California Hiking Vacation

January 29, 2009 by  

By Chris Hustad

Hiking trails unlike any other

Hiking trails unlike any other

I  took my first step out of our rented Jeep Cherokee, onto a small, gravel parking area off of a back road in the mountains. The redwoods surrounding us gave off an unfamiliar but refreshing scent. In the distance we could hear the rushing sounds of a mountain creek, flowing heavily from the spring snow melt on this 90-degree day. We were anxious to begin a 6-mile trek through the forests and mountains of the Redwood National Forest. All the months of planning and preparing were finally becoming a reality, yet I still had no idea what awaited us in the tunnel to the west. This would be the start of the best hiking vacation I’ve had to date.

It was the later part of May, and our party of 4 had descended into the Trinity River Valley, in northern California. The Trinity River Valley is notorious for the gold rush during early western expansion, and today boasts one of the best trout and salmon fisheries anywhere. We had planned on camping for 7 days, just steps off the river and within striking distance of more hiking trails than we could walk in a year. More specifically, we stayed in the Bigfoot Campgrounds, just west of Junction City, Calfornia; right off HW 299 (between Redding, CA and Eureka, CA).

A hiking vacation full of trees

A hiking vacation full of trees

A stop at the Forestry Department office in Weaverville, will give you access to all the maps and information you’ll need for a hiking vacation in northern California. The maps are detailed, and there are lists available describing each trail; most importantly, what experience level and what you’ll experience along the way. If you want to make the most of a California hiking vacation, you’ll want to pick different trails that have different types of terrain. Here are the specific trails we chose for this one of a kind, hiking vacation.

Our first few days were spent up Canyon Creek road, going north out of Junction City, just off of HW 299. There are various trailheads off of the road, they are specifically marked. The most notable trail, would have to be the Canyon Creek trail itself, at the very

This is the log we had to cross on the trail

This is the log we had to cross on the trail

end of Canyon Creek road. The trail is on the hiking guide as one for novices, but I would disagree. I’ve hiked many trails in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, Montana and Wyoming, and this ranked up there with some of the moderate to expert trails there. The trail starts with an easy walk through the Redwood forest until you reach a fast moving mountain creek. Just days prior to our arrival, they experienced heavy rain. This caused fast currents and high water levels. As a result, a small creek that would normally be a few hops across was now to wide to attempt. Luckily (or I’m assuming on purpose), there was a log that went across just 10 feet off the trail. I have to admit, it was intimidating as a small slip would result in your body being tossed through the rocks at a vicious rate. My buddy Scott Terning, shows you just how it’s done.

Canyon Creek

Canyon Creek

After a a few minutes of adrenaline, we began our trek uphill, deep into the redwood forest. This part of the trail goes for a couple of miles and is a very enjoyable stretch. We stopped for many waterfalls and breathtaking mountain views along the way. One must be aware of their surroundings in this part of the country. There are many animals and reptiles which can make things interesting. There are bears in the area, and we saw one up the mountain from our campsite. Fortunately, we didn’t experience any on the trails. We did, however, come across a rattlesnake right off the trail. My wife came along a trail and was frozen by the sound of it’s rattling. This slowed us down for the rest of the journey, and caused us to be more observant of the trail ahead.

Amazing mountain hiking

Amazing mountain hiking

Soon enough, we were at a high enough elevation that the trees started to thin out, and we were going up steep cliffs off of the mountains. This isn’t for those with a fear of heights, although the trail is safe, a couple wrong steps could mean your fate. But the views were nothing short of fantastic and each corner seemed to outdo the last.

At this point we were thirsty for more, what else does this trail have to offer? Around the next mountain greeted us to a spectacular view of an unspoiled mountain lake. The water sparkled from the sunlight and I couldn’t wait soon enough to dive in on this hot, spring day.

Hidden mountain lakes

Hidden mountain lakes

At this point, we’d reached our turnaround point and we moved at a quicker pace down the mountain back to the trailhead. It was just the right time too, as we were running low on water.

This day offered everything we could’ve hoped for in a hiking vacation, I couldn’t wait for the next part of our trip.

The other part of northern California you can’t miss, is the sector north of Eureka, in the Redwood National Forest. The Redwood National Forest is like none you’ll ever come across. The forest has some of the tallest trees in the world, the trees sheer size feels impossible by nature’s standards, but yet there they are. We also spent some time in Prairie Creek State Forest.

Just like in Star Wars, but real

Just like in Star Wars, but real

You may have heard of it’s history with the movie Star Wars. In “Return of the Jedi”, this is where they filmed the scene on Endor (remember the Ewoks?). The forest itself makes you feel small. The bases of some of these trees may be 20-30 feet across (maybe more?), and they towered hundreds of feet into the air. The park holds large heards of elk, many feeding just a hundred feet from our parked vehicle without a care in the world. The trails here are in very good shape, and there are an assortment of shorter trails for those who’d like to get a taste of everything the park has to offer. If you’re looking into a California hiking vacation, you can’t pass this park up.

Collecting thoughts

Collecting thoughts

Down the road, there is a lot to offer at Patrick’s Point right on the coast of the Pacific Ocean. We spent most of our time here out of the forests, and around the coast. If all you’re interested in on the coast is laying on the beach, no problem, there’s plenty of that here. There are miles of beaches which we found to be empty from others, unlike any beaches you’ll find in southern California. At the end of the day I spent a lot of time just staring off a cliff into the setting sun, this is something that should be a part of every hiking vacation.

Without a doubt, this was a hiking trip I’ll remember. The people are great, the atmosphere is relaxing and every mile has a view that you can’t get any other place. If you’re looking into a hiking vacation, especially in California, don’t pass on the chance to experience the Trinity River Valley. Oh ya, and bring lots of film. 

Yes, the tree is that big

Yes, the tree is that big


Comments

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!





Human Verification: In order to verify that you are a human and not a spam bot, please enter the answer into the following box below based on the instructions contained in the graphic.


*