Driving through the Redwood forest in northern California is a daunting experience, especially if you are city dwellers. You might have thought you had seen large trees before, but that is nothing compared to the mighty (and ginormous) redwood. These trees will dwarf your children, and parents may feel like a kid again playing house as they traipse through the woods.
The most important thing you need to know about the redwoods before you head out is that this is actually a national park with state parks inside of it. Essentially the state and federal government have decided to co-manage the parks in order to protect the 105,000 acres of redwood forest. You will have to pay a fee to enter the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, which is just north of Redwood National Park. The fee is nominal when you see what you get with that entrance cost.
Families should not miss out on the chance to hike around the parks to get up close to the colossal redwoods. There are plenty of scenic drives for parents with babies who need to nap, but even little ones will love being carried around these easy hiking trails.
Lady Bird Johnson: This historic trail is where Lady Bird Johnson, former First Lady, dedicated the Redwood National Park in 1968. Grab a trail map and have your kids look for numbered markers at different locations along the trail to learn more about this section of the park. The hiking is easy enough for toddlers, and will give your kids plenty of land to run through without getting too lost. Azaleas and rhododendrons light the way in spring, while maples change colors through autumn.
Circle Trail: If you are short on time, or you just need to get the kids out of the car to run, the Circle Trail will bring you quickly through old-growth redwood forest plus you can go say hello to Big Tree. And yes, Big Tree is very big. Hold hands with your kids and see if you can even cover one side of the tree. You may just blow their minds. Other parts of the trail let your children climb over fallen redwoods and pretend to be Ewoks in this Endorian landscape.
The main reason families come to the redwoods is to see the trees, but don't forget about the California coast. Golden Bluffs Beach is a great place to picnic and/or camp, with plenty of sand and surf to play in year round. The Kuchel Visitor Center just north of Humbolt Lagoons State Park is a great place to learn about the area, or just head out to the beach to build sand castles and dig through piles of driftwood.
Autumn is rutting season for the Roosevelt Elk that call the park home. Give these majestic beasts a wide berth, as they can be quite aggressive, especially when tourists turn into wildlife paparazzi. Also worth noting, it is against state law to approach an elk. Leave them alone. Look from a distance, but don't touch.
A few other cool animals you may see in the park include:
- Brown bats
- Red squirrels
- Black bears
- Mountain lions
- Marbled murrelets
- Salamanders and slugs
- Peregrine falcons
- Northern red-legged frogs
While you can see these critters on land, don't forget to head to the beach and look out into the ocean. Catch Pacific grey whales and dolphins as they swim by, plus California sea lions, harbor seals, and Steller sea lions are often found sunning themselves just off shore. By land or by sea you are sure to give your kids the adventure of a lifetime in this park.
What's your favorite family-friendly outdoors adventure?
No matter where your adventures take you, make sure you have the right travel insurance coverage for the experience!