USA California Mendicino coast lighthouse
USA California Yosemite National Park mountains sunset
LA USA California Yosemite NP Robert
USA California San Francisco Alcatraz c eric ward unsplash
USA California Mendicino coast lighthouse
USA California Yosemite National Park mountains sunset
LA USA California Yosemite NP Robert
USA California San Francisco Alcatraz c eric ward unsplash

Roadtripping Northern California

Learn about our top recommendations for following the iconic U.S. Route 101 up Northern California, as well as how you can benefit from our extensive knowledge and local tips.

In this blog, discover the exciting trips our team members go on while scouting out the best destinations and activities for our customers to do, as well as what sets us apart in the travel industry. Our team members, Robert and Thies, recently went on an exciting roadtrip from San Fran up through the Redwood Forest to the border of Oregon and back. Travelling in the way that our customers do also ensures that we see it as you do. In addition to finding the best highlights off the beaten path, a goal of our trip in northern California was to develop more relationships with hosts.

Man photographing the Golden Gate Bridge at sunset in San Fran
Golden hour is the perfect time for photographing the Golden Gate Bridge
© Little America
We can arrange for you to stay in a historic San Francisco inn with views of the Bay

Part 1: our roadtrip recommendations

  • Start in San Francisco
  • Visit coastal towns like Eureka and Mendocino
  • Hike in Redwood State and National Parks
  • Drive back down the Sierra Nevada Mountains
  • Return to San Francisco

Starting in San Francisco is a great way to kick off your classic American roadtrip! San Francisco offers endless things to see and do, even before you start your drive. While here, visit the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, enjoy a 49ers American football game, or visit one of the endless restaurants or museum options. Read more about all you can enjoy in San Francisco here.

Bonus tip: visiting in September means you’ll still get excellent weather and sunshine, but without the crowds of the typical peak season.

Enjoy the sights, history and vibrant cultural scene while in San Francisco
© Aaron kato

Drive to the Redwoods

From San Francisco, once you cross over into the Marin headlands and drive on Highway 1, you will get spectacular views over the rocky Pacific Ocean coastline. The route is dotted with beautiful nature, hidden national parks, charming towns and unique wildlife. Stop along the way in the Redwood National Park and Forest.

“The scenic roads that we drove and definitely recommend are:

1. Lucas Valley Road

This is a shortcut when driving from San Francisco towards Oregon. Scenic Valley Road boasts amazing pine forests and a nice lake. When driving North, you will come back to a scenic lookout from Route 101 at Point Reyes Station. From there until Bodega Bay (especially until Hamlet village), there are a lot of laid back places where you can enjoy the shoreline and eat oysters at small and laid back cafe's and stands.

2. Hwy 299 Willow Creek

This route takes you towards Redding. You will then drive through both the Six Rivers National Forest & Trinity National Forest. There are not many cafes between Willow Creek & Redding, but there are numerous awesome places to enjoy a picnic. So make sure to pack one when getting in the car!”

- Thies

The dramatic cliffs along Northern California's Pacific Ocean coast
Mendocino offer a quaint location with breathtaking Pacific Ocean views
© Little America
Man standing in front of historic lighthouse in Northern California, United States
Make a visit to the historic lighthouse while in Mendicino
© Little America

Stop in Mendocino

Mendocino is a charming and historic coastal town, that is worth visiting along the route. It has cosy cafes, friendly locals and offers multiple walking routes right along the coastline. Depending on the time of year that you visit, it is also possible to spot whales while they migrate (spring and fall)! It's also a very walkable town that’s great for exploring at a leisurely pace. Walk through the centre of town, down to the cliffs and stroll for as long as you fancy across grasslands and cliffsides.

From Mendocino, there are many options for both other stops as well as day trips to other highlights in the region. A popular destination are the Redwood State and National Parks as several trails and entrances are only a couple of hours drive away. Here you can view the towering redwood trees and local wildlife. Yosemite is also within a day's drive. We even spotted a black bear while driving through Yosemite National Park!

