A wild coastline, the tallest trees on the planet, volcanic lakes, waterfalls, mountains, pioneer history, steam trains, and frontier towns all provide the perfect backdrop to enjoy the world-class beer, delicious wines, gourmet restaurants and abundant natural bounty of our regions. Northern California is one of the few destinations where you can find it all.
DAY 1: ARRIVE IN SAN FRANCISCO
Rest up and enjoy your first night in San Francisco. Take a stroll around Union Square or Fisherman’s Wharf before dinner and a get a good night’s rest. Don’t worry about missing anything as you will be back for a couple of days at the end of the tour. Overnight San Francisco.
DAY 2: SONOMA COUNTY
Your introduction to the microbreweries of Northern California begins in Sonoma County, just north of San Francisco. Take US 101 north across the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, up into Sonoma County (which covers 1,575 square miles [2,534 square km]).
Sonoma County has long enjoyed big business in beer. The area was well known for its hops production from the 1870s into the 1950s, and several significant hops facilities still stand today.
Some of Sonoma County’s more famous microbreweries include Lagunitas Brewing Co. in Petaluma, Russian River Brewing Co. in Santa Rosa and Bear Republic Brewing Co. Inc. in Healdsburg, all creating some of the best beer in the world.
DAY 3: MENDOCINO COUNTY
From Sonoma County, continue north on US 101 toward Mendocino County. Stay on Hwy 101 winding through beautiful wine country and gently rolling hills.
Mendocino County is famous for its earth-friendly farming and ranching. America’s Greenest Wine Region™ is also home to some of the world’s best small breweries. Let your beer tasting adventure start here. Mendocino County can also claim the nation’s first certified organic brew pub in Ukiah as well as the first brew pub to be established in California after prohibition.
Stop in Ukiah to visit Mendocino Brewing Company, which produces 25 different microbrew beers including Eye of the Hawk and Red Tail. They also produce an organic line of beer.
Just up the road is the Ukiah Brewing Company, which holds the distinction of having been the first certified organic brewpub and the second certified organic restaurant in the United States. Their beer is unfiltered and handcrafted in small batches, just like it was done before mass production was introduced to the beer industry. The beers are strong and lush, not watered down or over- carbonated.
While in Ukiah explore the downtown area. The historic downtown buildings celebrate the heyday of brick construction (even the crosswalks are brick inlaid in the street). On the rear walls of the buildings, you can still make out the old advertisements painted there (“White Owl Cigar 5¢,” “The Toggery!”).
Overnight in Ukiah.
OPTIONAL OVERNIGHT SIDE TRIP TO THE SPECTACULAR MENDOCINO COAST
At this point there are two choices; continue north on highway 101 from Ukiah or take a side trip to the beautiful Mendocino coast where you will have an opportunity to savor beer from two famous microbreweries.
To choose the coastal alternative, take highway 101 south a few miles to highway 253. Continue west on highway 253 to the intersection of 253 and highway 128 where you will find the Anderson Valley Brewing Company in Boonville. Try their famous Boont Amber Ale, named after Boontling, a language developed in isolated Boonville. The tap room provides tastings of their many beers including Poleeko Pale Ale.
Turn west, towards the coast on highway 128, which ends at highway 1, the iconic Pacific Coast Highway. Continue north, marvelling at constantly changing Pacific Ocean views, about 20 miles to Fort Bragg where the North Coast Brewing Company awaits. Established in 1988 with beers such as Red Seal, Acme and Old Rasputin and served all over the world, the variety and quality of their brews continue to amaze. Stay and eat at the Tap Room.
There are many wonderful hotels at all price ranges in Fort Bragg to choose from.
Overnight in Fort Bragg.
After spending a night marvelling at the ocean from your room, continue north on highway 1. You will eventually merge with highway 101 at Leggett. Continue north to Humboldt County.
DAYS 4 & 5: HUMBOLDT COUNTY
If you opt to skip the side trip, continue north from Ukiah. Stop in Willits (about 20 minutes north) and take a ride on the Skunk Train. This 3.5- to 4-hour round trip on the vintage rail cruiser departs Willits and begins the steep ascent (3.5% grade) to the summit at 1,740 feet. Traveling through Tunnel No. 2, the trip descends into the Noyo River Canyon. In one spot, the vintage rail cruiser travels 8.5 miles to cover a straight-line distance of less than one mile in a serpentine of switchbacks. The Skunk Train also serves Anderson Valley Brewing Company’s special “Skunk Beer” on board the train.
From Willits continue north on Hwy 101 toward Humboldt County where you enter the land of Giant Redwoods. Just 15 miles North of the Humboldt County border take the exit for the Avenue of the Giants.
