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Redwoods National Park – Tips and Hikes

Redwoods National Park – Tips and Hikes

We have spent quite a bit of time over the last decade exploring Redwood National and State Parks in Northern California. Redwood National and State Parks is actually a network of parks that cover an extended area.

 Redwood National and State Parks

Near-by State Parks

You can view and download the most current park newspapers here: Redwoods Park Guide.

There are five visitor centers that operate with Redwood National and State Parks. You can find them listed here: Redwoods Visitor Centers. 

As I tried to write this post, I realized the scope of what we have experienced in these parks is more than can fit into one neat little package. I know most of you probably think that Redwood National Park is just about the big trees but in reality, this park has such a diverse habitat that it really can’t be experienced just by getting out of the car and viewing the famous trees or even stopping at the visitor’s center.

Redwood National Park needs to be experienced by walking or hiking out into the forest where you can stand quietly and soak in not just the majesty of the trees but the melodic sound of birdsong, the fragrance of the forest floor as you walk, and the beauty of the wildflowers and ferns that crowd in the understory. Hiking trails are abundant.

There are beaches to explore with crashing waves. A fern canyon with the trickling sound of a stream is to be found at Prairie Creek. You can hike to a waterfall in Jedediah Smith Redwood Park…just past the Boy Scout Tree. I give the Boy Scout Tree Trail a five star rating because it is one you can truly experience the redwood forest while hiking virtually on your own. We have hiked this several times, continuing onto the waterfall, and have felt the awesomeness of this habitat like no other place.

I realize not all of you have as much time as I do to explore the redwoods. If nothing else, drive the Newton Drury Scenic Parkway or Howland Hill Road. Stop along the way, get out of the car, and just drink it all in. Take some photos of your children with this giant trees so they have a record of their visit. Maybe it will spur them on to bring their children some day.

Now for some glimpses into some of our family’s memories of Redwood National and State Parks.

My two youngest boys have accompanied us every redwood forest hike and visit. They love the opportunity to hike under these tall trees and love even more to find a fallen tree to walk on or crawl over. This is a boy’s playground and along the way the grow to appreciate how special a place this is to explore.

Many of the trails wind under and around the massive trunks, mostly smooth unpaved paths lined with ferns and other green plants. The sun peeks through from time to time but for the most part these hikes are in shadow.

Among the redwoods you will find many flowering plants. This surprised me the first time but the splashes of color cannot be missed with all that green for a backdrop. Redwood Sorrel carpets the forest floor and has delicate flowers.

At the Lady Bird Johnson Grove, the rhododendrons bloom like crazy. We enjoyed this hike on our first visit to Redwood National Park and I have never forgotten its beauty. This is an easy hike that your whole family can enjoy. It was more crowded than some of the other hikes but still worth the effort.

This was a memorable day for our family and I am so glad we were able to have a fellow hiker snap a photo for us. We had such a great hike together, teenage boys can be such fun. Now that they are growing up, I can appreciate the times we spent outdoors experiencing things together.

This is Fern Canyon at Prairie Creek State Park (Part of the series of redwood parks near the national park.) We were able to hike all the way up the canyon from Gold Bluff.

This is Fern Falls at the end of the Boy Scout Tree Trail in Jedediah Smith State Park. We had a picnic lunch here at the base of the falls and I remember working in my nature journal as well. A great hike and a great day!

This is the coastal beach at Gold Bluff at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. Lots of room for boys to run off some steam along the sandy beach.

Roosevelt Elk can usually be seen within the national park. We have found a herd along Davidson Road several times, right off the highway.

Here is a typical landscape seen during a hike among the redwoods. Amazing! I never get tired of it even after visiting many, many times.

I told you…boys love to find a fallen tree and climb up. It almost always merits a photo.

This image was from our last trip to Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park. We took the drive along Howland Hill Road, practically all to ourselves. We parked the car at a turnout and walked about a mile along the road. It was quiet, damp, and so very enjoyable. It is mostly unpaved and very narrow so don’t take an RV or trailer. We have done this drive four times and have never found traffic to be an issue. One time the road was closed so check at the visitor’s center before heading up.

