Redwood National Park On a Budget
In the mid-19th century, the old-growth redwood forest covered more than 2,000,000 acres of the California coast. When many failed to strike it rich with the gold rush, however, they turned to the trees for harvesting lumber. By the 1920s moves were made to protect the trees still left, beginning with state parks and eventually the National Park, which now protects the 38,982 acres of the remaining old-growth forest. While the amount of acreage took a traumatic dip, the trees standing today are beautiful in their endurance that has lasted for centuries.
SightsAs you find your way coming into the Redwood forest, you will not be able to take your eyes off of these ancient giants. They stand like guardians to their sacred woods, and are truly awe-inspiring to behold. The Redwood (Newton B. Drury) Scenic Parkway is a 10-mile scenic alternative to Highway 101, and is one of the top things to do in Redwood National Park. As you drive through the tunnel of trees deeper into the park's canopy, you will find yourself wanting to stop and wander amongst the giants. There are a few easy trails like Big Tree and Ah Pah, where you are free to get lost in admiration of some of the biggest trees in the world. Big Tree himself is estimated to be 1,500 years old with a circumference of 68 feet, though there are many others just as impressive waiting to be discovered. Also on this route is the Elk Prairie Visitors Center, and a hub of many other beautiful trails.
Another great way to see the Redwoods by car is to take a drive along the 31-mile scenic stretch, Avenue of the Giants. Along the avenue you will come across trailheads, little quirky towns, the Humboldt Redwoods State Park visitor center, Founders' Grove nature trail, and of course-big trees. Also on this route, you will come across some of the famous Drive Thru Trees, which you can choose to drive through for a small fee if that's something on your bucket list.
Beyond the trees and scenic routes, the magnificent redwoods are a coastal breed, right on the edge of land and sea. If you need a break from the cool sanctuary of woods, ocean views are just a short drive away.
NeighborhoodsThe nearest centers of civilization are located just south of Redwood National Forest. Trinidad is the closest, a picturesque town situated right on the coast. This little hub offers tide-pooling at Trinidad State Beach, hiking on Trinidad Head trail, and dining on the Trinidad pier, as well as a selection of shops for gifts or picnic supplies. Other attractions include the Memorial Lighthouse and Humboldt State Marine Lab.
Arcata and Eureka are about 20 miles further south and are the closest things you will find to a city near the Redwoods. Arcata Plaza in particular is a lively center of commerce and recreation where you will find plenty of options for dining, shopping, and entertainment.
Even further south are Ferndale and Fortuna, which embody more of the historic village feel. Each has its own kind of charm with antique shops, quaint homes, and museums displaying some of the local culture.
ActivitiesBeyond the endless possibilities of beautiful tree-lined trails, the area of the Redwoods has a few other unique attractions worth the visit.
Fern Canyon is located within the forest itself right along the coast. It features a two-mile loop of narrow canyon whose 50-foot walls are carpeted with luxuriant ferns and mosses. This other worldly setting was even used in the filming of Jurassic Park 2.
For those looking to see some action on the coastal waters, Humboldt Lagoons is located just south of the canyon. Here visitors can engage in a range of activities from fishing and boating to beachcombing or birding. Big Lagoon is the largest and has overnight camping as well as rock collecting on Agate Beach. Kayaks are also available to rent.
The area just east of the Redwoods even has opportunities for whitewater rafting on Trinity River at Willow Creek. The area is also home to backcountry tours through Six Rivers National Forest as well as China Flat-Bigfoot Museum with the world's largest collection of Bigfoot artifacts.
Food and DiningWhile there are no dining facilities in the park itself, the towns mentioned above are sure to offer a good selection of dining. Being right on the ocean, the local seafood and pub fare are always a sure way to ward off the damp of the day. A cozy cup of clam chowder after a long day of exploring will warm you up in an instant. If you are the type to rough it in the woods, picnic supplies can be found in the town of Trinidad, closest to the forest.
TransportationWhile having a car is the best way to explore the Redwoods at your own pace, there is limited public transportation available in the area.
Redwood Transit System is the public bus system for Humboldt County, California. The bus offers service between Scotia, Fortuna, Loleta, Fields Landing, Eureka, Arcata, McKinleyville, Westhaven, and Trinidad 7 days per week. Bus service is also available between Willow Creek and Arcata Monday through Saturday.
If you are flying in, the nearest airport is the Arcata/Eureka Airport, located within an hour's drive of the park. While the airport is small, it does have car rental agencies and two major airlines flying in and out on a regular basis-Horizon Air (of Alaska Airlines) and United Express (of United Airlines).
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