In addition to being on a particularly pretty part of the coast, with long stretches of sandy beaches, Eureka is in the middle of the best Redwood forests in the world. Humboldt Redwoods State Park and the Avenue of the Giants is just to the south. And the even more spectacular Redwood National and State Parks is just to the north. All are reached by traveling US Route 101.
Eureka is the largest town on this portion of the California northern coast with a population of over 27,000. Eureka and the surrounding towns in Humbolt County have a combined population of over 45,000. The area around Eureka is made up of three other towns: Arcata and McKinleyville to the north, and Fortuna to the south. Additionally, the quirky Ferndale is just a short drive off of US 101.
Sightseeing Near Eureka
There are two main reasons to visit: the Redwoods and the coast. But be sure to visit Ferndale, just south of Eureka, near Fortuna, and a short distance west of US 101.
Old Town Eureka is home to dozens of wonderful examples of Victorian architecture, encompassing about 15% of the structures in town. The largest is the O Street District, but don’t miss the smaller 2nd Street and 15th Street Districts.
When traveling through Eureka, most stay on US 101. But there is a short side adventure via CA 255, which takes one on the Pacific side of Arcata Bay and onto the peninsula of Humboldt Bay, a thin stretch of sand along the coast, then back across Indian and Woodley Islands into the center of Eureka. Do not attempt this drive during stormy weather as the land and roads are quite low. Just before leaving the peninsula for the bridges into Eureka, it may be worthwhile to swing into Samoa and visit the Samoa Cookhouse. The cookhouse was built in 1893 and is the last lumber style cookhouse operating in North America.
Ferndale is known as a ‘Victorian Village’ or ‘Cream City’ with beautifully maintained Victorian buildings. These are sometimes called ‘Butterfat Palaces’ because the wealth of their owners were derived from the dairy industry. Ferndale is small, with a population of only 1,300.
Ferndale has a reputation for being rather different. Each year, they host a ‘Kinetic Sculpture Race’, which was originated in Ferndale, where human powered works of art race. The Ferndale national championship race is held over Memorial Day and lasts for 3 days. If not lucky enough to be there that weekend, there is the Kinetic Museum, which is worth a visit. It is, however, only open Friday – Sunday from 2:13 to 6:32 PM. For more information, check out the Ferndale Visitors website.
The Drive North
North of Eureka, follow US 101. The first exit, at CA 255 exit, is the Arcata Marsh Interpretive Center which is located on the Pacific Flyway. There are over 330 species of birds that travel through this area, making it a prime spot for birding. Arcata Marsh is ranked 20th in the United States in species diversity.
There are several beaches worth visiting north of town. If looking for a laid back local beach, check out Clam Beach County Park at exit 723, or the even smaller Little River State Beach at exit 725. A little more interesting is Moonstone County Park, at exit 726 (then west on Westhaven Drive, south on Scenic Drive, and right to the park entrance).
Clam Beach offers parking at two lots and along Clam Beach Drive. There are restrooms, campgrounds ($25), and a day use (no fee) area. Horseback riding, beach combing and birding are popular activities.
Moonstone County Park is day use only and is popular for surfing. Access to the beach and Little River is easy.
Little River State Beach is located immediately north of Clam Beach and south of Moonstone. Access requires a walk through the dunes. The beach is more remote than Clam Beach and does not get as many visitors. There are hiking trails behind the dunes, between Little River and the parking area.
Trinidad, Trinidad Head and Trinidad Beach State Park.
The historic town of Trinidad offers a quick place to visit with a few places to eat, plus a short 1.4 mile hike up on Trinidad Head with views of the Pacific and fishing harbor and town.
Trinidad Beach State Park is “one of the most accessible beaches in the area” and is located 19 miles north of Eureka, CA just off Highway 101. It is a short hike through the woods, across open bluffs, and past seasonal wildflowers down to the beach. Low tide is the best time to visit.
College Grove Trail and College Grove beach are located a short distance to the north. Tide pools and interesting rock formations make it a great location to explore.
