1) Straddling Hwy 101 at the southern border of Humboldt County, Richardson’s Grove State Park welcomes travelers with their first up-close view of the giant, old-growth redwoods for which the region is so famous. As the 101 winds around enormous, 10-foot-diameter trunks, look for the inviting park entrance where you can turn in for day hiking and exploring, or turn in for the night to camp among some of the world’s tallest trees. Just a few miles north, a turn of the highway reveals a stunning view of the Benbow Inn, a 1920s Tudor-style hotel built to serve early motorists on the Redwood Highway. Fine dining and special events complement the distinctive lodgings overlooking the South Fork of the Eel River and Benbow State Recreation Area, where miles of hiking trails border the river. Just across the highway, Benbow Valley RV Resort & Golf Course offers one of the few chances to tee off on Hwy 101.
2) Time seems to stand still in quiet, sunny Garberville, just a few miles north of the Benbow Valley on Hwy 101. This friendly rural community offers roadside services, food and lodging and picnic supplies, serving as gateway to the Avenue of the Giants. The Avenue, which closely parallels Hwy 101 for 31 miles, is a world-famous scenic drive that wonderfully showcases the awesomely beautiful redwoods. At this point, Hwy 101 is entirely surrounded by the pristine Humboldt Redwoods State Park, a crown jewel of the California Parks system. Stop and hike one of the numerous beckoning trailheads along the Avenue, or stop at Founder’s Grove to stroll among the towering trees. Also check out the park Visitor Center 17119 Ave of the Giants near Weott. A good spot to picnic and kids love the dioramas and other kid friendly educational exhbitis.
3) Not far from the end of the Avenue of the Giants, the 101 traveler encounters the unique company town of Scotia, one of the very few such communities left in the United States. A museum of logging history and fish hatchery are open to the public. Further along the Highway, a sign for Chapman’s Gem & Mineral Shop and Museum intrigues the visitor, and the collection of geologic specimens is well worth the stop. A few more miles and you find yourself in Sunny Fortuna, where the Main Street exit leads to an exciting small town shopping district with particularly fine antique shops. The Kenmar exit will take you to the Riverlodge conference center overlooking the majestic Eel River. Stop and stretch your legs on the Fortuna Riverwalk, and stroll around the Riverlodge's extensive heather gardens.
4) Along the entire length of Hwy 101, you’ll be hard pressed to find a more picturesque town than Victorian Village of Ferndale, a quick drive over the century old Ferndale Bridge. Then on to Loleta. A must-see stop is the Loleta Cheese Factory where that rich Eel River Valley cream is turned into dozens of cheese varieties. Watch the cheesemakers at work, try samples and browse the gift shop full of local products. On the other side of Table Bluff, take the Hookton Road exit to visit the Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge, over 3,000 acres of seasonal wetlands, salt marshes, grasslands, open bay, riparian and freshwater wetland habitat. An important stopover on the Pacific Flyway, over 200 bird species have been recorded here.
5) As Hwy 101 drives through Eureka you’ll be tempted to think you’ve reached “Anytown, USA.” Don’t be fooled! Within a block of the 101 you will find some of the most unique and fascinating attractions along its entire length. On a bluff opposite the Bayshore Mall, for example, rests Fort Humboldt State Historic Park. Dating from the 1850s, the fort offers wonderful displays of frontier life, Native American history, and of the timber industry. Stop in at the Eureka Visitor's Center at 1212 Broadway to find out more. Just a few blocks down on M Street sits the world-famous Carson Mansion, an 1886 “wooden fairytale castle” that epitomizes the height of Victorian gingerbread architecture. Venture a few more blocks on Second or Third Streets and find yourself in the historic commercial district of Eureka known as Old Town bordering Humboldt Bay. Hundreds of other vintage buildings are found just blocks away from 101, including entire neighborhoods, which have retained their Victorian charm (see 3rd, G, H and Hillsdale Streets in particular). At the foot of X Street in Eureka, the Blue Ox Millworks and Historic Park is dedicated to preserving and reproducing the region’s architectural heritage, churning out gingerbread details from salvaged redwood lumber—and using vintage machinery to do it!
