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Redwood Parks & Mendocino Hotels

Where to Overnight on Your Scenic Drive

Likely due to a weak economy, the redwood coast lacks deluxe hotel choices. On the other hand, you will find a wide selection of moderately priced chain motels and motor inns.

Prices become more expensive and upscale choices more prevalent along the Mendocino coast.

Suggested overnights

For a 5-day redwoods and Mendocino scenic drive, recommended overnights are as follows:

  • Day 1 – Take the Marin County scenic Drive, skipping Muir Woods National Monument.

    Overnight in Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Healdsburg, or Ukiah.

  • Day 2 – Drive to Mendocino coast and explore.

    Overnight in town of Mendocino or at less expensive accommodation in less pleasant (more urban) Fort Bragg.

  • Day 3 – Drive to Arcata area via Avenue of the Giants and Humboldt Redwoods State Park.

    Overnight in Arcata and Eureka area.

  • Day 4 – Explore the coast north of Arcata, Redwoods National Park, the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway, and several nearby state parks, as described in Part 9.

    Overnight again in Arcata.

  • Day 5 – Drive back to San Francisco via the highlights of the Napa Valley scenic drive, as described in Part 10.

  • Day 6 (optional) – Stay longer in the Wine Country area.

For a 3- or 4-day redwoods and Mendocino scenic drive, eliminate the Napa Valley highlights scenic drive and or the Marin scenic drive.

Try to book accommodation as far in advance as possible during peak summer season or on fall and spring weekends.

Arcata area accommodation

You’ll find nearly every motel and motor inn in Arcata located in a cluster around the combination Janes Road and Giuntoli Lane exit off of the U.S. 101 freeway on the north side of town.

With one exception, all motels and motor inns are on the east side of the freeway.

Along Valley West Boulevard, a Best Western, Comfort Inn, Howard Johnson’s Express, and a Super 8, as well as a Motel 6, which is not recommended at this location (see why), vie for your business.

We like the Quality Inn directly on the other side of the freeway, very near the California Welcome Center.

The tiny Fairwinds Motel sits closer to downtown, just a few minutes walk from Humboldt State University, but we haven’t stayed there.

The historic Arcata Hotel overlooks the Plaza downtown, but with several student bars in the same block that becomes a noisy and all too often rowdy location.

The best motor inn in the area may be the fairly recently built Holiday Inn Express McKinleyville, which is approximately 8 minutes north of Arcata’s motel cluster.

Watch for the Holiday Inn Express at the Airport Road exit of U.S. 101 freeway, adjacent to Arcata/Eureka Airport.

Compare prices for these on

Mendocino area accommodation

Please. Take what you can get from mid-spring to late fall. That almost has to be the attitude here. There's just not enough accommodation for everyone who would like to stay in this extremely popular area.

First, try for a place in the town of Mendocino. Check sites like (if a member) and

If Mendocino is booked or is not within your budget, try Fort Bragg, which has the least expensive motel accommodation on the Mendocino coast. Note that we did not say budget accommodation!

Fort Bragg also has the largest motel selection on the Mendocino coast.

If you find nothing suitable anywhere along the Mendocino coast, consider going inland on Highway 20 to Willits from near Fort Bragg. This takes you some 50 minutes through second growth redwoods and logged areas.

Willits has a selection of moderate cost chains that are almost guaranteed to cost less than the Mendocino coast. Again, see a site like

From Willits, when done in the Mendocino area, you can drive directly to Humboldt Redwoods State Park and the Avenue of the Giants on Highway 101, without having to return to Highway 1.

Napa Valley, Sonoma, and Santa Rosa area accommodation

If you choose to overnight in Napa Valley or Sonoma on your return, prices generally run high.

However, there are two major ways to lower your costs, without lowering the quality you prefer:

  1. Stay along U.S. 101 in nearby cities such as Santa Rosa (the most pleasant), Petaluma, and Rohnert Park.

    These are surrounded by vineyards, and in Santa Rosa's case filled with gardens, as well as being very close to Sonoma and within easy reach of Napa Valley.

  2. If you’d rather be in Napa or Sonoma for an up close "wine country experience" and can get by with choosing the star quality and price of a hotel, without knowing its name in advance of paying, seriously consider

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    Priceline star quality ratings are very similar to AAA Auto Club diamond ratings. Both sites work best for 3- and 4-star hotels.

Upper Napa Valley

If you’d rather pay more to choose a specific hotel, consider the upper Napa Valley, which includes St. Helena and Calistoga. We also like Yountville south of these.

The upper Napa Valley is considerably more scenic than the immediate areas around the towns of Napa and Sonoma.

Calistoga at the northern end of the Napa Valley offers spa hotels and resorts. See its website for details. There are numerous hot springs in the area.

Go on to Part 1: Introduction to redwoods and Mendocino scenic drive, and start your redwoods and Mendocino scenic drive!

Harbin Hot Springs near Napa Valley

If you’ve ever wanted to stay at a less expensive, but new age spa, and don’t mind a clothing-optional spa environment, your chance lies some 35 minutes north of Calistoga at Harbin Hot Springs near Middletown.

This popular but rustic spa in a natural setting offers everything from camping to cabin accommodation, including less expensive half-bath rooms without showers. (You’ll use the showers adjacent to the soaking pools instead.) There are a variety of spa services and classes, as well as vegan, lacto-ovo veggie, and no red meat snacks and meals.

Spring fed soaking pools range from cold to nearly excruciatingly hot—something for everyone.

Children are allowed, but there are nearly no activities for them other than hiking and swimming. They are not allowed in the hot pools.

Once in the hottest pool, you might wish that rule applied to you!

Go on to Part 1: Introduction to redwoods and Mendocino scenic drive, and start your redwoods and Mendocino scenic drive!

Mendocino scenic drive space bar

Part 1: Redwood and Mendocino scenic drive introduction,
Part 2: Directions from San Francisco to Mendocino,
Part 3: Mendocino scenic drive,
Part 4: Avenue of the Giants scenic drive,
Part 5: Avenue of the Giants scenic drive (continued),
Part 6: Scenic drive from Avenue of the Giants to Arcata,
Part 7: Arcata travel guide – what to do,
Part 8: Humboldt and Mendocino counties in depth,
Part 9: Scenic drive from Arcata to Redwood National Park,
Part 10: From Redwood National Park to San Francisco,
Part 11: Motels and hotels along your redwood scenic drive,
Part 12: Camping along your redwood scenic drive, and
Part 13: Mendocino and Redwood parks airport choices.

Marin County scenic drive
Napa Valley scenic drive


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