Patricks Point State Park
Patricks Point State Park (exit 734) is located 30 miles north of Eureka and is a one square mile park with exposed sea cliffs. At the north point is Agate Beach. Access to the beach is a steep hike with several switchbacks that leads to a beautiful beach that leads most of the way towards Big Lagoon Beach. The hike includes the Pacific Coast Trail (California Coastal Trail). Agate beach is a wonderful place for beach combing and agate hunting.
At the center of the park along the ocean are several viewpoints accessed by short hikes. These include Wedding Rock, Patrick’s Point and Rocky Point.
Towards the south is Palmer’s Point. All offer wonderful views and are worth the trip. Patricks Point State Park has 120 campsites. There are short hikes within the park.
Download a park brochure.
Humboldt Lagoons State Park
Further north, US 101 swings down the mountain to an amazing section of lagoons, all part of Humboldt Lagoons State Park. The southern most is ‘Big Lagoon’ with impressive views from the car at the Harry A. Merlo State Recreation Area. Just south of the Lagoon is Big Lagoon County Park with fun beach combing and boating. To the north is Dry Lagoon State Park, followed by Stone Lagoon. Off of Stone Lagoon is the Stone Lagoon Visitors Center in Trinidad. Visitors can paddle, swim, and fish at the lagoons. There is a paddle-in and hike-in campground at Ryan’s Cove—and kayaks and paddle boards for rent at the Visitor Center. The California Coastal Trail passes through the park.
Download a park guide.
At the north end of Stone Lagoon is the extremely helpful Thomas H. Kuchel Visitor Center in Orick.
After the spectacular views of the coast, route 101 turns, disappointingly, to the east. It would be disappointing, except that this means the Redwoods.
This area of the Redwoods, stretches from the Klamath River to 32 miles south of Eureka and includes Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, Redwood National & State Parks and Humboldt Redwoods State Park. More information…..
Klamath (not to be confused with Klamath Falls) is a tiny town of less than a thousand people located near the mouth of the Klamath River. The original town was heavily damaged by a flood in 1964. As a result, the town was relocated to its current location. Remnants of the original town maybe visible west of US 101.
Just south of the Klamath River towards the coast are the remnants of the Douglas Bridge. This memorial to the bridge, built in 1926 was wiped out during the great flood of 1964. The original bear statues at the entrance still greet visitors to this site.
Nearby Klamath are several viewpoints not to be missed. Just north of the Klamath River is a road labelled as ‘D7’ also known as Requa Road. This road leads to the Klamath River Overlook, a whale watching spot with views of the Klamath River and the Ocean. It is also the southern trailhead to the Klamath section of the California Coastal Trail.
A bit further north is the commercial tourist attraction, ‘Trees of Mystery’, plus access to ‘Hidden Beach’, Wilson Creek Beach, the Yurok Loop hike and the north trailhead of the Klamath section of the California Coastal Trail.
Most of the day hikes involve the spectacular Redwoods, but there are a few along the coast. 33 hikes are listed on the Redwoods National Park website and vary from just over a mile to over 32 miles.
There is significant backcountry hiking in the Redwoods along with eight campsites. If you want to stay overnight, a free permit is required and is available 24 hours ahead of time from either the Hiouchi or Kuchel Visitors Centers. The number of permits is limited.
The California portion of the Pacific Coast Trail continues from Crescent City and down past Eureka. More information about the California Coastal Trail.
Sections of the California Coastal Trail lend themselves to great day hikes. These range from 3.5 to 6.0 miles. These include:
DeMartin Campground – Starting from the northern end of Wilson Creek, the trail travels east of highway 101 and into the Redwoods. The trail is 5.5 miles from the beach back to the highway. 2.5 miles from the south trailhead is the primitive DeMartin campground, then another 3.5 miles back to the highway. More information….
Klamath Section – Redwood National Park – 5.5 miles
North Trailhead is Wilson Creek Picnic Area off of US Highway 101
South Trailhead is at the Klamath River Overlook on Requa Road
Yorok Loop Trail is a 1.2 mile short subsection of this hike, with the trailhead located off the Lagoon Creek Picnic Ground.
There is also a hike to ‘Hidden Beach’ located midway in this Klamath Section of the California Coastal Trail.
