Wandering South on the Pacific Coast Highway: Crescent City to Humboldt Redwoods State Park

Day 60 (September 28)
Crescent City to Humboldt Redwoods State Park, California

Under gray skies the mysterious beauty of the Humboldt County coast is intriguing, though the weather seems to magnify the grit of the cities, which cannot be hidden behind their notable architecture and hip downtown storefronts, eateries, and historic hotels. One thing can be said for the cities that we walk today: each downtown is like no other city’s, and we hope to return to each on a sunny day when we have more time for leisurely exploration.

Fishing Boats in Crescent City, California harbor

It would be easy to spend weeks exploring California’s Redwoods Coast, however with cooler weather on its way, we need to start making our way toward Yosemite before the park’s seasonal closures begin. With no predetermined camping spot for tonight, and our only plan being to stay close to the California coast, we hop back on the Pacific Coast Highway and head south.

Crescent City

Aside from using the Redwood / Crescent City KOA as our basecamp for touring the Redwoods parks, we have spent very little time in Crescent City, whose coastline has been socked in with fog for much of the past three days. So before we head out of town, we take a few minutes to walk around the harbor, which is filled with commercial fishing boats, and stop to walk Crescent Beach.

Does it look cold and damp? Because it is.

Crescent Beach in Crescent City, California

Just across Highway 101 from the southern end of Crescent Beach, we stop to watch a herd of Roosevelt elk grazing in a random front yard. They bade us a lovely goodbye to Crescent City.

Roosevelt Elk herd grazing in Crescent City, California

Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

We pop back into Elk Meadow in Prairie Redwoods State Park, and see two young black-tailed does running down the road. There is still no sight of the resident elk herd, however we spot the antlers of a resting bull elk in the meadow – our friend from yesterday perhaps?

Black-tailed deer in Elk Meadow area of Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

Orick

Continuing south on the coast highway, we further our redwoods education by visiting the Thomas H. Kuchel visitor center in Orick. We find that each redwoods visitor center is different, and worth a stop. (Though it’s funny, we never stopped at the biggest visitor center, which is the information center located in Crescent City).

We are shivering from the damp chill in the air, but the beach is too lovely not to pause and enjoy it for a while.

Beach behind Thomas H. Kuchel Redwoods State and National Parks visitor center in Orick, California

Beach behind Thomas H. Kuchel Redwoods State and National Parks visitor center in Orick, California

Beach behind Thomas H. Kuchel Redwoods State and National Parks visitor center in Orick, California

Trinidad

I overheard a fellow Redwoods traveler remark that Trinidad is a dreamy unspoiled coastal town. Even under the gray skies, one can see that Trinidad is a very special spot. This sweet tiny town is home to Moonstone Beach and Houda Cove. We take only enough time to walk down the rocky bluff to the shore, play hide and seek behind the sea stacks, counting the different types of stone embedded in the sand.

How wonderful it would be to rent an airbnb here for a couple of months and just write, walk the beach, catch a ride on one of those sailboats moored in the harbor, and maybe learn to surf.  We are so absorbed in the lovely coastline that we do not take any pictures of the town itself. Oops!

Trinidad, California on Pacific Coast Highway 101

Trinidad, California on Pacific Coast Highway 101

Sea stacks in Trinidad, California on Pacific Coast Highway 101

Beach rocks in Trinidad, California on Pacific Coast Highway 101

Sea stacks in Trinidad, California on Pacific Coast Highway 101

Arcata

Arcata is… A hip and edgy college town. A time capsule of classic neon and bars with names like The Alibi and Sidelines Cocktails. A busy stop along the “homeless highway”, where travelers congregate in the square to kick around a hacky sack and nap.

Historic Arcata Theater, California

Vintage neon signs in historic downtown Arcata, California

Park at the square in historic downtown Arcata, California

Eureka

Eureka is… A Victorian architecture dream town. A great shopping and walking town. A city of haves and have nots. Another busy stop on the “homeless highway”.

