Let the beauty of the North Coast’s landmark redwoods soak into your soul this spring. From a pair of close-to-home excursions to the perfect long weekend away, these three itineraries offer inspiration for the days ahead.
Local Bakeries & Makers
Occidental to Guerneville
Tucked between Sebastopol and the coast, Occidental was founded in 1876 as the last stop on the North Pacific Coast Railroad. Start your day at the oldest building in town, now home to the Altamont General Store. Have a morning mochi doughnut as you browse the store’s local marketplace, loaded with wares — we love the ceramics from Clayfolk.
Life happily revolves at a slower pace for the thousand or so folks who live among the redwoods in this serene pocket of west county. If the 15 mph speed limit along winding Fitzpatrick Lane doesn’t cement that in your psyche, stepping under the wooden archway at the Grove of Old Trees will. Shortly after you enter the grove, take the trail to the left, and in a matter of seconds, you’ll find yourself in the most dramatic slice of the forest, identified on a small wooden sign as Anne’s Circle.
Back in town, peruse the candle bar at Boho Bungalow, visit the historic 1879 Union Hotel for giant meatballs and delicious pizza, or drop by the quirky Octopus Shed. Emblazoned with a vibrant orange octopus, the self-serve pottery stand downtown features the whimsical work of ceramists Cindy and James Searles.
“The octopus air planter we make went viral on the internet about six years ago when we moved to Occidental. We did not even know what that meant at the time,” says Cindy Searles. “It changed our work and our lives in a wonderful way.”
Head south of town via the Bohemian Highway to the family-owned (and solar-powered) Marimar Estate Vineyards & Winery. Spring is owner/winemaker Marimar Torres’s favorite time of year. “It’s so exciting and gorgeous when the vines start to come to life,” she says.
“And then when they flower, you walk along the rows, and they have the most subtle and delicious smell.” Snag a seat on the sunny patio for a glass of Albariño paired with house-made tapas inspired by Torres’s native Barcelona.
It’s one thing to hike through a redwood grove — it’s another thing altogether to fly through one at the level of the birds, dozens of feet in the air. Doubling back north along the Bohemian Highway toward Guerneville, take in some of the best redwood views in the county on a trip with Sonoma Zipline Adventures. The company also offers extraordinary overnight stays in yurt-like tree houses, where the trunk of the tree comes up right through the middle of the tree house.
Pass through the “vacation wonderland” of Monte Rio via Highway 116 on your way to Guerneville, where lumberjacks first arrived in the late 1800s. After you park, take the time to do something most don’t — stroll across the Guerneville Bridge and peek at the rolling Russian River below, where steelhead and salmon migrate to spawn in winter and kayakers frolic in summer.
Guerneville is a riot of small shops and galleries, and odds are good you’ll see artists in action at both Oli Gallery and Lifvendahl Gallery, where owner Mark Lifvendahl’s abstract floral paintings convey the joyful feeling of spring all year long. Have an early dinner at Food Network star Crista Luedtke’s eatery Brot (the traditional pork schnitzel is outstanding) or grab a Meyer lemon-curd biscuit to go at Big Bottom Market. While there, look for the occasional basket of day-old biscuits that hides out by the cash register. At a dollar a pop, these fluffy bundles are the best bargain in town.
The short drive to Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve barely gives you time to finish your biscuit. Here, you’ll find Sonoma’s largest grove of first-generation redwoods open to the public. In springtime, lush ferns share the forest floor with wildflowers, and the colorful display of blooms in the area surrounding the Redwood Forest Theater gets stellar reviews.
The 2020 Walbridge fire burned sections of the park, closing the area for months. But thanks to the days-long effort of fire crews, the blaze didn’t inflict large-scale lasting damage among the historic groves. Stop, and take a moment to appreciate the countless folks throughout the years who have fought to preserve the beauty surrounding you.
The Altamont General Store, 3703 Main St., Occidental. 707-874-6053, altamontgeneralstore.com
Grove of Old Trees, 17599 Fitzpatrick Lane, Occidental. landpaths.org
Boho Bungalow, 3692 Bohemian Hwy., Occidental, 707-874-6030, thebohobungalow.com
Occidental Octopus Shed, 4024 Bohemian Highway, Occidental.
Marimar Estate Vineyards & Winery, 11400 Graton Road, Sebastopol. 707-823-4365, marimarestate.com
Sonoma Zipline Adventures & Sonoma Treehouse Adventures, 6250 Bohemian Hwy., Occidental. 888-494-7868, sonomacanopytours.com
Oli Gallery, 16215 Main Street #1, Guerneville, 707-604-7214, oligallery.com
Lifvendahl Fine Art Gallery, 16214 Main Street, Guerneville. 707-604-7411, lifvendahl.net
Big Bottom Market, 16228 Main Street, Guerneville. 707-604-7295, bigbottommarket.com
Brot, 16218 Main St., Guerneville, 707-604-6102, brotguerneville.com
Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve, 17000 Armstrong Woods Road, Guerneville. 707-869-2015, parks.ca.gov, stewardscr.org
Coastal Views & Wine
Duncans Mills to Annapolis
Running more than 50 miles along the Sonoma Coast, Highway 1 flaunts the beauty of a coastline where colossal redwoods have mastered hiding in plain view. After fueling up at Jenner’s Café Aquatica with a cup of joe, head straight to nearby Pomo Canyon Campground for a hike. A magnificent redwood grove studded with impressive fairy rings (redwoods growing in a circle), ferns, and wildflowers winds through the area near the lower-numbered campsites. The Pomo Canyon-Red Hill loop tops out at views of the river, ocean, and redwoods below.
