Attractions in the North of California

Hiking in California | Pictures of these hikes
California Guidebook | National Parks | California State Parks

Humboldt County (map)
  • Redwood National Park (see right column)
  • Prairie Creek Redwoods Park & Murrelet State Wilderness (see right column)
  • Humboldt Lagoons Park (which includes Big Lagoon, Stone Lagoon, Freshwater Lagoon, Dry Lagoon), just north of Patricks Point
  • Patricks Point Park (beach)
  • Eureka (Carson Mansion, Victorian homes, historic district, murals, the coast guard building in Samoa island)
  • Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge (birdwatchers paradise) with the Ma-le'l Dunes (only open to vehicles friday through monday) and the Hookton Slough loop (5 kms roundtrip)
  • Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation (California's largest reservation)
  • Ferndale (historic district and cemetery)
  • Avenue of the Giants (or "route 254", a 50-km scenic drive with some of the tallest trees in the world), especially Founders Grove and "Big Trees Area" (click here for the map)
  • Lost Coast (unspoilt coast with Shelter Cove, King Range, etc)
  • Arcata
  • Kinetic Sculpture Race from Arcata to Ferndale on Memorial Day Weekend (see here)
  • Fortuna
Modoc County
  • Lava Beds: Cave Loop (eg Garden Bridges, Paradise Alley, Catacombs, Blue Cave), Devil's Homestead (lava beds) and the wildlife lookout at Tula Lake (map)
Lassen County
  • Lassen Volcanic Park: Lassen Peak (4km hike to the summit of 3,187 meters), Bumpass Hell (2km hike), Lake Helen, Kings Creek Falls, Manzanita Lake (map)
Shasta County
  • Mount Shasta
  • Shasta Lake (largest commercial houseboat fleet in the world)
  • Redding: Turtle Bay Exploration Park, +Sundial Bridge
Mendocino County
  • Cape Mendocino (westermost point in California)
  • Mendocino
  • Wharf Rock Beach (see Mendocino)

Howdy's description of the Kinetic Sculpture Race (founded by metal sculptor Hobart Brown in 1969): The start of the race has the most festival atmosphere with a lot of people and machines crowding the Arcata plaza before the noon whistle start on Saturday. Shortly after, the main action is on the beach between Manila and Samoa where we have to go through sand dunes and the "dead man's drop" down a slope of sand. On Sunday the main interest is the water entry (splash, sink or float?) and you can see a lot of the sculptures well from the water front along the harbor. The rest of Sunday is spread out along the road. That night we camp on the beach at the mouth of the Eel river. Monday we cross the Eel and there is some new mud hazard that they are adding this year on the other side on the outskirts of Ferndale. Then there is the finish line in Ferndale. The first sculptures to finish usually cross the line in the early afternoon 1-2 (the finish in Ferndale is held up until after a more traditional Memorial Day parade there in the morning). Most sculptures are done by 3pm at the latest.

Weather forecast for Prairie Creek Park
Weather forecast for Lassen
Weather forecast for Eureka
Things to see in Avenue of the Giants include: Founders Grove (located just south of the bridge over the creek, make sure you turn left into the bridge if you are coming from the north) with Dyerville Tree (a colossal fallen tree), the "Big Tree Area" (7 kms into Bull Creek Flats Road which starts just north of the bridge, an area located after the Rockefeller Grove and before the Albee Creek Campground, but note that you may have to wade the creek if the bridge is out, and on the other side there's a well-marked trail to the two trees, Giant Tree and Flat Iron Tree), Bolling Grove, Williams Grove, and maybe Shrine Drive Thru Tree (a tourist trap in Myers Flat). To get to Founders Grove (which is approximately halfway into Avenue of the Giants take exit 663 of highway 101).

There are three campgrounds along Avenue of the Giants: Albee Creek campground (on a side road that starts approximately where Founders Grove is), Burlington Campground (south of Founders Grove) and Hidden Springs Campground (further south) In 2021 all the tent sites were $35 plus a $8 reservation fee = $43. The nearby hotels may be better deals (and more quiet). Needless to say, cash only if you show up without a paid reservation.

Hiking the Lost Coast

The main gates to the Lost Coast are Mattole and Shelter Cove, a little town about 40 minutes west of Garberville (four hours north of San Francisco on 101). There are several small campgrounds before Shelter Cove, and it is also possible to camp on its beach, Black Sands Beach (it's mostly BLM area). Driving to Mattole takes about 2 hours via the very winding Wilder Ridge Rd/ Mattole Rd (80 kms total). The trailhead is located at the end of Beach Rd. There is a parking lot just before the trailhead. As of 2020, the sign "trailhead" actually sends you to the parking lot. Then you have to walk down to Beach Rd to the beach. There is no trailhead in the parking lot.

