Top 10 things to do in Redwood National Park
Anyone heading to California's Redwood National Park will be well advised to undertake some neck strengthening exercises prior to the trip as the majority of the time will no doubt be spent looking upwards and marvelling at some of the largest trees on the planet.
Consisting of over 100,000 acres of protected forest land as well as almost 40 miles of Pacific coastline, this area is made up of three separate state parks (Jebediah Smith, Del Norte Coast and Prairie Creek) and one national park (Redwood National Park), which all go to form one of America's most magical UNESCO World Heritage sites.
The “World Famous Tree House, Believe it or Not" is pictured on thousands of postcards and posters. The Fraternal Monarch Tree is 83 metres high with a diameter of 11 metres and a circumference close to 34 metres. It is considered to be more than 4,000 years old and was hollowed by a forest fire 800 years ago but is still living and vigorously growing.
Native American heritage
Before the scenic roads and camp sites appeared in Redwood National Park the region was inhabited by Native Americans and still to this day you can find the original descendants living and working within and around designated reservation areas. The stories of how the Californian Indian tribes came into direct conflict with the waves of men who had come in search of gold is an often gruesome account however, finding out more as you explore the park is well-worth your time especially if you're interested in the cultural heritage of west coast America.
Situated in Prairie Creek State Park and used as a backdrop for both Jurassic Park and Walking with Dinosaurs, Fern Canyon is undoubtedly one of the most mystical areas of Redwood National Park and well-worth a visit if you're searching for greenery. With moss and ferns literally dripping from either side of 50 foot canyon walls this is a breathtaking place and an early morning start provides one of the most peaceful and eerie experiences imaginable.
Top trail: check out the half mile looped hiking trail to immerse yourself in all of that lush Californian fern foliage.
If you just so happen to be visiting Redwood National Park during the Christmas (Dec/Jan) or Easter (Mar/Apr) holidays then keep your eyes planted firmly on the Pacific as these dates are well-known as the best times of the year to spot migrating grey whales. There really is something exceptionally exciting about spotting a spout of water appearing over the crest of an ocean swell and if you have your binoculars trained on the right spot then you'll be in for a real treat as these bad boys are over 40 feet in length and spurt water in the shape of a love heart!
This stretch of Pacific coastline is well-known for its pristine and private beaches where access is impossible other than from the sea or a treacherous scramble down a cliff face. Thankfully there is a means of approach that's as silent as a seal and about as much fun as you can have in California without a surfboard. Sea kayaking takes hardly any time at all to learn and once you've got to grips with remaining upright you'll be paddling over the surf and exploring the numerous coves, lagoons and inlets quicker than you can say 'land ahoy!'.
There are some absolutely tremendous roads that will take you along the coast and through the redwoods with plenty of access to beaches and picnic points to help you rest and pause for photos ops. Many roads aren't advisable for wider vehicles and as such camper van and motor home users will need to check first before starting off however, for everyone else, the likes of: Howland Hill, Coastal Drive, Newton Drury and Davidson Road, all promise scenic route heaven.
Wildlife watch: keep an eye out for elk that are often found on the prairie and meadow areas close to the road.
If you're a fan of two wheels then cycling through the deep pine scented forests of Redwood National Park is an absolute joy and although going off road is strictly prohibited you'll still find no end of trails and loops to take you past some sublimely scenic stretches of forest and coast. Little Bald Hills, Ossagon Loop, Lost Man Creek and Gold Bluffs beach trails all promise miles and miles of Californian beauty and although some of the roads can be a tad steep the views and the clean fresh air more than make up for a little strain on the old calf muscles.
Setting your alarm to appear bleary eyed yet excited from your forest dwellings is exactly the right way to get to see Redwood National Park at the zenith of its powers as from the dawn chorus to the gigantic trees shrouded in morning mist, there's no better activity than a trek before breakfast. Of course, whatever time of the day that you happen to rise or visit the park you'll still find over 200 miles of hiking trails ready and waiting with canyons, beaches, prairies and those all-important old growth forests providing some absolutely stunning backdrops to accompany you en-route.
It's not just the massive trees that people come to experience in Redwood National Park as there's also the matter of some of the most beautiful beaches in California to take into consideration and with practically 40 miles of shoreline to explore you're bound to find a little piece of Pacific paradise to call your own. Gold Bluffs, Enderts and Crescent beaches are all well-worth a look in and although there may not be as many people watching potential as further southwards the chance to spot otters, seals and explore rock pools and low tide lagoons more than makes up for it.
If you've got plans to pass through Redwood National Park via Highway 101 then you'll be able to experience some superb scenery along the way however, if the temptation to delve a little deeper is too hard to resist then you'll be pleased to know that there are some awesome areas for camping both in the forest and closer to the coast. Jebediah Smiths and Elk Prairie camp sites both offer all-year-round access to ensure you get to really immerse yourself within the majesty of the ancient redwood groves. And, if you're wishing to sleep within ear-shot of the crashing high-rollers of the Pacific, check out Gold Bluffs Beach camping area and you won't be disappointed.