Giants of the West
July 2016: My birthday road trip weekend to the mystical Redwoods National and State Parks.
A journey 300 miles far north of San Francisco are some rich rewards of the most enduring tree creatures in the world. This trip was centered around the ancient and timeless wonders called the Redwoods and it was on my mind for a long time. The drive blends old gold country and logging towns amid old-growth ancient redwoods that can live up to 2,000 yrs old. It was actually perfect temperatures for our late summer trip to explore the area. Just note, the Redwood National and State Parks is not one big park as you (and I) may have imagined but rather a series of federal and state parks in its authority. I reviewed a map for the parks to help me narrowed down exactly what FZL and I wanted to explore before setting out…it was a good idea! To our surprise we came across stunning rocky bluffs that overlook frothy beaches, no traffic, good old prairies, and a bustling brewery on our 5 hour drive. Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway is the scenic alternative to Hwy 101 closer to the Park so make sure you don’t miss it during your trip. It is a ten-mile (16-km) two lane road through old-growth redwood forest in Prairie Creek Redwoods. While we were excited for the majestic trees, we were also eager to hike in Fern Canyon. This is a narrow canyon with 50 ft walls covered in blankets of ferns and mosses. Fern Canyon is one of the sites filmed in the movie Jurassic Park II: The Lost World. Oh the sheer wonder of nature!
Start-Stop Round trip
Drive from San Francisco, CA to Orick, CA (5.5 hours no stops) 313 miles one way
The See’s + Do’s of Redwood National and State Park
Start: San Francisco
First Stop: Humboldt Redwoods SP Visitor Center on the Avenue of the Giants which is south of Weott
Final Rest Stop: Lost Coast Brewery & Café in Eureka ($5 to fill a growler,say what?!)
Our Lodging: Our rustic camping stay was in a Teepee booked via Hipcamp along Bald Hills Rd for a very tranquil environment off the beaten path
See: Prairie Creek Visitor Center tucked away in the woods, with elk out front in the meadow to chat it up with a ranger
Explore: Lady Bird Johnson Grove for a short hike on level ground
Evening: Head to Klamath River Overlook Picnic Area overlooking the River for a stunning vista point at sunset
(sightings of gray whales, seals & sea lions so be sure to bring snacks and wine!)
Scenic Route: Newtwon B. Drury Scenic Pkwy roughly parallels 101 for about ten miles
(Along this pkwy, look for access to numerous trail heads such as Big Tree and Ah Pah)
Explore: Visit Fern Canyon by car or foot: We opt to drive to Fern Canyon via Davison Road. It is a 8 mile drive which features multiple stream crossings until the parking lot area (rest rooms are available). A day-use fee of $8.00 in cash is required here. I used my annual National Park pass and it was accepted for the entrance. Lastly, you may have good chance of spotting wild Roosevelt elk during your short drive. We literally were mind-blown on how special it is.
Ended up as our WOW factor
When the Ranger said the tallest Redwood is located in the park standing 379 feet high…Our quick response was ‘How can we hike there?’ and she immediately shut us down. To protect the tree, Rangers don’t divulge its location… Sad face but we get it.
- Duration: Friday through late Sunday (we could of used 1 more day)
- Location: Redwoods NP/SP in Northern California (no fee and no entrance stations to enter the National park)
- Cell Reception: AT&T had spotty service after passing each town
- Visitor Centers: A total of 5 visitor centers (some are only seasonally operated)
- Camping: Jedediah, Elk Prairie, Gold Bluffs Beach, and Freshwater Lagoon Spit campgrounds are open year-round and is a $35 per night/per site fee to camp.
- Driving: about five-six hours total one way from SF (depends if you stop a lot)
- Drive-through trees: From north to south; Klamath: Tour Through Tree, Myers Flat: Shrine Tree and Legget: Chandelier Tree
- Activities: Beach/Moderate hiking/random picnics so pack a cooler
- Everything Else: Part of the adventure…we really had a blast!
We missed out on Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park (not enough time) on this trip so we just shall go back!
–This is the coastal map we used during the weekend trip–