32 FUN and FREE Things to Do Along California’s Redwood Coast

There aren’t many things that are both fun and free today, especially when it comes to a top travel destination like Northern California. However, we are proud and happy to share that there are a plethora of free things to do. Here are 32 fun and free things to do along California’s Redwood Coast. 

Northern California is unlike any other part of the nation with its miles-long stretch of rugged and winding coastline against a backdrop of tree-topped mountainous terrain. This neck of the woods is wild and remote – a true nature-lover’s paradise. Whether you are fortunate enough to be a Northern California resident, or are traveling here for a much-needed vacation, take advantage of these fun and free things to do for the perfect California getaway.

Winding road through the giant redwood forest

SCENIC DRIVES

1. Avenue of the Giants – This 31-mile section of old Highway 101 is world-renowned. Surrounded by the Humboldt Redwoods State Park, you will be driving through the world’s largest remaining grove of virgin redwoods (tallest trees on the planet) with lots of sight-seeing along the way. Download a map, pack your bags, and hit the road. 

2. Lost Coast – Just imagine… mountain roads, coastal views, rocky cliffs, beautiful wildflowers (in the spring), and pure unadulterated wilderness. The Lost Coast is both a journey and a destination. So make sure you pack your binoculars to see wildlife up close, and your camera to capture the memories.

3. Newton B. Drury Parkway – This all-inclusive road welcomes bicycles, motorcycles, and cars. Located in the heart of Prairie Creek State Park, you will literally drive past thousands of acres of old-growth redwood forests. Unfortunately, due to over-logging, the world has lost 95% of its redwood trees, which is why this parkway and Avenue of the Giants are so special. They are the two largest places in the world to see so many ancient redwoods together. The parkway offers several well-marked trails and pullouts so you can venture out of your car (or off your bike) to take it all in. 

4. Redwood Highway, Eureka – This dramatic portion of Highway 101 located between southern Humboldt County and Crescent City, is one of the most scenic drives in Northern California. The two-hour winding drive will take you through groves of towering redwoods, past area parks, through quaint historic towns, and near roadside attractions that are worth a stop. Fill up your tank ahead of time and plan for a leisurely drive as most of the highway is two lanes with lots of curves and no shoulders. Cell service is spotty, so be sure to bring an old-fashioned paper map with you in case you lose access to mobile navigation.

Woman hiker stopping and staring up at the giant redwood trees

HIKING

5. Lady Bird Johnson Grove Trail – Located in Redwood National Park, this historically significant route is a level, one-mile loop and features old-growth redwood, douglas fir, tan oak, and springtime azaleas and rhododendrons. A walk in the fall will offer a view of maple’s vibrant autumn hues.  

6. Lost Coast Trail – Located on the Lost Coast at Black Sands Beach, the 24.6-mile Lost Coast Trail offers one of the few coastal wilderness trails in the United States. Discover exceptional wildlife sightings, awe-inspiring views, and unforgettable memories. Hike it all in 3 days and camp along the way, or enjoy a day hike before heading back to The Redwood Riverwalk Hotel for a good night’s rest. 

7. Redwood National & State Parks – Walk, bike or horseback ride to your heart’s content along 200 miles of trails. You will never forget the experience of encountering champion redwood species that tower over 370 feet in height (that’s five stories taller than the Statue of Liberty).

8. Trillium Falls Hike – This 2.8-mile trail climbs 440 feet and circles through a remnant strip of old-growth redwoods, offering stunning views of waterfalls and nature.

Sandy and rocky beach with winding shore along Redwood Coast CA

PARKS, NATURAL AREAS & BEACHES

9. Arcata Community Forest – Home to California’s first municipally-owned forest, here you’ll find 1,025 acres of second-growth redwoods, a network of trails for hiking and biking, and a plethora of wildlife. Be sure to bring your camera and binoculars.

10. Black Sands Beach – You’ll love exploring this unique and picturesque beach that features black sand and 3.5 miles of coastline. Check tide and surf conditions before visiting.

11. Clam Beach County Park – Adjacent to Little River State Beach and offering access to Hammond Trail, this Humboldt County park offers visitors an opportunity to enjoy beach combing, clamming, horseback riding, and wildlife viewing.

12. College Cove – Located in the north part of Trinidad State Beach, you’ll find College Cove Beach, a more secluded spot for sunbathing, photography, surfing and just enjoying nature. At low tide, walk through “The Portal,” a rock arch that separates the two beaches. The area also offers several hiking trails. 

13. Fort Humboldt State Historic Park – Military buffs and history lovers will enjoy visiting this historic, remote military post. Located on a bluff overlooking Humboldt Bay, the post was once home to young Captain Ulysses S. Grant. The Fort was abandoned in 1870 and fell into decay. Only the hospital building remains today and is dedicated to telling the story of the Fort and the local Native American tribes, including the Wiyot, Hoopa and Yurok.

14. Headwaters Forest Reserve – This 7,472-acre reserve was established to protect the world’s last unprotected, intact, old-growth redwood forest ecosystem. The reserve is home to several threatened species, such as the coho salmon, northern spotted owl, and marbled murrelet. You’ll find two public trails: 1) the Elk River Trail meanders along the South Fork Elk River for 3 miles, with a 2-mile ascent to a short loop through an old-growth redwood forest; 2) the Salmon Pass Trail is only accessible via a guided tour. You’ll pass through both old-growth and second-growth redwood forest and learn about redwood forest ecology.

