Highlights of this road trip include the famed Glass Beach, Victorian Ferndale and the Avenue of the Giants, the latter being one of California's top 5 attractions. Take in breathtaking coastal vista's, relax in quaint seaside towns, and hike in impressive coastal redwood forests. This trip could be completed in three days but if you have the time we recommend spending a little longer with at least two nights camping amidst the Redwoods and exploring the area fully.
San Francisco to Fort Bragg
182 miles / 5 hours
If you are interested in staying at a B&B, check out BedandBreakfast.com who have the largest source of online B&B's and inn's worldwide (they have around 20 listings for Fort Bragg and Mendocino). We stayed at the Weller House Inn and loved it! We will write a review on that soon.
Fort Bragg to Avenue of the Giants
90 miles / 2 hours
Make your way up the coast along the Pacific Coast Highway, passing through forgotten coastal towns and stopping at vista points to get photos of the dramatic coastline below.
When you reach Leggett, get back on the 101 and head north until you reach the southern entrance of the Avenue of The Giants drive (road 258).
This world famous scenic drive is 31 miles long and is surrounded by the Humboldt Redwoods State Park, which has the largest remaining stand of virgin Redwoods in the world. You will find plenty of roadside attractions that are worth stopping at such as the One Log Tree House (a house created from a single hollowed out log), Shine Drive-Thru tree and many gift store filled with treasure made from coastal redwoods.
The best attraction would have to be the Humboldt Redwoods State Park Visitor's Center located just south of Weott, where you will find wildlife exhibits, history on the area and an RV made from a redwood tree which has travelled across the country 3 times!
There are many Redwood groves you can stop and go for short or long hikes. The Eel River snakes its way alongside the highway and is great for fishing or cooling off if you are visiting in the summer time. There's nothing quite like camping among these giants so spend a night or two at one of the campgrounds.
Avenue of the Giants to Ferndale
45 miles / 1 hour
Ferndale (named one of America's prettiest towns) is a small town which contains dozens of well-preserved Victorian homes and storefronts. Visiting Ferndale is like taking a step back in time with many of the buildings dating back from the 1880's. The beautiful homes are also known as 'Butterfat Palaces' due to the wealth that was generated by the dairy industry that led to their construction. Interesting fact: The Jim Carrey film The Majestic was filmed here. Before reaching Ferndale make sure you swing by Fortuna and visit the Eel River Brewing Co for lunch. They serve up amazing food (large portions) that include fresh seafood and tasty organic beer.
Ferndale to Eureka
26 miles / 20 minutes
Leaving Ferndale behind, your next destination will be Eureka where there is enough to keep one entertained for the day.
Eureka, like Ferndale is known for its lovely Victorian architecture but its most notable building would be the Carson mansion, an elaborate combination of Queen Anne, Italianate and Eastlake styles built in 1885. Walk the city streets and admire the restored buildings or peruse through the many art and craft boutiques. In the summer, be treated to free outdoor concerts or climb aboard the M.V. Madaket, a small boat built in 1910 that provides short tours of Humboldt Bay.
If you have the kids in tow take a trip to Sequoia Zoo and when its time for dinner head to the Samoa Cook House which serves up "lumber camp style" in one of the last logging camp-type cookhouse left in the USA. If you are into fishing there are quite a few fishing charters in the area.
Eureka to Klamath
63 miles / 1 hour
Back on highway 101, make your way up to Klamath. On your way you will drive through the blink and you'll miss town of Orick. One of the largest Roosevelt Elk herds can be found here seen from the Elk Meadow Day Use Area off Davison Road.
On reaching Klamath, explore the rugged Pacific Ocean shores, go beach combing or hike the forest trails. Other attractions include the Trees of Mystery (if only to get a photo of the giant Paul Bunyan statue) and jet-boating on the Klamath river.
Klamath to Del Norte Redwoods State Park
12 miles / 20 minutes
Tall trees meet the sea at Del Norte Redwoods State Park. With up to 100 inches of rain a year, this parks grow the tallest trees in the world and also protects 45 percent of Earth’s last remaining old-growth redwood forests.
In two short, steep miles, the Damnation Creek trail leads from fern and redwood forests down to rocky tide-pools and the violent crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean. This is one of our favorite hikes on the west coast and worth the trudge back up the steep Cliffside. A word of warning, some parts of the trail are very narrow and can be slippery when wet.
DEL NORTE REDWOODS STATE PARK TO CRESCENT CITY - 9 MILES/ 15 MINS
Last stop on the Northern California road trip is the seaside town of Crescent City. Crescent City is nothing special but is still pretty nice none the less. There are some lovely beaches and a marine mammal center for the kids. The beaches here are a lot safer for swimming than some of the areas along the northern coast, and there are quite a few surfboard and kayak rental shops if you plan to vacation here for a few days and want to get active in the water.
Read about our road tripping adventures down the Northern California coast and see what we got up to!
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Two Aussies road-tripping across the USA. Our goal is to discover America's wild places and vibrant cities... and make the most of every moment. Read more