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.
Leggett: The Chandelier Drive-Thru Tree
No longer even a proverbial wide spot in the road since the US-101 freeway was diverted around it, Leggett marks the southern end of the Humboldt redwoods. At the south end of “town,” a mile from the US-101/Hwy-1 junction along the old highway, stands one of the redwood region’s most venerable and worthwhile roadside attractions, the “original” Chandelier Drive-Thru Tree (daily dawn-dusk, $5). In addition to the famous tree, which had the six-foot-nine-inch-tall tunnel cut through it in the 1930s, there’s an above-average gift shop with a broad range of books, postcards, and schlocky souvenirs.
Nearby, the 16-acre grounds of Big Bend Lodge (63250 Big Bend Lodge Rd., 707/925-2440, summer only, $149) has nine very quaint riverfront cabins, perfect for lazy days floating, swimming, or fishing. South of Leggett, US-101 runs inland racing toward San Francisco, while scenic Hwy-1 cuts west over the coastal mountains to Mendocino, winding slowly south along the Pacific.