The perfect road to explore a different part of the Golden State, this circle trip starting and ending in San Francisco will display some of Californias best preserved Victorian towns, coasts, mountains and vineyards. Most of all, it showcases the magnificent California redwoods, the tallest trees in the world.
Duration: 14 Nights
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fly with United Airlines and arrive in San Francisco. Prepare to experience a wealth of vibrant sights and sounds found nowhere else. The citys reputation as a fun-loving rollicking place is well deserved, dating back to the Gold Rush era when jumping saloons were filled with prospectors with stories to tell. Mountains and coastlines add a beautiful natural backdrop to this very colorful place. To enjoy the natural beauty, plan to experience San Francisco during free time; walk on the beach and ride a cable car to the top of Nob Hill where incredible views await.
Familiarize yourself with San Francisco on the Barbary Coast Trail, a 3.8 mile route following bronze medallions set in the sidewalks that connect 20 of the citys most important locations. Marvel at a collection of historic ships, the first Asian temple in America, the birthplace of the Gold Rush and more. Follow that with a visit to Fishermans Wharf, where you can have incredible views of San Francisco Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge and the cityscape along with your seafood. Nearby Ghirardelli Square transformed a 19th century chocolate factory into a fabulous marketplace of restaurants featuring new one-of-a-kind shops and culinary delights from around the world. The tour will also take you past San Franciscos famous Painted Ladies blocks and blocks of Victorian homes which survived the fire of 1906. Overnight in San Francisco
This day includes lingering in Sonoma Wine Country and heading out along its rugged coastline. Travel along the Bohemian Highway, one of the most scenic drives found anywhere in California. Start by tasting some of the finest Pinot Noir & Chardonnay produced in the region. Continue onto the charming town of Occidental, a mecca for artists and nature lovers. Continue onto the Coast Highway with a stop in Jenner to check out the harbor seals and seal pups. Overnight in Jenner.
After a very pleasant drive up the Northern California coast, spend some time exploring the Village of Mendocino, so quaint it has earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. A huge collection of Victorians has been lovingly restored into charming inns, restaurants, unique shops and galleries. Perched proudly on a small, hilly peninsula, the towns striking front yard is the Mendocino Headlands State Park coastal bluffs. Locals will encourage you to explore the scenic trails with unobstructed views of the sparkling Pacific Ocean.
Fans of Murder She Wrote will recognize this seaside village as Cabot Cove. The long running television show, featuring a writer from Maine, was filmed in town over several years. Be sure to visit the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, 47 acres of natural beauty sitting right on the California coast. The magnificent site includes canyons, wetlands, coastal bluffs, and a closed-cone pine forest. The Gardens main trails take you right to the Pacific Ocean.
From Mendocino, it is all aboard in Fort Bragg with Captain Tim on the Sea Hawk for a whale watching and/or fishing cruise out of Noyo Harbor. Depending on the season, you can see California Gray Whales migrating from Alaska to Baja California. At other times of the year, you can go salmon fishing, rock cod fishing, crabbing, or take a coastal sightseeing cruise. Overnight in Mendocino.
The only in California experiences just keep coming today as you take the Skunk Train deep into the redwood forest near Fort Bragg. Built as a logging railroad, the Skunk line was created to bring massive redwood logs out to Mendocino sawmills. Residents along the tracks dubbed the trains, the skunk, saying they could smell the gasoline engines before they could see them. Along your route, the train crosses 30 bridges and trestles and passes through two mountain tunnels.
For those who want to venture still farther afield, the tallest and oldest living things in the world can be found nearby in the ancient Redwood Forest. Contrast these magnificent specimens to the pygmy forests at Van Damme and Jughandle State Parks. Explore both parts of Russian Gulch State Park, where the ocean side features the Devil Punch Bowl and the east side, a scenic hike to a graceful waterfall. Overnight in Fort Bragg.
Leaving Fort Bragg will provide an opportunity to drive along Californias North Coast on Highway 1. Approximately 18 miles (30 km) of the highway is adjacent to the rocky shoreline until it heads inland to meet Highway 101. This route will take you through the Humboldt Redwoods State Park to walk among the worlds tallest trees along the world-famous Avenue of the Giants. Continuing north on Highway 101 will take you to the beautiful Victorian village of Ferndale. Founded in 1852, today the whole town is on the California historic registry. Stroll along the town's Main Street District, where art galleries, antique shops and boutiques complement a dazzling array of 19th century Victorians. Overnight in Ferndale.
Today as you drive north, stop in Loleta at the Loleta Cheese Factory. Watch cheese making through tall windows, sample the many different kinds of cheese, then browse through the cheese factory store where you can also find many other locally produced food items as well as some of Humboldt's own varietal wines.
