Western Trips

Western Trips

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Redwood National Park / Northern California

giant redwood tree
Giant redwood tree
Redwood National Park is one of our most unique National Park that any list of western trip destinations must include it. The native people of California's northern coast called the redwood area home for thousands of years.

 Traditional homes of the region's Native Americans usually were built using planks split from fallen redwoods. Today, Redwood National Park, which was officially established in 1968, is really a string of lands which are operated by both the state and federal government and in this fascinating setting you'll find some of the world's tallest trees. Some redwood trees are actually five stories higher than the Statue of Liberty. Redwood National Park can really be called Redwoods National Park since there are several adjoining parks all together.

The Redwood Tree

One of the mysteries of the redwood tree is it's root system. The root system of the redwood tree is very shallow, especially when you consider the great height the mature tree attains. There is no tap root and the other roots may only go down six to twelve feet. The major roots are about 1 inch in diameter. and they typically span 50 to 80 feet. The redwood can live an astounding 2000 years, can weigh up to 500 tons, and reach over 350 feet in height. There is no other tree on earth with these type dimensions.

redwood tree trunk
An enormous redwood tree trunk
The north coast of California is an ideal place for redwoods to grow and flourish. Areas of moderate summer temperatures, no freezing, lots of winter precipitation and fog are ideal locales for redwoods and fairly accurately describes the northern California coast.

This area of California receives an average of 70 inches of precipitation per year with 90% of it during the period between October and April. These are the California monsoon months. During the summer months rain is almost nonexistent. Speaking of water, a 200 foot redwood tree with a trunk 5 feet in diameter holds about 34,000 pounds of water.

Another few interesting facts about the redwood is that the oldest trees are not necessarily the oldest and the trees needles on the lower part of the tree are different than those on the upper portion.

Redwood National and State Park

One very popular activity in Redwood National and State Park is hiking. In fact, California National Parks offer some of the best hiking trails found in North America. If you enjoy hiking you'll absolutely love this park. Several scenic trails are there for the hiking.

The Redwood National Park and the smaller state parks that surround it have over 200 miles of hiking trails covering an elevation change of over 3,000 feet. The Lost Man Creek Trail is one of the favorites. This strenuous ten mile groomed trail takes you on a former logging road with steep grades and switchbacks in the southern portion of the park. You'll cross Lost Man Creek on a bridge affording excellent views of the stream below. Mature redwood trees line most of this hike. To access Lost Man Creek Trail, find the marked trail head at the Lost Man Creek Picnic Area on Lost Man Creek Road, or a second access point on Bald Hills Road.

stand of redwood trees
Sunlight creeps in through the redwoods
Another fun trail in the Redwoods National Parks is the Rellim Ridge Trail. This trail crosses through the northern side of Redwood National Park and the Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. The 4.3-mile trail has two trail heads. The south trail head is past the gate on Hamilton Road, and the north trail head is just past the west end of Howland Hill Road. The moderate hike is not steep but there are several non-level grades. After you climb to the ridge you'll have a great view of the Crescent City California harbor.

A perfect trail for novice hikers is the flat Crescent Beach Section in the Coastal Trail section of the park. This 3.5-mile trail is almost entirely flat and great for a family hike. The trail ends at a beach, where hikers can search for shells or walk along the water. Some hikers view Roosevelt elk grazing in the prairie areas next to the beach.. Access the trailhead at the Crescent Beach picnic area on Enderts Beach Road.

Campers will note that all of the camping sites in Redwood National Park are operated by the state. There are four developed campgrounds but without trailer hookups. Bear precautions need to be adhered to at all campgrounds. Food and scented items, such as toothpaste need to be kept either in the trunk of your car or in metal food containers. Bear proof canister are available to borrow from information centers.

Visiting Redwood National Park

Getting to Redwood National Park and the State Parks is easy by driving US Hwy 101 from either the San Francisco Bay Area or from Oregon. Orick California is the southern gateway to the Redwood National and State Parks. U.S. Hwy 101 runs right through the middle of Orick. The northern gateway to the park is Crescent City California near the Oregon border. Crescent City is also where you'll find lodging at a variety of rates. Something to fit just about every budget.

As with almost all National Parks, you'll be able to enjoy interpretive programs. These programs cover everything from trees to tide pools. Be sure to check at park headquarters for the schedules of campfire programs and other activities throughout the year as well.These are some of the fun things that make a trip to Redwood such a great family getaway and educational as well. 

While in northern California you may also want to explore the historic Lava Beds National Monument and the story of the Modoc Indians as well as the Luther Burbank Home and Gardens in Santa Rosa, about 60 miles north of San Francisco. 

(Article and photos copyright Western Trips)

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