The North Coast of Humboldt County is one of the most beautiful and awe inspiring places in the country, let alone Northern California. Even if you live in this scenic location. you have to agree that a drive up Highway 101 is an absolute must see for anyone living in this state. This fun and scenic drive will be best in late spring when the crazy winter weather we are having calms down a bit. The ferns will be lush and vibrant, however, and the beaches remote and peaceful.
This breathtaking coastal drive will take you in and out of the iconic redwood forests and dramatic beaches of the North Coast.
1. Richardson Grove State Park
You'll begin at this state park that is great for day use. It boasts the 9th largest tree in all of the Redwood forests and is also know for it's great swimming holes in the Eel River. It's a great place to kick off your scenic drive, no matter what direction you are coming from.
2. Shelter Cove
Head west from Richardson Grove to get your first glimpse of the ocean at Shelter Cove. It's located on what is known as Northern California's Lost Coast where the King Range meets the sea. It's fairly secluded and folks are drawn here for the quiet. If time allows, we recommend spending a night here before making your way inland and up through the Avenue of the Giants.
3. Avenue of the Giants
As it's name suggests, this drive will leave you awe struck by the beauty of these unique and incredible trees. It is part of Humboldt Redwoods State Park and the southern entrance to the Avenue is just north of Garberville. The Avenue of the Giants was part of U.S. Route 101 until a freeway bypass completed on August 27, 1960, assuming the 101 designation. It's the location of a number of iconic landmarks that tourists love to see, including the Immortal Tree and Founder's Grove.
3. Drive Thru Tree
Another such land mark is the Shrine Drive-Thru Tree is near the town of Myers Flat. If you want the traditional Avenue of Giants Experience, this is a must see! Be forewarned, though. The tree is actually on private property and the owner charges people to drive through it.
4. Lost Coast Scenic Drive
Before you get to Ferndale, you have the option to get offthe beaten path and check out a very scenic, but very rough route that gets you a close to this remote coastline as possible without having to hike in. From Ferndale, take the Mattole Road south toward Petrolia. After rolling through a high alpine forest, you'll come to a former stagecoach stop called Capetown. From this point the road takes a steep drop to the sea and touches the ocean at Cape Mendocino, following the shore for six miles near Cape Mendocino, then turns inland along the Mattole River. Continue on through Honeydew, out of the Mattole River Valley and into Humboldt Redwoods State park where you can return via 101, heading north.
5. Humboldt Bay
Despite being the only protected harbor along nearly 500 miles of coastline, the bay's location was undiscovered or at least unreliably charted for centuries after the first arrival of European explorers to the Pacific Coast. This is partially because it is extremely difficult to see from the ocean. The harbor opens to the sea through a narrow and historically treacherous passage, which was blocked from direct view due to sandbars now managed by jetties.
6. Lanphere Dunes/ Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge
Originally occupied by the Wiyot people prior European settlement this area became the home of William and Hortense Lanphere in the 1930s, For the next 40 years they maintained the dunes in a relatively pristine state. In 1975 a movement for permanent protection was made by the Lanpheres and faculty from Humboldt State University who used the area for botany classes. Working with The Nature Conservancy the area was protected and turned over to the National Wildlife Refuge System for management.
7. Clam and Moonstone Beaches
These two incredible spots are great places to get out and stretch your legs. Clam Beach is one of the few California Beaches that allows overnight beach camping. Moonstone Beach, on the other hand, is a great place to grab a bite to eat at the nearby Moonstone Grill.
8. Patrick's Point State Park.
Patrick's Point is a 640 acre park in the heart of the California coast's redwood country. The park's dense forests of spruce, hemlock, pine, fir and red alder stretch over an ocean headland with lovely wildflower-festooned meadows and a dramatic shoreline ranging from broad sandy beaches to sheer cliffs that rise high above the Pacific Ocean offer great opportunities to explore tide pools, search for agates and driftwood, watch whales and sea lions and brilliant sunset.
9. Trinidad State Beach
The impressive offshore rocks seen from this beach are part of the California Coastal National Monument. It's located about 20 miles north of Eureka and one of the most iconic and dramatic coastal features you will see on this drive.
10. Humboldt Lagoons State Park
This California state park protects three lagoons with estuaries and wetlands. It's spectacular at sunset and for bird watching. It's the site of resting areas for migratory waterfowl.
11. Fern Canyon
A couple beautiful "fern canyons" are found along the North Coast, but the Fern Canyon in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park is undoubtedly the most awe-inspiring. Five-ﬁnger, deer, lady, sword, and chain ferns cover the precipitous walls of the canyon.
12. Newton Drury Scenic Parkway
The Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway is the 9-mile long two lane road through Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. It was completed in 1993 to honor his efforts in the creation of Redwood National and State Parks. He served as the fourth director of the American National Park Service and the executive director of the Save-the-Redwoods League.