Note: As of 2022 both Fern Canyon (May 1st – Sep 30th) and Tall Trees Grove (year around) now require permits to visit. Both must be obtained online only and at least 24 hours in advance. Click the links below to access the National Park Service website for permits.
Redwoods & Attractions
Take to your bicycle, and cruise the quiet coastal roads, which overlook miles upon miles of unspoiled beach. Stop for a picnic at Big Lagoon State Park. With its long sand spit separating the lagoon from the ocean, Big Lagoon State Park is a beach combing paradise, and if one is willing to walk far enough you can truly be alone. With swimming opportunities and kayak rentals available here, the quiet solitude of Big Lagoon State Park is calling your name. Also worth visiting is Humboldt Lagoons State Park, which boasts five fresh/salt water invasion marshes, which supports a rich variety of marsh plants, birds and other animals. All of these magnificent places are located on the Redwood Coast between Patrick’s Point State Park, and the Redwood National Park.
Magical Forests and Ocean Adventures
The Redwood Coast abounds with fun things to do!
Don’t miss hiking through the majestic redwoods in Redwood National Park and Prairie Creek State Park a twenty minutes’ drive to the north, where you’ll walk under the trees whose average age is 700 years. In that same area, you’ll find Fern Canyon, abundant with ferns and herds of elk, providing photo opportunities galore … you do need a permit to visit fern canyon from May 1st to September 30th…
…or bring your bicycle to cruise the quiet coastal roads overlooking miles of unspoiled beach. Picnic at Big Lagoon State Park. Humboldt Lagoons State Park boasts five fresh/salt water invasion marshes. All these parks are located in between Patrick’s Point State Park and Redwood National Park.
Visit these links to learn more about what this incredible outdoor playground has to offer!
Parks & Outdoor Recreation
The Arcata Marsh is a magnificent place to birdwatch. Migrations of thousands of geese and ducks every year make for fascinating viewing. In the springtime, there are over a thousand different types of birds that visit the Arcata Marsh.
The Marsh itself has walkways and is at the edge of Humboldt Bay. At low tide, you might even see a shark fin lazing about the narrow channels that feed into the marsh. For more information, click on “Arcata Marsh” and learn more about the wonderful things that the nonprofit group, “Friends of the Arcata Marsh” are doing.
Azaleas and Rhododendrons are a few of the magnificent flowers that grow wild here on the North Coast. In early spring, it’s trilliums blooming in the redwood forests. The pink ones have a scent as heavenly as any plumeria in Hawaii and sometimes, the forest is fragrant with their heady perfume. Later in the spring and into summer, it’s azaleas and “rhodies” (as the locals refer to them). Wild azaleas are a pale pink with a tiny touch of deeper pink and pale yellow in their petals. And unlike commercial azaleas, they too have a scent that rivals a lily or gardenia. If you see someone with their face buried in a bush of pale white and pink flowers, chances are that they are entranced by this tiny flower’s powerful and beautiful aroma. “Rhodies” in the wild bloom mostly pink and lavender; it’s only the cultivated rhododendrons that come in other varieties of colors. In spring and early summer, look for them on Highway 101 all the way from Eureka up to Del Norte County.
Trinidad Head Lighthouse
The lighthouse sits on the edge of Trinidad Head overlooking the entrance to the Bay. Weary travelers see its beacon all the way from Eureka, heading north on Highway 101, and its light can be seen out to see for over 10 miles….of course, that’s if there isn’t any fog! Since this is a working lighthouse operating under the auspices of the United States Coast Guard, there are only a few times of year that one can actually visit it. If you are a lighthouse “buff,” you will want to visit Trinidad in June, attend the annual Fish Festival, and join the tour that shuttles guests up Trinidad Head on a narrow and winding road to a huge gate, and then down another narrow winding road to the bluff where the Lighthouse itself is perched overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It’s definitely worth the visit.