In Jenner, peek at the harbor seal pups flopping about on the beach just past the visitors center. Then head inland to Fort Ross Vineyard & Winery, where local cheeses and charcuterie pair with hard-to-find Pinotage. Even the hummingbirds seem abuzz over the winery’s patio, with its ocean-facing panoramic views.
Back in the drivers seat, continue back to Highway 1 and head north, keeping an eye out for a 93-foot-tall obelisk visible on the bluffs. When you see it, hang a left into the parking lot of the luxurious Timber Cove Resort and its ocean-view restaurant, Coast Kitchen. You don’t have to be a hotel guest to get a closer look at the sculpture, which was created by Beniamino Bufano in the 1960s and is set inside a 60-foot diameter swath of land named the Bufano Peace Statue Monument.
As you continue along the coast, try not to get lost in the sea of blue — it’s all too easy to miss the turn into Stillwater Cove Regional Park a few miles north. “Most people do not know of the redwood forest here,” says Carson Hunter, a ranger with Sonoma County Regional Parks. “You can find yourself in the trees breathing the clean air or you can perch yourself on a rock overlooking the ocean.” The Canyon Loop winds past 500-year-old redwoods; a short side path leads to the Fort Ross schoolhouse, built in 1885.
Just six miles north of Stillwater Cove is Kruse Rhododendron State Natural Reserve, where, beginning in April, clusters of bright rhododendron blossoms compete for attention with redwoods and Douglas firs —the 15-minute loop trail here is an ideal short jaunt.
Ten minutes further north, the calzones at Twofish Baking (inside the Stewarts Point Store) go into the oven well before the sun comes up and are worth waiting in line for. Order a white calzone, stuffed with mozzarella, ricotta, garlic, basil, and olive oil, and a couple of sticky buns to go. Then, takeout in hand, head to Annapolis Winery to pair your calzone with a glass of apple wine or a crisp sparkler.
To reach the winery, head north ten minutes, then turn right on Annapolis Road, winding up into the coastal hills, past the historic Horicon Schoolhouse (the second one-room schoolhouse of the day!) and a grove of organic olive trees. You’ll know you’re there when you see vines and apple trees in spring bloom. Tastings here take place outdoors on a hilltop surrounded by redwood forest, and a flight of four wines is just $10.
Save the day’s last light for a quick stop at the nearby Starcross Monastic Community’s roadside farmstand to stock up on preserves and Sister Julie’s Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil. The good brothers and sisters of Starcross accept Venmo — a small nod to modernity at a spot where time seems to stand still.
Pomo Canyon Campground, Highway 1, Duncans Mills. 707-875-3483, parks.ca.gov
Cafe Aquatica, 10439 Highway 1, Jenner, 707-865-2251, cafeaquaticajenner.com
Fort Ross Vineyard & Winery, 15725 Meyers Grade Road, Jenner. 707-847-3460, fortrossvineyard.com
Timber Cove Resort, 21780 Highway 1, Jenner. 707-847-3231, timbercoveresort.com
Stillwater Cove Regional Park, 22455 Highway 1, Jenner. 707-847-3245, parks.sonomacounty.ca.gov
Kruse Rhododendron State Natural Reserve, Highway 1 near milepost 43, Cazadero. 707-847-3221, parks.ca.gov
Twofish Baking, 32000 Highway 1, Stewarts Point. 707-785-2011, twofishbaking.com
Annapolis Winery, 26055 Soda Springs Road, Annapolis. 707-886-5460, annapoliswinery.com
Starcross Monastic Community, 34500 Annapolis Road, Annapolis. 707-886-1919, starcross.org
Railbike Adventures & Roadside Attractions
Philo to Eureka
The ultimate redwood road trip leads north, through Mendocino into Humboldt County. A small taste of the gargantuan coast redwoods can be found in the Anderson Valley at Hendy Woods State Park. After stretching your legs in the company of these ancient beauties, set a course for the coast along Highway 128. The road snakes its way west, winding through the thick redwoods along the Navarro River before the Pacific Ocean comes into focus near the town of Albion.
Time for adventure. Railbikes are relative newcomers to the active stretch of railway that’s been used by Fort Bragg’s Skunk Train since 1885. As you roll along, the rhythmic clickety-clack of the wheels are about the only sound you’ll hear as you pedal along the Pudding Creek Estuary through a redwood forest home to trees more than 1,000 years old.
