Chillin' with the 'Giants' in Humboldt

By Adam BlauertJune 19, 2012 

The heat of summer has arrived and it's time to start thinking about places to escape it. "Summer Vacation" offers many simple pleasures but after enough 100 degree days it's easy to start dreaming about a "vacation from summer."

With foggy mornings, cool days, and the shade of massive redwood trees that can top 300 feet, Humboldt County is my favorite place in the state for an instant change of season.

Basecamp

Located on Humboldt Bay, Eureka has a great selection of restaurants and lodging. The bay was the north coast's most important lumber port throughout the 1900s and the early 1800s and the town has a well-preserved historic downtown surrounded by a neighborhood of picturesque Victorian homes.

The nearby village of Ferndale has one of the most intact Victorian main streets anywhere in the country -- a popular on-location site for Hollywood films.

Campsites are available Redwood National Park and the many state parks in the area. Go to www.reserveamerica.com and search for Eureka. Patrick's Point State Park has some nice sites adjacent to one of the most impressive stretches of coastline.

Hiking

By far the best way to truly appreciate the massive redwoods, Humboldt County has enough trails to keep the average hiker busy for weeks. The Lady Bird Johnson Grove Trail in Redwood National Park is an almost completely level 1-mile loop through some impressive trees. This is one of the best easy redwood hikes. More challenging at 3½ miles round trip, the Tall Trees Grove Trail is accessible with a free permit from the visitor center north of Orick. Get your permit in the morning to hike through a cathedral of trees and ferns. The permit system keeps this grove quiet and largely unknown.

The Fern Canyon Trail in nearby Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park follows a creek for one-third mile up a lush canyon.

To the south, an easy loop in Humboldt Redwoods State Park leads to the Giant Tree -- 363 feet tall with a 52-foot circumference -- and many other impressive specimens. At just over a mile in length, the easy loop is accessible to just about anyone. At the southern edge of the county, Sinkyone Wilderness State Park offers hiking trails along coastal bluffs and beaches and is one of the gateways to the unforgettable Lost Coast, a 35 mile stretch of rugged coastline bypassed by the highway. The entire distance can be backpacked or enjoyed with short day hikes.

Scenic Drives

Highway 101 winds through redwoods for much of its north-south journey through Humboldt County. To get even closer to the trees in the southern part of the county, take the old highway, now known as the Avenue of the Giants. You can get out of the car for a hike or a closer look at dozens of spots along this 30-mile detour. From this road you can also cut through Humboldt Redwoods State Park on Mattole Road. At the village of Honeydew, turn north towards Petrolia for a scenic drive around Cape Mendocino on a little-traveled county road. Far from 101, this is one of the best coastal drives in the country. The road eventually passes through Ferndale and rejoins 101 south of Eureka.

To the north, the Bald Hills Road through Redwood National Park climbs to some impressive views of the coastal mountains. Although unpaved for part of its distance, this route is passable in any car in good weather. The nearby Nelson B. Drury Scenic Parkway is the northern part of the county's equivalent of the Avenue of the Giants.

Other Attractions

Other recreational opportunities are nearly endless. With beaches, horseback riding, rivers, and both ocean and freshwater fishing, it's an outdoor paradise. Massive Roosevelt Elk may be seen at the Elk Meadow north of Orick on 101 and Elk Meadow on Davison Road in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. For more information, the Humboldt County Convention and Visitors Bureau (www.redwoods.info; (707) 443-5097) is a great resource. You can also check with Redwood National Park (www.nps.gov/redw; (707) 465-7335) and the area's many state parks.

Adam Blauert can be reached at adamblauert@yahoo.com.

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