Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in McKinleyville, CA

  • Published 2022/06/29

Most of the time, people only think about Los Angeles, Laguna Beach, San Francisco, and San Diego as the top destinations in California.

However, you’re missing out on California’s hidden gems found in its unassuming towns and cities.

For those planning to discover hidden gems and lowkey travel destinations in California, head to the picturesque community of McKinleyville.

You’ll find this census-designated community in Northern California’s Humboldt County.

Mckinleyville boasts the natural beauty of the Golden State.

Despite its size, this small community is an ideal travel destination for those who want to enjoy lots of outdoor activities without spending too much.

This picturesque community has a lot to offer for all types of travelers.

Here are the best things to do in Mckinleyville, CA:

Drive through the Scenic Redwood Highway

Road sign of Redwood Highway

Karin Hildebrand Lau /

This famous and scenic highway in California happens to pass through McKinleyville.

It takes an hour and four minutes to drive the whole way.

So, you need to prepare accordingly before taking leisure drives through Redwood Highway.

Redwood Highway stretches 175 miles between the cities of Crescent and Leggett, taking you through an extensive scenic forested highway.

A car passing under the chandelier tree at Redwood Highway

Nick Fox /

Along the way, you’ll witness some of California’s most stunning scenery, local flora and fauna, the famous Chandelier Tree, Victorian-era homes, cliffside views of the Pacific Ocean, and more.

Of course, there are plenty more sceneries that await those who drive through Redwood Highway.

So, don’t miss this rare chance to traverse this iconic thoroughfare in California during your visit to McKinleyville.

Traverse the Chah-GAH-Cho Trail

This newly-opened outdoor attraction in McKinleyville spans 9.5 acres of natural area that runs through the Mad River Bottoms.

If you’re searching for more hiking trails to discover in Mckinleyville, try the Chah-GAH-Cho Trail.

This trail takes you to the scenic views of Mad River and Arcata.

Many hikers love the Chah-GAH-Cho Trail because of its stunning sunset views.

At the same time, many explore its trail that meanders through the coastal pine forest and spruce of the Pacific Ocean.

Appreciate the Scenic View of the Pacific Ocean at Vista Point

Dropping by the Vista Point is one of the best ways to appreciate McKinleyville’s natural beauty.

Visit this famous tourist spot in McKinleyville through Hammond Trail.

Enjoy the scenic view of the rolling hills, stunning cliffs, and the majestic Pacific Ocean.

Visiting Vista Point offers you a tranquil experience where you’ll witness the natural beauty of the area and the Pacific Ocean.

It’s an excellent place to breathe fresh air, listen to the waves crashing, and take lovely photos as souvenirs.

In addition, you can head down to the beach for beach combing, clamming, and other beachside activities.

Hike the Famous Hammond Trail

View of the clam beach at Hammond Trail

CKellawan /

This famous outdoor attraction in McKinleyville is an excellent destination for those who yearn to engage in fun outdoor activities.

Hammond Trail boasts more than five miles of trail meandering through the California Coastal Trail.

The trail is excellent for hiking, horseback riding, and biking.

Hammond Trail takes travelers through Arcata, Clam Beach County Park, and McKinleyville.

Most hikers at Hammond Trail find it the best place to hike, jog, or bike.

Along the way, you’ll get treated to various sceneries from beaches, dunes, forested areas, and vast fields.

In addition, you’ll also find various pass-through communities, parks, and shops, making your hike there more exciting.

Score a Hole-in-One at Beau Pre Golf Club

McKinleyville is also home to a top-notch golf course, the Beau Pre Golf Club along Norton Road.

Beau Pre Golf Club boasts scenic pine, spruce, and fir tree lines along a green fairway facing the gorgeous mountains and meadows.

Despite its aesthetics and beautiful scenery, Beau Pre Golf Club is a challenging 18-hole (par-72) golf course that will test your skills.

This semi-private golf course in Mckinleyville has operated since 1967, making it one of the longest-running courses in the area.

A morning session at this golf course would be an excellent and unique travel experience in Mckinleyville.

Aside from the challenging course, you’ll see Beau Pre Golf Club’s scenic landscape.

Explore the McKinleyville Shopping Center

Another top-notch attraction you shouldn’t miss in Mckinleyville is the Mckinleyville Shopping Center.

This local shopping mall has become an icon for many, not just in McKinleyville but also in many parts of Humboldt County.

For a top-notch leisure activity, head to this shopping center to buy clothes, food, and supplies, and then get some self-pampering.

Also, Mckinleyville Shopping Center is where you’ll find the world’s tallest totem pole.

The shopping center boasts more than a dozen shops, restaurants, and services you can choose from.

The Food Mart Grocery and Ron’s Villa Pharmacy are within the shopping center, which has operated since 1956.

Mckinley Shopping Center has treated locals and visitors in Humboldt County with top-notch shopping experiences and amenities for over 50 years.

Chill at the Bigfoot Taproom

If you care for some afternoon unwinding, head to the Bigfoot Taproom along Central Avenue in Mckinleyville.

This famous watering hole in McKinleyville is known for its Sasquatch-themed brand.

In addition, it’s a fascinating place because of its massive 4,000-square-foot taproom and beer garden.

The taproom features more than 30 taps of locally brewed craft beer and regional craft beers from various brands.

It’s a lovely place to unwind and chug a mug of their famous craft beer varieties in its cozy open-air beer garden.

