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.
Patrick’s Point State Park
If your idea of heaven is sitting on a rocky headland listening to the roar of the Pacific while watching the sunset or looking for passing gray whales, you won’t want to pass by Patrick’s Point State Park (707/677-3570). Three different 200-foot-high promontories at the heart of the park provide panoramic views, while the surrounding acres hold cedar and spruce forests (no redwoods), open pastures bright with wildflowers, great tide pools, a wide dark-sand beach, and three campgrounds (800/444-7275) with hot showers. There’s also the preserved and restored remnants of a Yurok village, a redwood dugout canoe, and a garden of traditional herbs.
Continuing south, US-101 becomes a four-lane freeway along the ocean to Arcata and Eureka, but most of the old US-101 alignment winds along the cliff tops between Patrick’s Point and the small town of Trinidad. Along this road you’ll find some places to stay, like the Trinidad Inn (1170 Patrick’s Point Dr., 707/677-3349, $75 and up), about three miles south of the park entrance. A little farther down this old stretch of US-101 is The Larrupin’ Cafe (1658 Patrick’s Point Dr., 707/677-0230), which serves up bountiful portions of very fresh all-American food in a friendly, homey ambience—it’s California cuisine without the snooty pretense you sometimes find farther south.