This article was produced in partnership with Visit California.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
To tune into nature, camping is available both at Patrick’s Point State Park and Redwood National and State Park.
Where to Eat
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.