“There is always that notion on a misty day, that around the next corner you just might spot that brontosaurus,” says the railway’s Robert Jason Pinoli. Don’t worry about breaking a sweat along the shady, 7-mile route: the custom-built, two-person beauties boast an electric assist that kicks in with the push of a button.
Head back south along the coast to the town of Mendocino, where you can toast your ride with a beautiful spring-onion tart or a warming bouillabaisse in the garden at the Trillium Cafe, or with vegetarian Southern cuisine from Fog Eater Cafe. Call it a night in the water tower at the town’s luxurious JD House. Tomorrow, you’ll trade the coast for classic roadside kitsch.
In the morning, head north from the town of Mendocino about an hour and a half towards the tiny town of Leggett, where you can snap a selfie at one of Northern California’s three remaining drive-through redwoods, the Chandelier Drive-Thru Tree. Peek inside the Famous (the sign says so) One-Log House, or step inside the Chimney Tree, hollowed out by a fire in 1914. Big-tree tourism is big business in these parts; if you have any doubt, pull into the Legend of Bigfoot before exiting Highway 101 for the famous Avenue of the Giants.
Meandering more than 30 miles through Humboldt Redwoods State Park, the two-lane Avenue of the Giants (also known as Highway 254) is home to the single largest stand of old-growth redwoods in the world. Pristine patches of forest beckon all along the way. Stop at the Founders Grove, where a half-mile trail kicks off with a 346-foot-tall specimen tree, then winds past a toppled-over 1600-year-old redwood affectionately called the Dyerville Giant.
Finish the day at the Samoa Cookhouse, the last surviving lumber-camp style cookhouse in North America. All-you-can-eat, hearty meals the likes of fried chicken and pot roast are served family-style on long tables covered with red checkered plastic tablecloths.
Or, grab an oyster grill kit and fire up a barbecue at Humboldt Bay Social Club, a former WWII blimp base turned chic boutique hotel and eatery. Rooms here come with access to a secluded beach and use of a dreamy outdoor bathhouse ideal for soaking under the stars. In nearby Eureka, Carter House Inns offers rooms (most with fireplaces) spread throughout five Victorians and a cozy bar with a wine list more than 80 pages long.
Come morning, you’ll wrestle with a difficult decision.
An argument could be made that sunny spring days in these parts should be dedicated to the coast, exploring vibrant tide pools at Palmer’s Point, and looking for migrating whales from Wedding Rock, both in Sue-meg (formerly Patrick’s Point) State Park.
But this trip is all about the trees, and if you forge ahead just another hour north, you can roam through Fern Canyon in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, just like dinosaurs did in Steven Spielberg’s “The Lost World: Jurassic Park.” Or go chasing waterfalls within a stretch of old-growth forest at gorgeous Trillium Falls.
End your long weekend away on a high note at the new Redwood Sky Walk at Eureka’s Sequoia Park Zoo, where a network of platforms and suspended bridges stretch nearly a quarter-mile through a grove of redwoods.
At the highest point of the journey, you’ll be 100 feet in the air, yet still only a third of the way up into the canopy of the mighty trees. Gaze up. Glance down. And revel in the moment with these truly awe-inspiring forces of nature.
Hendy Woods State Park, 18599 Philo Greenwood Road, Philo. 707-895-3141, parks.ca.gov
Skunk Train Railbikes, 100 West Laurel St., Fort Bragg. 707-964-6371, skunktrain.com
Trillium Café, 10390 Kasten St., Mendocino. 707-937-3200, trilliummendocino.com
Fog Eater Cafe, 45104 Main St., Mendocino. 707-397-1806, fogeatercafe.com
JD House, 571 Ukiah St., Mendocino. 707-397-0083, bluedoorgroup.com
Chandelier Drive-Thru Tree Park, 67402 Drive Thru Tree Road, Leggett. 707- 925-6464, drivethrutree.com
One Log House, 705 Hwy. 101, Garberville. 707-247-2717 visitmendocino.com
Living Chimney Tree, 1111 Avenue of the Giants, Phillipsville. 707-923-2265, aveofthegiants.com
Avenue of the Giants, Hwy. 254, starting outside Phillipsville. savetheredwoods.org
Humboldt Redwoods State Park, 17119 Avenue of the Giants, Weott. 707-946-2409, parks.ca.gov, humboldtredwoods.org
Samoa Cookhouse, 908 Vance Ave., Samoa. 707-442-1659, samoacookhouse.net
Humboldt Bay Social Club, 900 New Navy Base Road, Samoa. 707-502-8544, humboldtbaysocialclub.com
Carter House Inns, 301 L St., Eureka. 800-404-1390, carterhouse.com
Redwood Sky Walk at the Sequoia Park Zoo, 3414 W St., Eureka. 707-441-4263, redwoodskywalk.com