During our time living in California, we're hoping to see and do as much as possible. And we sure did close out April with a bang! Brandon and I had the opportunity to take a 4-day road trip through Northern California and Southern Oregon in a JUCY campervan, visiting 3 US National Parks and exploring countless incredible landscapes. While it was an ambitious trip, it was 100% worth it. Read on for the deets!
Renting a JUCY Campervan in the US
JUCY began in New Zealand and Australia and has expanded to the United States and Canada. You can pick up / drop off a JUCY campervan in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and San Francisco (really, San Leandro near the Oakland airport).
JUCY vans are unique in that they are fully equipped for a camping adventure, complete with a full-size bed and kitchen setup. And yet, it's all packed into a Dodge Caravan, so it's still easy to maneuver and has decent gas mileage. Each JUCY van also comes with a separate battery to keep the refrigerator running (really!) and offers additional 12v DC accessory and USB ports for charging your devices without using up the car battery.
Other fun features include blinds for the car windows to provide privacy if you're sleeping inside the vehicle, and of course, the "penthouse" AKA the bed on top of the car. If you're thinking about renting a JUCY USA van, go for the "Trailblazer" model which has the penthouse. It was too cold for us to sleep in the penthouse for our first two nights, but we did sleep there on the third night. It's also helpful to have the penthouse if you're traveling with more people, as a group of 4 can enjoy a JUCY adventure together. There are a few different types of models depending on the van that you are assigned - we had the "push up" model, so all we had to do was open the latches and push up on the edges and voilà - our penthouse tent appeared!
Tips for Renting a JUCY Campervan in the US
While renting a JUCY van is a super unique and exciting way to travel, it does come at a price. There are many additional charges and add-ons to be aware of before booking. Which leads me to my tips for renting a JUCY van in the US:
Our JUCY USA Route: Northern California and Southern Oregon, and 3 US National Parks in 3 Days
When it came to planning our driving route and trip itinerary, we got a little too ambitious. So, there were things that we had to adjust and be flexible with, in order to keep our arrival times at the campgrounds on schedule. And this was mostly because we are terrible at waking up early. Below I'm sharing what we actually did fit in each day, which was still amazing! We were also limited on time, only having 4 days to do this trip, so there is so much that we had to skip but will hopefully get to see someday.
Day 1: Driving the Pacific Coast Highway in Northern California
San Leandro > Mendocino > Eureka > Trinidad
While we had already experienced the PCH going south towards LA, this time we had a chance to drive north on Highway 1. Starting in San Leandro where we picked up our JUCY, we made our way to the town of Mendocino. It was quiet, quaint, and sweet. We grabbed lunch at Good Life Cafe & Bakery. On the way to Mendocino, we also stopped at the Philo Apple Farm. It's a quick detour on highway 128 and there are only a few signs when you get close to it, but it was such a charming farm with a self-service store showcasing their handmade products. We picked up an apple juice and strawberry jam.
After lunch in Mendocino, we drove to Eureka, California. We really wanted to explore more, but unfortunately had to make our stop a short one due to timing and it taking a little longer than expected to get our JUCY out on the road that morning. It wasn't all bad though - we had incredible views all along the coast, stopping for photos and to admire our surroundings. The Pacific Coast is just so powerful and beautiful, and we felt lucky to experience it again.
Our final stop for the day was the Agate Campground at Patrick's Point State Park in Trinidad, California. Patrick's Point is part of the Redwood National and State Parks and our campsite was secluded in the forest yet just a short walk from a stunning view of the coastline (photo above!). We had arrived just before sundown, so we fixed a quick dinner of Beyond Meat burgers and set up our JUCY van for the night.
Day 2: Visiting Redwood National and State Parks, plus Oregon!
Trinidad > Redwood NP > Klamath River Overlook > Brookings > Bandon > Idleyld Park
After an oatmeal + fruit breakfast at our campsite, we packed up and headed towards the Redwood National Park Thomas H. Kuchel Visitor Center. I always love entering a visitor center for the informational displays, friendly and knowledgable staff, and quirky gift shops. There we were advised to continue on to the Prairie Creek Visitor Center and to do the Big Tree Hike. And that we did!
Starting just outside of the Prairie Creek Visitor Center, the Big Tree Hike takes you through a variety of redwoods both big and bigger until you reach the biggest one, aptly named "Big Tree." There is a parking lot and short pathway to Big Tree if you don't feel like hiking, but we really enjoyed the 2.2-mile roundtrip hike to get better acquainted with the redwoods. Big Tree itself is 286 feet tall, 23.7 feet in diameter, and is estimated to be over 1,500 years old.