The Avenue of the Giants - a world-famous scenic drive, is by far the most outstanding display of giant trees in the California redwood belt. Surrounded by Humboldt Redwoods State Park, which has the largest remaining stand of virgin redwoods in the world, this 31-mile portion of old Highway 101 runs parallel to Hwy 101 and is accessible by most vehicles.
Along the Avenue, stop at Founders Grove for a half mile loop trail that will take you through some of the tallest trees in the world as well as the famous Dyerville Giant. This fallen colossal is 362 ft. in height, 17 ft. diameter, 52 ft. in circumference and possibly 2,000 years old.
Continue on the Avenue of the Giants and then onto Hwy 101 for 35 miles. Take the Ferndale exit and drive 10 miles through beautiful dairy land to the Victorian village of Ferndale.
Nestled in a verdant, pastoral valley Ferndale was founded in 1852. A prosperous dairy industry provided the economic base, and the blend of agriculture and architecture produced splendidly ornate buildings that are known as “Butterfat Palaces. Stroll the town’s Historic Main Street District, where art galleries, antique shops and boutiques complement a dazzling array of 19th-century Victorians.
Take the 10 mile road back to Hwy 101 and continue North. In 30 minutes you will arrive at the Victorian Seaport of Eureka. Stroll the streets of old town Eureka with its Victorian architecture that has lovingly been restored. The shops in Old town are all one-of-a-kind, locally owned stores with unique Humboldt made products.
Overnight in Eureka.
Begin with breakfast at the famous Samoa Cookhouse. As the last surviving cookhouse of the west, all meals are still served “lumber camp” style. Your food is brought to the table in large bowls and platters, allowing you to help yourself and pass it around. Seconds are always offered so no one walks away from the table hungry. After eating in one of the traditional dining rooms, browse the complimentary museum full of relics and photographs from the old logging and cookhouse days. The walls are lined with an extensive pictorial review of this history.
After breakfast begin your tour of the six microbreweries of Humboldt County; Lost Coast Brewery, Mad River Brewery, Eel River Brewery, Redwood Curtain Brewery, Six Rivers Brewery and Humboldt Regeneration Brewery and Farm.
Humboldt Beer Tours is the best way to experience all six of Humboldt County’s breweries. The tour includes roundtrip transportation to and from the breweries and a beer bar, complementary tastings at each brewery, lunch at a brewery, a behind the scenes tour of one brewery and a Humboldt Beer Tours logo pint glass.
Before your evening winds down, take a guided tour on the Madaket. The last survivor of seven original ferries that transported mill workers and families around Humboldt Bay, this 8.5 mile one-hour cruise travels along the Eureka Waterfront. Narration includes all points of interest, including the discoveries of Humboldt Bay, timber industry, wildlife, shipping, maritime history, Indian history and more.
Overnight in Eureka
DAYS 6: SHASTA CASCADE
Begin your day by driving North on Hwy 101 toward Hwy 299, which continues onto Redding with a stop at either Market Street Steakhouse or Moonstone Bistro for a delicious lunch. At Market Street Steakhouse be prepared for a burgundy and black motif with hardwood flooring, backed by an array of high-end food and mixed drinks. The Moonstone Bistro takes pride in buying locally and producing delectable fresh dishes.
After lunch make a stop at Wildcard Brewing Co. With names like ‘Double Down, Imperial Red Ale’, ‘Liar’s Dice, Indian Pale Ale’, ‘Shot in the Dark, Oatmeal Porter’ and ‘Suicide Jack, California Cream Ale’ these beers will peak anyone’s curiosity. The tasting room offers all these choices as well as some seasonal favorites.
Explore Redding’s Sacramento River after lunch by stopping at Turtle Bay Exploration Park for a peek at local wildlife and local Native American History. Don’t miss the opportunity to try out Segway tours as an environmentally friendly way to see the area.. While there, marvel at the beauty of Redding’s Sundial Bridge, the largest Sundial in the world, and take a relaxing stroll down the famous Sacramento River National Recreation Trail.
From Redding take Interstate 5 South to Hwy 99 South. Head for the Sierra Nevada Brewery in Chico.
Overnight in Chico
DAY 7: RETURN TO SAN FRANCISCO
From Chico, take the 3-hour drive back to San Francisco.
Spend your final two days in the City by the Bay. Drop your car back at a downtown depot, as you won’t need it once back in town. Explore all the diverse areas of San Francisco from Chinatown to North Beach, from the Mission District to Fisherman’s Wharf. While exploring, stop in at the oldest craft brewery in the U.S.
DAY 7: DEPART SAN FRANCISCO
On your final day in the city head over to the San Francisco Ferry Building Marketplace, a people’s plaza serving residents and travelers alike. Located within the historic Ferry Building at the foot of Market Street, shops large and small celebrate food in all its forms, offering everything from artisan cheeses to the freshest of local fish. Restaurants and cafés serve cuisine representing the quality and cultural diversity of San Francisco’s best chefs.