Here are a few other things to do if you are still looking for just the right activity for your family:
Things to Do Redwood National Park. 

We have experienced Redwood National Park in summer, autumn, and winter. All were enjoyable with the appropriate clothing. The north coast of California can be damp at any time of the year so plan to layer up. June has been the driest and sunniest time to visit the park.

You can read more about our redwoods experiences here:
Redwood Dreams – 2010
Hiking Jedediah Smith Redwoods – 2011

We have camped at:
Patrick’s Point State Park
Prairie Creek State Park
Jedediah Smith State Park

If you don’t want to camp, you can stay in near-by Crescent City, CA. 

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Oregon Camping – Beaches, Tall Trees, and Tidepools

We all were aching to get on the road and start our week long camping trip in Oregon. Part of the joy of driving to Oregon are the views along the Northern California and Southern Oregon Coast. Amazing! The photo above is between Arcata and Crescent City along a stretch of the coast that at this time of year is ablaze with lupine…the fragrance is divine as you walk through the vegetation to the sandy beach.

When the boys get out onto to the sand for the first time it is pure joy! They stretch their legs after a long car ride and enjoy the Northern California wide open sandy beaches. We walked a long way, looking for beach treasures as we went. Then it was back into the car for the last leg of the trip over the California/Oregon border and up to Brookings and our beloved Harris Beach.

Yes! This is our campsite this year which overlooks the Pacific Ocean…looking westward and perfect for watching the sun go down each day. We were surprised at how light it was late into the evening…sunset was about 9 PM each day but it was light much longer than that.

Two of the days we were there we were able to take advantage of the negative tide and do some serious tidepooling.

Lots and lots of anemones to be seen…large and small!

Look carefully in this image and you can see the sea star’s “feet” that are clinging to the rocks at low tide. There were so many sea stars of many colors, sizes, and types. I love being able to see up close all the things we learned about from books.

I brought along a Stomp Rocket for the family to use on the beach. This was a fabulous idea and the boys (and mom and dad) each had turns stomping the rocket and watching it propel off down the beach.

We spent many, many hours walking the beaches and collecting colorful rocks…sometimes my pockets were all filled to capacity. I enjoyed sorting my rocks by colors on the picnic table at the campsite. I left them out each night and in the morning the dew would make them shiny and shimmery again.

These were my favorites…the red, green, and gray ones.

I also like this colorful kind which sort of looks like wood. I have a couple more rock related entries to share with you next month as part of my nature study goals and collecting various kinds of rocks. This was a great way to keep nature study at the forefront of our a good goal.

Mr. A was my fellow photographer at the tidepools. He was willing to really get out where he might slip and get wet to capture some great images of his own. He uses his cell phone camera and they turn our really great.

Here is a shot of my other photography buddy…Mr. D. He is more of an artist with his camera and takes his time to get just the right shot with the right setting. His images are amazing. This was also the very first time that our Kona dog has gone camping with us. She settled right in and had a great time. The wonderful thing about Oregon is that dogs are allowed on the trails as long as they are on a leash. She was able to take every hike with us…love Oregon!

We spent two different days in the redwoods hiking in the quiet stillness. We pretty much had the place to ourselves and it was so very refreshing. I already miss it. I am checking off another new hike on my 2013 Nature Study Goals, two down and two to go!

Can you just imagine how far you can walk on this Oregon beach? It was a windy day but it wasn’t cold so we took advantage of the open space and just roamed for a very long time. (I collected a few rocks too.)

Hello Mr. Snail!

Oh wow! These ferns were amazing! I loved seeing the black stems and the graceful way the fronds grow.

Aren’t they just incredibly pretty? I knew that our California Maidenhair fern had a black stem so I though maybe they were related. I looked it up when we got home and sure enough! This is the Northern Maidenhair fern.

