Northern California
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Northern Cal:
When to go
Lodging
Maps

Introduction
Northern California (at this site defined as north of San Francisco, is quite different from the south:
Smaller communities, fewer tourists but still breathtakingly beautiful. And here; camping is king, although
small charming motels can be found conveniently in most places.


Attractions: (north from San Francisco)

1. Mount Tamalpais & Muir Woods
Just north of San Francisco is a wonderful oasis. Just take the Shoreline Highway from Freeway 101, and turn right
into the Panoramic Highway, and you´ll arrive at the Pantoll Campground. It´s a great but somewhat small with wildlife
nearby. Last time I stayed there in May 2007 a few wild turkeys woke up most of the campground early in the morning.
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Wild turkeys

View from the hills of Mt. Tam

Whether you camp or not, take the Pantoll Road just 20 yards/meters from the campground (gate closes after sunset)and
out to a crossing, and either make a right to the three peaks of Mount Tam (east peak with a short 1/4 mile walk up to the lookout is
recommended, particularly in sunset! Appearently, you can see the second largest area of the planet earth in the whole world from
here! (better than the Himalayas). Or, if you make a left at the crossing (or park the car there) you can take one of the many
short trails in the grass and enjoy the stunning view. And have a rest at O´Rourkes Bench (it´s marked) under one of the trees
1/2 mile left of the crossing. And while drinving; watch out for bycyclists (did you knew that the mountainbike was invented
on the hills of Mount Tam, when Gary Fischer first applied fat tires on an ordinary bicycle?) If possible, it´s best to visit
Mount Tam & Muir Woods on a weekday since its a favourite place for locals.

To reach Muir Woods, just take a left from the Panoramic Highway into the Muir Woods Road. At the Park Headquarter,
pick on of the trails and indulge yourself under the majestic Redwood trees.


2.Point Reyes National Seashore
Just north of San Francisco, Point Reyes is sometimes called the crown jevel of coastal California. But be prepare to spend a
full day there, because it´t quite large. There are several trails, altough not many are shorter than 3-4 miles. A favourite
(particularly during the fall when the elk there are in a rut) is the trail to Tomales Point in the north (a full 9,5 miles/15 km
hike back and forth). Other nice spots are Drakes Beach or Point Reyes Lighthouse, both of which can be reached by car. There is
little lodging at Point Reyes apart from a hostel and some upscale Bed & Breakfasts , but there´s a resturant at Drakes Beach and
great suppply of locally produced delicacies in the grocery stores in Point Reyes Station.


Drakes Beach

Point Reyes Lighthouse


3. Fort Ross
Fort Ross State Historic Park is worth a brief stop along the Highway 1. Interesting history of the Russian settlers, and there
are usually lots of Turkey Vultures in the area.


Fort Ross


4. Point Arena
Point Arena Lighthouse is probably the best looking lighthouse along the Californian coast and should therefore not be
neglected. You cannot miss it, as it´s just off the Highway 1.


Point Arena Lighthouse



5. Mendocino
Mendocino is a pittoresque community, crammed with artist painting the beautiful cliffs and seastacks. Taking a walk
along the cliffs and check out their works, and have a picnic, is a definitively something to recommend.

6. Trinidad
Trinidad is somewhat similar to Mendocino except the artists. It´s a nice place to have som seafood, and to stretch the
legs around the lighthouse. And there´s a (steep) trail from the lighthouse down to the beach.


Trinidad Lighthouse


7. Patricks Point & Agate Beach
Right at Highway 1, Patricks Point and Agate Beach is a must see if you are in northern California. Stunning views and
relatively little people, except for few hoping to find agate on the beach


Agate Beach


8. Redwood Area
However, there´s little doubt that the Redwood area, with a national park and several state parks, is the highlight in
northern California. To see one of the tallest trees you can take a shuttle from the visitor center next to Orick during
the summer. Other seasons you have to must apply for a (limited) permit, and drive Bald Hill Road. And once you reach the
access point you have to hike three miles to the grove.


Redwood trees

But there are plenty of alternatives: Driving Davidsons Road, about
four miles north of Orick, is one of the best places. Follow the eight mile unpaved road to Gold Bluff Beach and Fern
Canyon. And watch out for the mighty Roosevelt Elk, particularly during the rut in fall. If you are visiting during
the spring, a good advice is to hike the Rhododendron Trail (6.3 mile) from the visitor center in Prairie Creek Redwood
State Park (10 miles north of Orick). The Rhododendron flowers usually peaks in mid May.


Gold Bluff Beach

Roosevelt Elk in rut


9. Mount Shasta
Mount Shasta is visible from a large part of northern California, due to its height and the low elevation of the surrounding
area. One of the best views are from Castle Crags State Park, six miles south of the city of Dunsmuir. There are a couple of
nice trails, offering very pleasant views of Mount Shasta. If your not in the mood of hiking, just driving north on Interstate
5 to Weed and then north on US 97 offers beauiful views of the mountain, where it rises almost alone. And while in the vicinity,
you can visit the mighty Shasta Dam, the second largets dam in the US (in mass). Exit I-5 at Shasta Dam Blvd for a three-mile
scenic drive through the city of Shasta Lake to a overlook with Mount Shasta, Shasta Lake and Shasta Dam.


10. Lassen Volcanic National Park
Lassen Volcanic National Park is defintively one of the highlights in northern California, and anyone interested in geology or simply
stunningly beautiful nature, which sometimes resembles other planets more then mother nature, should defitively visit the park.
However, due to the high elevation, large parts of the park is covered in snow well into the summer. Personally, I prefer the fall,
as the park have really nice colours at that time. Popular activities are hiking to the Bumpass Hell (3 miles), which has the largest
thermal activities. And it´s quite possible to hike the Lassen Peak itself, altough the 5 miles are very strenious.


Lassen Peak behind Painted Dunes

Painted Dunes

Personally, I prefer discovering Manzanita Lake (se picture top of page), and above all; the area around Cinder Cone in the northern
part of the park (you can either hike from the center of the park or drive around the park and take the gravel road to Butte Lake. A
near religious experience is to hike from the Butte Lake parking lot around an hour and and half before sunrise, and hike the 3 miles
in complete darkness (well with a flashlight), and watch the sun rise over Cinder Cone and the Painted Dunes. You won´t be the same
after that experience!


Cinder Cone

View from top of Cinder Cone
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