Ride California, Part 2: Highway 36, Red Bluff to the Pacific Ocean

Ride California: Beyond Route 1

In part one of our series on lesser-known California rides, we took you to the Mendocino Coast and Fort Bragg in Northern California. 

In part two, we head even further north, and start inland… 

Part 2: Highway 36, Red Bluff to the Pacific Ocean

Let’s put it this way: if flat and straight are your thing, this probably isn’t your ride. 

But if you love handling, cruising up and over, swooping down and around, and soaring through roller coaster turns, this is undoubtedly one of the best rides in California and perhaps the world.  It’s crazy fun! 

Starting in Red Bluff, which is a good ways north and east of San Francisco off the I-5 (but still around two and half hours from the Oregon border) you’ll get on highway 36 and head west toward Fortuna. 

The route is lightly travelled, has few gas options, and very little cell reception.  So make sure you’ve got what you need and top off your tank before you head out. 

You’ll know you’re on the right track when you see the yellow and black road sign near the start of the route: winding road, next 140 miles. 

While not long in distance, at safe speeds figure on a minimum of four hours to run it, it’s that twisty. 

There’s plenty of scenery to see, great views from the higher elevations and stints through redwood forest - but to be honest you probably won’t spend much time looking at it, because you’ll be focused on riding the theme park ride-like descents and hairpin curves above steep drops, many with no guard rails. 

This road features some of the most extreme elevation changes you’re likely to ever encounter, especially in the first 20 miles or so.  The experience is unlike anything you can experience almost anywhere else in the world.

Near the western end of your journey on the final leg, you’ll roll into Fortuna, nestled in the giant redwoods of Humboldt County on the banks of the Eel River. 

You can either stop there and grab a bite at a local brew pub, or continue on and head for the gorgeous views and sparkling beaches of the coast.

A word of caution: this road is probably best suited to more experienced riders.  If you’re fairly new to riding, maybe hold off on this one until you’re ready. 

But if you’ve got some miles under your belt, this road will blow you away. 

Many who’ve experienced it come away exhilarated and saying it changed them… and forever after, all roads get compared to Highway 36!