NorCal Roadtrips

An Explorer's Guide to Northern California

Highway 101 North- Itinerary

Rodeo Beach

Rodeo Beach- Golden Gate National Recreation Area

As one crosses the Golden Gate Bridge into Marin County there are several immediate opportunities. The northern section of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) begins just over the bridge, with immediate access to the Marin Headlands and Ft. Baker. The latter is a former military base with many buildings renovated for a conference center and upscale lodging operating under the Cavallo Point Lodge umbrella and an equally upscale restaurant, Murray Circle. That area also houses The Discovery Museum, catering to families with children. Across Hwy. 101 the Marin Headlands, also part of the former military base, houses deteriorating gun emplacements and some stunning views of San Francisco. Of note is the Ft. Cronkite area, with a very nice day area, Rodeo Beach. The latter is popular with surfers, swimmers (who enjoy cold water) picnickers and dog owners, whose charges appreciate the off-leash freedom that the area offers.


Muir WoodsIf a detour is in order, side trips are close-by to the Point Reyes National Seashore (see Hwy. 1) and Muir Woods National Monument (left), both worthy destinations.

Heading north to Novato, take a picnic lunch and spend a couple of hours at Olompali State Historic Park, where the native American Miwok made their home. Thence to Santa Rosa, to Annadel State Park and nearby Spring and Raphine Lakes. If the coast beckons, this is a good spot to head west on Hwy. 116 to Jenner, passing the Austin Creek Recreation Area/Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve. But continuing north on Hwy. 101 will lead to Lake Sonoma, with boating, camping, a fish hatchery and a warm water fishery. At the village of Cloverdale one can opt once again to head to the coast, taking Hwy. 128 west past the village of Boonville (with its own dialect- some say language) past Maillard Redwoods State Reserve, Hendy Woods State Park and on to Navarro River Redwoods State Park, Van Damme State Park and the village of Albion. Further yet on Hwy. 101 , the village of Hopland offers another detour opportunity. If you turn east on Hwy. 175 you will end up in Lakeport on Clear Lake with nearby access to Clear Lake State Park and Indian Valley Reservoir. The latter is popular with ATV enthusiasts and provides access to two popular off-road drives for 4-wheel drive fans.

Nelson Family FarmWhile in Hopland during the late spring (or later), stop at the Nelson Family Farm just north of town for some fresh-picked strawberries and other seasonal goodies.

Continuing on, just north of Ukiah you will encounter Lake Mendocino, one of the more popular local water sport attractions, and a chance to detour east into the Mendocino National Forest and a visit to Lake Pillsbury or west on Orr Springs Road to Montgomery Woods State Reserve.

At the village of Willets, consider taking the Skunk Train round-trip to Ft. Bragg on the coast and back. It's a narrow gage railroad passing thru some pretty country. Have lunch on the coast and catch the return train back.

The next stop is the junction with Hwy. 1 at Leggett. Hwy. 1 terminates here and Hwy. 101 becomes the coast road to the Oregon border. This is the site of Smithe Redwoods State Reserve/ Standish-Hickey State Recreation Area.

North of Leggett you will leave Mendocino County for Humboldt County and immediately encounter Richardson Grove State Park just before the Benbow Lake State Recreation Area. Then its on to Garberville, gateway to the redwoods and the famed Avenue of the Giants. Once again, its decision time. At Redway, just north of Garberville, you have the opportunity to once again head for the coast with a couple of very different options. This is the famed "Lost Coast" (so named because of its remoteness). Civilized people in traditional cars may wish to head to the pretty village of Shelter Cove and spend the night in a room overlooking the ocean. The drive from Honeydew to Shelter Cove is flat-out beautiful; don't be in a hurry. Others, with legitimate 4-wheel drive vehicles, may opt to visit the remote and beautiful Sinkyone Wilderness State Park. The access road is not for the faint of heart; not treacherous, just winding and rough. Read our "Lost Coast" piece before venturing.

The village of Weott serves as the base camp for the main section of Humboldt Redwoods State Park, one of the nicer parks for both the day-tripper and camper. Moving on, the Victorian village of Ferndale is a nice diversion before arriving in Eureka, north of which are a plethora of attractions for the traveler. One of the first is the Ft. Humboldt State Historic Park, a modest offering to be sure, with a few partially reconstructed military buildings and a logging equipment exhibit. Between Arcata and McKinleyville you have the Azalea State Reserve as well as an important intersection. It is here that Hwy. 299 begins its eastward journey into history, beginning as the Trinity River National Scenic Byway. See our write-up on Hwy. 299.

Continuing north, the Trinidad area hosts Trinidad State Beach, Patrick's Point State Park, Humboldt Lagoons State Park (see our links to Big, Stone & Freshwater Lagoons), Harry A. Merlo State Recreation Area and several local beaches. On to Orick, the gateway into Redwood National Park. Photo at left is of Dry Lagoon, Humboldt Lagoons State Park. Click to enlarge.

Redwood National Park is unique in that it is essentially conjoined with several state parks to form an impressive and somewhat continuous stretch of protected coast redwood groves between Orick and Crescent City. The state facilities include Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park and Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. Taken together, the traveler may stay amused for quite some time and have plenty of recreational options from which to choose. This is the home of the famed Smith River, the only significant river in the state that is not obstructed by a dam. Hwy. 199 out of Crescent City starts life as the Smith River National Scenic Byway and offers a scenic drive into the Six Rivers National Forest. The Smith and nearby rivers are legendary and revered by anglers for their salmon and steelhead runs. We have done separate write-ups on the 3 major road trips in this area: Hwy. 199- The Smith River National Scenic Byway, and Hwy. 299- The Trinity River National Scenic Byway plus Hwy 96- The Bigfoot National Scenic Byway.

Requa InnSpeaking of salmon and steelhead, one of the storied rivers alluded to above is the Klamath River. The village of Klamath is the epicenter of the local Yurok peoples world, and they fish the river as they have for eons. Anglers or others traveling this area have a unique lodging opportunity; the Requa Inn . Billed as a bed & breakfast, its a 10 room inn owned since February 2010 by two generations of a local Hurok family and makes for a quiet and classy place to relax in an area that tends toward the utilitarian. Rooms furnished with antiques and family-prepared meals, with a site above the mouth of the Klamath River, make for a compelling story. Directly above the inn is the Klamath River Overlook, one of the best places in the world to watch for migrating gray whales. They have been known to hang around the river mouth for hours at a time, gorging themselves before continuing the migration.

Done. Well, not really. North of Crescent City you will find Tolowa Dunes State Park and Pelican State Beach. The former houses the unique lakes Earl and Talawa (not a typo) and a nice (and sometimes windy) beach. The latter is a little-known, modest beach with a local following; both people in town once visited it simultaneously. See our write-ups.

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