15. Humboldt Bay – Recreational opportunities abound around Humboldt Bay. Hiking, bird watching, boating, kayaking, windsurfing, fishing, clamming and more.

16. Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge – The name says it all. Humboldt Bay is home to over 260 species of birds, 95 species of fish, 50 species of mammals, 20 species of reptiles and amphibians, countless invertebrates, and 220 species of native plants, making it a must-see when visiting the Redwood Coast.

17. Humboldt Lagoons State Park – This state park is part of the largest lagoon system in the US. Located on the sandy, windswept edge of the forest and the Pacific, you’ll find a rich, marshland habitat for plants, birds, and other wildlife. Enjoy hiking, paddling, swimming, and fishing. The 6-mile long beach offers plenty of room for bird watching or whale watching.

18. Luffenholtz Beach Park – Located in Humboldt County Park, Luffenholtz Beach is stunning with a winding coastline, rocky outcroppings, and scenic bluff. You’ll definitely want to take pictures. 

19. Mad River Beach County Park – Known as one of the best beaches on the Redwood Coast for beach combing, fishing and picnics, you’ll admire the coastal dunes and grasses as you stroll along the beach or hike around the dunes.

20. Moonstone Beach County ParkMoonstone is a beautiful beach that offers hidden caves to explore at lower tides, surfing, and swimming during the summer months.

21. Redwoods National & State Parks – Home to hills, rivers, coastline and forests that feature the tallest trees in the world, these parks protect almost half of the planet’s old growth redwoods. Wildlife that also call this place home includes elk, whales, seals and seasonal wildflowers, like lupine and rhododendron.

22. Samoa Dunes Recreation Area – Located west of Eureka, Samoa Dunes was once a seasonal food-gathering site for the Wiyote Indians, and then a Coast Guard surveillance outpost during World War II. Today, this multi-recreational park provides plenty of space for hiking, beachcombing, fishing, bird watching, surfing, boating and off-roading.

23. Sequoia Park Garden – This 67-acre garden is located next to the Sequoia Park Zoo and was “donated to the City of Eureka in 1894 by Bartlin and Henrietta Glatt as the last large stand of redwood trees in the city.” You’ll find beautiful dahlias and many other colorful flowers, a wishing well, gazebo seating area, and over a mile of accessible asphalt paved trails.

24. Trinidad State Beach – The views are worth the short trek to Trinidad State Beach. You’ll briefly walk through the woods, across open bluffs, and past seasonal wildflowers to get to this gorgeous beach. Visiting during low tide is recommended. Pack a picnic to enjoy lunch on the high bluffs above the beach where you’ll find an open meadow and stands of alders.

Downtown Ferndale CA with 19th century Victorian-style buildings

POINTS OF INTEREST

25. EurekaEureka is the county seat of Humboldt County, a world-renowned travel destination. In addition to the towering redwoods, Eureka offers visitors and residents alike plenty to see and do: admire unique Victorian architecture, discover creative artistic culture, shop one-of-a-kind shops, dine at local restaurants, and visit many artisanal businesses.

26. Ferndale – Take a step back in time as you stroll the downtown streets of this charming Victorian Village, which has become a haven for artists and creative people. Discover quaint cottages, magnificent  “Butterfat Palaces,” well-preserved Victorian era architecture, and stunning coastal scenery.

27. Fernbridge Historic Bridge – Located in Ferndale, the Fernbridge Historic Bridge is the longest, functional poured concrete bridge in operation in the world! Built in 1911 and measuring 1,320 feet long, this impressive bridge has withstood numerous floods on the Eel River.

28. FortunaFortuna is known as “The Friendly City in the Redwood Forest,” and is home to The Redwood Hotel. Fortuna’s history, both recent and ancient, is still very much alive in the charming downtown streets and surrounding redwood forests.

29. McKinleyville Totem Pole – In 1961, Ernest Pierson and John Nelson carved this giant totem pole from one 500-year-old redwood tree. It stands 160 feet tall, weighs 57,000 pounds, and sits on a two-ton base. 

30. Notable Giant Redwoods

  • The Immortal Tree – This 1,000-year old tree has withstood the test of time, including lightning, fires, floods, and even man. While driving along the Avenue of Giants, be sure to stop and pay homage to this natural and impressive symbol of immortality. 
  • Big Tree – Boasting a circumference of almost 70 feet, this 1,500-year-old redwood tree is affectionately called “Big Tree,” and is awe-inspiring to say the least. Located in Redwood National & State Parks on the Prairie Creek Scenic Parkway, it’s the perfect spot for a selfie.
  • Discover more must-see redwoods.

31. Trinidad Memorial Lighthouse – The Trinidad Memorial Lighthouse, located in Seascape Harbor, was built in 1949 as a replica of the 1871 original. This 25-foot concrete lighthouse is a monument today for those who were lost or buried at sea..

32. The Redwood Riverwalk Hotel’s FREE Amenities – During your visit to Humboldt County, CA, book a stay at The Redwood Riverwalk Hotel in Fortuna. We offer many free amenities to enhance your stay, including WiFi, parking, breakfast, and an indoor swimming pool with a large, redwood mural. Inside each guest room you’ll also enjoy a flat-screen TV with HBO, microwave, single-cup coffee maker, and eco-friendly spa-grade toiletries. It’s a win-win. Book your stay today and enjoy the many fun and free things to do along California’s Redwood Coast.

Redwood Riverwalk Hotel indoor swimming pool with redwood forest mural

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