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.
Trees of Mystery and Klamath
Hard to miss along US-101, thanks to the massive statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox looming over the highway, the Trees of Mystery (15500 US-101, 707/482-2251, daily, $15 adults) are literally and figuratively the biggest tourist draws on the Northern California coast. Along the Trail of Tall Tales, chainsaw-cut figures, backed by audiotaped stories, stand in tableaux at the foot of towering redwoods. There’s also a SkyTrail gondola lifting passengers up into the treetop canopy, a huge gift shop, and an excellent, free museum of Native American art and artifacts. Across the highway, Motel Trees (15495 US-101, 707/482-3152, $75 and up) has standard rooms and a café.
Along the banks of the mighty Klamath River, four miles south of the Trees of Mystery, the town of Klamath (pop. 779) is a brief burst of highway sprawl, supported by anglers who flock here for the annual fall salmon runs—provided there are any fish left to catch. Fisherfolk, walkers, and kayakers all avail themselves of the enduringly popular Historic Requa Inn (451 Requa Rd., 707/482-1425, $119 and up), a friendly, comfortable homestead run by members of the local Yurok Indian tribe right on the riverfront. At the south end of Klamath town, take a drive right through the Tour Thru Tree ($5), then cross the Klamath River on a bridge graced by a pair of gilded cement grizzly bears.