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Humboldt County is Standing Tall


Published On: October 16, 2023
image of lighthouse on grassy hill with ocean in background with people hiking with backpacks
Punta Gorda Lighthouse courtesy of Lost Coast

Humboldt County needn’t be humble about its vast appeal. Home to giant old-growth coast redwoods, majestic ocean beaches, charming Victorian towns, and a legendary Bigfoot, it’s 250 miles north from Downtown Napa to (great name!) Eureka, the quaint county seat. There’s plenty to see and do, so plan to stay awhile.

No doubt, the spectacular scenery may look familiar. Blockbusters seen by millions, including The Lost World: Jurassic Park, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, and Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, used evocative Humboldt County film locations to bring magic to the big screen. Download the free Map of the Movies Mobile App for a self-guided tour around this darling of the Hollywood scouts. // www.hdnfc.org


girl in pink jacket standing inside a large redwood tree

Eureka redwood, photo by Richard Stenger


Be sure to look up along the way. For an awe-inspiring leisurely drive through the forest, motor along the 31-mile Avenue of the Giants, curving its way around massive tree trunks with markers to see redwood groves every half-mile or so.

Along the Eel River at Humboldt Redwoods State Park, enter a virtual fairytale in The Rockefeller Forest, the world’s largest old-growth coastal redwood forest. Native only to Humboldt County, coast redwoods are the tallest known tree species; at approximately 2,000 years, they’re among the oldest on Earth. // www.humboldtredwoods.org

To feel closely connected to these gentle giants, a network of suspended bridges permits visitors to get 100 feet higher into the foliage on the Redwood Sky Walk at Sequoia Park Zoo, California’s oldest zoo, near Eureka. // www.redwoodskywalk.com

For more enormity, drive 50 miles north to Jedediah Smith Redwood National & State Park, one of only three UNESCO World Heritage sites in California. An International Biosphere Reserve, these 10,000 acres protect almost half the state’s remaining old-growth redwoods in an area nearly four times larger than Manhattan. // www.nps.gov/redw/index.htm



Carson Mansion is probably the nation’s most photographed spooky Victorian, an impressive structure with a diabolical side that becomes more pronounced each October. The green-gabled Queen Anne in Eureka is a popular backdrop for selfies and Halloween weirdness. While there’s no public access, during the haunted season, local guides may offer special prices on guided walks. // www.visiteureka.com

Get another big dose of Victoriana in the village of Ferndale, 20 miles south, where the entire town is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Everybody turns out for a lighting ceremony of America’s tallest living Christmas tree, gathering for free cookies and cocoa in a Ferndale tradition since 1934. The annual Christmas lighted tractor parade illuminates cheery faces and shop fronts up and down Main Street. And in Arcata, shoppers head for the Holiday Craft Market on the plaza. // www.visitferndale.com // www.visitarcata.com


quaint streetscape with colorful Victorian houses

Ferndale, photo by Gary Crabbe


A warm and informative welcome awaits at the new Eureka Visitor Center, a starting place for exploring the historic Old Town. Within a few blocks are nearly 40 shops, two dozen restaurants, six art galleries — Eureka is said to have more artists per capita than anywhere in the nation — and the boardwalk for strolling along a scenic waterfront. // www.visiteureka.com/activities/eureka-visitor-center

Keep an eye out for local performing arts, dance, and theater. See plentiful public murals around town. Delve into local history and catch art talks at Morris Graves Museum of Art. Admire Old Town Eureka from the back seat of a horse-drawn carriage. Visit a farmer’s market. Check out local cannabis wellness enterprises, consumption lounges, or dispensaries. Get a taste at the small batch bean-to-bar Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate factory. Learn how oysters are farmed in Humboldt Bay, where over 70% of the oysters consumed in California are sourced. // www.humboldtbayoystertours.com

Oh, and don’t be surprised to find a glass marble tucked in amongst the ferns or peeking out of a deep corner somewhere in town. Eureka is widely considered the center of the marble universe, and the glassmaker community hosts outdoor marble hunts.



Any Scotsman from Loch Ness would affirm that hometown monsters are always a tourism draw. Willow Creek must be the Bigfoot Capital of the World. A small museum dedicated to the legendary Sasquatch is filled with Bigfoot-related specimens, artifacts, footprint casts, videos, and theories about sightings. // www.thebigfootmuseum.com

The longest surviving lumber town in America, Scotia (population 470), has a logging museum, locomotives, steam donkeys, and surprise–an open-air fishery stocked with Chinook salmon and steelhead trout. // www.hrcllc.com/humboldt-redwood-fisheries-exhibit

On a bluff above the Pacific, tiny Trinidad (population 360) is often described as “picture postcard perfect.” Tour the lighthouse, walk along the pier, explore the tide pools at Trinidad State Beach, surf at dog-friendly Moonstone Beach, and kayak for a potential grey whale encounter.

Shelter Cove is a gateway to the Lost Coast, an undeveloped shoreline where the King Range Mountains rise 4,000 feet above the sea. Backpack to secluded campsites and visit the picturesque Cape Mendocino and Punta Gorda lighthouses.



In the heavily forested Klamath Mountains, most of Willow Creek AVA lies within Humboldt County. Small lot production at boutique wineries in the cool climate region is 45% Cabernet Sauvignon followed by Pinot Noir and Syrah at 15% each.

Discover a few of the boutique wineries and wine-tasting rooms that showcase locally grown grapes:

Briceland Vineyards: Friendly and knowledgeable owners host distinctive single vineyard tastings on a patio beside the vines near Redway. // www.bricelandvineyards.com

Miles Garrett Wines: Meet the winemaker. Tastings are by reservation only; natural wines dry farmed in Willow Creek. // www.milesgarrettwines.com

Fieldbrook Winery: Thirty miles south of Redwood National Forest, production is about 1,000 cases annually. Open Sunday afternoons, the McKinleyville tasting room pours several varietals and serves wood-fired pizza plus charcuterie platters. // www.fieldbrookwinery.com

Sample craft beers and ciders from 10 of the region’s breweries, including Shelter Cove’s Gyppo Ale Mill, the westernmost brewery in the continental US. // www.gyppo.com


horse drawn carraige in front of large green lawn and mansion

Carson Mansion Carriage
Photo by Don Forthuber


Humboldt County has unique lodging options, where family-owned and -operated is just the right vibe, and some have restaurants, too. Rub elbows with friendly locals.

Lost Whale Inn: North of Trinidad in a spectacular position high on a Pacific cliff, rooms are intimate and charming. // www.lostwhaleinn.com

The Historic Benbow Inn: Set on beautiful grounds on the banks of the Eel River, a magnet for romantic getaways. Bar, restaurant, and a 9-hole golf course. // www.benbowinn.com

Victorian Inn: At the end of Main Street in pretty Ferndale, super for exploring the town on foot. // www.victorianvillageinn.com

The Inn at 2nd & C: Historic Eagle House in Eureka Old Town is a meticulously renovated inn, home to Phatsy Kline’s Parlor Lounge and the Tavern 1888 restaurant. // www.historiceaglehouse.com/the-inn-at-2nd-c

Carter House Inns & Restaurant 301: A boutique inn, private cottages, and a stately Victorian house perched on Humboldt Bay in Eureka Old Town with a fine dining restaurant. // www.carterhouse.com

Blue Lake Casino & Hotel: Newly renovated with a spa, pool, casino, live entertainment, and the best sushi restaurant in Humboldt County. // www.bluelakecasino.com

FOR MORE INFORMATION www.visitredwoods.com