Trinidad State Beach
Of all the beaches in Trinidad, from Moonstone Beach and Clam Beach at the southern end of town, all the way to Agate Beach and Big Lagoon’s miles of sandy beach on the north end, Trinidad State Beach is one of the all-time favorites for people of all ages. Situated just below Trinidad Head (with great hiking trails), the beach has a large parking lot which always has plenty of room (except at the beginning of crab season in November when hundreds of crab pots are stacked there as the staging area for the crab fleet’s annual launch into the Pacific Ocean). There are approximately two miles of sandy beach and the most famous inhabitant is “Grandmother Rock” situated on the far north end of the beach. Legend has it that the Tsu-rai Indians once used this beach as part of their summer camp. One day, a young warrior launched his canoe into the cold waters of the beach (Northern California beaches do not have warm water even in summertime!). He never returned and his grandmother waited so patiently for him on the beach that eventually, the gods took pity on her and turned her into a rock. You really can see her – sitting, huddled up, looking out to sea, and even her hair – in a bun on the back of her head. Well, the bun does have a few succulents growing out of it, but if you use your imagination, the image is striking!
A great steward of our coastline is the Trinidad Coastal Land Trust. They have some wonderful information on their website about preserved coastal areas in and around Trinidad that have been donated to and kept up by the Land Trust. Please visit their website and learn more about their wonderful work and how you can help if you are interested.
Mill Creek runs into the ocean just before you get to Grandmother Rock and there is a trail from the creek (just walk up the creek and you’ll see it a short distance from the water line) that leads up into Trinidad State Park (a little picnic area above the beach) and hence back into town. It’s a nice round trip of about 2 1/2 miles in length. Or, continue past Grandmother Rock (but be careful for high tide), and check out the small caves and the natural arch that separates Trinidad State Beach from College Cove. At low tide, you can actually walk out to “Raccoon” Island. And local lore has it that one of our residents has put a penny in a secret hiding place near this location every day he has lived here….for the past 25 years. That is about $1,000 and since one of the owners of the Inn used to watch him, she will give you a “tip” on where they might be hidden….just plan to bring a very BIG bag with you!
Humboldt Lagoons State Park
We have so many beautiful beaches that it’s hard to pick just one, but the owners of the Inn, Gary and Guia, have their favorite – and it’s Humboldt Lagoons State Park, Dry Lagoon. It’s really a beach! And the best in the County in our view. Drive north from the Inn on Highway 101 past Big Lagoon, over the hill and down into a little valley where “The Little Red School House” is located. This is also a fantastic place to view wild elk, or take a horseback ride into the redwoods, or, new in 2011, take a “zip line” up into the forest canopy.
But for us, it’s the beach. Before you get to the “Little Red School House,” you will see a left hand turn off of Highway 101 for “Dry Lagoon.” Turn left and follow the road all the way to a beach parking lot (about 1/2 mile). There is a bathroom there too which is always nice, as well as picnic tables and places to have wonderful driftwood campfires. This beach is famous to local residents for its agates – yes, it’s even better than Agate Beach at Patricks Point State Park! From the parking lot, if you walk to the right, you will find fewer agates, but those you might be lucky-enough to find are huge! If you walk to the left, you will see many more of the locals hunting for agates in big boots. Be very careful of rogue waves. Here, we always say: “Keep one eye on the ocean.” Please do. It’s really important to be careful on the North Coast as we sometimes have very heavy surf. Beautiful but sometimes dangerous. Look for seals, dolphins, sea lions and the occasional whale in the surf or just past it. Enjoy the myriad of sea birds and tide pools and sit on one of the giant rocks and just let the water splash up at your feet. This beach has everything.
Moonstone and Clam Beach
There are many beaches here, so we are listing the ones that are close and, frankly, breathtaking. Moonstone Beach and Clam Beach are separated by a small river, it’s actually called “Little River.” At low tide (and particularly when the weather is warmer in the summertime), you can ford Little River and visit both beaches. Moonstone Beach is magical: some say mermaids live there in caves accessible by low tide. Great for children, the waves are gentle and safe. There are rocks to climb, tidepools to explore and, when the tide is especially low, one can walk around the northern bluff and see a waterfall pouring into the ocean.
