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Redwood Coast Adventure Trail

Updated: May 9

Shrouded in fog for most of the year, the rugged and wild redwood coast is a magical place to visit. Behind the redwood curtain you'll discover verdant rolling hills and emerald draped mountains, turquoise rivers with abundant salmon and steelhead, wild coastlines, and solace from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.



Route Overview

Trip Length & Season

Adventure Rating: Epic Trip Length: 4-10 days, 472 miles (approx 60% dirt/40% pavement) Season: Recommended April - early November. It's possible to explore this route in Winter, but this part of northern California sees a significant amount of rain from November - March. Mendocino County closes Sherwood Road during the wet season. Depending on seasonal weather, the road is typically re-opened in April or May. Check the Mendocino County Dept of Transporation page for current status.

Digital Maps & GPX Files

Technical Ratings & Terrain

Recommended Vehicle / Moto / Adventure Vans

Fuel, Provisions, and Recommended Gear

Alternative Routes

Camping Recommendations

Discovery Points

Land Managers & Other Resources

Permits & Papers


 

Route Details

The coast Redwoods extend from Big Sur in the central California coast all the way to the Oregon border, and few small groves can even be found along the southern Oregon Coast. However, the heart of the Redwood Coast extends from Del Norte County to the Mendocino coast. Here you'll find some of the largest and tallest trees on earth, and the system of California State Parks and Redwood National Park provide a wealth of opportunities to explore these ancient forests, along with the beautiful and wild coastlines of far northern California. For those that like getting out of the vehicle and exploring on foot, we've included 73 discovery points, many of which entail short hikes through the redwood forest to reach such sights like the Grove of Titans (contains 3 of the 10 largest redwoods by volume on earth), hiking through Bull Creek Flats (the largest redwood forest and densest accumulation of biomass on earth), and the epic drive on Howland Hill through the old growth forest of Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. Adventure riders will enjoy the well graded dirt roads, and the endless miles of swoopy banked turns through the Humboldt and Mendocino backcountry. The route can be driven in either direction, but for the sake of this guide, we'll start from the north and travel south. The route begins in the village of Smith River and immediately heads into the mountains of the Smith River National Recreation Area. Views are plentiful as you climb higher into the mountains, with the Klamath Mountains visible to the east, and the Pacific on the horizon to the west. Next you'll drop down to the clear emerald waters of the Smith River, a favorite among anglers for steelhead and salmon. Head to the parking lot at Forks of Smith (DP4) and take the quick 5 minute to the river. You'll feel like you're in a Lord of the Rings movie when you emerge from the forest and onto the rocks where the two forks converge. From Forks of Smith burn the highway until reaching Howland Hill Road. Howland Hill Road is a 10 mile dirt road through the old Growth Redwood Forest. Consider visiting both the Stout Grove and Grove of Titans boardwalk trail (DP7). Grove of Titans features the Lost Monarch tree, which is one of the largest multi-stem redwoods by volume on earth. Howland Hill exits into the outskirts of Crescent City, where the track continues south along Highway 101. Once you emerge from the forest of Del Norte Redwoods SP, the views of the ocean below are spectacular. We highly recommend visiting Trees of Mystery (DP14), which features a series of sky bridges through the redwood canopy (fee is required). You'll know you've arrived when you see the massive statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox adjacent to the highway. South of Trees of Mystery you'll head into Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park and Redwood National Park. Along the way you'll take the Golden Bears Bridge (DP16) across the Klamath River and then do a quick loop around Coastal Drive (DP21). The Loop around Coastal Drive features impressive views of of the Klamath River mouth and beach. Continue south to Praire Creek Redwoods. Highlights of Prairie Creek include the elk viewing opportunities at elk prairie, but you can check with park rangers about the latest verified location of one of the elk herds. If you get the opportunity, we highly recommend trying to book a campsite at Gold Bluffs Beach, an absolutely beautiful beach surrounded by cliffs draped with evergreens. Down the road from Gold Bluffs beach you'll find Fern Canyon Trail (DP29). There are numerous fern canyons along the redwood coast, but this is by far the best hike of all of them. You'll walk through a creek bed