One of THE very best ways to enjoy a healthy body and live an active life is to take a hike somewhere beautiful! A casual stroll is nice but will leave you wanting more, while a back-country adventure is not for the faint of heart. How about something in between?
As you may know, I’m a huge fan of the National Park System as I explain on my page Your Health Your World. When I recently celebrated the weekend of my, uh, 35th birthday, I couldn’t wait to set out into the great outdoors.
I love taking road trips on my birthday weekend. It’s just a little tradition of mine, something I like to do. This year I chose Redwoods National and State Parks. It’s been a couple of years since I have been down that way and since my girlfriend, (R) has never been, I couldn’t wait to take her.
National Parks are generally vast areas of land and I usually suggest 3 days to take them all in. Sometimes you can cover a lot in 2 days and if that’s all the time that you have, then don’t let it stop you. I always feel like I didn’t quite get enough time on a 2 day trip.
Assuming you have a few days to spare, begin by contacting the National Park Service to inquire about campsites and anything else you should know. Most of that information is usually covered on their website. In this instance, the National Park Service and the California State Parks system work together to manage the forest.
The National Park website lists 4 main campgrounds and describes them as such:
Jedediah Smith Campground – Jedediah Smith State Park
Mill Creek Campground – Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park
Sleep beneath towering maples, alders, and young coast redwoods, with access to Mill Creek, miles of varied hiking trails, and seasonal campfire programs.
Elk Prairie Campground – Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park
Enjoy ancient coast redwoods, grazing Roosevelt elk and black-tailed deer in Elk Prairie, easy access to over 70 miles of hiking and biking trails, and seasonal campfire programs.
Gold Bluffs Beach Campground – Also, part of Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park
Experience the wild Pacific coastline and grazing Roosevelt elk in this campground, with easy access to a secluded stretch of beach, Fern Canyon, and 70 miles of hiking and biking trails.
Previously, I camped in Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park and this year I camped in Jedediah Smith State Park. If I have a preference between the 2, I would say that I like Del Norte more, as it just feels as if you are a bit deeper into the forest. However, they are both 1st class campgrounds and I would recommend them to anyone.
I also had the chance to drive through Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park and think that I would even like to try that one next time, if I get the opportunity to return. We stopped in Prairie Creek to have lunch and literally watched dozens of elk grazing in the fields!
There are also plenty of more rustic camping areas and backpacking permits to obtain if you’re really looking for an “off the beaten path” adventure.
If you need any other supplies, you can stop in Crescent City. There’s Battery Point Lighthouse, a public beach, and some wonderful tide pools along the coast that are definitely worthy checking out if you have the time.
The Redwoods offer hundreds of miles of trails. It’s the kind of place that would literally take months and months if not years of your life to explore all if it.
Trails We Visited:
- We began our first full day with a nice stroll along the beach at Thomas H. Kuchel Visitor Center. This is a good place to get some information on the park including maps, books, and permits for backwoods camping and limited visitor trails. There is a nice sandy beach that is easily accessible and the old and aged redwood driftwood strewn about the sand is interesting to see.
- Then we stopped at The Lady Bird Johnson Grove, a nice short and easy trail accessible to everyone. This is one of the most visited trails in the park and although it is not strenuous, it is a great place to build some anticipation of more remote and difficult excursions.
- Next, The Tall Trees Grove, by far my favorite hike of the 2 trips I’ve taken to The Redwoods! This trail requires a permit as the park service will only allow a limited number of visitors per day. Get a permit at the Kuchel Visitor Center, then drive 45 minutes to the entrance road. There you’ll come across a locked gate that you must enter a secret code obtained from the visitor center to get access. Then drive 6 miles down a bumpy gravel logging road to the trail head. After all of that, you walk another 1.3 miles down a fair amount of elevation change. Keep in mind that coming back out is all up hill! Finally at the valley floor will be some of the most magnificent trees you’ve ever seen! The park service doesn’t disclose the locations of the tallest trees in order to protect them. If I had to guess though, I would place my bets on some of them being here.
- Day 2 we spent some time driving around the scenic corners of the park, including the Newton B. Drury Scenic Byway. This is how you access Prairie Creek State Park and I guarantee you’ll most likely see herds of elk grazing in the fields. There are quite a few trails off this road as well.Â We picked The Big Tree Loop for no particular reason other than we wanted to fit in something else in this part of the park. It’s a short easy walk amongst a really nice redwood grove. It was short enough that we decided to hike an adjoining trail here called the Cathedral Trees Trail. Two hikes, one stop!
- Also highly recommended by me, and I’m sure many others is the Coastal Drive road. We almost didn’t take this route because you have plenty of chances to see coastlines all along the park, and we didn’t think that it would be any more special than other places along the 101. What a pleasant surprise this drive was! Even though it’s a road, it’s off the beaten path. I think we passed only one other couple and a park ranger on the whole drive. The views of the coastline are breathtaking from here and you can get a magnificent view of the continental plates not far off shore. Aside from the great views, we saw sea lions, Pacific porpoises, a black-tailed dear, and a grey whale that was making his way north, literally only about 250 feet off shore. It was spectacular!
- We headed back to Oregon on day 3 but wanted to fit in one more taste of these magnificent woods. We stopped at Stout Grove and took in the wonder of these woods one last time. We were thinking that this trail was aptly named as the trees were rather thick in the trunk here, but couldn’t help laughing when we came upon a tree named the “Stout Tree” after some guy whose last name is Stout.
There’s a lot of great information on other hikes in the Redwoods HERE.
Nothing recharges your spirit and passion for life-like spending some time in a place like this! Take someone special and enjoy!
Do you have places you enjoy that allow you to appreciate your health and your world? I’d love to hear about them!