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.
Salt Point State Park
The many sheltered rocky coves of Salt Point State Park make it ideal for undersea divers, who come to hunt the abundant abalone. Along these six miles of jagged shoreline, pines and redwoods clutch the water’s edge, covering some 6,000 acres on both sides of Hwy-1 to make Salt Point a prime place for hiking and camping. For a guide to the 20 miles of trails, or background on the sandstone mortars and other remnants of the Kashaya Pomo tribal village that stood here until the 1850s, contact the visitors center (25050 Hwy-1, 707/847-3221).
One of the few positive effects of cutting down the native redwood forests that once covered the Northern California coast has been the emergence of giant-sized rhododendrons in their place. You’ll find the most impressive display at the Kruse Rhododendron State Natural Reserve, high above Hwy-1 adjacent to Salt Point State Park, where some 300 acres of rhododendrons, some reaching 14 feet in height, burst forth in late spring, usually peaking around the first week of May.
In between Salt Point and Fort Ross, Beniamino Bufano’s 93-foot Peace statue looms like a shiny silver missile alongside Hwy-1 above craggy Timber Cove, where there’s also a nice restaurant and inn (21780 Hwy-1, 707/847-3231, $171 and up).