Don Bain's 360° Panoramas of the
Northern California Coast, Coast Ranges, and Redwood Highway
Humboldt, Mendocino, Lake and Sonoma Counties, California
This region begins in the north with the extensive flatlands around Humboldt Bay, bordered by miles of coastal dunes, backing against the Klamath Mountains. Arcata is a notable college town, sort of a backwoods Berkeley, and Eureka a surprisingly impressive small city, noted especially for its Old Town and the amazing Carson Mansion. South of the bay the Eel River Plain is famous for its dairy industry and the Victorian town of Ferndale.
Highway 101, the Redwood Highway, lives up to its name south of here, as it traverses a string of state parks along the Eel River. The freeway cuts a wide swathe, but is paralleled by the old highway, known as the Avenue of the Giants, which snakes between the big trees in deep green shade. The company town of Scotia is a gem, and a few classic roadside attractions, including a drive-through tree, still persist along the South Fork.
South of the Eel River Highway 101 goes inland. There is no coastal highway here, and for most of this 80 mile "Lost Coast" stretch there is no road at all. However, there is a trail, or beach route, almost all the way, culminating in the high ridges of Sinkyone Wilderness State Park.
Highway 1 follows the coast closely from Sinkyone south. Fort Bragg, a former lumber town, is the western terminus of the unique Skunk Railroad, last of the lumber railways. Mendocino, a New England-style village on the clifftops, has long been an artists' colony, as well as a favorite television and movie location. There are notable lighthouses at Point Cabrillo and Point Arena - those further north at Punta Gorda, Cape Mendocino, Table Bluff, and Humboldt Bay have all been either abandoned or relocated.
The Sonoma Coast begins with the architecturally notable Sea Ranch community, then the wild but gentle former sheep ranch that is now Salt Point State Park. South of the Russian River is the old Russian settlement at Fort Ross, largely restored as a state historical park, and Bodega Bay, made famous by Albert Hitchcock's movie "The Birds".