Clam Beach is our largest stretch of beach – miles of gentle waves and sand invite hikers and horseback riders alike. At low tide, look for sand dollars – they are most often found at the northern end near Little River. But….you have to find them before the sea gulls do!
Luffenholtz Beach, Baker Beach and College Cove
Two of these beaches – Luffenholtz and Baker – are located just south of Town Center on Scenic Drive. Actually, the easiest thing to do is drive south on Scenic Drive (it’s actually the same street the Inn is located on, but it changes its name south of Town Center). You will see cars parked along the road, and at least one has a small parking lot. These are bluffs so one has to walk down trails to the beaches below. Low tide is best for these as they are small – but secluded and frankly, gorgeous!
College Cove is located just north of Town Center off of Stage Coach Road (drive into town and turn right just past the horse pasture…..you’ll drive by our cemetery which is quite old and interesting, wind through the trees and look for entrance to the “Elk Head State Park” on your left. It’s a wide dirt entry and, if you park and walk on the left side, you will find a trail down to College Cove. Another pristine, gorgeous beach awaits you. You can actually see Trinidad State Beach on your left but don’t try to walk around the point – the green sea grasses are quite slippery!
Elk Head Park
Look at College Cove above for directions. Truly, the only people who walk here are locals. But if you go into this park and drive towards your right and park, the trail (easily navigable by all) takes you to:
* overlooks of Raccoon Island and its blowhole
* magnificent vistas of the Pacific Ocean from 300 foot cliffs
* A trail down to a sea stack where you can see the ocean almost completely surround you. This is the end of the trail – it’s barely a mile from the beginning at the parking lot. Our favorite thing to do here is walk to the left of the sea stack and carefully climb up on the rocks. You are protected from the north wind and look down into a caldera with crashing, foaming waves. There is a natural bridge you can navigate below at low tide but BEWARE – it can be dangerous if the tides are turning or a big wave comes in as there is no where to go! On stormy days when the waves are large, you can sit on these rocks and watch waves crash in front of you – and sometimes the spray is higher than the rocks you are sitting on….but you are completely protected. It is awesome, breathtaking, and nature at its most magnificent.
Patrick’s Point Park
It’s really nice to have a park virtually “in your own back yard” and that’s what Patricks Point State Park is to The Lost Whale Inn. Walk (fifteen minutes each way to the main gate, but you can “jump in” to the park along the way where trails come out onto the road), or drive two minutes to the main entrance and park. Miles of hiking, and interpretive volunteer gift and information center, and an authentic Indian Village restoration make this park a joy for young and old alike. Many of the trails are handicap accessible and for the adventurous, there are hikes out to craggy points overlooking the wild Pacific Ocean.
Look for whales on the “Rim Trail” which circles the entire outer ocean edge of the Park. Visit Wedding Rock – yes, people really do get married there all the time. Take a picnic lunch and eat on one of the many picnic tables throughout the park. Bicycle the trails. Visit the Indian Village and check on that schedule by linking to the website link above. At least once a year, the village opens up to guests for a real authentic Indian Medicine Dance ceremony. Watch as medicine men dance and heal a sick child, all of which is done starting in the early evening into the wee hours. During the day, the village celebrates many Native American traditions and guests can enjoy dining on salmon and Indian flatbread, enjoy locally-made handcrafted jewelry, baskets and pottery, or just admire the costumes and traditions that surround you. It’s truly an authentic experience and quite un-commercial in nature.
People who visit Patrick’s Point State Park come back year after year after year – the Park has a special magic for all who want to experience nature at its best.
