Our 10 day Northern California RV trip took us on a long search for trout across the top of the state. On our little journey we traveled to the top of a volcano, into creeks, through caves, into Hell, across rivers, and to the Pacific Ocean.
We left the Bay Area Wednesday night to get to Hat Creek on Thursday morning which would ensure we would get a good spot before all of the weekend campers arrive on Friday. We got stuck in San Francisco rush hour traffic at 8pm and it took us an extra hour to get out of the Bay Area. Next time, I’m not going to follow Google Maps advice on this route!
Hat Creek near Lassen Volcanic National Park
Cave Campground, Lassen National Forest
It was Thursday morning and we found a nice spot near Hat Creek at the Cave Campground (more on that name later). Hat Creek is a well know trout stream near Lassen Volcanic National Park. This would be a great base of operations for Gi to fish and for me to explore Lassen National Park.
The Bridge to Nowhere, Lassen National Forest
While Gi was fishing I went on a hike down some fire roads and I found a wonderful campsite nearby in the Lassen National Forest. We told the campground host that we were moving down the road to the National Forest and she called this place “The Bridge to Nowhere“. Sounds like the perfect place for us!
This spot was so beautiful and since it was in the Lassen National Forrest it was no cost. The site was so much more peaceful than the campground which was just two miles up the road. It was right on the edge where a wild fire had burned many years ago so we had a beautiful view of the mountains and the sky. It was a short 3 minute walk to Hat Creek. Quiet, beautiful, close to the creek, private. Most excellent spot! Here is the GPS location: 40.693137, -121.421760
Later in the day I drove up to the Hat Creek Rim Scenic Viewpoint and took some pictures of the Hat Creek Valley with Mt. Lassen in the background. See if you can find our campsite in the picture below.
Later that night a thunder storm came through and the combination of the sunset through the smoke with the thunder made for a special show. We stayed here for three nights; Gi fished and I explored Lassen National Park.
Lassen National Park
The Subway Cave is literally across the street from the Cave Campground (makes sense). Gi and I went there on our first afternoon. The Subway Cave is actually a 1/3 mile long lava tube and it is pitch black inside with temperatures in the mid-40s. At the bottom of the staircase, the temperature dropped from 95 to 46 in five steps! We stayed in the cave for about an hour exploring and it was a nice way to beat the heat outside.
On the second day I explored Butte Lake in the back portion of Lassen National Park and climbed to the top the Cinder Cone.
Our good friend Rhonda lives 60 miles away in Redding and she stopped over for the afternoon. She insisted that we drive to Lassen National Park to visit Bumpass Hell. It was a 35 mile drive from our most excellent campsite to the base of Mt. Lassen then a one hour hike up and down to Hell.
Upper Sacramento River
After three days of not catching any fish in Hat Creek, the next stop on our Northern California RV trip was to the Upper Sacramento River in the hope that the bigger river held a better chance of catching trout. We spent the night at the Sims Flat Campground which is about 13 miles south of the old railroad town of Dunsmuir, CA.. The campground is right next to the Sacramento River but you have to walk a bit to get to the river. This part of the Sacrament River is also a major train route dating back to 1880s and trains roll through every hour or so. I loved hearing the trains all evening and into the late night!
After a day of fishing the upper Sacramento River, we decided to head for the coast. On the way we stopped at one of our favorites places along the Trinity River.
Steel Bridge Campground BLM
Last December the Steel Bridge Campground was closed for the winter so we camped out on the Steel Bridge Bar but we were determined to stay here during the summer. This site cost us an outrageous $5 a night because it’s BLM campground.
Our first day at Steel Bridge, the wind was blowing the smoke from the nearby forest fires in our direction. The smoke wasn’t too bad but it made for an excellent sunset. We stayed at Steel Bridge for two wonderful days and nights. It was so nice falling asleep to the sound of the Trinity River.
Trinity River Fish Hatchery
Gi and I took a day trip up to the Trinity River Fish Hatchery which is just below the Lewiston Dam. There are no guided tours but the signs invited us to just walk in and explore.
After two days at Steel Bridge, we headed for the coast. In the morning we stopped by the town of Lewiston so Gi could get in some more fishing.
After seven days of wild camping, it was time to spend the night in a campground with full hookups so we could fill the RV with water, do some laundry, and take a REALLY LONG HOT shower. We stayed at the Eureka KOA. The place was very clean and affordable. Gi and I stayed up late watching the Perseids Meteor shower.
For our one night in Eureka we decided to have dinner at the famous Samoa Cookhouse. It’s an interesting place that opened in 1893 and has been serving meals every day since. There’s no menu to order from, they serve only one meal for dinner and tonight it was roast beef and pork steaks. The meals are served ‘family style’ so they bring your food out on a big bowl or plate and you help yourself. The price is fixed at $16.95 for dinner and you can eat as much as you want. It’s just like having dinner at home but with seating for 400 people.
Westport-Union Landing State Beach – Howard Creek
After leaving Eureka, we headed to the coast to the Westport-Union Landing State Beach – Howard Creek campground that we last visited three years ago, Since it was Thursday night, we had our pick of some great campsites and settled on site 92 (GPS 39.682531, -123.791585). It’s a small site with just enough room for our picnic table and two chairs but the view was spectacular, the air was cool, and the sound of the waves made everything perfect. We stayed in some great spots on this trip but this was my favorite.
One of the highlights of this campground was our next door neighbors, Tim and Gail. They are known as the “Bug Guys” (even though Gail is definitely not a guy). The two of them travel around the states selling jewelry made of real insects, flowers, and sea life. They were a hoot to hang out with.
Lagunitas Brewing Company
On our drive home we passed through Petaluma which required a quick stop into the Lagunitas Brewing Company.
What we learned
- Lassen National Forest has lots of opportunities for wild camping for free outside of the designated campgrounds.
- Lassen Volcanic National Park is beautiful and a bit off the beaten path. This explains the lack of crowds during the peak August vacation time
- We are going to do everything possible to get back to Westport-Union Landing State Beach. Next time we will stay for at least a week.
- With the California drought making for some really bad trout fishing, Gi and agreed that, in hindsight, we should have spent all 10 days at Westport-Union Landing Stage Beach. That was a most excellent place.
- I took my Yamaha XT-250 on this trip and I was constantly worried that it would fall off the back of our RV. I think I need another trip to gain more confidence in my new Versahaul VH-55 motorcycle rack
- Lassen National Forest – August 6-9 2015
- Sims Flat Campground on the Upper Sacramento River – August 9-10, 2015
- Steel Bridge Campground on the Trinity River – August 10-12, 2015
- Eureka KOA – August 12-13, 2015
- Westport-Union Landing Stage Beach – Howard Creek – August 13-15, 2015
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