View Full Version : Redwood NP in early April?

Terence McDonagh
26-Feb-2006, 09:38
I'm heading to San Francisco for the second weekend in April and am looking to travel up north for the week before and head back south through Sonoma. I have been to Yosemite in March before and was looking for a new destination. Redwood NP up north has long been on my "to do" list. Having never been further north than Stewart Beach, what can I expect this time of year regarding weather, etc? I've found reports of everything from cold and rainy/snowy to cool and sunny, so I know any answer would be somewhat generalized. And a little rain or fog doesn't bother me.

Regarding Redwood NP specifically, I'll be travelling with a non-camping friend. Are there plenty of good day-hiking trails(10-12 miles total roundtrip), or would it be a waste of time without camping? Can anyone suggest a good trail guide? Most of the stuff in the local B&N is usually useless.

As much as I'd like to lug the 8x20, this will be a 4x5 and medium format trip. I'm looking for general coastal scenery, historic buildings and bridges, and of course, big trees.

Any suggestions and advice are greatly appreciated.

Eric Woodbury
26-Feb-2006, 11:27
There are plenty of hikes. You have Redwood NP, Smith River, state parks, beaches. A few years back the family and I did 3 weeks up there and did pretty well.

Camping means different things to different people, but April can be pretty soggy. NorCal has had some pretty good rain this year. After that comes the fog. Redwood trees like water. If you meant tent camping, it would be wet. In a van or something similar would be fine. Plenty of little motels about, too. Sometimes it is hard to leave a warm motel for a soggy forest.

If the webbing starts to grow between your fingers and toes, just drive away from the coast 10 miles and it will go away. Have fun.

Ralph Barker
26-Feb-2006, 12:25
I took the drive you're talking about a couple of years ago, Terence. You'll find a reasonable number of motels within a reasonable driving distance from areas you'll want to shoot in. And, after spending a night or two in SF, you'll find the prices very reasonable. If you're thinking about introducing your friend to camping in the state parks, I'd suggest calling ahead to make sure the campgrounds are open. The CA parks were operating on a curtailed schedule due to budget constraints when I was there, and the state Web site can't be trusted in that respect. As Eric mentioned, weather in the Redwoods and the North Coast area can be rather variable. So, take rain wear for you and your cameras.

Like many NPs, Redwood NP was intended for, but not designed for cars. The roads are a bit narrow, and I found many places I wanted to stop, but couldn't because there were no pull-outs for miles. The areas within the parks proper, however, have parking, and offer plenty to photograph within walking distance. I'd suggest including Patrick's Point and the logging town of Arcadia in your plans.


Patrick's Point in the early-morning fog

Jay DeFehr
26-Feb-2006, 12:38

that's beautiful, soggy country. Take your rain gear. If you make the trip, do yourself a favor and drive a few miles north into my old hometown of Brookings, OR, and have the world's greatest biscuits and gravy, at the Chetco Cafe.


John Kasaian
26-Feb-2006, 21:50
Not the place to go if you or your friend get car sick easily, other than that its great! Expect wet, but wet can make good photos. Lots of nice little motels. If you're in the area, breakfast at the Samoa Cook House is an experience. If you luck out and get spring weather, check out the Chandelier Tree---very touristy but head for the meadow behind the gift shop---something like 40 acres of pure wild mint grows there. Its the closest thing I know of to "nasal sex" ;-) Theres also a beach (Elk Beach?) where there is a herd of elk that comes down to graze in the adjoining meadow. Absolutely glorious.

Plenty of opportunities for wine tasteing too.

I think it was Mendocino that I found to be a bit scary--- statue of a demon of some sort holding a child by the hair with one hand and a big knife in the other hand as I recall overlooks the town. The locals were quite proud of it, but it gives me the "willys" just thinking about it. I think its on top of a bank building---perhaps it honors a collections agent?

OTOH Fort Bragg has great seafood and the Skunk Line.

Check with Caltrans to make sure the roads are open if its been a stormin'.

Have a great trip!

Jeff Conrad
27-Feb-2006, 01:31
I've never been to Redwood NP before mid-May, but I would expect it to be a
bit damp in April. Fog usually is preferable for redwoods because the
contrast can be pretty nasty otherwise. For me, the highlight always has
been the rhododendrons, which unfortunately don't usually bloom until early
June. You might find a few rhodies blooming in Kruse Rhododendron Reserve
just north of Salt Point.

I've only done a few trails in Redwood: Lady Bird Johnson grove, very
short, and Tall Trees, which leads to the world's tallest tree. You need a
permit (first come, first served) for the latter, but it should be easy to
get in April by simply stopping by the visitors' center near Orick. I
actually prefer Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, just to the North, which
has many trails of whatever length you want. The Fern Canyon trail can be
interesting, and the road to it passes through a beachside campground where
elk commonly walk up to your car (a bit closer than I prefer, actually).
There also are herds of elk near Prairie Creek headquarters, but I'm not
sure when they are out. I'll second Ralph's suggestion of Patrick's point.

California SR 1 from Marin City to the north terminus at U.S. 101 near
Legget is a bit twisty, but if you've been to Stewart's Point you have a
good idea what it's like. The road never has bothered me, but I've run
into folks who were so terrified that they said they never would take it
again. I'd recommend SR 1 for one leg and U.S. 101 for the other. Some
parts of Humboldt Redwoods State Park on along the Avenue of the Giants
Highway (California SR 254, parallel to U.S. 101) are quite nice.

There are interesting buildings in Elk, Mendocino, Ferndale, and Eureka,
and arguably in many other small towns on Highway 1; the Carson House in
Eureka (now a private club) and the "Pink Lady" across the street probably
are the best known. The Trinidad lighthouse also may be worth a look.

The Mendocino Coast Botanical
Gardens (http://www.gardenbythesea.org/) between Mendocino and Fort Bragg are worth a stop if you enjoy
such things.

For lodging, I usually stay near Salt Point, Fort Bragg, Eureka, and Orick.
I tend to do it on the cheap; your tastes may differ. You won't find haute
cuisine in Orick, but Rolf's (about two miles north) can be quite good.
Avoid Mendocino for lodging unless you're prepared to lay down some serious
cash. I've often stayed in Garberville on U.S. 101.

Terence McDonagh
27-Feb-2006, 10:05
Thanks folks.

To me camping is backcountry camping. Although I live in NYC, I make it out west a couple times of year to recharge the brain.

Jeff, I'm with you. I prefer cheaper hotels as all I do is sleep there. Up at dawn and out until after dark. If my buddy wasn't coming I'd probably car camp. Unfortunately, although a great photographer, he's a city guy through and through. As for haute cuisine, I'm a simple meat-and-potatoes guy, but love wine (the Irish in me, I guess).

John, the twisty roads are not a problem, although I know exactly what you mean. My first trip up the coast almost put me over the cliff a few times. My girlfriend didn't talk to me for almost a whole day. Almost made wish I'd gone a little faster and gotten another day of silence out of it. Hindsight's 20-20.

I just order a Sierra Club trail guide for the coast that looks pretty good. Anyone have any other trail guide recommendations?