Friday, February 28, 2014

Mattole Road via Motorcycle: Humboldt County, CA

mattole road motorcycle
Dark and stormy along Mattole Road.
Motorcycling in Humboldt County, California often conjures up images of highway US101 through Eureka. There's also SR36 and SR299 for riders who seek out fast twisties and smooth pavement.

But there's other options that criss-cross the mountainous regions to the west of US101, the kind of roads that make you run a slower speed and take you back to an America still stuck in an older, simpler way of life.

Mattole Road takes you through an area of Humboldt County known as "Lost Coast", a mostly natural and development-free area that was named such due to depopulation going back into the 1930s. Starting from the picturesque town of Ferndale, it rises up the mountain range, crosses over zig-zagged cattle range, and drops you down into a short-stretch of coastline that seemingly looks untouched by human hands. The road becomes dark and wet as it runs through thick canopies of evergreens. There are places where rays of sunshine manage to poke through and illuminate the mist. Finally, before reaching the other end, you're lost in the towering jungle of Humboldt Redwoods State Park.

Twice I had done the 75 mile stretch of Mattole Road from its start at Ferndale and its end at Weott. The first time was in 2007 on my 2005 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Ultra Classic, but I went the opposite direction, starting in Weott.  The second time was in 2011 on my 2006 Honda ST1300, starting in Ferndale.

The entire length takes about 3 hours to complete.  But if you stop for photos and take a moment to soak in the zenfulness, allow for 5 hours tops.  I can't decide which is the better direction to go, both are equally as scenic and both will deliver you to towns with good eats and imbibements.

Mattole Road actually changes names to Bull Creek Road when you get into the tiny hamlet of Bull Creek, about 85% of the way through, inside the Humboldt Redwoods State Park.


The entire course is paved, becomes bumpy in places, but otherwise is fairly smooth. The elevation gains can be steep in places, and there are plenty of hairpin turns in the middle of those gains. If you want to take your dual sport bike, there are other roads that lead you to dirt which eventually take you back to pavement again.

The highest elevation you'll reach is about 2,500 feet.

Ferndale has managed to make a name for itself among fans of Victorian-style homes and country-cottage decorators. It's main street has been the backdrop of several movies and television shows, and was also recreated in Lego bricks at the Legoland amusement park in Carlsbad, CA.

The towns of Petrolia and Honeydew, which you'll pass through, has some small country stores for drink and food, but otherwise no gas and no lodging.

ferndale, ca motorcycle
2011, Riding through downtown Ferndale, CA

mattole road motorcycle
2011, Mattole Road by the coast

mattole road motorcycle
2011, Mattole Road by the coast

mattole road motorcycle
2007, Mattole Road by the coast

mattole road motorcycle
2007, Mattole Road by the coast.

mattole road motorcycle
2011, Mattole Road heading to Petrolia

mattole road motorcycle
2011, Mattole Road with sunbeams across wet roads

humboldt redwoods state park motorcycle
2007, Humbolt Redwoods State Park

petrolia, ca
2007, We stopped in Petrolia for a break, and my friend Doc found this kid wandering around barefoot.

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About Steve

San Diego, CA-based motorcycle rider who likes long road trips, old rustic bars, craft beer, and tough women. Can often be found where there's free Wi-Fi, writing about the mysteries of life. (Read more...)