Next take a walk around the Humboldt Bay Wildlife Refuge. Great place to walk the trails, all on flat land, and view wildlife and the wetland habitat on the southernmost end of Humboldt Bay. Observe Aleutian cackling geese, Pacific brant, migratory shorebirds, terns, cormorants, and pelicans, as well as resident egrets, herons, and migratory songbirds such as warblers, sparrows, and swallows.
Now head to Old Town Eureka where you can take a tour of Humboldt Bay aboard The Madaket, the oldest vessel in continuous service in the United States. This 8.5 mile one-hour cruise travels along the Eureka Waterfront. Narration includes all points of interest, including the discoveries of Humboldt Bay, timber industry, wildlife, shipping, maritime history and activity, Indian history and more. This is a great way to learn about the Humboldt Bay area! For you more adventurous types take a kayaking tour of Humboldt Bay where you will get an even closer view of the wildlife.
If you want a more mellow time take a walk around old town Eureka with its beautifully restored Victorian businesses and homes. Stop inside the one-of-a-kind shops, have dinner at the unique restaurants that feature local meats and produce and have a glass of wine at a wine bar. Overnight in Eureka.
This days activities include heading north to Redwood National Park to enjoy one of the many hiking trails through the Redwoods. This area also includes spectacular Fern Canyon featured in one of the Jurassic Park films. A popular activity is watching the numerous herds of Roosevelt elk commonly seen in this area. Of course, the many beaches along the North Coast should not be missed by those wanting to experience this magnificent coastline.
For a different redwood experience, check out The Trees of Mystery near Klamath. Surely nowhere else are you going to have the chance to get an up-close downward perspective from the tops of redwood trees that measure 100s of feet in height? A total of 8 Gondola Cars continuously make the approximately 8-10 minute, 1570 foot trip up the mountain each day - giving riders not only spectacular views of magnificent redwoods, but a fine mountaintop ocean vista at the observation deck at the summit as well. Overnight in Crescent City.
Head away from the coast and through the Siskiyou Mountains, over the Oregon border to visit the Oregon Caves National Monument. Later head for the City of Medford which will be your base. Here you can either relax, or if you need a little adventure, head for the Rogue River and an exciting afternoon rafting trip, a must-do experience. Overnight in the Medford area.
Today we will visit the remarkable Crater Lake National Park. Take your time to experience this incredible natural phenomenon by hiking the local trails. We will let the scenery do the talking here. Head back towards Klamath Falls where you can enjoy many water sports, such as sailing or canoeing on Klamath Lake, or take a trip and dine on the Klamath Belle paddle steamer.
As you head south from Crater Lake you will have joined the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway, a 500 mile (804 km) route that takes you from Crater Lake to Mount Lassen. Along this route you will find live volcanoes, amazing waterfalls, and a natural history millions of years old. Overnight in the Klamath Falls area.
Explore the phenomenal Lava Beds National Monument. With both a natural and civil history, the Lava beds make for an interesting excursion.
From there head toward the majestic 14,179-foot (4,327 meters) peak that is Mount Shasta, less than 500 ft (152 meters) smaller than the highest peak in the 48 states. Stop in the pretty town of McCloud and enjoy many views of the mountain before heading south to Redding. 2 nights in the Redding area.
* As an alternative, why not take a few days out of your tour and hire a house boat on Lake Shasta or Trinity Lake. This will allow you to explore the area from the water and enjoy the remoteness of the landscape, being one with nature, and the beautiful scenery from an entirely different perspective where no roads could ever take you.
Today we will reach the end of the Volcanic Legacy Highway. Take the road out to McArthur-Burney Falls, to visit this extraordinary natural phenomenon. Then head south to experience the fascinating geothermal activity of the Lassen Volcanic National Park. Later head back to Interstate 5 for the ride into the California State Capital, Sacramento. Overnight in Sacramento.
Wake up to Californias Capital city. Sacramento was at the forefront of the pioneer expansion and the 49 Gold Rush, when pioneers travelled to the town by boat from San Francisco. A day walking tour of the city is a must, from the Capital building, modeled on the Washington DC Capital building, to the famous riverfront Old Town, one of the few remaining original wooden townships left.
This tour will truly highlight the old west to you, as will the beautiful Delta King paddle steamer moored at the dockside. Alongside is the superb railway museum, celebrating the expansion of the railway through the High Sierra Mountains, an incredible feat of engineering. Later, allow yourself to be seduced by the downtown shopping. Overnight in Sacramento.
Return to San Francisco today to spend your final two days in the City by the Bay. Drop your car back at a downtown depot, as you will not need it once back in town. Union Square is the shopping heart of the city, while Fishermans Wharf offers a fun glimpse of the waterfront. Be sure to ride the world famous cable cars over the hills, and come back to downtown on the F line, the waterfront ride back to Market Street on some of the worlds finest tram cars. A guided city tour is a must for new visitors, while trips across the bay provide a unique perspective of the city. Later, dine in one of the many varied cultural areas of the city from Chinatown to Little Italy. Overnight in San Francisco.
Enjoy a leisurely morning before departing home.
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