There’s no shortage of things to do in Northern California. For a fun road trip along this little slice of Humboldt County’s coast line, check out these 19 great stops. Together, these stops create quite the road trip, but are also a ton of fun if you want to explore them individually. Either way, this itinerary proves that Northern California’s coast is one of the most amazing adventure destinations in the whole world. What is holding you back? It’s just waiting to be explored!
1. Fern Canyon
For one of the most scenic walks imaginable, be sure to stop at Fern Canyon. You will follow the creek for less than a mile along this lovely and easy hike.
2. Lady Bird Johnson Grove
This is one of the Redwoods most sublime and accessible walks. Stop here and just be floored by the beauty of the Northern California redwoods.
3. Patricks Point State Park
This is a scenic coastal wonderland with so much to explore in just one square mile. Take in the views from the bluffs, tour a Native American Yurok reconstructed village, play in the tide pools, and walk along the beach.
4. Humboldt Lagoons State Park
This unique ecosystem was formed when two tectonic plates crashed together. It's the largest network of lagoons in the U.S. Forty miles north of Eureka, the park includes Big Lagoon, Stone Lagoon, and Freshwater Lagoon, as well as Dry Lagoon, which is now a marsh.
5. Clam Beach
There aren't a lot of beaches in Northern California where you are allowed to camp right on the beach, but this is one of them. Its a wide, flat beach just minutes away from the town of McKinleyville, where all of your picnic, camping and beach supplies are available. The nearby Little River and Moonstone beaches are also a treat.
6. Trinidad Memorial Lighthouse
This replica was built in 1949 by the Trinidad Civic Club as a memorial to those lost or buried at sea. Its white walls and red roof are lovely, but you will be blown away by the surrounding views of the ocean and town of Trinidad.
7. Humboldt Dunes
The beaches, dunes and wetlands of the Humboldt Bay area are rugged yet beautiful. They often offer solitude and are great for relaxing and just taking it all in. Experience the dunes at Mad River County Park, Ma-le'l Dunes near Arcata, the Humboldt Coastal Visitor Center dunes, and the Samoa Dunes Recreation Area.
8. Samoa Cookhouse
This historic dining hall once served loggers their meal in between shifts in the surrounding redwood forests. It is one of the oldest continually operating cookhouses, and today visitors are served family style, which means you will sit down at the table and serve yourself from the platters as food arrives. There's also a fun little museum on site.
9. Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge
This wildlife refuge preserves some of the most most beautiful and biologically rich places in the world. The birds, mammals, fish, amphibians, invertebrates, and plants that live in the Humboldt Bay area are fascinating, so be sure to check this out for yourself!
10. Eureka's Historic Old Town
There's tons of nature to enjoy in Humboldt County, but there is also an incredible cultural history here, as well. The meticulously preserved and restored district of unique shops, restaurants, galleries and museums of Old Town Eureka is definitely a must see.
11. Sequoia Park Zoo, Eureka
The Sequoia Park Zoo first opened its doors in 1907, making it the oldest zoo in California and one of the smallest accredited zoos in the country. Here you can learn about everything from exotic animals to the ecosystem of the nearby redwoods.
12. Loleta Cheese Factory
This local artisan cheese factory will tempt your tastebuds like no other! The cheese is made with milk from cows right here in Humboldt county, which means it's just about as homegrown as you can get without going out and milking those cows yourself.
This historic Victorian Villiage, known as the Gateway to the Redwoods, will delight you like no other. Be sure to save time to explore this quaint little town, and even consider staying here overnight. The spectacular architecture will astound anyone with an eye for beauty.
14. The Lost Coast Scenic Drive
A lot of people see the Lost Coast from the trail, but that requires hiking out and camping in the wilderness overnight. The easier and quicker option is to drive this short and sweet scenic loop. From Ferndale, take the Mattole Road (the "Wildcat") 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.
For antiques, small town charm, and a solid dose of Americana, don't drive through Fortuna without stopping. This image was taken during Fortuna Rodeo Week, a great time to visit!
The entire town of Scotia owes its existence to the Pacific Lumber Company. It started as a lumber town through and through, and it's still very proud of its logging heritage. Be sure to check out the Redwood Museum.
17. The Avenue of the Giants
This stunning route through the redwoods was once the main way through this area, but it has since been replaced by the faster, modern Freeway 101. It's well worth a detour, however. The 31-mile stretch is packed with jaw dropping views of the redwoods and offers plenty of roadside attractions. It's a must see for any road trip in the area.
18. Shelter Cove
Known as the Gateway to the Lost Coast, Shelter Cove is another great spot to lay your head for the night. It's a cozy little ocean front community that offers an airport, a golf course, superb lodging, and fine dining.
19. Richardson Grove State Park
Be sure to stop in at this quaint park, which is over 1,800 acres. You can swim or fish in the river, visit the walk-through tree and the bat tree, learn from the tree-ring study conducted in 1933, camp, picnic, and hike on nine miles of trails.
What did you think about these coastal gems and this one of a kind road trip? Are you ready to embark on your own coastal road trip? This is a perfect itinerary just in time for summer.