Road Trip Diary: Discovering the Wonders of California’s Redwood National Forest

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On the sixth and seventh days of our family road trip we traveled north from Sonoma to Crescent City, California in order to visit the Redwood National Forest. I had always assumed the Redwood National Forest was one big national park just like Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon but in reality it’s called the Redwood National and State Parks because it is comprised of several federal and state parks. The redwood trees themselves, many of which tower more than 340 feet tall, are exclusive treasures of California because of they can only grow in the moist, foggy climate of northern California. According to Wikipedia, coastal temperatures in the region between Sonoma and the Oregon/California border “generally range between 40 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit (4–15 °C) all year round, while further from the coast summers are hotter and drier, and winters are colder.[37] Redwoods mostly grow a mile or two (1.5–3 km) from the coast, but never more than 50 miles (80 km) from it. In this temperate but humid coastal zone, the trees receive moisture from both heavy winter rains and persistent summer fog. The presence and consistency of the summer fog is actually more important to overall health of the trees than heavy precipitation.” 

The redwoods are peculiar not just for their size and the way they grow but also because they are very resilient.  The composition of their wood makes them imperious to termites and other bugs and they are also fire resistant.  One of the most fascinating things about them is that some of these trees have massive branches that are as large and tall as other large trees.

In order to get the most from our time in the Redwood Country this is what we did and highly recommend:

Drive from Sonoma to Crescent City: the trip from Sonoma to Crescent City is one of the Top 10 most beautiful drives we’ve ever done in the United States.

The most striking part of the drive is that the trees are so tall they seem like an endless stream of emerald skyscrapers, many of which have been around for more than 2,000 years.  On our way to Crescent City we pit stopped in Legget to visit the rare drive-thru Chandelier Tree of its Drive-Thru Tree Park.  The Chandelier Tree, a redwood, is one of only three living trees in the world that let you do that.  (Yes, we drove the PapiMobile, a 2014 Chevy Traverse, through the tree).

Mystery of the Trees: A second major highlight of our journey into Redwood Country was the Trees of Mystery and Sky Trail park.  Located a short drive south of Crescent City, Mystery of the Trees is a can’t miss, privately owned family attraction that features some of the coolest Redwoods in the world.

There are many interesting trees in this park but my favorite was the Cathedral Tree, a group of trees that grew up together next to each other and that share the same genetic code because they came from a fallen stump.  We completed our journey to this park with a ride aboard the star attraction of Mystery of the Trees, the Sky Trail ride.  The Sky Trail is a 7 to 9 minute ride in an enclosed six passenger gondola through the redwood forest canopy and up into a large observation deck that offers spectacular views of the Klamath back country and more.  The Sky Trail gondola was also the scene for a fun prank I played on my son Jonathan.  If you missed it, here it is again:

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park: On our way to Mt. Shasta, we pit stopped for some light hiking at the Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park where we hiked into a gorgeous, peaceful grove of redwoods that just left all of us speechless.  As we snapped photo after photo my wife and I kept saying that the photos would look so inadequate to what we were seeing.  If you make it to Jedediah – or to any of the redwood parks – be sure to program time for river bathing, fishing or picnicking.  It’s the biggest regret of our trip so far.  

BONUS Scenic Point US 101: There is no name or location marking for this point of interest but approximately 12 miles south of Crescent City is a stunning, rocky beach that is a MUST VISIT site for you and/or your family.  We’ve traveled through their twice with the kids and each time they’ve promised that they just want to walk along the edge of the water.  Each time they end up soaking in the rough waters and playing in the sand.  If you visit late in the day, you’ll notice that fog tends to creep into the beach late in the day to give it a mysterious but very pretty look.   This is a can’t miss place.  Look at these photos and see why we love this beach so much.

Paying It Forward with State Farm

Along our road trip you may notice that our family are doing some Good Neighbor, random acts of kindness to complete strangers courtesy of our top sponsor State Farm.  One of the first people we had a chance to bless today was an actual State Farm customer Mark , a tiler who we encountered at a small town diner near Jedediah State Park.  Here’s a quick photo we took with him and our mascot from State Farm, Rover.

Road Tripping Advice (Sponsored by State Farm)Be absolutely militant about where you will consistently keep your car keys.  We ALMOST lost our keys in the middle of the Redwood Forest and that would have spelled absolute disaster for us on our vacation, especially because we’ve been traveling through small towns and remote locations in California and it would have easily taken a day or more to replace them.

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