The amazing thing about the West Coast is that it is still mostly wild, open, and astoundingly beautiful country, where you can drive for miles and miles and have the scenery all to yourself.
Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park
The northernmost of the great redwood groves, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park covers nearly 10,000 acres of virgin forest along the banks of the Smith River. Stretching east of US-101, and most easily accessible from US-199, the park offers over 20 miles of usually uncrowded hiking trails through the pristine wilderness; it is considered by many the most perfect of all the redwood forests. One of the most enjoyable trails leads through Stout Grove, past tall trees and a number of summertime swimming holes along the Smith River.
There’s also a good campground (800/444-7275) with hot showers. For fans of roadside kitsch, there’s one unique spot along US-101 in the hamlet of Smith River, 15 miles north of Crescent City: Ship Ashore (12370 US-101 N, 707/487-3141), a gift shop, restaurant, campground, and motel along US-101, marked by a grounded but still handsome 1920s yacht, inside which is a gift shop.