After our hike, we drove to the Klamath River Overlook to have lunch (avocado and chickpea sammies!) and enjoy the view. Next, we headed up into Oregon, first stopping in Brookings at the Natural Bridges Viewpoint in the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor. The Oregon coast was just as beautiful as in California, though we noticed that the highway had more of a diverse route, not sticking as close to the actual coast as its southern section did.
Continuing up the Oregon coast, we made our way to the town of Bandon, which was really on my list for the sheer similarity to my husband's name, so I could take photos of him next to every sign we saw. We arrived in the early evening on a Sunday, so much of the town was closed, but we had a chance to enjoy a drink at the Bandon Brewing Company and walk around the sweet Old Town.
A few hours later and we had finally arrived at our campsite for the night at Umpqua's Last Resort in Idleyld Park, Oregon. The campground is found in the middle of the Umpqua National Forest and along the North Umpqua River. The drive was absolutely lovely and we enjoyed a campfire in the evening, roasting (vegan) s'mores and gazing at the stars. No cell service = no problem.
Day 3: Exploring Oregon: Toketee Falls and Crater Lake National Park
Idleyld > Toketee Falls > Crater Lake NP > Weed > Lakehead, CA
Just 15 minutes down the road from Umpqua's Last Resort is Toketee Falls, a beautiful waterfall accessible via a short 0.4-mile hike to a suspended platform for the ultimate waterfall viewing. Some visitors hike all the way to the bottom of the falls, but we settled for the trail view in the interest of time.
One thing on our list that we had to skip was the Umpqua Hot Springs just down the road from Toketee Falls. The hot springs are a popular attraction, but in the winter the road leading up to the springs is closed, leaving visitors with the option of parking at the gate and walking 2 miles to reach the springs. With limited time, we couldn't fit in the 2-mile hike, spring time, and 2-mile hike back. But, maybe next time!
After Toketee Falls we set our sights on Crater Lake National Park. The only NP in Oregon, Crater Lake does not disappoint - even in the winter! Due to the insane amount of snow, we had to enter through the Southern entrance and could only get to Rim Village, as other roads and activities were still closed. The views were absolutely incredible and I still can't stop thinking about it. Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States and the 9th deepest in the world. It's fed by rain and snow only, and is thought to be one of the clearest and cleanest lakes in the world. That blue. That snow. That island. It was all so gorgeous, and we're so thankful that we were able to see it. Definitely a highlight of the trip for both of us!
After Crater Lake (and a quick lunch in the car), we drove back into California. Some of the drive was boring, but just until we came upon the most beautiful views of snow-covered Mount Shasta in the distance. After a pit stop in Weed (tiny lil town with a big touristy store for people who need an "I <3 WEED" shirt), we arrived at our final campground, Antlers RV Park & Campground in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest near Lakehead, California. We were two of about 5 people in the campground and had a sweet secluded campsite overlooking Shasta Lake. Because we had to arrive early to register before the office closed, we had time to set up our hammock, relax in the sunshine, and crack open a beer (for me, a fancy canned rosé). For dinner, we ate vegan hot dogs with sauerkraut and roasted a few more s'mores.
Day 4: Lassen Volcanic National Park and returning our JUCY van
Lakehead > Lassen Volcanic NP > San Leandro
Waking up along Shasta Lake felt like a camping paradise. It was a beautiful morning and we enjoyed another quick oatmeal + fruit breakfast before packing everything up to make our trek back home to return our beloved JUCY van, but not before stopping at Lassen Volcanic National Park.
As expected, most of Lassen was closed for the winter season. In fact, all of the visitor centers were closed on the day we visited, too. So, while short and sweet, we did enjoy a 10-mile drive through the park from the Loomis Museum Visitor Center to the Devastated Area. We could observe the volcanic structures and rock covering the land around the trees, broken up by Manzanita Lake. If we have the chance to visit again, we'll go in the summertime when we can see the hydrothermal areas.
Next it was a hustle to get our JUCY van back to the San Leandro facility on time, as our car had been parked there while we were renting the van and we needed it back before they closed! Another thing to be aware of is the late return fees - which was really anytime after 11 am so we were bound to have to pay it, and we knew in advance. Fees and all, it was a totally worthwhile experience and we had so much fun! It made me fonder of camping and #vanlife and I hope to do a similar trip again in the future.
So there you have it! Our jam-packed 4-day JUCY USA campervan itinerary in Northern California and Southern Oregon. Have you rented a JUCY van before? Tell me about it! Have more questions about our experience? Ask away.