NorCal Roadtrips

An Explorer's Guide to Northern California

Lost Coast Itinerary

Lost Coast View

This trip starts off with a bang, not a whimper. Humboldt Redwoods State Park is one of the best parks in the state system. The hiking is great, the campgrounds spacious and pretty and you can do some swimming in the Eel River. For this drive you're going to take Mattole Road west past the Albee Creek Campground, so there's some logic to staying there if you want to camp. The access road into the campground has a couple of very narrow spots between two immovable redwood trees so if I owned a wide RV or trailer I'd be a little nervous and probably would send in a scout with a tape measure before testing it out. When you're ready, head west on Mattole Road to the hamlet of Honeydew. (Anglers note that Mattole Road tracks the Mattole River, with fishing for trout and steelhead). This will prepare you for the Lost Coast, as Honeydew will make you think you're in the Appalachian Mountains or maybe the Ozarks; dial up "Coal Miner's Daughter" on the MP3. And its decision time; the proverbial fork in the road, as bluesman Robert Johnson would say. Stay on Mattole Road and you wind your way north toward Petrolia (version 2 of this trip). If you're in a camping frame of mind, there's A.W. Way County Park halfway between Honeydew and Petrolia that is a serviceable choice in an area without a lot of alternatives. Once past the  park, all of the campgrounds are small. Even if you are inclined to take our advice and do version 1, do make a short detour on this route to Lighthouse Road and Pt. Mattole on the ocean. There's a nice remote campground (Mattole) just over the dunes from a very nice walking beach, with access to inactive Punta Gorda Light Station. When you've had your fill, backtrack to Mattole Road. Version 2 readers will now head north to Petrolia and Cape Mendocino, the westernmost place in California (but no facilities). Then its onward to the Victorian village of Ferndale and the Eureka metropolitan area. Version 1 folks will turn south on Wilder Ridge Road and enjoy one of the prettier drives in Northern California. There is not a single "destination", just some beautiful countryside. At Briceland we recommend a detour to the village of Shelter Cove. If you're not camping, grab a room overlooking the ocean. If you're not cooking, eat some fresh seafood. Its a pretty, relatively unspoiled town; think Mendocino without the shopping. Wander to the waterfront and you may find a saltwater angler at the fish-cleaning station with more tuna than he/she can use. Its time to negotiate. Two BLM campgrounds are nearby; Horse Mountain & Tolkan. Both are quiet and decent, but without any views. Back on Briceland Road, its gut-check time. The northern entrance into the Sinkyone Wilderness State Park is upon you. This is a fairly rough, unpaved road with very few places where two vehicles can pass, much less turn around. So if you are unlucky and meet someone going the other way, one of you is going to face the prospect of backing up on a narrow, rough road, possibly quite a distance. Stock passenger cars make this trip, but driver beware. We like the thought of a high clearance vehicle at the least; 4-wheel drive adds another layer of confidence. Once there, there is a tiny ranger station with a few exhibits and the only drinking water to be found. There's a rustic barn that can be rented overnight, and remote walk-in campsites scattered along the coastline in both directions. If you haven't had enough of unpaved roads, you can drive south on Usal Road to all the way to Usal Beach, with primitive camping along the way. This route will eventually lead you back to Hwy. 1. Enjoy.

Note: If you are camping, you are required to bring bear-proof food canisters with you, one per person. There are no trees to hang food from.

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