Emerald hills, glassy lakes, massive redwoods, rugged coastline—the geological diversity of this trip will take your breath away.
You don’t have to be a student to enjoy the perks of this ag-oriented college town with a university at its core. Started as the agricultural extension for University of California, Berkeley, U.C. Davis soon became its own campus, with strong veterinary, viticulture, and agricultural departments. Davis’ flat-as-a-pancake terrain makes the town a haven for bicycles—it’s said there are more bikes than people here, and the town is home to the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame, with memorabilia and gear from top racers and events. Rent two wheels to follow some 100 miles of bike lanes and paved paths: loop through the lush U.C. Davis Arboretum, then pedal downtown along streets lined with shops, galleries, and restaurants serving international cuisine. Time your visit to sync with the twice-weekly farmers’ market, or to catch a performance at the soaring Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts.
The largest freshwater lake located entirely within the Golden State, Clear Lake is a fisherman’s dream. With more fish per square acre here than anywhere else in the country, the odds are strongly in your favor. Rent gear from Konocti Bait Shack, and fish off the piers at Lucerne’s Alpine Park. The shop’s friendly fishermen are happy to connect you with a local guide if you’d like to get out on the water. For those not interested in angling, water sports can be enjoyed in the spring, summer, and fall.
Stop at Marcel’s French Bakery and Cafe in Clearlake Oaks.
The rooms in this lakeside bed-and-breakfast are standalone train cars, each with a view of the water from the back deck or enclosed cupola.
Located in Leggett, this reserve serves as an ideal entry point to redwood country, which stretches to the north for miles. Experience the wonder of a walk-through tree or take a short hike to a 60-foot waterfall. Nestled against the south fork of the Eel River, Smithe Redwoods State Natural Reserve, named for the Frank and Bess Smith old-growth redwood grove, offers recreation in the form of fishing and swimming as well. Reserve a campsite to sleep under the shaded arms of ancient pines.
Less than six miles outside of downtown Ferndale, the Lost Coast Headlands look like the edge of the world in the most wonderful way. Rugged, beautiful, and almost supernatural, the headlands are an accessible section of California’s remote Lost Coast. Steep cliffs separate the coastline from lush pastures, which thrive with wildflowers in spring. Park at Fleener Creek trailhead for a short and steep hike down to the beach where you can comb for driftwood or enjoy an incredible sunset from the shore.