One can hike all the way to Mattole along the coast (40 kms), but usually a few kms are enough to get a feeling. Inland from the Lost Coast is King Range, a foresty series of hills that drop dramatically into the sea. Check tides and winds before you plan a Lost Coast hike: much of the lost coast is underwater during a high tide, and the sea can be dangerous even during a low tide if the winds are strong. A rewarding hike that mixes both Lost Coast and King Range is a loop from Saddle Mountain (a trailhead located 20 kms north of Shelter Cove on King Peak Rd/ Saddle Mountain Rd) to King Peak (8 kms) down the Rattlesnake Trail to the beach (10 kms), i.e. Big Flat, south 6 kms along the coast to the Buck Creek trail, up to Saddle Mountain (6kms), for a total of 30 kms. The uphill part is strenuous (whichever way you do the loop). There is drinkable water at the bottom of the Rattlesnake Trail. King Peak is the highest point along the coast north of Big Sur. If you are lucky, you can see quite a bit of wildlife near Big Flat: deer, bears, foxes, bobcats, etc (plus salmons and trouts in the creek). Unfortunately there are also rattlesnakes and ticks. And plenty of poison oak. The section between Big Flat and Buck Creek is impassable during high tides. The other section that is impassable during high tides is between the Punta Gorda lighthouse and Randall Creek. Compared with the dramatic coasts of Big Sur and Point Reyes, i don't think that the Lost Coast is particularly beautiful: its appeal comes from the "lost" status; not is King Range particularly breathtaking compared with the nearby redwood parks. Any hike on the Lost Coast can be a truly miserable hike if you pick the wrong time of the year. If you are coming from southern California, remember that it does rain in this part of the world, and often. And make sure you like to walk on sand for hours and hours if you plan to hike the whole Lost Coast...

Redwood National Park and neighboring Prairie Creek Redwoods Park
  • Klamath Section of the Coast Trail (wildlife, rivers, ocean views, whale watching) from Klamath River Overlook off Requa Rd to Wilson Creek off highway 101 via Hidden Beach (13kms each way)
  • Prairie Creek Redwoods Park: Rhododendron Trail from Drury Scenic Parkway (short and easy)
  • Prairie Creek Redwoods Park (park your car on the road before the visitor center): visitor center (look for the big sign of the trailhead and go right) to the Miners' Ridge trail to the end, then go left 100 meters to Gold Bluffs beach and campground, then retrace your steps and go north on the coastal road until the end of the road (about 2 kms), right into Fern Canyon (note: no sign) to James Irvine trail (you can also take a brief detour into the canyon) for a total of about 19 kms
  • Prairie Creek Redwoods Park & Murrelet State Wilderness (park your car on the road before the visitor center): Prairie Creek visitor center to Prairie Creek Trail to the West Ridge trail north to Coastal trail then south to Fern Canyon trail, then up the canyon to the stairs (the stairs are easy to miss) to the James Irvine trail that loops back to headquarters (a 21km loop)

    South of Prairie Park: Bald Hills Rd
  • Tall Trees Grove, the tallest trees (about 3kms north of Orick take Bald Hills Rd from 101 and go east past the Redwood Creek overlood and park at the Dolason picnic area which, on the right-hand side, is also the trailhead for the Dolason Trail, and then hike to the Tall Trees trail which takes you to the Tall Trees Grove)
  • Lady Bird Johnson Trail, most visited trail in Redwood National Park (very short, not even 2 kms, but one of the best for tall redwoods) that starts from 4 kms into Bald Hills Rd
  • Redwoood Creek Trail (26kms one way) from Bald Hills Rd to the Tall Trees Grove
    South of Prairie Park: The Lagoons
  • Humboldt Lagoons Park (which includes Big Lagoon, Stone Lagoon, Freshwater Lagoon, Dry Lagoon), just north of Patricks Point. You can hike the coastal trail from either then OREQ picnic area in the north or the Dry Lagoon picnic area in the south, or, better, from the parking lot south of Freshwater and north of Ston Lagoon.

    Camping in Prairie park: Elk Prairie Campground (75 family sites), often full. Gold Bluffs Beach campground (26 sites) requires a permit and can be reached from Davison Rd, between Orick and Prairie Park (unmarked as of 2020): drive 5 minutes north from Orick on hwy 101 and turn left into the road for Elk Meadow which soon becomes an unpaved coastal road with a sign for Gold Bluffs Beach. The road is passable to low-clearance vehicles as long as it is not muddy from heavy rains.
    Free camping at Redwood Creek but it requires a hike: get a permit from a Redwood National Park visitor center (eg the one at the Orick exit of highway 101), then drive up Bald Hills Rd (3 kms north of Orick), turn right after the overlook into the gated dirt road (the combination to open the lock is in the permit), drive to the end of the road, park, hike down, turn left at the first junction and then go straight down to the Redwood Creek, camp on the tiny sandy section of the river bank (a steep 2km hike)
    Camping on the beach: go to Patricks Point Park and get a permit to camp on the beach north of the park
    If you have to break the trip coming from southern California, consider Standish-Hickey Park that has three campgrounds: Hickey Campground, Rock Creek Campground, Redwood Campground (which is also the best) In 2021 all the tent sites were $35 plus a $8 reservation fee = $43. The nearby hotels may be better deals (and more quiet). Needless to say, cash only if you show up without a paid reservation.