Stone Lagoon State Park
Actually, this is at the northern end of Patricks Point State Park, but you have to drive up Highway 101 to the next exit to access the beaches and lagoon. It’s worth it! You will see the bluffs that make up part of the “Rim Trail” for Patricks Point to the south, and you will have the opportunity to walk a five-mile spit of land that separates the Pacific Ocean from Big Lagoon. It’s amazing. On one side – huge waves crash. On the other side, a peaceful lagoon shimmers in the sunlight. We like to walk out a ways on one side, and then walk back on the other. In the summer, look for wild strawberries growing on the spit. They are delicious! Fishing here is also excellent.
Redwood National and State Parks
You can visit their website and look at all the places in Humboldt County to visit the redwoods. There are so many that it’s hard to describe. Lady Bird Johnson Grove, Humboldt Redwoods National Park to the south of Eureka (just take the “Avenue of the Giants” to see more trees in half an hour than you will for the rest of a lifetime!). In this region of redwoods more inland and warmer weather, there is an unusual phenomena: “albino” redwoods. No, the entire tree is not an “albino,” but parts of certain trees have no chlorophyll. How to find one? Just look into the forest and if you see what seems to be a bright shaft of light hitting a tree, look again: it just might be an albino redwood…..small parts of the tree, usually near the base, appear to “glow.”
But it’s the coastal redwoods that are the most magnificent forests. North of the Klamath River, about an hour’s drive from The Lost Whale Inn, is Jedediah Smith State Park and a road that is right out of “Brigadoon” (for older folk), and perhaps a Harry Potter adventure for the younger ones in the group. Just drive into Crescent City and at the first street, turn right – it’s Humboldt Road so it’s easy to remember. Take this road until it dead ends and turn right. Trust in this – you won’t be disappointed. The road winds up the hill and into Jedediah Smith State Park but not on a highway, on a dirt and gravel road (watch out for potholes and DO NOT take this road if it has been raining heavily!) into pure magic. Brooks, streams, gigantic trees, deep caverns, mystical vales, flowers, ferns that stand over six feet high, all line this road which ultimately, after about seven miles, ends up taking you back to Highway 199 just north of Crescent City. Better than the main park entrance by far – just ask for details at the Inn and plan on a picnic in paradise.
Or, for a place “less traveled” Tall Trees hike in Redwood National Park requires a permit. Permits are available online up to 24 hours in advance from the Redwood National Park website. Only so many passes are given out each day to the lucky few who sign up. The pass gives you the combination to a gate off of Redwood Creek which takes you into an amazing grove of behemoths. Take a picnic lunch!
Truthfully, our favorite place is…….
Prairie Creek State Park
If there is one part of the redwood national park system that consistently gets guests’ rave reviews, it is Prairie Creek State Park. Over 90 miles of hiking – it’s so popular that we finally put maps into the Guest Information Book in each room! And the nicest part – it’s a short 15 – 20 minute drive from The Lost Whale Inn.
Highlights are so many that they are hard to list here, but our favorites include: Fern Canyon – turn left on Davison Road (just before the main park entrance) and be prepared for a seven-mile trip, mostly on gravel road. Warning, again, you cannot navigate this road in winter conditions as there is a stream to ford, but in the late spring, summer and fall months, this road is navigable by most cars. This road ends at Gold Bluffs Beach and visitors can park alongside the road and visit this remote beach – we’ve heard stories about guests who have seen wild elk “frolicking” in the surf here – or continue driving north to Fern Canyon – a short distance. There is a small parking lot, a picnic bench or two, and a canyon out of some fantasy fantastical medeival ancient legend. Movies have been made here because there is no where else like it on earth. You will get your feet wet as there is a stream that runs along the bottom of Fern Canyon. Ask the Innkeepers for extra towels to pack into your car. Just picture walking in a narrow canyon, with a babbling brook at your feet, and looking up at 100 to 200 foot high walls, straight up – of nothing but ferns….lacy, pale green, with drops of water glistening in the sunlight and tiny waterfalls trickling down everywhere you look. A short walk takes you up the canyon and then up the north side of the canyon and back to the parking lot. Be on the watch for giant elk – they like to poke their heads out of the ferns on this part of the trail and it can be quite amazing. They should be kept at a respectful distance, especially in autumn when they are mating. (FERN CANYON REQUIRES A PERMIT TO VISIT FROM MAY 1st to SEPTEMBER 30th, the permit is issued first come first serve at least 24 hours in advance…. click here to go to the permit page)
The main entrance to the Park is a mile north of Davison Road: “Newton B. Drurie Scenic Byway” is the name and if you miss this exit off of Highway 101, you end up driving over a mountain (!) so keep a sharp eye out for this street. Entering the park from this direction, you pass “Elk Meadow” and there is a small but very interesting Visitor Center on your left with a gift shop, hiking maps, many books and lots of stuffed animals (children will be fascinated by these). Our favorite, however, is a large piece of redwood into which an elkhorn is stuck….forever. One wonders what happened to the poor elk!
