Top of California: Crescent City

NorCal, Times Two

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Special thanks to the Crescent City Harbor District and Del Norte County Chamber of Commerce for assisting UWanderings with this article.

As we made our way through California last summer, we couldn’t wait to get to the aptly named Del Norte County. Located in California’s far northwest, right on the coast and just below Oregon, this area is famous for its jagged coastline and fantastic views. When you hear the words “Northern California”, your first thought might be San Francisco or San Jose, but Del Norte is a good four-hour drive north of Silicon Valley. It’s a beautiful drive up to this remote oasis, especially if you take Route 101 through the redwood forests. There’s nothing else like it on the planet. Seriously.

After a pleasant drive through unfamiliar terrain, we finally made it to Crescent City.

Crescent City is small
, and at first glance resembles, as one local explained to us, an “Alaskan fishing village” more than a typical California city. Its location puts it in rough waters, jagged and cliff-filled coastlines, and a cool climate, where 75 degrees is considered a heat wave, even in August. It’s windy, rain comes and goes, but that doesn’t stop the masses of tourists, backpackers, fisherman, outdoor adventurists, and wanderers from visiting. In fact, that’s exactly what brings them here. Crescent City attracts people from all over the world, visitors and residents alike. The reason we heard most: it’s the best place for the outdoors. No surprise there: plenty of outdoors in this neck of the woods…and there’s a lot of woods! And yes, CC is near the famous redwood tree that you can drive through. 

Panoramic view of Crescent City Harbor, September 2016

The most famous place in Crescent City? The harbor, which thrives on commercial fishing. Fishing is a way of life here, including at the Gold River Lodge just 20 miles south in Klamath, which we stumbled upon by chance.

The harbor is a must see for visitors looking for amazing views and exploring–no, experiencing–a place with so few equals in the world. If you’re lucky, you’ll meet the local sea lions, who hang out on their very own dock in the middle of the harbor. They were nice enough to say hello to us when we visited (video below). 

The beach may be chilly, and the water’s not so warm for swimmers, but a walk along the beach will clear your head and make your trip feel complete. In a strange way, it felt like the best possible terminus for our cross-country road trip, since we drove all the way from New York. What a difference! With giant boulders sticking out of the coastal waters, you might be on the beach, but you also might be on some alien world on the other side of the galaxy, especially at sunset. That’s how different and unmatched this place is. The background noise from the waves crashing onto the giant rocks and driftwood resting on the beach is oddly relaxing. We knew Crescent City would be different from most places we’ve seen, but it is truly an Undiscovered Wandering, a title we give to places that are so offbeat, so interesting, that we award it with the hope that everyone visits someday.

So why does this part of California still seem unknown to the mainstream tourist? Maybe because it’s a little out of the way, or because it’s not a big “California city”. Yet for those who endeavor to find a place more foreign, more unique, more unconventional and even unexplored, Crescent City is waiting for you.

There’s so much more to see, but we don’t want to spoil it for you. We’ll leave you with some snapshots to give you a taste. But these pictures don’t do Crescent City justice–you have to visit for yourself to truly appreciate little corners of the Earth like this!

With the breathtaking scenery, endless outdoor options, friendly people and, yes, the sea lions, it’s easy to understand why so many people are proud to call Crescent City and the land of Del Norte home.