On our last day we visited Crissey Field State Park which has a wonderful visitors center. We spent some time viewing all the nature displays and gathered some pamphlets for future use. We had a picnic lunch and then adventured out to the beach which is so very beautiful. Driftwood, dune plants and flowers, and a nice sandy beach are just what we needed to end our trip on a high note.

We were so happy that our trip turned out with gorgeous sunny skies for the majority of the week. We were able to do a lot of hiking, a lot of exploring, and enjoyed each other’s company while visiting the Southern Oregon Coast.

Until next time….

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Northern California Redwoods – Hiking Jedediah Smith Redwoods

Jedidiah Smith Redwoods - Posing on a Tree
Boy Scout Tree Trail – Jedediah Smith Redwoods

We had the opportunity to take several hikes in Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park while on our trip to Southern Oregon. No matter where you go in this area of California, you are going to see some spectacular trees and other plants of the redwood habitats. In a matter of minutes, you can be on the trail, hiking along the forest floor, bordered by ferns and wildflowers. There is always a bird singing somewhere in the forest and since you feel as if you are all alone you realize it is singing for your enjoyment.

Jedidiah Smith Redwoods
Look up there at those redwoods….in the sky…practically.

There is no chance of missing these ancient trees when are right there hiking under them. On some places along the trail you can reach out and touch the soft fibrous bark. In other places you have to literally climb under or through downed redwoods. This is the best way to get to know these quiet giants.

Wildflowers - Monkeyflowers
Looking down wasn’t so bad either…these are monkeyflowers.

When all around you are tall redwoods, it is easy to forget to look down and notice the floor of the forest with its carpets of Redwood sorel and other colorful wildflowers.

Wildflowers Clintonia
Red Clintonia – Amazing!

I love this flower! We actually stopped and just enjoyed the color of the bloom and as we stood there another couple came along and wanted to photograph the flower since it was new to them. I was so glad that I had read my field guide before we hiked to refresh my memory with some of the flowers we would more than likely see. I was able to share the name of the flower which is always fun.

Jedidiah Smith Redwoods Trail

We saw lots of downed trees that appear to be melting into the forest floor. Even in their death, these trees provide a living habitat for other growing things.

Jedidiah Smith Redwoods

Like these False Lily of the Valley plants…..isn’t it great how the forest just fills in when a tree falls?

Fern Falls Hiking

Fern Falls was found at the end of one of our hikes….time to just stop and drink it all in. Time for a nature journal for me and climbing up to the top of the falls and then out on the log for Mr. A. It was hard to tear ourselves away to make the hike back. It was an awesome hike. (Fern Falls is at the end of the Boy Scout Tree Trail.)

If you venture to Redwood National Park in Northern California, don’t miss driving Howland Hill Drive. Even if you just take the drive and don’t get out of the car, roll your windows down and enjoy the scenic road winding around the redwoods.

Smith River - Howland Drive

There is also a lovely river that runs through the park. Here is the Smith River in all its glory. A few years ago we camped right next to the Smith River at Panther Flat….quiet campground with nice spots for tents.

Jedidiah Smith Redwoods - Smith River and Poppies

There is no shortage of hikes to try in Jedediah Smith Redwoods. We drove down Walker Road all the way to the end and then got out to walk along the river. I love the poppies sprouting in the river rocks. It was a fine way to end our stay at the redwoods part of our trip.

Hope you enjoyed my Oregon/Redwoods series. We certainly had a wonderful, wonderful time getting out and spending time as a family in the wide open outdoors hiking and camping.
Oregon Tidepools 
Oregon Coast Hiking

Speaking of wide open….my boys and I are going to heading out again soon to another part of the west, Grand Teton National Park. You can be sure we will share those experiences as well.

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Magnificent Redwoods – Closer Look and a Nature Journal Entry

Redwood Tree Study 6

There are three kinds of redwood trees: Coast redwoods, Dawn redwoods, and Giant sequoias. I have two of the three in my neighborhood. We have a sequoia in our backyard and there is a small grove of redwoods planted across the street at the school. We stopped last week to take a closer look at the redwood while we were out on a walk.

