From Fort Bragg to Crescent City
This is part two of an itinerary that guides you from San Francisco’s iconic Golden Gate Bridge, all the way to Crescent City, which is the last major outpost on the Northern California coast before entering Oregon. Click below to read part one.
We pick things up here, leaving Mendocino County behind, and turning to Lake County, and then Humboldt and Del Norte Counties.
Highway 20 ends 33 miles later at Highway 101. Go south a few miles to again pick up Highway 20 East. Go 21 miles on the continuation of Highway 20 to the Historic town of Upper Lake. You will be traveling through the redwoods and vineyards.
Turn left at the Town of Upper Lake, there is only one Main St., and you will be at the Tallman Hotel. This is the perfect place to unwind, relax, and enjoy a journey to simpler times. The hotel is an 1890 era Auberge, perfectly and lovingly restored. The hotel is also home to the Blue Wing Saloon, where good food and entertainment blend into a night full of fun.
The Tallman Hotel
9550 Main Street
Upper Lake, California 95485
Nearby is Clear Lake, the largest freshwater lake in California (Tahoe is partly in Nevada) so stay a while and enjoy some of the best bass fishing anywhere, along with all the water sports you would expect to find.
The North Coast still has much more to see and experience. So reluctantly leave the Tallman and take Highway 20 West to Highway 101 and then head north in the direction of Willits.
Your next stop should be the Chandelier drive-thru redwood tree. It is about 75 miles north of Highway 20 in the little town of Leggett. The tree is still alive and large enough for an SUV to drive through. There is a funky gift shop too and a bunch of charming wood carvings of Big Foot and various wildlife.
Drive Thru Tree Park
67402 Drive Thru Tree Park Road
Leggett, California 95585
Along the way, about 7 miles further north, you’ll find another roadside attraction, Confusion Hill. This is a throw-back into time when roads were two-laned and gas was 30 cents a gallon. Confusion Hill is the home of mystery, fun, and family entertainment. It features the gravity house, the redwood show house, and chainsaw carvings.
75001 U.S. 101
Piercy, California 95587
Only about 14 miles further north on Highway 101, on the Eel River, is a north coast marvel, the majestic, elegant, Benbow Historic Inn, truly one of the great gems of the entire North Coast region.
After recently completing a $10 million renovation, it stands as a wonderful example of modern touches blending in perfectly with the authenticity of historic charm that dates back over 90 years. Come in any season, whether it’s for springtime golf, summer swimming and hiking, fall wine tasting or a spectacular Christmas celebration. Their dining room features gourmet dining and an excellent wine list.
Historic Benbow Inn
445 Lake Benbow Drive
Garberville, California 95542
Highway 101 is the main north south artery for the north coast. And there is still a lot of coastal California yet to come. So, if you can force yourself to leave the incredible surroundings of the Benbow Inn, head north on Highway 101 once again.
The famous Avenue of the Giants is a two-laned road which used to be part of 101 and is now the home of some of the largest redwood trees in the world. It is well worth a short detour. There are many trails just off the road. A walk among redwoods which could be up to 2000 years old is a spiritual experience.
Eureka CA is the largest city on the northern coast and has a bit of everything. It is about 60 miles north of the Benbow Inn. The gem of Eureka is the historic preserved Old Town, with numerous interesting restaurants, shops, bars and hotels. Take a carriage ride or just stroll and take in the sights. The city borders Humboldt Bay with fishing, oyster beds, and a waterfront promenade. There are numerous hotel options both in Eureka or Arcata, home to Humboldt State University.
The open road still beckons though, so continue north on Highway 101. The scenery varies between ocean and redwoods. But 64 miles later you are in Yurok Country and in the middle of the Redwood National and State Parks.
In the heart of Northern California’s iconic Redwood National Park, you’ll discover a world of adventure in Yurok Country. It’s where the scenic coast of the Pacific Ocean meets the power of the grand Klamath River; and where the towering Redwood trees provide tranquility, awe and inspiration. It’s also home to the Yurok, the largest Native American tribe in California, and your hosts as you experience this majestic landscape.
Visit Yurok Country
101 Klamath Boulevard
Klamath, California 95548
There’s over 200 miles of trails to explore, with plenty of world-class outdoor activities to keep you on the go. From coastal and forest hiking, to river rafting, kayaking, fishing, whale watching, and a search for the allusive Big Foot, there truly is something for everybody. Looking for a little fun at night? A stay at the Redwood Hotel Casino offers plenty of gaming, dining and lodging options. And yes, there’s plenty of fun for the family too, with such attractions as the Trees of Mystery Gondola, or the exhilaration of jet-boat tours on the Klamath.
Use your stay in Yurok Country as your base to explore the Redwood National Park. Take a short 20- mile drive further north to Crescent City, the largest city in the region and the home to the spectacular Battery Point Lighthouse. At low tide you can actually walk over the ocean for a tour. Crescent City is a fishing port and has many attractions such as Ocean World and the waterfront.
Now that your exhilarating tour of the north coast is over, the quandary is what to do next. There are many options so let’s explore a few.
Option 1: If you want to fly to the Bay Area from Crescent City, Contour Air has flights to Oakland. Turn in your rental car and relax.
Option 2: You can retrace your steps and head south on Highway 101 to McKinleyville, which is the location of the Humboldt County Airport. A variety of flights on United Air are available, including San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Denver. Flights to Sacramento are also offered.
Option 3: This north coast itinerary only scratched the surface of all the things to see and do driving in northern California. Another option is to drive back to San Francisco, staying at the fabulous places you missed and doing some more sightseeing. There are many wine tasting areas along the way.
Option 4: If there is time, we suggest you head east to the Shasta Cascade Region and Redding. There are two main routes.
The first, Highway 199, goes north and east from Crescent City. This route takes you into Southern Oregon. You might want to visit Crater Lake National Park while you are in the area.
The second route east is Highway 299 from Eureka. This scenic drive will take you through the Trinity Alps where you can do some white river rafting and hiking. Redding is the largest city in the area and it has a large variety of hotel options including the new Sheraton at Turtle Bay. Marvel at the Sundial bridge, walk or bike over 200 miles of trails along the Sacramento River and take in the Turtle Bay Exploration Park. Using Redding as your base, you are only an hour or so drive from Lassen Volcanic National Park, home to bubbling mud, geysers and virtually unlimited hiking opportunities, all without the crowds. Also, within an hour drive is Burney Falls, Whiskeytown Lake, Mount Shasta, Shasta Lake and Shasta Caverns.
From Redding, you can drive south on Highway I-5 to Sacramento. Sacramento is on the Sacramento River, is the State Capital and home to many breweries, the Railroad Museum and Old Town.
Or, if you are tired of driving, the Redding airport has flights to a large variety of destinations. And Sacramento International Airport is just that, an international gateway.
Sacramento is only 90 miles from San Francisco so if you want to complete your round trip journey by car continue to the big city.
The entire trip, including Redding, can take as little as 6 days or as long as you want.