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Spotlight: Northcoast & the Giant Redwoods

Walk among giants in a spectacularly wooded wonderland

Rich biodiversity and towering natural wonders lie at the heart of California’s North Coast. Outdoor lovers find paradise among giant redwoods and on hiking trails along coastal cliffs.

The Del Norte Region boasts the Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge, a tidal salt marsh that is home to shorebirds, waterfowl, salmon, bald eagles and brown pelicans. Overlooks allow visitors to see the wildlife without disturbing them. Birdwatchers enjoy spotting sandpipers, plovers, falcons and the rare ruff.

Native residents of the region, the Yurok Tribe, invite visitors to see the Klamath River on an exhilarating jet-boat tour. The tour takes riders 45 miles up the Klamath, and tour guides tell passengers about the history of the river, the people and the wildlife that have made the waterway their home. Bear, otters, elk and golden eagles are often spotted on this exciting trip.

In the heart of Redwood National and State Parks, the Trees of Mystery tours teach visitors about the forest and the legends that have grown alongside these ancient giants. The Skytrail gondolas transport riders through the high canopy for a bird’s-eye view of the park’s most famous residents, including the Brotherhood Tree, a 297-foot-tall natural wonder that’s more than 2,000 years old.

California's Redwood Coast

California’s Redwood Coast

Humboldt County is home to the Avenue of Giants. The stretch of U.S. Highway 101 takes travelers to hiking trails and memorial groves as well as prized fishing spots and swimming holes along the Eel River. On the coast, Humboldt Bay, Trinity River and Trinidad Harbor beckon visitors for kayaking, boating and rafting. See how the winds have shaped this part of the California coast at Ma-le’l Dunes, where sand dunes meet forest and wetlands. The pedestrian-only destination can be explored during daylight hours only.

Looking for fun after dark? Then try your luck at Elk Valley Casino, which features slots, bingo, blackjack and poker. If you’re not the gambling type, go for a strike at Tsunami Bowling.

Make a Splash

Enjoy a day or two on the water in Lake County, where California’s largest freshwater lake is open for fishing or boating. Clear Lake is also one of the oldest lakes in North America. Boat tours are available for birding, wildlife spotting and photography opportunities. Soak up the California sun in a variety of other ways; spend the morning on a manicured golf course, then take an afternoon horseback ride through vineyards or along forest trails. Clear Lake’s volcanic field invites rock hounds to scour for minerals and semiprecious stones.

Marin County combines small-town charm with big adventure. Downtown San Rafael offers a mix of Victorian architecture and ethnic flavors. Visit Art Works Downtown or the farmers market, or just marvel at City Plaza’s water wall fountain. In Larkspur, riders of the Golden Gate Ferry take in views of Mount Tamalpais, Angel Island and the Golden Gate Bridge. The culture of Marin’s ancient residents is preserved in exhibits at the Marin Museum of the American Indian in Novato, along with Olompali State Historic Park. Novato City Hall resides in a former Presbyterian church, built in 1896.

Kayak through Pacific whitewater in Mendocino County, and trek the Fern Canyon scenic trail system in Van Damme State Park. The park’s Pygmy Forest is the home of mature cypress and pine trees ranging in size from 6 inches to 8 feet tall. Ride into history on the Skunk Train, a scenic railway that runs over 30 trestles suspended above mountain streams and passes redwood forests and mountain meadows along its journey into the Noyo River Canyon.

See how the sun sustains life at the Solar Living Institute, a 12-acre renewable energy and sustainable-living site that includes a biodiesel fueling station, organic garden and classic cars that now serve as planter boxes.

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Getty Images/iStockphoto

California Vintages

Vineyards are the destination du jour in Sonoma County, and it’s not surprising considering the region’s fame as a producer of extraordinary varietals. More than 400 wineries call Sonoma home, and they open their doors to thousands of tourists each year. Visit the Green Music Center and Wells Fargo Center for the Arts to taste the culture that grows in the region.

Families enjoy trips to Sonoma County where the ocean and forests meet, and Charles M. Schulz—the creator of “Peanuts”—has a museum in his honor. Sonoma TrainTown invites rail fans of all ages to enjoy a remarkable scale railroad, and everyone can enjoy outdoor fun at Spring Lake Regional Park. The Environmental Discovery Center, located at the park, connects visitors with the natural world.

For More Information

Humboldt County Convention and Visitors Bureau
800-346-3482
www.redwoods.info
California Travel and Tourism Commission
877-225-4367
www.visitcalifornia.com