Victorian home in Eureka, California

Row of white houses - Victorian homes in Eureka, California

The Ingomar Club Mansion Victorian Architecture in Eureka, California

Pink Lady Victorian home in Eureka, California

Historic Victorian era downtown Eureka California

The Works record store in Old Town Eureka California

Pearl Lounge in Old Town Eureka California

Pride at Eagle House Inn, historic downtown Eureka California

Octopus mural near the waterfront in downtown Eureka California

Humboldt Redwoods State Park

South of Stafford, we leave Highway 101 and make the scenic drive on Avenue of the Giants in Humboldt Redwoods State Park. Humboldt Redwoods contains the largest expanse of old-growth redwoods on the planet. Of the park’s 53,000 acres, 17,000 of them are old-growth forest.

Although it is only mid-afternoon, I am feeling under the weather, so we go ahead and select a campsite at the Burlington Campground, right next door to the visitor center. Our site is huge, and surrounded by first and second growth redwood trees. The campground has private bathrooms and pay showers, and although a bit pricy at $35 a night, worth it. (It is here that we begin to se a trend of campgrounds getting more and more expensive as we get closer to San Francisco).

Giant trees in Burlington campground in Humboldt Redwoods State Park

Hugo Man of a Thousand Faces cozies up to an ancient redwood tree in Burlington campground in Humboldt Redwoods State Park

Towering redwoods in Burlington campground in Humboldt Redwoods State Park

Our campsite under the towering redwoods in Burlington campground in Humboldt Redwoods State Park

The Travel Log

We stroll over to the Humboldt Redwoods Interpretive Visitor Center (redwoods visitor center #4 for us), where we wonder at the “travel log”, a remarkable camping truck made by Charles Kellogg from a 4800 year old redwood tree. An avid conservationist, Kellogg hatched a clever plan for bringing national attention for the need to protect the ancient redwoods. In 1917 he began his unusual project, using a one-man saw to carve a 22-foot long living space out from an 11-foot diameter fallen redwood. He mounted the carved log on a truck bed and hit the road.

Charles Kellogg was a man of many talents. Although he was an accomplished photographer, he was best known for being “The Nature Singer”, famous for his melodic bird song mimicry.  Kellogg was able to use his celebrity as a recording artist to his advantage when he toured the U.S. through 1921 in his tree-truck, singing and declaring his love for the redwoods, building support for their protection.

To hear Kellogg’s incredible birdsong, visit Hare’s Breath Records.

Charles Kellogg's travel log redwood tree truck in Humboldt Redwoods State Park visitor center

Charles Kellogg's travel log redwood tree truck in Humboldt Redwoods State Park visitor center

One thing that we are learning from our fast travel is that occasionally we start to feel really run down from constantly being on the move. I am really feeling puny and in need of rest, so Robert makes me an Earl Gray tea + Fireball toddy (don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it!) and we enjoy a quiet afternoon and evening at camp. Although disappointed that I miss the opportunity to explore this special park on foot,  I cannot think of a prettier place to enjoy being still for a while.

Ancient redwood tree stump at our campsite in Burlington campground in Humboldt Redwoods State Park

I truly believe these old forests have healing powers. I awake in the morning refreshed and excited to continue exploring Califonia’s northern coast.

Click on a park name below to read about our wanderings through more Redwoods parks:

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park
Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park
Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park

If you are wondering where else we’ve wandered, check out our Parks List!

21 Replies to “Wandering South on the Pacific Coast Highway: Crescent City to Humboldt Redwoods State Park”

    1. Thank you, Jet! I am so happy you enjoyed our tour of the Redwoods coast. I still have one more Redwoods post coming, plus a tour of Mendocino and Anderson Valley -two of my favorite places. I am binge writing this week, and enjoying (virtually) revisiting these places 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. CA is definitely expensive, particularly gas and camping. I wasn’t aware of this park when we toured the Redwoods, but Florence Keller County Park in Crescent City may be an option for you. It’s $15-20 a night, however almost all of the sites won’t accommodate anything larger than 25 feet and are dry camping. I found this video in case you’d like to check it out. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=305iRUB_b2Y

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That RV length does make it more challenging to find more affordable campgrounds, doesn’t it? If I come across any info on Redwoods area CG’s that would work for you, I will pass it along :-). Have you checked Campendium? I often forget about that site but it’s a great resource.

        Liked by 1 person

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