The bark of the redwood is spongy and in the photo above you can see how you can peel the bark in strand-like fibers. This tree is such an amazing creation and our family has found delight in learning the details of the life-cycle of this tree.

Redwood Tree Study 2

Here is an excerpt from the Save the Redwoods League website:
“The coast redwood is one of the world’s fastest growing conifers. In contrast to the tree’s size, redwood cones are very small — only about an inch long. Each cone contains 14 to 24 tiny seeds: It would take well over 100,000 seeds to weigh a pound! In good conditions, redwood seedlings grow rapidly, sometimes more than a foot annually. Young trees also sprout from their parent’s roots, taking advantage of the energy and nutrient reserves contained within the established, shallow root system.”

Redwood Tree Study 1

Isn’t this just amazing to see? I grew up with a Coast Redwood in my backyard but I don’t ever remember noticing this part of the growth cycle before. I love the way a more regular nature study has opened our eyes to the wonderful things right in our own neighborhood. Trees seem to become just part of the landscape unless we slow down for a closer look. I feel like a poet sometimes when we are looking at trees….words just seem to spill out.  You cannot stand under one of these mammoth trees and not have a whole string of adjectives come to mind.

Redwood Tree Study 7

We are going to do some more research on the way the redwood will regenerate and I am sure this study will continue when we take our camping trip to coast of Northern California later this summer, a trip we have taken before but we are all eager to do again. A whole forest of redwoods is an experience to treasure.

Humbolt Redwoods 2010
Here I am last summer (2010) at Humbolt Redwoods in Northern California.
Does that give you an idea of how tall these trees are in real life?

Nature Journal - Redwoods 1

I am trying to be more disciplined about adding to my nature journal regularly. It isn’t so much that I don’t want to take the time but rather that I always spend way more time than expected doing research, reading field guides, and then getting lost in joy of the actual journaling time. Even the simple task of sketching a small twig from the redwood into my nature journal brought into focus some special attributes that a casual glance could not reveal. I have been enjoying adding some photos to my entries and find that the combination of sketching, writing, and adding a photo brings me a great sense of satisfaction.

We have had a really busy week so the small square activity and our mammal study have been postponed. Guess who we will be learning about for our winter mammal study? Mr. Fox Squirrel!

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Redwood Dreams

Redwood Forest June 2010

After we left the Oregon coast and the wonderful tidepools, we headed south back down into California and to the redwood forests. We stayed two days near Redwood National Park and then inland to Humboldt Redwoods. Both places were refreshing and awe inspiring. I know that many of you dream of seeing the big trees and I hope you get to in real life someday. It is worth the effort and the dreaming.

In the meantime, I will give a little glimpse into our few days there this time around.

The majesty of these trees has inspired many before us. I spent some time this trip meditating on the men and women who dedicated parts of their lives to saving these forests and their ancient giants. Many of these trees have been alive since at least the time of Christ….that gives you something to think about as you walk alongside these living things so tall they make your neck hurt to look up at them.

Tall trees Humboldt
One person that I learned about on this trip was John D. Rockefeller. He played a huge part in saving thousands of acres of these trees at a time that it was crucial. These trees were being cut down for a growing nation’s hunger for timber. He was invited to visit these groves of trees early in the 20th century and he immediately jumped in with a million dollars to purchase great forests of the redwood trees. He donated another million later on and saved many more. Today you can walk through the Rockefeller Redwood Forest and see many of these ancient giants up close because of efforts of the Save the Redwoods League and others.

Redwoods and redwood sorrel
I prayed a silent prayer first to our Grand Creator thanking him for these unique and special trees. Noting their qualities and their beauty and how they so wonderfully tell us of God’s qualities and beauty. Then a prayer of thanks to having created us with the ability to appreciate these trees and forests. Lastly for those that have appreciated and loved the forests before us, keeping them safe for our families to enjoy.

