Dense wildfire smoke sent me in search of a location where I could find consistent green AQI (air quality index) ratings, which meant the coast. With my normal route closed due to raging wildfires, I opted for the more southernly route which resulted in the beginning of my redwoods tour. While my home base is within a few hours of the northern California coast, I’ve only visited a handful of times so this was going to be an opportunity to fully immerse myself.
Campground or lodging reservations are a must. Planning 6 months in advance will never be my forte’ but learning that Reserve California releases cancellations every morning at 8am opened opportunities. Although I’d prefer to disperse camp, those options don’t exist along this section of coastline. So with the motivation to escape smoke-laden skies, I secured about 10 nights of reservations at 4 different campgrounds geographically separated.
The relationship between the Redwoods National and State Parks vs other nearby State Parks with Redwood in their name is confusing at best. “Redwood National and State Parks represent a cooperative management effort of the National Park Service and the California Department of Parks and Recreation that includes Redwood National Park, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, and Prairie Creek State Park.” Basically this combined entity excludes coastal areas south of Orick; those areas are included in this blog post.
This is a very small park offering camping and day use areas near the junction of Highway 36 and Interstate 101. I spent my first night here and stretched my legs wandering through the Williams and Graham Grove and Jameson Grove. Save the Redwoods League “is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to protect and restore California redwoods and connect people to the peace and beauty of redwood forests. The League protects redwoods by purchasing redwood forests and the surrounding land needed to nurture them. We restore redwood forests by innovating science and technology that can improve stewardship and accelerate forest regeneration. And by protecting more than 200,000 acres and helping to create 66 redwood parks and reserves, the League builds connections among people and the redwood forests. The League’s work is grounded in the principles of conservation biology, research and improving our collective understanding and appreciation of the redwoods.“
A bit further south is the well-known 32-mile Avenue of the Giants auto tour. This park hosts the largest remaining old-growth redwood forest in the world, with some believed to be 2,000 years old. Coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) are the tallest trees on earth, towering above 370 feet. Access fees seem to be limited to campgrounds otherwise you can drive the various roads in the park and hike a multitude of trails without needing to pay. I utilized the Redwood Hikes website to help me narrow down trails throughout this trip. I’ll reserve at this campground in the future so I can hike more of the 100 miles of trails. I was there on a Friday morning mid August and it wasn’t in the least bit busy, although all of the campgrounds were fully reserved.
- Bull Creek Loop and Big Trees Trails
- Rockefeller Loop Trail
- Greig-French-Bell Trail
Over the years I’ve spent more time in this town than any others along the northern California coast. It’s a beautiful seaside city boasting ten public beaches. I think it also might be the winner of most beautiful yards award as colorful blooms adorn every street. There are some great places to eat and explore.
I hiked up Trinidad Head where you not only get a workout but are provided most excellent harbor views.
Orange Bush Monkeyflower (Diplacus aurantiacus) lined the trail.
This has been a favored campground and the only one I recall staying at during previous visits to the coast, except as a young child when my family took a trailer up somewhere near Crescent City. This park charges a day-use fee for those not camping. Fog was a nice change from smoke although views down to Agate Beach were impacted. Skies cleared the next morning and I saw a whale from this same viewpoint.
Montbretia, although non native, was a common bloom in the park, Trinidad and nearby coastal areas.
A friend and her 9-year old son joined me and since we’d already hiked most of the park trails, we decided to first explore Yurok Sumeg Village.
This Park consists of several lagoons bordering the Pacific Ocean. Once again this is a no fee area except for camping. We parked at Stone Lagoon day use area, and spent the day wandering the spit on a section of the California Coastal Trail.
Sea Bindweed (Calystegia soldanella)
Redwoods National Park – The California Coastal Trail, Skunk Cabbage Section
Unlike other trails, the California Coastal Trail (CCT) consists of many disconnected sections best accessed by vehicles and planned as shorter backpack trips or day hikes. Although this trailhead was in a National Park, there wasn’t a fee station or sign indicating that it was a fee area.
It was well past peak skunk cabbage bloom season but I found a few seed pods.
Pacific Banana Slug
Bubble Gum Fungus – Lycogala epidendrum, commonly known as wolf’s milk, groening’s slime is a cosmopolitan species of myxogastrid amoeba which is often mistaken for a fungus.
The giant ferns and all the bright colors kept me smiling.
While the trail continues down to the beach I turned around at the high point, a bit beyond this viewpoint.
My first four days of this coastal getaway were everything I could have expected and more. Beautiful forests, giant trees, sandy beaches, perfect temperatures, flora and fauna, crowd-free trails, lots of new stimulation, and my favorite nature color, green!
DATE(S) HIKED: Aug 12-21, 2021
- NPS Website
- Redwood National and State Parks (National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map, 218)
- Reserve California (California State Park Campground Reservations)
- Redwood Hikes (excellent trail info)
Other Jaunts in California (link)