One of the places that we really enjoyed visiting the first year that we were on the road was the redwoods on the coast of northern California. That first winter out, we drove through the Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park, and were completely enraptured with the redwoods – both the trees themselves, and the surrounding flora that looked like it was straight out of Jurassic Park (and actually, Jurassic Park IS straight out of the northern CA redwoods, with parts of the films being shot in the parks!). Did you know that there is actually a network of FOUR parks that protect 40,000 acres of giant redwoods – that is approximately half of the redwoods remaining of an estimated 2 million original acres). There are 3 California state parks, and the Redwoods National Park, established in 1978; and in some instances the parks overlap.
That first trip we took a loop that included traveling east on Highway 199 and back west on the Howland Hill scenic road. Howland Hill is not rv friendly (we only took our van through) and we spent hours marveling the forest full of new-to-us plants and trees. We took oodles of pictures of the kids dwarfed by the giant evergreens, and we would park our big 15 passenger van next to the larger trees for pictures – the van looked more like a model than an actual vehicle! The forest is breathtakingly beautiful. (and the Howland Hill road is a spectacular scenic drive, but is NOT rv friendly at all – very windy and narrow, but definitely worth the drive if you can swing it!)
Did you know that the Redwood is the world’s largest tree? Taller than the Statue of Liberty, redwoods can grow to be 370 feet tall, have bark 12 inches wide (or would that be deep?), and can be over 2000 years old? I find it fascinating that some of these trees could possibly have been seedlings when Jesus was on earth! And did you know that while it is the largest living tree, the redwood’s cone (which contain it’s seeds), is only about the size of a large olive?
We didn’t realize how little of the redwoods we had previously visited until this year’s trip. On our way down the coast this winter, we really wanted to visit the redwoods once more, and this time we would visit the Redwood National Park part of the forest to see a different area and to add a set of Jr. Ranger badges to the over 3 or 4 dozen that we have collected so far. We first stopped at the northern visitor’s center which is located in Crescent City, about 1 hour north of the park entrance (there is no visitor’s center physically located in the northern part of the park) to get our Jr. Ranger booklets, and find out about the roads in the park. The ranger advised us to take the 5th wheel on the scenic parkway through the park instead of 101, but now that hubby has driven both (101 with the toy hauler-he was driving ahead, and the parkway in the van), he said that he would rather drive 101 with it’s mountain pass but spacious dual lanes, than the parkway with it’s ‘racetrack’ curves and close trees.
At the southern entrance to the park is the Kuchel Visitor’s Center. I would highly recommend this visitor’s center over the Crescent City one. The northern center is great for picking up a map and information on the park if you are coming in from the north (and for picking up Jr. Ranger booklets so the kids can work on them during the drive), but the southern center had displays, an informative movie, good RV parking, and the Rangers there were all very friendly, informative, and great with the kids. We dropped the 5er off in the big parking lot at the southern visitor’s center and backtracked into the park to sightsee in the van. Some of our favorite places in the park were Elk Meadows, where we were able to see 8 ‘middling’ to ‘very nice’ sets of racks (with elk attached).
We also enjoyed a stop at ‘The Big Tree’, which is a state park stop which has a paved parking lot, and a short walk (very short – perfect for those unable to walk far or needing handicap accessibility) to a huge redwood aptly named The Big Tree. These were both just a few miles up the road from the southern entrance, and make great stops if you are pressed for time but want to experience some of the park. If possible, be sure to take the scenic parkway as it is a beautiful drive (and was not at all busy when we were there).
Also, the Kuchel Visitor’s Center is located right on the ocean. They offer ranger led tidal pool walks, so if you have not been able to go ‘tide pooling’, this is a great opportunity! We LOVE tide pooling, and while we had to choose between going into the park (won) or tide pooling (hopefully another day), if you can make one of the ranger led tide pool walks, be sure to take advantage of it! You can call the visitor’s center to find out the schedule for ranger led talks during your visit.
The Redwoods National Park is a wonderful place to visit! If you would like to check out surrounding rv parks for your own stay in the area, you can find them over at Woodall’s Campground Search.
And, while most people know about the National Park website where you can search out and learn more about each park, did you know that you can take a shortcut to a specific park page if you already know what park you are looking for? Simply type: ‘nps.gov/’ then the 4 letter code for the park you are looking up. To figure out each park’s code, first determine if the park has one name (Yellowstone) or two (Organ Pipe) – if one name, then the park’s code is the first four letters of the name (Yellowstone=yell), if the park has 2 or more words for the name, it’s the first 2 letters of each of the first 2 (ORgan PIpe=orpi). So, if you would like information on the Organ Pipe Cactus National Park, you would type ‘nps.gov/orpi’ to be taken directly to the Organ Pipe Cactus National Park page. ~The rangers are always impressed by the kids knowing this little tidbit of information! 😉
So, you can find out more about the Redwood National Park by visiting nps.gov/redw. Hope you can enjoy a visit to this fascinating piece of America soon too!