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.
The Lost Coast
Between Ferndale and Rockport, the main US-101 highway heads inland along the Eel River. But if you have time and a taste for adventure, head west from Ferndale along the narrow, winding Mattole Road, which loops around Cape Mendocino through the northern reaches of the so-called Lost Coast, a 100-mile stretch of shoreline justly famous for its isolated beauty. By road, you can only get close to the ocean at a few points—the few miles south of Cape Mendocino, and again at the fishing resort of Shelter Cove, west of Garberville—but hikers can have a field day (or week) exploring the extensive coastal wilderness. Some 50 miles of rugged, untouched coastline, packed with tide pools and driftwood-strewn beaches, have been preserved in a pair of parks, the King Range National Conservation Area in the north and the Sinkyone Wilderness State Park farther south.
Besides the Hwy-211/Mattole Road, which makes a 70-mile loop between Ferndale and the Rockefeller Forest section of Humboldt Redwoods State Park, a network of rougher and even more remote routes allows auto access to the Lost Coast, linking the hamlet of Honeydew with coastal Hwy-1 near Rockport. If you do explore this wild (and very rainy) region, take a good map and plenty of food and water, and be careful.
For further information on the Lost Coast, contact the Bureau of Land Management (1695 Heindon Rd., 707/825-2300); its office is off US-101 on the north side of Arcata.