Aside from craft beer, Bigfoot Taproom also serves top-notch ciders and wines.

So, you know where to go when you’re thirsty for some craft beer and want to enjoy music and friends.

Have a Lovely Picnic at Hiller Park

Another relaxing place to unwind in Mckinelyville is Hiller Park along Hiller Road.

This community park features top-notch amenities such as picnic areas, sports complexes, playgrounds, hiking trails, and many trees to shade you from the sun.

Hiller Park is highly-recommended among locals.

This park in Mckinleyville offers a tranquil atmosphere, fresh air, and the serenading sounds of birds and tree branches blowing in the gentle breeze.

Likewise, hiking, running, and outdoor sports are popular activities at Hiller Park.

Pose at the World’s Largest Totem Pole

The world's largest totem pole at Mckinleyville

EWY Media /

There’s no better way to start your McKinleyville travel adventure than taking lovely photos of the world’s largest totem pole.

To find this iconic structure, head to the McKinleyville Shopping Center.

This famous totem pole stands at 160 feet and weighs 57,000 pounds.

Aside from being an iconic tourist spot, the totem pole also holds a historical value to the people of McKinleyville.

Since 1958, the totem pole has become a landmark of the McKinleyville Shopping Center, thanks to the creative minds of its creators, Warren Fridley, Ernest Pierson, and Joan Nelson.

Attend Events at the McKinleyville Activity Center

The Mckinleyville Activity Center is a massive multipurpose facility along Gwin Road in McKinleyville.

This facility in town is mainly used for sports events, featuring high school teams playing various tournaments in indoor soccer, basketball, and volleyball.

If you’re looking for some local activities to watch, visit the McKinleyville Activity Center.

You can watch various sports and community events introducing you to McKinleyville’s locals.

In addition, you can rent and book a schedule in one of its sports facilities to complete your experience there.

Play Outdoor Sports at Pierson Park

Pierson Park is in the middle of Mckinleyville off Central Avenue.

This community park boasts a vast green open area, perfect for outdoor sports such as football, frisbee, and many more.

In addition, it has a children’s playground, bocce ball courts, horseshoe pits, and a massive picnic area with barbeque pits.

If all of these amenities sound enticing, head to Pierson Park for a worthwhile outdoor experience with your loved ones.

The entire park spans 6.2 acres of endless outdoor activities for you and your loved ones.

You can play catch with your children or football with your buddies, or perhaps, flex your frisbee skills to everyone.

Of course, you can still relax at Pierson Park and enjoy its peaceful ambiance.

Commune with Nature at the Azalea State Natural Reserve

Head to the Azalea State Reserve to discover Humboldt County’s local flora and fauna.

This natural area, accessed through Azalea Avenue in McKinleyville, is famous for its blossoming scents during spring, courtesy of its abundance of azaleas.

Azaleas are rhododendron, a flowering shrub that typically blooms during spring.

Fortunately, you’ll see many of these flowering shrubs at the Azalea State Reserve, making this extra area special.

During spring, Azalea State Reserve becomes a carpet of pink through its 30-acre area as these flowering shrubs fully bloom.

Likewise, some of the most popular activities at Azalea State Park are picnicking, hiking, and sightseeing.

Bury Your Feet in the Sand at Clam Beach County Park

Scenic view of Clam Beach County Park


McKinleyville also boasts a scenic view of the vast Pacific Ocean which you can see at Clam Beach County Park.

Clam Beach County Park is famous for clamming, beachcombing, camping, picnicking, and fishing.

If you’re yearning for a retreat from the city’s hustle and bustle, head to Clam Beach County Park.

The shore of Clam Beach County Park


Rejuvenate your senses by breathing in the fresh sea breeze, or perhaps spend quality time with your buddies through various beach activities.

Clam Beach County Park has abundant razor clams, which you can dig and harvest during your visit there.

In addition, Clam Beach County Park is adjacent to another outdoor attraction in McKinleyville, the Little River State Beach, and next to it is the Hammond Trail.

Join the Pony Express Days Festival

McKinleyville’s locals have celebrated the annual Pony Express Days Festival every June since 1968.

This wholesome and festive annual celebration celebrates McKinleyville’s establishment as a census-designated community.

At the same time, it also highlights the history and heritage of the locals, making it a fascinating festival for visitors.

Expect food, drinks, music, and games for all ages during the festivities.

Dozens of activities lined up for an entire week during the festival.

Try the festival’s cookouts, chili-cooking contests, musical concerts, carnivals, kids’ games, and food and drink vendors.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Wander the Mad River Beach County Park

Yellow lupine at Mad River Beach County Park

BlossomCreativeCo /

Stop by one of Humboldt County’s famous natural attractions: the Mad River Beach County Park in Arcata, California, 15 minutes from McKinleyville.

This park provides visitors an excellent ocean beach access and endless water activities for everyone.

Enjoy swimming, kayaking, canoeing, and fishing amid the vast Pacific Ocean at Mad River Beach County Park.

In addition, you can also enjoy horseback riding at Mad River Beach County Park since it has a horse staging area nearby.

It’s the perfect place in Humboldt County to bring your loved ones for an entire day of beachside activities while enjoying the magnificent Pacific Ocean.

Final Thoughts

It’s safe to say McKinleyville is a perfect family vacation destination that won’t drain your wallet.

This California community in Humboldt County is an excellent example of its hidden gems.

Start planning your getaway weekend in McKinleyville today!

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