Five Must-Do Adventures Where the Redwoods Meet the Ocean
If you’re looking for hidden California, a place where quiet swaths of lapping ocean tumble into extraordinary tidepools and stunning rock formations off shore; where low tide reveals an island-bound lighthouse that yes you can trod over those rocks and visit; and finally where thousand year old redwood trees breach the sky and make you feel the power and enormous presence of nature; then:
You are ready to visit California’s northwestern most outpost: Crescent City.
Now to be clear, Crescent City of Del Norte County is not the place to visit if you’re looking for big city excitement. Its quaint downtown was breached by a tsunami in 1964 and largely washed to sea. A smaller tsunami in 2011 rocked its harbor as well. So today, large greenways, dog parks and paths rule the area where the downtown used to be – a smart preventative measure to ensure people and places stay safely out of nature’s destructive way.
But don’t be fooled by the quiet and low-key town; it is the gateway to some of the West Coast’s most beautiful beaches – and the most stunning groves of Redwood trees this side of heaven.
Here’s a quick round up of five favorite adventures that have lured people from around the world, brought movie makers* to town and hopefully will play host to you one day.
New Trail: The Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation, the indigenous peoples of this area, and Redwood National and State Parks have just opened Xaa-yuu-chit Tes-dvm, which translates to High-Status-Stream/River Trail. Just under one mile, it is pet, pedestrian and bike friendly and sure to be a favored jaunt for those seeking redwoods, beauty and a more accessible experience.
Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park: Ok, so this is a bit of cheating. With over 5,500 acres of trees and seven percent of the world’s total population of old growth redwoods, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park is a plethora of trails – from the easy walk of Stout Grove to the more ambitious almost 8-miles of stunning views that comprises Boy Scout Tree Trailhead. There are several cabins available for rent and you’ll probably bump into a friendly volunteer bubbling over with information on all things redwood.
Battery Point Lighthouse: Completed in 1856, this beautiful Cape Code style lighthouse is now volunteer-run and is a steadfast survivor of the region’s 1964 tsunami. Visitors can walk to the wonderfully maintained residence and lighthouse, which is perched on a small island during low tide. A heads up – dogs are not allowed and mind the tide, there’s no boat service back and that hundred yards back to shore can be awfully soggy once the water rolls in. The views are beautiful and in post-pandemic times, tours of the lighthouse are available. Charming and a great way to enjoy a picnic or an ocean view or watch some whales swim by.
Enderts Beach: For those who love the Redwoods, but for whom the salt and sand calls, this spot is for you. Enderts’ Beach and its easy stroll to tide pools, dramatic cliffs and quiet serenity, it is a must-experience for those who enjoy walking a sandy beach. Just a short drive off Highway 101, an expanse of sand and sea on the south end of Crescent City.
The last pick: Everything.
Sigh. This makes no sense, right? But, the City of Crescent City is a disheveled place that somehow pulls you in with a quiet charm. Maybe it’s the Saturday Market in the Harbor, where the chief cookie maker of Glenn’s cookies (a favorite for well over 40 years) is busy serving up bags of Busy Mamas and White Macadamia Chocolate Chip cookies fresh from the oven. Or it could be the volunteer run art gallery in the harbor, where sweet-faced, grandmotherly types will have you buying half the well-priced store’s artistic stock before you know what hit you. Maybe it’s the Port o’ Pints micro pub, where locals gather and the owner’s wife will make sure you know her engineer husband created all the award-winning brews himself. It could be the fun and camaraderie of outdoor fires and cornhole games at the local Seaquake pub or the kites being flown on the beach. It’s not New York by any means, but maybe that’s just the point.
But where to stay?
So, this is a bit awkward. There are absolutely hotels and motels here and most of them are just fine. Not fancy, and will put a roof over your head and a bed under your back. But…maybe it’s the majesty of those redwoods or the frothiness of those micropub beers but…simple and functional may not be what you want at the end of a day of great nature, sips and food.
The place to stay
One well-reviewed option that has been coined “the place to stay” by one happy visitor is The Getaway – an eclectic, cozy and oh-so-charming vacation rental house that will easily sleep four. With a deep jacuzzi bathtub and sleek wood stove, The Getaway offers comfort and respite for road and trail-weary travelers. To add to the charm, the ranch-style bungalow is awash in hand-finished details: bamboo flooring, hand-turned cedar vaulted ceilings and wood trim, and an eclectic mix of things to amuse the kid in all of us: record player with vintage vinyl, a Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em robot game (ask your mother), martini fixing kit and a xeriscaped garden that is designed with native plants and sustainability in mind – and gives a pleasing sense of escaping into nature. An outdoor firepit in the backyard and a BBQ plus fully stocked kitchen may even entice you to cozy up and stay in, curled into a fleecy blanket with a beverage and some cool tunes to keep you entertained.
So, if you’re ready to explore the northernmost treasures of California and discover a quieter pace and the awe-inspiring wonder of towering redwoods, think about booking a “Getaway” stay and seeing the wonders of the wild northern California coast and the grandeur of this inspiring nature for yourself.
*Crescent City-located movies and film projects:
Star Wars, Return of the Jedi
Jurassic Park, the Lost World
E.T. the Extra Terrestrial
Disney’s A Wrinkle in Time
Bird Box with Sandra Bullock