Best of California's Redwood Coast Itinerary

Enjoy the splendor of nature, the culture and history of the area, and get away from it all. A four hour drive north from Sacramento, CA. or San Francisco along scenic Hwy 101, and visitors will find themselves surrounded by towering, ancient redwood groves, pristine coastline, and historic cities with their unique charm. Day 1: Tour the Avenue of the Giants and Drive Through a Redwood Tree. As you drive north on scenic Hwy 101 to Humboldt County be sure to stop at one of the Drive-through Trees. It may sound unbelievable that a whole car could drive through a Redwood but that's just a taste of the amazing Redwood trees you'll find on this trip through Humboldt County. The Shrine Drive-Thru Tree in Myers Flat (take the Myers Flat Exit on Hwy 101), will let you have the unique opportunity to drive your car through one of these towering giants. Kids also like the two 2-story tree houses and the children's walk-through stump found here. You are now on the famous Avenue of the Giants, in Humboldt Redwoods State Park. On this scenic byway to Hwy 101, you will be surrounded by towering Redwoods. (Don't worry, this byway runs parallel to Hwy 101 and you won't have to turn around to get back to the Highway). The Ave of the Giants is as close to the Redwoods as you can get while still in your car, and with the many pullouts along the Avenue you can easily pull over, off the road, to get out of your car and be up close and personal with these towering giants. The setting created by the trees makes for great photo lighting even on the sunniest of days. Be sure to stop in the Visitor Center in Weott. The visitor center is staffed year round with knowledgeable volunteers who can answer your questions and give you great hiking suggestions. The center also has interactive displays (a favorite with the kids), wildlife exhibits, souveniers, books and maps of the park and the area. Be sure not to miss the Giant Tree (354') in Rockefeller forest just north of the visitor center. The Avenue of the Giants winds along the Eel River where there are numerous swimming holes. Hit the beach for a break, go for a swim or just wet your feet on the banks. Day 2: Heritage Tour Humboldt County is unique. Not only is it home to towering, world famous redwood trees, most of its towns and cities have retained much of their history. The following tour will take you there. Start with an early morning breakfast at the Samoa Cookhouse, a "lumber camp" style restaurant with hearty portions. The walls of the Cookhouse are lined with photographs of Humboldt's logging, maritime and railroad history. Explore the room filled with artifacts and tools left over from the logging days. Before heading out of the parking lot, visit the Maritime Museum (look for large lifeboat). Then drive north on this coastal peninsula thru the town of Manila and into Arcata. The Historical Sites Society of Arcata has created a series of online map tours of the area's architecture. Detour: Instead of heading north when you leave the Cookhouse, make a left and cruise along the Samoa Dunes. If you take this all the way out, and pass the Coast Guard Unit, you will find yourself at the North Jetty of the Humboldt Bay entrance. Lunch in Arcata's Downtown area on the Plaza, or head south on Hwy 101 and back to Eureka's Old Town District. Here you will find restaurants, cafes and shops in the renovated commercial buildings that date back to the 1860s. Schedule a cruise on Humboldt Bay at the foot of "C" street, aboard the Madaket, the last survivor of seven original ferries that transported mill workers and families around Humboldt Bay, as the captain tells tales old and new. This not to be missed 75 minute narrated cruise runs mid May thru September. Then take the self-guided Walking Tour of Old Town. Be sure to get a look at the Carson Mansion, the former home of Lumber Barron William Carson, a frequently photographed Victorian mansion (Located at 143 M Street, Eureka). Optional: Drive or walk this tour of Eureka's victorians. Then take a late afternoon/early evening drive further south (25 mins.) to the Victorian Village of Ferndale. Virtually unchanged since the 1800s, Ferndale, Calif. (pop. 1,382) is a living history museum of Victoriana and other architectural treasures. Nestled in a verdant, pastoral valley near Northern California's redwood forests, Ferndale was founded in 1852 and quickly became one of the region's major agricultural centers. Day 3: Trinidad, Fern Canyon, and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park As you drive north on Hwy 101 on your way to the redwoods, visit the beautiful coastal town of Trinidad . The Memorial Lighthouse at the end of Main Street offers a fabulous view of the harbor. The rocks that scatter this part of the coastline are part of the California's Coastal National Monument. Back out to Hwy 101 going north, keep an eye peeled for Roosevelt elk herds that roam this area. A favorite haunt are the fields off Hwy 101 across from Dry Lagoon. Look for the little red schoolhouse. Continuing north on Hwy 101, look for the Newton B Drury Parkway which will take you into Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. Look for elk feeding in the large flat prairie just before the Visitor Center. There are also several trails that branch out from the visitor location. Looking for more? Detour to Fern Canyon (an approx. 25 min. drive) at the very end of Davison Rd., just north of Orick, south of the park entrance, and take a magical walk through a narrow canyon where the walls are completely covered with ferns and mosses, (as seen in the movie Jurassic park II). Or, for a more interpretive hike take the Bald Hills Road exit off Hwy 101 (two miles north of Orick) to the Ladybird Johnson Grove. This easy hike on level ground provides a breathtaking view of the redwoods that all can enjoy. Eureka or Arcata are central to the county. If you are staying in Eureka, have dinner in historic Old Town. If staying in Arcata, enjoy dinner and a stroll on the historic Arcata Plaza.