For the avid hikers, Fern Canyon can be reached from the trailhead at the Visitor Center in the middle of the Park. This is a great place to just enjoy the Park by taking hikes in every direction. One favorite is, of course, Prairie Creek Trail which winds up along the Creek for miles and miles. The Innkeepers’ favorite hike starts a short distance from the Visitor Center: drive into the forest canopy between one and two miles and keep an eye out on your left for a sign: “Corkscrew Tree.” Many of the trees and groves in Redwood National Park are identified by brown signs with yellow lettering and this is no different. If you are lucky enough to find it, make a quick u-turn and park on the side of the road. The Corkscrew Tree is about a one minute walk – you can’t miss it. Five giant redwoods are wrapped around each other and ascend so far up into the sky that you cannot possibly see the tops of them. The trees all grew together, so you can climb up into the tree and use your imagination – there’s a bedroom area, a small kitchen, a front door, and, of course, many photographic opportunities. From the Corkscrew Tree, walk towards Prairie Creek and you will catch this Trail “far from the madding crowd” which starts at the Visitor Center. Walk to the right (north) into a land of magic, gnomes and fairies (well, you can almost convince yourself that they come out when no one is looking). Look for “fairy rings” – these are actually redwood trees that grow in perfect circles. Find a fallen redwood and climb into a perfect cave. Some parts of the Creek have beautiful shady or dappled sunlight spots where you can picnic right on the creek, and there are a few places that are truly deep enough for a swim. The water in the middle to late summer is definitely refreshing!
NOTE: The “World’s Largest Tree” is now officially located in Prairie Creek State Park. But be forewarned: rangers will probably not tell you where it is because there is no trail yet.
Bigfoot Rafting Company
If there is one thing that the North Coast has, it’s water! And Bigfoot Rafting Company is certainly a good place to go for many adventures. Click on the link above and visit their website for a wide selection of options. If you want river rafting, Willowcreek is about a 45 minute drive from the Inn and the Trinity River is a fantastic place to enjoy rafting for all ages.
Kayaking around the North coast
The lagoons in Humboldt County are very near The Lost Whale Inn, as is Trinidad Bay, a charming bay protected by Trinidad Head from big surf. So sea or lagoon kayaking can be a spectacularly fun experience. Visit the the Humboldt bay aquatic center, Kayak Zak’s, Pacific Outfitters or Kayak Trinidad.
Northcoast Fishing Guide
And of all the attractions, perhaps we have saved the best for last…..at least, that is, for fishermen and women! The North Coast is famous for fresh fish – albacore, tuna, halibut, and of course, our most famous of all fish: salmon. Fishing derbies occur every year in Trinidad – check the Trinidad Chamber of Commerce website, www.discovertrinidad.com for further information. And consider chartering a fishing boat for a day while you are here. You can go down to our commercial dock (look for our resident otters in the summer!) and sign up for one of our wonderful charters right there across from the Seascape Restaurant. Ask the Innkeepers for an early morning snack to take with you and have fun catching the fish of your dreams.
Other Redwood Coast Attractions
More things to explore! The links below will connect you to various organizations and guides to what there is to see and do here on California’s Redwood Coast.