with 30 foot high fern covered walls on each side of you. Next up you'll head to Bald Hills Drive through Redwood National Park. If you get the opportunity, we highly recommend getting the free permit to visit the Tall Trees Trail. As you make your way higher up, the forest begins to give way to open grass prairies, with views all the way to the coast. The pavement eventually turns into a wide graded dirt road as well. The best views along Bald Hills can be had atop Grasshopper Peak Lookout (DP35), which does entail a short walk from the gate. Once back on Bald Hills Drive, keep an eye out on your right for Pine Creek Road. You'll be on a short section of pavement soon turns back to dirt upon reaching French Camp Road, which eventually spits you out onto Bair Road. As you make your way over the summit, the rolling grass hills shrouded with oak and evergreen are quintessential Humboldt and Mendocino County-- God's Country! Lack's Creek provides recreation in the form of mountain bike trails, but also features a campground and a number of dispersed sites through the BLM reserve. Eventually you reach Highway 299, take it for less than a minute before jumping back onto the dirt of Snow Camp Road. You're not entering Six Rivers National Forest, where dispersed camping is permitted as long as you don't see a private property/no trespassing sign. You'll take Snow Camp Road to Bald Mountain Road and then down to Maple Creek Road. Maple Creek is a pock marked paved road that winds slowly through the forest. Folks on adventure bikes may prefer to skip male creek altogether, and instead opt for the alternative option down highway 299 and up Fickle Hill Road, which are in much better condition. Maple Creek meets its terminus at Kneeland Road. The Kneeland area consists of dairy farms with rolling hills as far as the eye can see. You'll wind your way along dirt roads into the Mad River drainage, cross Lone Star Junction and back onto Kneeland Road before taking the dirt of Redwood House Road down to Highway 36 and the Van Duzen River (DP38). Another famous redwood reserve is the Headwaters Reserve (north of Fortuna), that gained infamy in the 1990s as one of the last remaining old growth redwood forests that was slated for logging, but was ultimately saved protected by congress after a series of protests. The next section of the track heads into the northern portion of the Lost Coast and into the Mattole Valley. Once you leave the dirt of Bear River Ridge Road (DP45), you'll be traveling on mostly pavement until reaching the Dyerville Loop just past the Avenue of Giants. Highlights along this section include the beautify of the Mattole Valley, numerous swimming opportunities at AW Way County Park, and the drive through the Bull Creek Flat redwood forest (DP53), which is the largest old growth redwood forest on earth, and features the highest concentration of redwoods over 350', including the Stratosphere Giant (371', 4th tallest tree on earth). While driving through the Bull Creek Flat forest on Mattole Road is more impressive than the drive through Avenue of the Giants (in our humble opinion at least!), we implore you to get out on foot and explore the forest by way of Big Trees Loop trail (DP50). Your final jaunt through Humboldt Redwoods State Park includes a quick trip down Avenue of the Giants (DP53) to the Humboldt Redwoods Visitor Center (DP55). Before jumping onto Dyerville Loop, we recommend visiting either Leatherman Bar (great for swimming) or Dyerville Bar, which has a fantastic view of the Dyerville Train Truss (Dp54). This next section of the route is a favorite among local adventure riders, but often overlooked by overlanders-- but it shouldn't be! Soon you'll leave the redwoods behind, where hills and prairies bless travelers with views for miles. Just be mindful of those private property signs-- you're now traveling through Southern Humboldt county, which is at the heart of the Emerald Triangle (cannabis farms). Just stay on the main track and public roads, and you'll be just fine. You'll cross the pavement of Alderpoint Road before jumping back onto the dirt of Bell Springs road, eventually crossing into northern Mendocino county. Bell Springs Road eventually drops back down to highway 101, which you'll take south through Laytonville until reach Sherwood Road. Sherwood Road is a county dirt road that is the gateway to the Mendocino coast. After a few hours, you'll emerge from the forest and into the old industrial town of Fort Bragg (DP59). We recommend visiting the historic downtown, the Skunk Train (DP60), and Noyo Harbor (DP61). From Fort Bragg, head south to the quaint seaside village of Mendocino (DP69). We highly recommend getting out of your vehicle and walking the downtown of this bohemian seaside town. Finish things off by heading down to Big River Beach (DP70 ) and then over to an epic viewpoint of the Mendocino Bay (DP73).

 

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