MI OLA ambassador Becca just spent over 3 weeks traveling up the coast of Northern California along Highway 1. She is in the middle of an 8 month journey around the American and Canadian West discovering the most incredible landscapes along the way. Read on to plan your own NorCal Highway 1 journey!
Highway 1 twists and turns through massive Old Growth Redwood Forests, traverses across rocky shorelines and takes the traveler through vistas one can only imagine. Exploring Northern California along Highway 1 is not a quick 70mph drive. Although Google Maps says the 324 mile trip from Bodega Bay to Crescent City takes just over 7 hours, you’ll want at least 4 days! My husband and I spent over 3 weeks exploring the coastline by backpacking the Lost Coast Trail, hiking among the Redwoods and finding private beaches along the way. We narrowed down our favorite spots just for you!
The Best Backpacking Trip
The Lost Coast Trail is located in the King Range National Conservation Area – which encompasses over 68,000 acres of wilderness along 35 miles of untouched shoreline. Enthusiastic backpackers enjoy a one-way, 25 mile trip along the shoreline with awe-inspiring views for the entire way. This backpacking trek does require a shuttle unless you would like to double the mileage. We backpacked a small portion of The Lost Coast Trail departing from Black Sands Beach. Don’t forget to register for a permit and rent a bear canister! If you want to spend more time on the Lost Coast Trail, check out our more in depth Lost Coast Trail #GetOutThere Guide by Ashley B.!
The Best Mountain Biking
A mountain biking paradise lies right outside one of the larger towns along HWY 1, Fort Bragg. The biking is in the Jackson Demo State Forest, just a few miles outside of town. There is enough singletrack that any biker will have fun for days and chances are you won’t see a soul! This area boasts soft trails through a towering Redwood Forest. What’s not to love?! Stop in Fort Bragg at Fort Bragg Cyclery for more info and directions.
The Best Beaches
EVERYWHERE! Literally everywhere. While we were traveling along the coast, we drove an average of about 30 miles/day stopping at every beach we saw along the road that looked promising. Our rule of thumb – If there’s a beach, stop and soak up the sun! Some of our favorites were in Salt Point State Park, Sonoma Coast State Park and MacKerricher State Park.
The Best Day Hikes
The Humboldt Redwoods in Northern California boasts the largest remaining old-growth forest of coast redwoods. It’s impossible not to be humbled and inspired all at the same time as you’re meandering through the forest. These trees live up to 2,000 years and can be over 200 ft tall. Stop at a visitor center to learn more about these impressive trees and find the right trail for you!
The Best Place to Get Off The Grid
If you’re looking for a place to get off the beaten path, Usal Beach at Sinkyone Wilderness State Park is your paradise! To get to this deserted beach and hiking paradise, visitors need to travel along a very steep, narrow and rough dirt road for 6 miles. From the trailhead, hike along the beautiful coast and through a Redwood grove for sweeping, 360-degree views. Don’t forget ample food and water as there aren’t any modern facilities. Usal Beach is camping only.
California is known for being sunny and 75 almost every day of the year. Lucky you, this means you can plan your road trip anytime you feel the need to get away! Be aware that this area can become quite crowded during the summer months because of families on vacations.
What to Bring and Where to Sleep
Your journey along HWY 1 will consist of a whole lot of gorgeous scenery and not a whole lot of amenities. The sleepy coastal towns that you’ll pass through will provide gas, one or two B&Bs, a local restaurant and the obligatory bar. First, decide if you’d like to camp (many people choose this option as there are a plethora of campgrounds along the route) or stay in a plush bed! You can’t go wrong with either! I’d recommend bringing the following whether camping or not.
• Reusable Water Bottles or a Water Jug – There aren’t too many public drinking sources along the way. Make sure you don’t get dehydrated and fill up along the way!
• Snacks, and lots of them! – As you’re traveling along HWY 1, you won’t see many options for quick eats. Pack a cooler with lunch food and snacks to avoid hanger!
• Athletic clothes to enjoy the outdoors, hiking boots or good walking shoes and plenty of SPF.
• Your favorite MI OLA bikini!