This article was produced in partnership with Visit California.

Looking for more winter vacation ideas in the Golden State? See the whole Off-the-Beaten-Path Adventure guide here.

Humboldt County, California, is home to some of the tallest trees on the planet, and some of the most rugged coastline in the country. Its energy is unlike any other place, and its offering for travelers is vast.

About a four-hour drive from San Francisco at its southern border, this is the true “Northern California,” where the crowds are sparse and the terrain is wild. Here is our guide to enjoying your time at some of the underrated hidden gems in Humboldt County.

What to Do

Traveling from the south, the Lost Coast is the most rugged and remote coastline in California. It’s inaccessible by road save for the tiny town of Shelter Cove. From Shelter Cove you can pick up the Lost Coast Trail, which runs 24.6 miles through the King Range Conservation Area. But beware: when we say wild, we mean it. A tide calendar is essential to avoid times when the ocean cuts off the trail, and bear canisters are required to deter furry friends.

The gorgeous King Range NCA. Photo: Courtesy of Bureau of Land Management California/Flickr

Next, take a slight detour off the 101 and check out the Avenue of the Giants. The road runs 31 miles, leading you through tunnels of towering Redwoods. There are plenty of trailheads if you want to really immerse yourself in the forest. Get to the Avenue early and you could have the road – and the trees – all to yourself.

They make you feel so small. Photo: Courtesy of Michael Bryant/Unsplash

Once you make your way into the northern part of Humboldt County, head to Patrick’s Point State Park. Skyscraping redwoods loom over head, while the wild and frigid Northern Pacific roars at you from the west. Enjoy the short little hike to Wedding Rock, for a nice place to eat lunch and soak in the amazing view. Nearby Agate Beach is a great stop to stroll on the sand and go searching for beautiful agate stones.

The hike out to wedding rock is short and easy little trek. Photo: Courtesy of Lia Nelson

Just south of there is the town of Trinidad, home to the northernmost ocean pier in California, as well as boutique shops, locally owned wineries, one-of-a-kind spas, and several amazing places to eat. Get settled and then head to Trinidad Pier. From there, stroll into Trinidad Harbor to watch the fishing boats cruise in and out, and admire the massive rock that casts its shadow over the harbor.

The view of Trinidad Harbor from the Memorial Lighthouse is one you shouldn’t miss. Photo: Courtesy of Ray_Explores/Flickr

Overlooking the pier is the Trinidad Head Memorial Lighthouse. The view north and south is unbelievable (and when the fog drifts, it becomes that much more whimsical). Just up the street from the lighthouse is the Trinidad Museum where you can brush up on the history of the indigenous people of Humboldt County and Trinidad.

About 30 minutes north of town is Redwood National and State Parks. Here, you’ll find the world’s tallest trees. You can search for the 10 most famous trees in the area (including spots where “Return of the Jedi” was filmed), or you can simply soak in the feeling of being surrounded by giants.

Trust us … the kids will get a kick out of it. Photo: Jon Perino

On your way back south, stop at Chandelier Drive-Thru Tree. It’s definitely a cool little detour to break up a long road trip.

Where to Stay

Spend the night at Shelter Cove and enjoy the peaceful remoteness and the limited cell service. The Tides Inn is a nice waterfront choice, as well as the The Spyglass Inn.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a better view than the Lost Whale’s. Photo: Courtesy of The Lost Whale Bed & Breakfast

Farther north by Patrick’s Point State Park, Turtle Rocks Ocean Front Inn is a great option. It’s a bit on the pricier side, along with the charming Lost Whale Bed & Breakfast, but definitely worth it once you check in and see the view. However, if you’re looking for something a bit more affordable, the View Crest Lodge is the perfect alternative, and it’s still right in the heart of the state park.

If you’re looking to stay nearby Trinidad, then Trinidad Bay Bed & Breakfast offers one of the best views around.

The serenity of soaking in the Great Outdoors at Redwood National Park. Photo: Courtesy of Theo Crazzolara/Flickr

To tune into nature, camping is available both at Patrick’s Point State Park and Redwood National and State Park.

Where to Eat

For some excellent local flavors in Shelter Cove, be sure to stop by Gyppo Ale Mill for the fish and chips. A great place to grab the family some pizza is Delgada Pizza and Bakery.

The Seascape Restaurant sits right at the base of the Trinidad Pier, with wonderful fresh seafood caught daily – not to mention that it boasts “some of the best clam chowder on the North Coast.”

Just up the road, The Beachcomber Cafe is a kitschy little spot with some serious local charm, and Katy’s Smokehouse (which has been around for more than 60 years) offers up some of the best locally caught smoked fish you’ll ever have.

If you’re thirsty, the Moonstone Crossing Winery is right in the heart of Trinidad. Voted “Humboldt’s Best Wine Maker,” this local wine is just what you want at the end of a relaxing day cruising through town.

How to Get there

The nearest airport is Arcata-Eureka Airport (ACV). However, you can also fly into San Francisco International Airport (SFO) and rent a car, which will take you about four hours to reach the county border (just over 300 miles), and about six hours to reach Redwood National and State Park, but the drive is most certainly a beautiful one. Another option is landing at Sacramento International Airport (SMF), which is about a 4.5-hour drive (240 miles) from Shelter Cove.

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