Looking for a weekend escape into a lush, thick forests? The redwoods of Northern California are less than a 5 hour drive from the Bay Area, making the foggy coast around Humboldt County a quick scenic jaunt up the Highway 1. In this post I'll lay out the itinerary we took with side trip suggestions for you to customize your own trip.
Tips Before You Go
- Download offline maps before your trip - Use the offline areas feature of Google Maps to download every region you think you might cover. As soon as you start driving north you will be surprised at how little service is available in the northern areas, especially amongst the trees.
- Bring plenty of small change cash - If you plan on staying in campgrounds, many of them require self registration if you arrive late, meaning you deposit money in an envelope into a box. If you don't have exact change, you'll end up paying extra each night.
- Bring a variety of clothes - We experienced a variety of weather, including full-force wind gusts and sunny temperatures. If camping, be prepared for everything to be a little damp in the morning - there's a lot of moisture up here
- Utilize the State Park system - Try to batch your state park visits. Paying the 8$ entrance fee at one will also give you access for the rest of state parks in the area for the remainder of that day
- Find free campsites - If you're traveling on a budget, FreeCampSites.net is my favorite site to find a place to crash for the night.
Since we started our trip on a Friday evening, we took this day to try to drive as far North as possible.
Where to stay
Depending on how far North you get, there are plenty of places to stay on the way up. Humboldt Redwoods State Park has some great developed campgrounds like.
You could also stay in a hotel or in in Eureka or Arcata, two of the larger cities we saw up there.
For us, we ended up staying at Clam Beach County Park Campground just north of Arcata, a primitive and simple beach campground that let us crash for the night.
Finally our first day of exploring! We continued North along the highway, stopping when we felt like it.
Our first stop was Moonstone Beach, not too far from Clam Beach. This spot would make a great walk along the beach and was the perfect view for a quick camp breakfast and coffee.
Tree Swing at College Cove
Our next stop was in Trinidad. We wanted to see College Cove, part of Trinidad State Beach, and we ended up getting lost and stumbling across this epic swing overlooking the coast.
Patrick's Point State Park
Although Patrick's Point State Park is small at only 1 square miles, it sits right on the ocean and has beautiful views of the coast. There are lots of outdoor activities to choose from like camping and several hiking trail options, but if pressed for time, Wedding Rock Trail is a must do.
Next we headed up to Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park to hike the very unique Fern Canyon Trail, a small canyon with walls completely covered in lush green ferns! Keep an eye out for Roosevelt Elk hanging out meadows near the entrance of the park.
Other things we would have loved to check out are the Miner's Ridge and James Irvine redwood hike, Gold Bluffs Beach, and the scenic drive on Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway.
We stopped by the Smith River National Recreation Area for nice dip in the river followed by a quick afternoon nap. This spot had great picnic areas, restrooms, and great access to the emerald river, and the $8 fee is already paid for if you visited another state park that day.
Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park
Finally we made it to the furthest point on our trip - Jedediah Smith! It may seem far, but the dense and pristine forests up here are well worth the trek. Stout Grove is a short loop that offers the best of Jedediah Smith - dense redwood groves, ferns and sorrel covering the forest floor, and serene forest vibes.
Just driving along Howland Hill Road is almost a forest hike in itself. The 9 mile dirt road weaves right between giant redwood trees, and the sun slants through the trees if you visit late in the afternoon.
Other hikes to check out in the area are Boy Scout Tree Trail and Simpson-Reed Trail.
Where to Stay
Florence Keller County Park, my favorite redwood campground in the area, is just 8 minutes from Crescent City and 10 minutes from Jedediah Smith. It's quieter, cheaper (only $10), and still lets you camp amongst giant redwood trees.
Wilson Creek Beach
Since this was our only day of the trip that included a sunset, we wanted to find a spot with a coastal view. We stopped at the DeMartin Beach Picnic Area at Wilson Creek Beach and were blessed with a gorgeous sunset over the Pacific Ocean.
Where to Stay
It was so windy that weekend that we actually encountered a downed tree on the highway on our way south this night, so we ended up staying at Elk County RV Resort and Campground ($25.50), more north than we would have liked.
Humboldt Redwoods State Park
Our final day of the road trip was mostly spent driving back south, but it was nice to break up the drive with a stop at Humboldt Redwoods State Park, a park that is only 4 hours from the Bay Area, CA.
Where to Stay
I feel like the entire Humboldt County and Northern California coast are still so wild and untouched, I could have spend much more than just a couple days exploring the endless forests and coastal cliff areas.
Happy Road Tripping!
Favorite gear for this trip