Trippy user Tom was taking a road trip in Northern California and needed advice on where to go, and this was his question:
I’m taking my gap year this year and driving up the coast of California this October with some friends (we’re going to try the East Coast in the spring). We have literally no idea what to see, what to do, where to stay, what to eat…you get the picture. We’re planning on taking our time driving up (maybe a week or so) and then spending at least a month in the northern part of the state. What should we see?
Like most people, at this point, you may ask, “where exactly is Northern California?” There are many different answers to this question. For help, we checked out VisitCalifornia’s lists, and these are the regions we will include here:
North Coast region:
- Del Norte County
- Humboldt County
- Lake County
- Mendocino County
Shasta Cascade region:
- Butte County
- Lassen County
- Modoc County
- Plumas County
- Shasta County
- Siskiyou County
- Tehama County
- Trinity County
These are the 11 places to see in Northern California:
1. Redwood National Park
Shauna from Santa Monica recommended Redwood National Park. She said:
If you’ve never hugged a tree, this might be the place you give it a shot. You’ll be sure that trees are people too once you take in the true majesty and chapel-like feeling here of peace and awe. Definitely worth a trip.
Redwood National Park is located in Humboldt county, the place to see the world’s tallest trees. The redwoods grow to over 375 feet tall and can be as old as 2,000 years old. You can also find redwoods in Del Norte Coast Redwoods, Jedediah Smith Redwoods, and Prairie Creek Redwoods.
Marisa, a California native, shared her experiences:
As a great place to take the family! I grew up in that area as a kid and wouldn’t trade it. It’s too bad you didn’t have more time there, a yurt at the National Parks would be lots of fun. But, since your only looking for one night, family-friendly – there are several Holiday Inn Expresses in the area like Holiday Inn Express and Suites, Holiday Inn Express, and Holiday Inn Express & Suites Eureka.
Valerie said she did the famous drive-through in Redwood National Park:
I visited the Drive-Thru Tree Park in the heart of the Redwood National Park.
2. Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park
Just 45 minutes north of Eureka, the largest coastal city in Northern California is Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. Prairie Creek Redwoods offers more than just towering trees; there are giant ferns, scenic drives, hiking trails, and an opportunity to see Roosevelt elk in their natural habitat.
The most popular trail is the walk to Fern Canyon, where Jurassic Park, the movie was filmed.
History and charm abound in the seaport town of Eureka. See the Victorian-era Old Town, the protected old harbor which is a working seaport with fishing boats, and the most visited 19th-century building – Carson Mansion. Eureka also offers a 75-minute guided cruise on the Madaket (the oldest passenger ferry) along the Eureka waterfront, fresh seafood, and plenty of places to sample local beer and wine.
Trippy user Lyn wrote:
Back on 101, you will reach Eureka (California), an interesting place. Some more great architecture. A good hotel there is The Carter Hotel, which is a B&B – great breakfast!. If you are looking for unique dining (and I use the word loosely), experience, Samoa Cookhouseis a great option. It has been there since 1890, and it is a vast hall where the lumberjacks used to eat. Food is served family-style. I love it as a change of pace.
4. Lost Coast Scenic Drive
This four-hour round trip scenic drive will take you Ferndale through Capetown, Cape Mendocino, Mattole River Valley, and Humboldt Redwoods State Park. You’ll see rural towns, beautiful Californian coastal views, grasslands, and more. Find out more through the VisitRedwoods page.
5. Redwood Valley wineries
Wine lovers will enjoy driving to Redwood Valley, home to world-class Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Barbera, and Petite Sirah. Check out the following wineries:
- Barra of Mendocino
- Boonville Road Wines
- Chance Creek Vineyards
- Frey Vineyards
- Testa Vineyards
6. Shasta Lake
Shasta Lake, a 30,000-acre lake, is an ideal place for house boating, jet skiing, stand-up paddleboarding, and fishing. The lake offers magnificent views of Mt. Shasta and is close to the Pacific Coast, Shasta -Trinity National Forest, and Lake Shasta Caverns. Fishing enthusiasts have the chance to catch 20 species of fish, including rainbow and brown trout, king salmon, catfish, and spotted bass.
7. Lake Shasta Caverns National Natural Landmark
Situated 900 feet above Shasta Lake and on the foothills of Mt. Shasta is Lake Shasta Caverns National Natural Landmark. Guided tours are available to the caverns. The most popular two-hour tour includes a catamaran boat ride, a scenic bus tour, and a tour of the caverns. Bear in mind that this tour involves taking 600 steps in the caverns.
8. Sundial Bridge in Turtle Bay Exploration Park, Redding
You might stop by the Sundial Bridge in Redding. I haven’t seen it myself, but it is supposed to be pretty spectacular.
Sundial Bridge, as the name implies, has a working sundial. It’s also one of the largest sundials in the world. The bridge crosses the Sacramento River in Turtle Bay Exploration Park, Redding. The 300-acre Turtle Bay Exploration Park is a cultural center, home to the famous bridge, museum, wildlife park, gardens, restaurants, and a hotel.
9. Glass Beach in Fort Bragg
I don’t think the NorCal coastline really gets awesome until Fort Bragg in Mendocino County, where the shore gets really dramatic. Stop at The Glass Beach, which is really interesting, and if you love beer, North Coast Brewing Company, which is one of my favorites.
Check out the world’s most unique beach, Glass Beach, in MacKerricher State Park, Fort Bragg. In the early 20th century, when an earthquake struck the area, all the trash was bulldozed over the cliffs to what is now known as Glass Beach. Nature took over in the formation of the area after the dumping was moved to a new site in the late 1940s. Today, Glass Beach is covered with colorful, smooth, rounded glasses that sparkle when the sun shines.
Note: You can’t remove the glass from the beach.
10. Skunk Train, Fort Bragg
Elliott from San Francisco and Nigel from Palo Alto recommended experiencing Skunk Train. They wrote:
Fort Bragg is a sprawling town that has little to offer in terms of charm. The fishing harbor is interesting and a place to hire a boat. Look for glass beach, a fun place to search for polished glass that remains from a glass foundry that burned down. Skunk Train is a picturesque trip to and from Willits, following old logging trails.
A short drive north is Fort Bragg. It’s bigger and more industrial, but not without good food. If you have little ones or you like trains, check out the Skunk Train.
The historic skunk started in 1885, transporting redwood logs, but today guests can ride through redwood groves, bridges, trestles, and tunnels from Fort Bragg to Willits. Go to their website to find out more about the schedule and upcoming events.
11. Lava Beds National Monument
Located in Siskiyou and Modoc counties is the Lava Beds National Monument, a landscape sculpted by molten with 800 caves, Native American rock art sites, and historic battlefields and campsites.
Hiking and caving are two popular activities suitable for adventure seekers. Take a look at the list of things to see and do provided by the NPS.