Motorcyclists take note, Humboldt County has what some call the best bike rides in the state and hundreds of miles of roads that display the tallest trees in the world and the longest stretch of wild coast in the lower 48. And unlike the packed back roads near the cities, the traffic is pleasantly light.
Highway 36 Stretches 100-plus miles from Fortuna to Red Bluff, and is considered by some purists to be the best cycle ride in California. Members of the online forum at Pashnit.com, the premiere recreational motorcycle web source in the state, call the road, known for hypnotic curves, great mountain scenery and lack of vehicles, “the ultimate ride,” “a motorcyclist’s paradise” and “the most perfect road ever designed.”
The Lost Coast Other great rides loop along the handful of roads that venture west from Hwy 101 into the Lost Coast, the longest undeveloped stretch of beachfront in the continental United States.
“Mountains charge straight out of the surf in a dizzying ascent unmatched by other continental U.S. coastlines,” observes Motorcycle Escape Magazine, which recommends day-trips starting in Ferndale, Garberville and Weott.
From Weott, for example, one can drive a 100-mile loop that offers the best of country and town. Going west on Mattole Road, one passes within arm’s length of many trees in the Rockefeller Forest, the largest single stand of old-growth redwoods in the world.
After zipping by the Honeydew general store and the town of Petrolia, site of the first oil well in California, the road reaches the edge of the Lost Coast. Head north, climb the notorious Wall to the Wildcat for memorable views of the ocean and the Victorian village of Ferndale. Be aware that portions of this ride west of Honeydew and Ferndale are rough and well suited for dual sports and touring bikes.
At the southern end, near Phillipsville, is the Riverwood Inn, the last of the old roadhouses along the Avenue. Riders can park their bikes indoors, select from 30-plus Tequilas at the bar and hear musical lineups that might include John Lee Hooker Jr. or Guitar Shorty.
A more family-oriented experience can be had in Eureka in the summer, when Bikes By the Bay takes place along the Old Town waterfront. Bike clubs and custom bike builders show off their rides, whether for muscle or appearance. Check our web events for more details. In general, Old Town Eureka is a bike-friendly place.
Those seeking a Harley fix can see the 2010 models at the new Redwood Harley-Davidson, located on Hwy 101 on the northern edge of town. The staff readily offers tips on planning road trips in the area.
Redwood National Park One such venture might take you 40 miles north to Orick, an old lumber mill town situated in Redwood National Park, which offer a variety of great bike rides, such as the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway, a historic stretch of Hwy 101 that rivals the Avenue of the Giants in tall tree scenery.
September and October are a good time for the trip. Weather-wise, it seems like summer. The afternoon skies are usually clear and the daytime temps are in the mid-60s.
Foliage-wise, autumn is putting on a display. Along the Avenue of the Giants, for example, vines on old-growth redwoods are scarlet red and throngs of nearby maple trees are bright yellow.