Solitude in the redwoods
These forests just seem to make you want to seek a little solitude as you hike, even my energetic teens are struck with their awesomeness.

Boys climbing on the redwood
But boys will be boys and they tend to want to climb up on the fallen trees to get a new perspective on the scene.

Mr A Standing on a log
Hiking in the redwoods is quiet because the trails are softened with “duff” which makes a matted forest floor. It is spongy and easy to walk on with little dust. I find it very enjoyable and your eyes are free to take in the contrasts of light and dark of the forest. The sky is bright above but under the canopy of the trees it is sometimes quite dark. This is the stuff that storybooks are filled with…lots of interesting sounds, smells, and curious sights.

We took a drive one of our days to a place that we had never ventured to before…the Lost Coast of California. What a day!

Redwoods near Ferndale
Leaving the dense forest and heading down into the coastal valleys was an awesome experience. The road was crazy with potholes, narrow sections, crazy curves, steep ups and downs, and wild drivers.

Mr D and his camera
We stopped at several spots along the way to take in the view and snap a few photos. Here is my oldest son setting up his photo with the redwoods, the rolling hills, and the ocean in the distance.

Here is one of his photos from the day’s trip along the Lost Coast. Amazing color in the water. We spent the whole day exploring and taking in this unique place in California…..a little off the beaten path. We had a picnic lunch along and stopped in a little town called Petrolia to sit at a picnic table and enjoy our afternoon.

There is so much to write about but at the sake of turning this into a travel journal, I will finish here. If you have any questions about anything I have shared in this post, please feel free to email me for more details.

I hope this gives you a glimpse into our time in the redwoods and along the redwood coast. Keep dreaming your redwood dreams.

More info on the Lost Coast Drive

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Visiting Maple Tree Country: Outdoor Hour Challenge #34

Our Outdoor Hours this week were spent along the northern California Coast and southern Oregon coast. Our first stop was camping at Humboldt Redwoods (great place for camping) where most of the tallest trees in the world live. We saw ancient redwoods towering overhead.

These trees are so tall and grow so densely that the forest floor is dark and quiet. It is quite the experience to hike along the trail and silently observe these magnificent trees up close.

The forest seemed to have its own atmosphere in and among the trees. The mist in some areas was high up in the canopy of the redwoods and it was dripping down on our heads as we hiked underneath.

In some parts of the redwood forest, it seemed as if the light never penetrated down to the floor and there were mushrooms and moss growing everywhere. It was like stepping back in time.

Mixed in among these forest giants are Big leaf maples. This time of year they are a brilliant yellow and orange and the leaves are *large*. My tree book says that the leaves are between 16 and 24 inches long.

Here is a leaf I saw on the ground that shows how big they are in real life.

“It is its autumn transfiguration which has made people observant of the maple’s beauty; yellow, orange, crimson, and scarlet foliage makes these trees gorgeous when October comes.”
Handbook of Nature Study, page 628

This leaf was on a tree in Ashland, Oregon in Lithia Park. The trees in the park were just turning colors as we walked through last weekend. It was really cold and the air had a bite to it. We bundled up and enjoyed the walk.

After this trip along the Pacific coast, I have thought a lot about our dependence on wood from trees. We passed many areas in the forest where it had been clear cut, leaving nothing left standing to speak of. There were many, many lumber mills and great stacks of both logs and lumber.

Here is a stack of logs that we passed in the town of Eureka, CA. You cannot even imagine how tall and long these piles of logs are but this gives you an idea. It is a big reminder how useful certain trees are in our every day life. Look around you at this very moment and you will no doubt see lots of things made from wood.

I know that trees are a renewal resource but it does make you stop and think when you see so many areas clear-cut and then the piles of logs sitting at the mills. It truly is a balancing act….the love of the forest and the love of wood products.

Just a some thoughts as we travel along on this trip.