Continuing north, past crashing waves and sea stacks offshore, you’ll notice the surrounding redwood forests get taller and thicker—in fact, this region is home to the world’s tallest trees. Explore them in a fun, old-timey way with a ride on this California classic. Originally built to transport redwood logs from the rugged backcountry to the coast, this 1885 heritage railroad now ferries sightseers to and fro between the waterfront town of Fort Bragg inland to the cowboy town of Willits. Steam- and diesel-powered trains chug through the lush redwood forests of the California Coast Range, zigzagging along the Noyo River—keep your eyes peeled for deer, egrets and other waterfowl, and the occasional river otter. Riding “The Skunk” is a long-standing family tradition for many Californians, with new generations getting wide-eyed and excited when the conductor bellows, “All aboard!” Little ones leave nose prints on the windows as Ole’ No. 45 charges through a 1,122-foot tunnel, crosses over 30 trestles, and sends clouds of steam skyward. Year-round trips range from sunset barbecue cruises to overnight excursions where passengers spend the night in tents set up on the site of a historic logging camp.
Next stop is a drive through the Avenue of Giants for dramatic views of towering coast redwoods.