Top Ten Things to do in the California Redwoods
The Top 10 Things to do in the California Redwoods! This is a hard decision to make. I’ve been visiting the Redwoods pretty much every year for the last 30 or more years and I still find new thing to do. From surf fishing on what used to be called “Free Beach” (you now have to pay to camp there, Boo Hiss), walking through the redwoods, being entertained at the Trinidad farmers market, fresh seafood at the local restaurants, or even better catching our own fish and crab and eating it around a campfire, I’ve found a lot of things to add to my top ten list, so here are my current favorites.
I’ve got a chance to visit the area camping in tents, a minivan, motorhome, camper, 5th wheel RV and yes I’ve even stayed at a couple of the Bed and Breakfast places over the years. Being that this is just a short drive from where I lived in the Redding area my family would often plan weekend camping trips to the coast. These are just a few of our favorite things we have checked out in our many visits.
- Deep Sea Fishing – While there are a lot of places where you can charter a boat along the Northern California Coast, we like to head out from Trinidad. No doubt much of the reason is we like to stay at Patrick’s Point and it’s a short drive from there to the pier in Trinidad. Normally the Capitan takes you to an area to fish for Salmon first and if that doesn’t pan out well you head over to another area to bottom fish for cod. Either way you are sure to bring home a lot of fish. After you finish your fishing they will clean the fish for you. Nothing beats fresh fried fish around the campfire!
- Memorial Groves – Be sure to stop at a couple of the memorial groves while you are driving through the redwoods. There are usually parking pullouts (some are large enough for big RVs) on the side of the road and small paths into the forest. Once you get a couple yards into the forest the dense foliage masks the sounds from the road and you feel like you are in another world. The huge Redwood trees tower over fern bushes that can be as high as your head with green and purple clover the size of your palm littered across the forest floor.
- Fern Canyon – Take the dirt road heading back to Gold Bluffs Beach north of Orick. You do need to pay attention to the size of your RV though. There is a limit to the length of vehicle that can head back there due to the narrow windy road.
As you drive through the forest you will be passing sections of Redwoods that were used in filming of Star Wars. You can almost see the Ewoks swing through the trees. Once you get over to the coast you will pass a campground and can keep driving until you reach a parking area. From there you will find several trails heading back into the woods or heading out onto the beach. This is also a pretty good place to check out the Roosevelt Elk. While they are not always there, you will often see them wandering around the campground or in the hills overlooking the beach
- Carson Mansion – The Carson Mansion is a historical landmark in Eureka. This is an awesome Victorian Mansion that is kept in immaculate condition. While you are in town this is a good time to check out Old Town Eureka. There is an art walk on the first Saturday of each month along with restaurants, museums and galleries.
- Drive Through Trees – This probably isn’t something to plan a day around, in fact the whole experience will only take a couple minutes however…. There is something to be said of being able to say you have driven your car through the middle of a living tree!. Sorry, but you’re not going to be able to get your big rig RV or motorhome through the tree. But if you are pulling a car behind your rig it’s worth checking out at least one of the locations.
The Shrine Drive-thru tree in Myers Flat, California has the distinction of being the only one of the three trees in the Northern California Coast that has a natural tunnel large enough to drive through. The other two trees, like the one north of Orick has the whole cut out by a chainsaw. Usually the one by Orick is free and there is a “donation” box at the entrance. While I’ve never seen the both occupied they may have someone there during the heavier tourist season where you might have to pay to see the tree.
- Trees Of Mystery – This is a little more expensive but is a cool experience. General Admission tickets are $15.00 per person. They now have a Skytrail Aerial Gondola, I haven’t had the chance to try that yet to see if it is worth the price, but I have walked through the trails several times. During the walk you will get to see a number of natural “mysteries”. For some reason there is a high concentration of odd tree growth patterns in this area that make for an interesting walk. You can see much of this in the memorial groves if you spend enough time walking through them but this allows you to see them all in one relatively short walk.
This is a good place to take the kids to stretch their legs a while. There is a mechanical monument to Paul Bunyan and Blue. You can also check out the gift store to pick up some souvenirs.
- Avenue of the Giants – This is a 31 mile road going through a dense area of old growth Redwoods. This is a great place to take a relaxing drive and marvel over the giant redwoods.
- Orick – Now I might get some disagreements on this one but bear with me while I explain. The town of Orick isn’t too exciting in itself however this is a great place to check out and pick up carved redwood burls and redwood chainsaw art! You can pickup finished and unfinished slabs of burl to be used for tables, clocks and other items. There are also many locations with small hand held to carvings several feet high, many carved out using a chainsaw. There are several cool places to browse on the side of the road, and who knows, maybe you’ll pick up a 2-6 foot high redwood bear lawn ornament!
- Agate Beach – While in the Trinidad area and Patrick’s Point State park, my family likes to head down to Agate beach to look for sea shells and agates. You can stop at the park ranger booth to check out a sample of the agates you can find on the beach and then head down and comb through the gravely areas of the sand. Along with agates you will find rocks of all sorts of colors that you can run through a rock polisher. This is also a good beach to look for sea shells, especially soon after a storm where lots of shell get washed up onto the beach.
- Look for Roosevelt Elk – Herds of Roosevelt Elk can be found in several locations from Trinidad up to a ways past Orick on Highway 101. Once past Patrick’s point you follow Highway 101 North. There are several meadows and prairies where you might find a herd. One is near the Old Red School house on the right hand side of Highway 101 as you drop into a valley before Orick. There is also a good chance of seeing them near Lady Bird Johnson Grove and then further up at Elk Meadow and Elk Prairie. I like to head back to the Fern Canyon area and Gold Bluffs beach where you will often see them in the morning. Once when I couldn’t find them anywhere else (I was trying to show them to some visiting relatives), I found a herd well out of Orick heading up toward Crescent City.
Usually there are herds right on the side of the road and you get plenty of great picture opportunities. Take care, these are wild animals and the bull can get aggressive if he thinks his herd is threatened. It is usually best not to get out of your car if they are nearby.
DO NOT try to get up close to get a good picture, the safest way is to steady your camera against your car or a tree from a distance, set your camera to its highest resolution and take a distance shot. You can then zoom and crop the picture with your computer.
Well, that’s my (current) top ten list of things to do while RVing along the Northern California coast. Spend a little time in the area and I am sure you will come up with your own “Top 10 List”. I didn’t even get a chance to touch on the lighthouses, boating areas, dunes, and numerous other activities in the area, so plan on staying a little while and make up your own list!