Northern California Coastal Treasures

This guest blog is by Ava Apollo. When she’s not writing for MSW, she’s blogging about adventure travel at

The Northern California Coastline is often given the pet name “the Lost Coast” given its sparse population and relatively low tourism rate in comparison to its southern neighbors, ranging from San Francisco on down to San Diego.

I have to admit, I never really thought of what existed north of San Francisco until I visited the area myself for the first time a few years ago.  When I speak to most of my Californian friends, they are in the same boat, despite the fact that about a third of the state stretches beyond SF.

Imagine my delight when I had a chance to visit Humboldt county where the Redwood trees meet the sea.  For those who are seeking to be “one with nature,” look no further than the Lost Coast:

Giant Redwoods of Humboldt County

In Humboldt County alone, there are 160,000 acres of redwood forests.  One well known access route to view these majestic trees is along the 101 freeway, known as the “Avenue of the Giants”.

This is one of the only areas in the world where Redwood trees flourish.  The moist coastal environment provides an ideal climate for these trees, which are the tallest known species in the world, ranging anywhere from 150 to 350 feet in height and up to 20 feet in diameter.  If given the opportunity, they can grow for thousands of years given their thick and fire-resistant bark.

The majestic trees alone should be enough of a draw.  So we ought to consider ourselves lucky, because this area has also been blessed with some of the most beautiful and relatively secluded beaches in California, if not the world.

Trinidad State Beach

Just a 20-minute drive north of Arcata along the 101 freeway sits Trinidad, California.  This small town is home to a population of just over 300, and was originally settled by the Yurok Indians, who still maintain a casino in the area.

READ:  Trans-Canada Highway Road trip: Day 3 in Smithers, BC

The main draw, as you may have noticed, is Trinidad State Beach, which can be accessed by a steep, and somewhat grueling, climb down several sets of stairs (as you can imagine, the climb back up is a doosy, but it’s well worth it).  The beach is sprinkled with boulders which hold a similar gentle giant presence to the Redwood trees that mirror them from the cliff top. On a particularly misty day, it looks positively mesmerizing.

On a clear day…

It can be equally breath-taking.

Another notable beach in this area is Mad River Beach – which is accessed via narrow dairy roads.  The beach itself is covered by miles of grassy dunes, covered with native plants that local organizations have gone to great lengths to re-introduce to the area.

I was lucky enough to see one of the more spectacular sunsets of my life there:

The fact that this area of California is a much less popular tourist destination than, say the beaches of Orange County or the wharfs of San Francisco, has likely been its saving grace.

So, if you choose to visit this lovely area of the world, join the effort to preserve it, and do as Smokey the Bear would do; “Take only pictures, and leave only footprints”.

Then Tweet me about it.

If you like what you see and want to read more, visit my home blog or facebook page.

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5 thoughts on “Northern California Coastal Treasures

    jonathan kennedy

    (October 26, 2010 - 9:13 am)

    Hi Carrie,

    Oh just love this article……………..a part of this stunning coast that is still in its true natural state.
    Oh do as the French do or here in UK declare it a no go to tourism as its government ministry of defence land………….just keep those tourists out. (Even though some people can visit, without making a song and dance about it)
    Sounds angry I know but human-kind can spoil so easily these wonderful places on this planet!
    all the best JK


      (October 31, 2010 - 11:49 am)

      Thanks Jonathon! I completely agree with you. I can think of several places in Mexico and Thailand that have been thoroughly ruined by tourism. It’s so sad!

    Zablon Mukuba

    (October 26, 2010 - 3:21 pm)

    you have described California coasts to be very beautiful, i’d love to go there and see for myself. the photos you took are great

      Ava Apollo

      (October 26, 2010 - 3:50 pm)

      I’ve got to give credit where it’s due. With the exception of the last photo, those were drawn from flickr. You can find the source by clicking on the photo. Thanks for the compliment! Get yourself over there, it’s amazing!

    Christy @ Ordinary Traveler

    (October 26, 2010 - 6:40 pm)

    Northern California coast has always been one of my favorite places to take a road trip! My parents actually live in Shelter Cove, which is the “Lost Coast”. We will be heading up to Humboldt in 2 weeks and making our way up through Southern Oregon coastline. Great photos!

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