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California Coast

Enjoy a Spectacular Northern California Coast Road Trip!
By Vicki Funes

Driving the northern California coastal road from the Oregon border southwards to San Francisco makes for a majestically scenic summer road trip. If you love stunning beauty, the California coast route will give you the best of TWO worlds...both panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean AND intimate, cathedral-like groves of skyscraper-high California redwoods.

You'll start your California coast roadtrip in northern California's Redwoods National Park. Redwoods National Park guards some of California's last remaining "old growth" redwood trees, while at the same time providing the public with opportunities to view and enjoy them. At Redwoods National Park, you may enjoy the informational exhibits in one of 5 visitors centers; "rough it" with some tent camping...or take it easy in your RV; be inspired by a naturalist's talk at a campfire program or join a ranger-led nature walk; or simply enjoy picnicking under the redwoods or by the beach.

Heading southwards along US Highway 101, you'll drive for awhile along the coast until you pass the beachside city of Eureka, CA, where the route heads inland. If you stop in the small town of Scotia, California, you'll be able to take a tour at the Pacific Lumber Company's sawmill. There, you'll see "whole logs" turned rapidly into finished wood products...guided by a computerized system which "makes the most" from each log.

Continuing southwards along US 101, you'll soon reach "The Avenue of the Giants" scenic drive (about 30 miles south of Eureka.) This road offers you miles of stunning views of the California redwoods. At points, these gentle giants enshroud the road so that light never touches the pavement!

In the midst of the Avenue of the Giants, you'll want to make a stop at the Humboldt Redwoods State Park. There, you may set up camp for the a spot where every breath brings you the aroma of the redwoods' fresh scent! You'll find miles of hiking trails through the trees, spots for fishing...and you can even get a little swimming done in the Eel River. Or, if you only have time for a quick stay at Humboldt Redwoods State Park, you can take a quick view of the Visitors Center's engaging exhibits, or stroll along a short path through a gorgeous old grove.

Heading south along the Avenue of the Giants, you'll come to an interesting site that just screams "tourist kitsch"...and that's the One-Log House. Can you believe that these giant redwoods are large anough to carve out an RV-sized home on their insides? They are!

Still southwards, you'll reach Leggett, California...where you'll find the Chandler Drive-through Tree. You may drive through a "tunnel" in the base of this giant redwood...while the tree towers above you, oblivious to the tourists gawking below!

At Leggett, US Highway 101 continues inland towards California's Napa Valley Wine Country. To enjoy a coastal drive, you should catch California Highway 1 at this point, and take a short jaunt west to the Pacific Ocean. As you head southwards towards San Francisco, you'll drive for miles and miles on a 2-lane, bluff-hugging road with terrific views of the rocky shoreline below.

You might wish to stop at the quaint little village of Mendocino. There, you'll find an artist's colony, many bed and breakfast inns just oozing with charm, and the opportunity for touring and sports.

Further south still, you'll come to Bodega Bay. Not only is Bodega Bay blessed with natural beauty, but you'll also enjoy touring "The Birds" filming sites. The Alfred Hitchcock nail-biter was filmed both at Bodega Bay and its inland sister town, Bodega, California. You'll see "The Birds" filming locations in both of these little hamlets.

Most of the northern California coastline is rocky. When you head south into the Point Reyes National Seashore, you'll find a large and sandy beach awaiting you. Time to enjoy a swim!

As you make your final approach into San Francisco, California Highway 1 merges back into US 101 again. You'll pass the scenic little town of Sausalito, California, where you may view the Muir Woods National Monument (for another glimpse of fabulous redwoods) or the San Francisco Bay Model visitor's center (where you'll learn about the tides of the bay, and how they affect humans, plants and animals.)

You're on San Francisco's doorstep now! You'll know you've arrived when you see that graceful and majestic marvel of engineering looming before you...the Golden Gate Bridge. It's simply thrilling to cross the Golden Gate and see an expansive vista of the Pacific Ocean, San Francisco Bay and the city itself all spread before you simultaneously!

You northern California coastal road trip is now completed. As you sadly leave it behind, you also begin to cheer. It's time to view all the exciting attractions that San Francisco has to offer!

Vicki Funes, this article's author, is both a native Californian and an inveterate traveler. You'll find more information about the northern California Coastal route on the "California Coast Road Trip" page of her website, which is called "Family Vacation Getaways at Los Angeles Theme Parks." For your convenience, you may reach that page by using the following link: While you're visiting this website, take some time to look around---you'll find loads of photos, and hundreds of ideas for planning a fun-filled road trip to California within its pages!

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