We high tailed this week to reach Eureka, climbing the most elevation of our trip into brisk headwinds. While a challenging section, we found the ride to be beautiful, particularly as we wove through the Avenue of the Giants.
China Camp State Park (San Rafael, CA): This campground has hiker biker at $10/pp. The place is small and in a thickly wooded area. Cars are not able to park in the campground, which makes it feel more rustic. Showers are coin operated and relatively hot. Stock up on food in San Rafael, since there aren’t any stores within a few miles. The biggest downside (which I discuss more in this post) is the raccoons, as they are very much a presence here. Use the lockers and don’t eat in your tent to avoid an all nighter fending these guys off.
Mendocina County Fairgrounds (Boonville,CA): This is a privately run spot right off the road in the town fairgrounds. Honestly, it’s not the best place in the world, but for $30 it’s not the worst either. Definitely more for Rv-ers than tent campers. Showers are included and hot. The sites are a bit overgrown with weeds, but they are flat. There are a few markets within walking distance if you need food.
Hidden Springs (Weott, CA): This was the best campground for the week. Hiker biker was $10 per person and the place was very well maintained. Showers are coin operated and hot. Bear boxes are provided to store food since you are in bear country here, so use them :). If you need food, stock up in one of the towns before since there isn’t much close-by.
The Route Deets:
The road we chose out of SF took us over the Golden Gate Bridge and then along the marked “bike route” signs past Sausalito, San Rafael, and into Novato. These roads were well marked and had plenty of space for us to feel comfortable on the road. In Novato, we joined the 101 briefly before riding along Novato Boulevard and then into Petaluma. These roads didn’t have a huge shoulder and were riddled with pot holes, but there wasn’t a ton of traffic since the 101 was so close for the bulk of cars and truck to take into town.
In Petulma, we followed the “bike route” signs along the 116 into Sebastpol. This was a hilly road and in most cases there was no shoulder, which did feel a bit dicey when traffic picked up. We bobbed and weaved along back roads into the town of Windsor and then met back up with frontage roads along the 101. In Cloverdale, we took a left onto the 128 and started a climb as we headed towards Boonville. The climb wasn’t too tricky, but if you take this during rush hour it would be less ideal since the shoulder is non existent. The rest of the 128 is gorgeous, somewhat of a preview of what’s to come along the Avenue of the Giants as we cruised through the redwood trees.
The 128 ends on the coast at Route 1, and there was a good amount of climbing we did to reach this. Even once we turned onto the 1, we kept climbing without much of a shoulder and with lot’s of traffic that was less than friendly to us. This was not my favorite part of the ride at all, but it’s certainly doable.
After going through Fort Bragg and Westport, the 1 turns away from the coast and goes up, and up, and up. It’s something like a 22 mile climb to the top. There isn’t any shoulder most of the way, but cars seemed sympathetic to the effort we put in, and we never felt unsafe. If you cycle this part, be ready for a long stretch of climbing with few supplies. Also, be ready for a beautiful ride :)
The road winds down to the 101 in the town of Leggett. Here, it felt as though we were truly biking on a highway: traffic can be heavy and fast, and the shoulder is only a foot or two wide. This was a dangerous stretch until we hit Benbow.
Everything changed once we reached the Avenue of the Giants. While the speed limit is 55, there is way less traffic on this road (it parallels the 101), way less climbing, and it is an absolutely stunning 30 mile stretch to enjoy. Don't miss out on this!
On the opposite side of the Avenue of the Giants, we rejoined the 101 and took this all the way into Eureka. Not much to report on this stretch. It’s a busy road but luckily there is a decent shoulder that you can cling to.