6) Neatly divided by Hwy 101 (in the guise of 4th and 5th Streets), Eureka’s Old Town/Downtown district may well be the most charming section of the entire highway. Vintage Victorian commercial buildings, lovingly preserved and restored houses, a delightful selection of fine restaurants, unique shops, exciting art galleries and much more. Humboldt Bay Maritime Museum, recently re-located to Samoa, and The Clarke Historical Museum cater to history buffs, while the Discovery Museum engages children with imaginative play. You’ll also find private art galleries, the Redwood Concert Ballet, the North Coast Repertory Theatre, the Eureka Film & Concert Center and the Morris Graves Museum of Art. From the old to the new—the other edge of Old Town Eureka is newly defined with the Eureka Boardwalk. This delightful, four-block walkway provides a water’s-edge view of Humboldt Bay’s wildlife and commerce, while its nautical masts and flags—and the gorgeous inlaid compass rose—remind you that Eureka is indeed a Victorian Seaport. One last detour before you leave Eureka is a quick hop over the Samoa Bridge. Half-way across Humboldt Bay is Woodley Island, with its bustling marina, while directly across from Eureka you’ll discover the legendary Samoa Cookhouse, the last authentic lumbercamp cookhouse in the West, serving up heaping platters of hearty food and the Humboldt Bay Maritime Museum.
7) Arcata is a bustling little college town neatly divided by Highway 101. To the east is Humboldt State University and hillside neighborhoods, plus the beautiful Redwood Park and Arcata Community Forest. Stop and hike or bike the miles of groomed forest trails, or play with the kids in the flower-decked playground. To the west of the highway you’ll find Arcata Plaza, the center of culture and commerce. Jacoby’s Storehouse is an original structure from the 1850s, and many quaint and curious shops and restaurants line the plaza and nearby streets. Two more outstanding attractions are the Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary (offering not only superb birdwatching but also demonstrating a world-famous low-tech wastewater treatment system) and the HSU Natural History Museum. Continuing north on Highway 101, exit at Guintoli to visit the California Welcome Center and gather information about local activities, attractions and products. At the next offramp, exit to visit the Azalea State Reserve, blooming in May and June. In McKinleyville, Central Avenue parallels the 101—stop at the McKinleyville Shopping Center to view the World’s Tallest Totem Pole. Hwy 101 finally reaches the Pacific Ocean again at Clam Beach, where you can stop to beachcomb, picnic and walk on the Hammond Trail.
8) No, you’re not in the West Indies—Trinidad is also a cute fishing village turned artists colony that’s reached by Hwy 101. Special points of interest include the Trinidad Memorial Lighthouse, the HSU Marine Lab & Aquarium, Trinidad State Beach, and impressive Trinidad Head, which has hiking trails offering spectacular ocean vistas. Go north a little more and you’ll reach Patrick’s Point State Park, another true gem of the state park system. Camp, bike and hike the Rim Trail to Wedding Rock, and explore the recreated Sumeg Indian Village before you sift for pretty stones on Agate Beach. Just north is Big Lagoon, the first of three magical bodies of water in Humboldt Lagoons State Park. All are perfect for boating, fishing, camping, swimming and wildlife viewing. Once past the Lagoons you reach the town of Orick, gateway to Redwood National & State Parks. Notable for its many roadside businesses that showcase redwood crafts and chainsaw carving, Orick is the perfect place to pick up supplies for your Redwood park picnic. One favorite picnic spot is Lost Man Creek, where a gentle trail follows a bubbling brook for several miles. Continuing up Hwy 101, by now you should have spotted one or more Roosevelt Elk, breathtaking animals that are known to congregate along Hwy 101 in this area. A sure-fire bet is to stop at Elk Prairie, just a short distance up the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway. Here is the headquarters of Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, where numerous hiking trails from gentle to strenuous take off in all directions into the redwoods. Favorites are the accessible Nature Trail and the Rhododendron Trail.