diego. if i were heading W, I would adjust my route to completely miss CA from SD to SF. the traffic is some of the worst on the planet and towing, well i refused to take the AS down for visits. if you come into SF from the S and attempt to find the Golden Gate, better have a couple of GPS's going as the signage is pretty slim.

we are heading for Yosemite and Pinnacles this coming month and i have us routed out and around all of that population.

back to the PNW. just W of Sequim is the Elwha river. don't know how closely you follow some of this, but the biggest dam to be removed to date, 210', came totally down this past spring. the 80 miles of river is free flowing for the first time in over 100 years, salmon already up in the head waters. the first overlook is up a gravel/dirt road and is currently open to the public. in addition, the Strait of Juan de Fuca follows the N border of the state for a long ways with interesting opportunities for camping. if this is of any interest, check out 'salt creek campground' operated by Clallam County parks. reservations are advise.

if it's scenic coastal views, Oregon has Washington beat hands down.

as you get closer to figuring out a route, feel free to PM for suggestions.

kscherzi 01-25-2015 06:09 PM

Compared to much of the country, California is camp-able year round. Right now the coast campgrounds all have space, and since we're in a long running drought, the weather is just fine. Maybe a little cool, down in the 40's at night and the 60's in the day. Because its winter the fog is not present. The normal winter pattern is rain for a few days followed by a couple weeks of clear air.

Spring gets windy, and to my mind is actually the coldest time on the coast.

Summer the winds slow, but then the fog rolls in. It's a warm fog. Shorts and a sweatshirt. Normally burns off later in the day.

Fall the fog mostly disappears and the winds stay balmy. Its the nicest time.

Generally speaking, its sunnier, dryer, and a warmer towards the south half of the state. The best, prettiest drive is sticking to Highway 1 up the coast. Particularly starting at around Santa Barbara. In fact, I think some of the most dramatic, picturesque, and remote sections of coastline are just north of Sam Simeon and south of Monterey. Traffic is not a problem until maybe around San Francisco bay area, and then it disappears. There's lots of camping, and a lot of it is first come first serve. I do echo getting reservations at the popular state campgrounds, especially for weekends.

Goal15 01-26-2015 09:19 AM

Thanks so much
These responses have been so great and are very helpful. I won't say I'm surprised because after four years or so here on AIR FORUMS, I asked the question fully realizing that I would get some great information, but just the same it's really nice that folks have taken the time to share some great info.


Diesel75 01-27-2015 08:44 AM

It all depends on what your interests are. My husband & I visited the California & Oregon coast in 2011 & the Sierras (east & west) & the Cascades last year. Our goal last year was to see all national parks & many national monuments along with scenic drives. We camped much of the time in national forest campgrounds using the reservation system. My vote for most scenic is last years trip.
Julie Hunter
Wes Jennings
07 Classic 27'
08 Chevy Silverado 2500 HD

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