Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Cruise Northern California

California is the ultimate road trip state – most of the scenic beauty lies outside areas easily accessible by public transport and much of it is in Northern California. The region takes up a third of California’s land mass yet is home to less than a third of the state’s population. This means that visitors can expect to be immersed in nature – from rugged coastline, sprawling vineyards, ancient redwood forests, giant volcanos and waterfalls.

Here are some suggestions for a road trip through Northern California:

Day One
Pick up your choice of wheels in San Francisco – motor home, convertible or trusty family mover. Head north over the Golden Gate Bridge on Highway 101 and spend the first night in charming Petaluma, one of the best-preserved historic downtowns in the United States.

Day Two
Start the day by hiking in Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve, before picking up supplies at the multitude of wineries along the banks of the Russian River in Sonoma Country. Spend the afternoon driving north and meandering through picturesque beaches and coastal villages like Jenner-by-the-Sea or Manchester Beach.

Day Three
Visit the coastal town of Mendocino – stroll through galleries and shops in this artist colony, walk through fern filled canyons at Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, spot seals at the headlands at Fort Bragg or board the Skunk Train for the scenic 60-kilometre journey to Willits and back.

Day Four
Prepare to be awed. The aptly named Avenue of Giants is a 48-kilometre stretch of Highway One towered by 90-metre tall redwoods. The trees in Humboldt Redwoods State Park are the tallest trees in the world and visitors can get a sense for their enormity at the Meyers Flat Drive-Thru-Tree. On the coast, Humboldt Bay has the oldest Pacific Coast working lighthouse. Overnight in Eureka.

Day Five
Travel east on Highway 299 – the start of the Trinity River Scenic Byway which offers some of the most diverse scenery of any drive in far North California. Outdoor lovers can kayak and hike to waterfalls in Whiskeytown National Recreation Area or marvel at castle-like natural stone turrets at Castle Crag State Park. Everitt Memorial Highway provides breathtaking views of snow-capped Mount Shasta.

Day Six
Drive one of California’s only All American Roads: the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway. The drive takes you to one of the regions most prized attractions – the 40-metre waterfall at McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park. A couple of hours south is Subway Cave, a 400-metre volcanic lava tube that remains a chilly seven degrees Celsius year round. Overnight at Hat Creek.

Day Seven
With volcanic pools, mud pots and thermal springs - Lassen Volcanic National Park provides opportunities to witness the results of millions of years of volcanic activity. The park has several hikes including Lassen Peak and Bumpass Hell. Overnight in Redding and stroll down Sacramento River National Recreation Trail where you can marvel at the Sundial Bridge – the largest sundial in the world.

Day Eight
From Redding, it’s approximately a 300 kilometre drive back to the San Francisco.

See www.northcoastca.com and www.shastacascade.com

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