Flint Ridge Section – Redwood National Park – 4.5 miles
West trailhead is on the Coastal Drive, off of Klamath Beach Road.
East trailhead is off of Alder Camp Road near the Old Douglas Memorial Bridge
Gold Bluffs Beach Section – Pairie Creek Redwoods State Park – 4.8 miles
North trailhead is on Coastal Drive 1.5 miles from the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway interaction.
South trailhead is on Davison Road, past the Gold Bluffs Beach entrance
Skunk Cabbage Section – Redwood National Park – 5.25 miles
North trailhead off of Davison Road past the Gold Bluffs Beach entrance
South trailhead is on Highway 101 at mile marker 122.69
More information about these hikes.
Humboldt Redwoods State Park is 32 miles south of Eureka and offers 100 miles of hiking, biking and riding trails. A downloadable version of trail maps is available.
Camping and RV’s
There are a large number of camping alternatives south of the Klamath River. Redwoods National Park has 5 camps for tent camping that are fairly primitive backcountry sites.
Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park has several camping areas that are wonderful. Gold Bluffs Beach and Elk Prairie Campgrounds are popular and should be reserved during top travel months. Prior to May 15th and after September 28th, they are first come first served. Nearby are 75 miles of hiking trails, and a 19-mile bike loop. This park was used in the making of Jurassic Park.
Elk Prarie, 6 miles north of Orick, has 75 family sites and hike/bike sites and showers / restrooms. Gold Bluff has 26 tent/RV sites. Download a brochure. 707-465-7335
Trinidad State Beach and Dry Lagoon (or Humbolt Lagoons) are day use only.
If looking for other developed sites, there are various state and National Park sites including:
Gold Bluffs Beach – Pairie Creek Redwood State Park
3 miles north of Orick – 26 Tent or RV
Big Lagoon – Humboldt County Park
13 miles south of Orick – 27 tent or RV
Clam Beach – Humboldt County Park
6 miles south of Trinidad – 15 tent or RV – no showers
For more information, download a brochure on camping in the area.
32 miles south of Eureka, Humboldts Redwoods State park has three different campgrounds with more than 250 campsites.
Burlington Campground –
Hidden Springs Campground –
Albee Creek Campground –
Or reservations online.
For more information to these campgrounds in Humboldt Redwoods State Park, download a brochure.
Several trails through the Redwoods allow bikes. These include:
Ossagon Trail – 18.5 miles including portions of paved and gravel roads
Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park and Redwood National Park
Davison Trail – 3.0 miles & Steelow Creek Trail – 2.8 miles
Pairie Creek Redwoods State Park
These two trails connect for a more challenging ride up Prairie Creek
Lost Man Creek Trail – 10 miles
Redwood National Park
There are areas of the backcountry open for biking, and Little Bald Hills Camp, north of the Klamath River, is open for biking/camping. Free permits are required for overnight stays and available from the Kuchel, Crescent City and Hiouchi Visitor Centers.
There is a great blog on biking in and around Humboldt County.
While many sections of US 101 have small towns every 25 miles, that is not true between Crescent City and Eureka, …..more
There are a large number of horse friendly trails and campsites located in the Redwoods. Campsites include Little Bald Hills, north of the Klamath; and Elam Camp south of the Klamath. Free permits are required for overnight stays and available from the Kuchel, Crescent City and Hiouchi Visitor Centers.
32 miles south of Klamath is Humboldt Redwoods State Park with some of the most spectacular riding trails in California. Camping is available at Cuneo Creek Horse Camp with access to the Indian Orchard Trail or Homestead Trail.
Also available are multiple use trails (MUTs) which are shared with hikers and bicycle riders. These include the Baxter trail which connects to the Squaw Creek Trail, Fox Camp Road MUT, Johnson Trail, Look Prairie MUT, Peavine Ridge MUT, Grasshopper MUT and Thornton MUT. More information is available at the Homboldtredwoods website. A downloadable version of trail maps is available.
The area around Eureka is fairly flat, so the best place to watch for whales is at Patrick’s Point State Park, which is about 25 miles north of Eureka; or the Klamath River Overlook. Whales can be seen from the coast at any time of the year, but the best time is during the fall or spring migration, more…