Sacramento might not have the beach, but this Californian city is the perfect place to start a trip with only one tank of gas. This itinerary takes you through several state parks, a national forest, and one of the most well known U.S. national parks. It’s time to explore sequoia trees, gold country and Yosemite National Park on this one tank trip from Sacramento.
This trip is 281 miles and takes about 6 hours and 21 minutes to drive. As always, the miles and hours will vary depending on where you decide to visit inside the national forests and parks.
Before you head out on your one tank trip, take some time to explore the city of Sacramento. Wander the historic district of Old Sacramento along the riverfront to see the Gold Rush-era buildings and cobblestone streets. Spend some time in the Sacramento History Museum or the California State Railroad Museum, or take a ride in a horse-drawn carriage to see the sites.
Sacramento is also the capital of California, and the capitol building is even a museum. Explore the displays and historic rooms or take a public tour of the building. You can also check out the restaurant and brewery scene in the city before heading out. Then it’s time to fill up your gas tank and get ready to start your trip.
Calaveras Big Trees State Park
Calaveras Big Trees State Park isn’t exaggerating when they say they have big trees. This state park was established in 1931 to protect two groves of giant sequoia trees that are gigantic in size. Take some time to wander through the park on the trails to see the towering standing trees, as well as the stump of the Discovery Tree. This remnant of the giant sequoia tells the story of the discovery and cutting down of the trees in this area, which eventually prompted the formation of the state park to protect the forest.
Don’t miss the visitors center which has a small museum with exhibits about the local plants and animals, as well as the Native American history of the area. You’ll also learn about the giant sequoia trees and the history of the park. Or watch a short movie about the discovery of the trees in the mid 1800s. There are also educational programs put on by the park staff such as the Jr. Ranger program for kids, as well as guided tours.
The park is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily and is closed Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
Columbia State Historic Park
Then it’s time to learn about the mining history of the California Gold Rush at Columbia State Historic Park. This area is California is known as “Gold Country” due to all the gold that was discovered in the hills back in the 1800s. Between the 1850s and the 1870s, the Columbia mines produced over one billion dollars of gold (by today’s standard). At one point this was the second largest city in California. Today, the tiny town is a state historic park that preserves the history and buildings from that time. It’s the largest collection of existing structures from the gold rush era in the state and fun for kids and adults to explore.
The entire town is part of the park. The main street is filled with both historic and modern shops, saloons, a restaurant, hotels, and a theater. You can also tour some of the buildings, watch a real blacksmith work, and hike on the one mile long nature trail. Or take a stagecoach ride then get a scoop of ice cream or try the historic drink, Sarsaparilla. You can even pan for gold yourself!
Stanislaus National Forest
Next stop on this one tank trip from Sacramento is Stanislaus National Forest. This national forest is next to Yosemite National Park and covers almost 900,000 acres of land. It’s one of the oldest national forests in the country and there’s plenty for the outdoor enthusiast to explore. The forest has over 3,000 miles of roads and over 1,100 miles of hiking trails that cross through it. If you’re looking for fishing or boating, this is the place to go. There’s 78 lakes and 811 miles of rivers and streams including the Tuolumne Wild and Scenic River.
There are three different Wilderness areas, each with their own experiences: The Carson-Iceberg, the Emigrant, and the Mokelumne Wilderness Areas. Due to its size, it’s best to have a plan for where you’d like to explore! You can kayak or whitewater raft, or with a fishing license you can fish or swim or canoe on the lakes. There are also 62 developed campgrounds within the forest and there’s also dispersed camping along multiple forests roads.
Yosemite National Park
End your one tank trip from Sacramento with a stop at the majestic Yosemite National Park. This iconic national park was the third national park in the United States and contains 1,200 square miles of incredible scenery.
Start by visiting Yosemite Valley to view Half Dome, El Capitan, and Yosemite Falls. The road loops through the park so you can see all the of the highlights, or park your car and hike on one or more of the many trails throughout the park. Besides Yosemite Valley, the backcountry is a great place to explore the national park with less crowds.
Besides seeing the sites, hiking or biking through Yosemite is a great way to see more of the natural beauty of the park. Trails will take you to amazing waterfalls like Bridal Veil Falls or to hidden lakes and meadows. Experienced hikers flock to climb Half Dome, but even if you’re not interested in doing the hike, it’s worth standing at the bottom and gawking.
Want to stay overnight at Yosemite? There are campgrounds inside as well as outside the park, but book early as these sites are incredibly popular.
Take a One Tank Trip
One tank trips are a great way to explore locally without spending so much on gas. If you’re looking for other great one tank itineraries check out the list below.
And if you’re looking for a rig, check out RVshare.com for an excellent selection of RV rentals!