Did you know the diverse Pacific coastline is also home to tidepools? These tidepools feature starfish, sea urchins and much more, and Mendocino is a good place to see some of these unique and stunning ecosystems!

Eureka is another charming and historic city to stop at along your route

Our top recommendation for a day trip from Mendocino is actually Lassen Volcanic National Park. This is a rather forgotten national park, but its views compete with Yosemite but without the crowds! An especially notable highlight is the photo-perfect outlook at the lake near the entrance. It’s perfect for a shorter hike, and can be done within an hour. There are also many other long trails you can hike along, it all depends on the amount of time you spend here as well as simply how easy-going or adventurous you want to be. It’s possible to make just a couple-hour stop, but you can easily spend days here enjoying the tranquil nature.

Fun fact: did you know that the redwoods and sequoias are actually different trees? They’re both giants, but redwoods are taller where the sequoias in southern California are wider.

There are hikes and boardwalks for all skill levels throughout the Redwoods
Black bear crossing road in the Redwoods National Park, CA
Black bears can be spotted in Yosemite and sometimes in the Redwoods
© Little America

It is important to note that in comparison to most national parks where there are multiple, expensive, accommodation options surrounding the park grounds, there is only one at Volcanic National Park. Luckily it’s both cosy and picturesque surrounded by trees, and the hosts are very welcoming!

We did the hike with the lake viewpoint, one of the first when you get inside the park, but there are countless other hikes with small tracks that make you feel like you are alone in the park. I really liked this experience because it is very different from walking over concrete or asphalt like in some other National Parks.” -Thies

Mountain reflection in Manzanita Lake in Lassen Volcanic National Park, CA, United States
Lessen Volcanic National Park
© Little America

From the northern border of California, past Lassen Volcanic National Park, are the Sierra Nevada Mountains. This mountain range offers hiking, rock climbing, mountain biking, and even skiing in the winter. This is where you can find the American classic bucket list item: Yosemite National Park.

Mist over the mountains makes for great photography opportunities
Rock climbers braving the cliffs in Yosemite

Part 2: We develop personal relationships with suppliers

We visit our destinations and accommodations ourselves, which means we are well acquainted with our own recommendations because we see it from the same perspective as our customers. We also work hard to develop and maintain close relationships with our small-scale hosts. The accommodations and activities that we offer all have unique stories, and we are excited for you to experience that yourself!

We really take the time to comb out the entire areas that we are visiting. We already do what the clients can do there (hikes, restaurants, viewpoints, activities, and accommodations) We engage with the locals. We ask around at bars & restaurants, local tourism offices, for the small scale & hidden gems that no one knows about.” - Thies

Talking with suppliers in Northern California
Our local hosts have many fascinating stories and knowledge to share
© Little America
Learn about the heritage of the Yurok people while staying at Requa's oldest inn

A great example of one such host is a historic inn in Requa, which located on the north bank of the Klamath River and is home to the Indigenous Yurok Tribe.

“The inn is operated by Jan (Native American woman from the Yurok people). Our meeting with her was quite extensive, and she showed us around and told us a lot about the history of the Inn and their people. She also showed us a rock that has been sacred to their people. It was only a short walk, but it was really great to hear the stories that Jan told us about the history and beliefs of her people.- Thies

Little America helps you experience destinations that aren't on any guide book

Here at Little America, we stand apart from the rest of the travel industry. Our hosts have a unique story, and we aim to share that with you! To do this, we regularly visit our hosts and travel throughout our destinations ourselves. This means that we are well acquainted with all of our accommodations and find the best for you to enjoy, and we have a close and ongoing relationship with the unique and small-scale businesses we work with.

Our hosts are important to us, and we work to make the experience positive. For example, we pay our hosts well in advance, which also means you don’t have to worry about anything during your stay; simply sit back and enjoy the warm hospitality.

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