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 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 rainy region, take a good map and plenty of food and water, and be careful.
For further information on the Lost Coast, contact the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (1695 Heindon Rd., 707/825-2300); its office is off US-101 on the north side of Arcata.