Ten miles north of Willits, State Route 162 runs east from Hwy 101. Known as Covelo Rd., it meanders through the Mendocino National Forest all the way to Glenn County and Willows. It is one the most beautiful back roads in California. An hour’s journey over this 41-mile road will take you back to the past and into the heart of unspoiled nature. Your odyssey will follow the tracks of the historic Northwestern Pacific Railroad with its majestic tunnels, trestles and tracks cutting through the hills and river canyons. Opened in 1914, with its final run in the 1990s, the NWP railroad that once ran the length of the Eel River from Willits to Eureka is itself a man-made wonder. Built by hard-working, mostly immigrant labor at the turn of the century, it is a remarkable sight. The remaining glory of the railroad invokes a sense of history and nostalgia for a time carved in stone but no longer here.
Covelo Road, Route 162, will transport you through mixed conifer forests, oak woodlands, grass glades, canyons and wet meadows. In fall and winter, the forests and the majestic Eel River are the stars of the journey. The road follows the course of both the South and Middle Forks of the Eel for a time. See a wild, natural waterway in motion, waxing and waning through the seasons, perpetually refreshing. In spring and summer, California poppies, penstemon, shooting stars, wild iris, Indian paintbrush, dogwood, wild lilac and several varieties of lupine steal the show with breathtaking explosions of color. Go for it — head for Covelo and an outdoor experience you’ll never forget!