Winter in the redwoods a visual delight

Redwood National Park can be surprisingly mild with high temperatures in the mid 50s and lows in the mid 40s. Crowd sizes are small this time of year, which makes for a more personal experience in the park.

You can find yourself in complete solitude in many of the parks groves in winter.

One thing to consider is that this is the rainiest time of year in the park, which brings its own rewards as the true lushness of the trees comes to life. Photographers find this an excellent time of year to visit. 

While the climate is mild, snow sometimes collects in the higher elevations of the park along Bald Hills Road and occasionally dusts the coastal groves. 

Winter Temps in Redwood National Park

  • December 55F / 45F
  • January 57F / 46F
  • February 57F / 45F
  • March 58F / 45F

Winter is a great time to escape to Redwood National Park, which has a far milder season than much of the nation due to its temperate climate. Popular winter activities include:

Finding solitude on a redwood hiking trail.
Driving through the park’s scenic roads to enjoy the beauty of the forests and ocean air.
Watching the park’s resident elk population.
Experiencing the forest in the rain.

Forest bathing under the redwoods

The soundscape, and being able to get away from human noise is huge. Nature Therapy, specifically Forest Bathing is a great way to do that.In Japan where the study first began, it is referred to as Shinrin-Yoku.

Humboldt County now has a certified Forest Therapy Guide, through the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy.  

In Forest Bathing you go through a specific standard sequence in which you are enabled to have a therapeutic experience using the power of nature. 

Our guide likes to think of it like computer coding, a very specific set of codes, to change the human mind into a specific wavelength.  In this way one refreshes the mind and body. The science behind this is known as Attention Restoration Theory.  

In a world full of hi-ways and skyscrapers, air and noise pollution, a break from the city is less of a want and becoming more of a need for people.

Something amazing happens when you are surrounded by nature.  Our bodies are innately drawn to sources in nature that produce un-seeable nutrients.  Trees producing oxygen and clean carbon dioxide is commonly known, but there are many other benefits nature provides us.

In Humboldt County we have thousand-year-old trees and an ecosystem that is older than human history.

Just 200 miles north of San Francisco, the last old-growth Redwood forests hold their place and their power. Even when viewed in passing and with distraction, they are compelling and breathtaking. How much more when one is guided to find the pace of the forest, to open one’s senses and mind to the vast communication that rains down from these forests?

That’s what Forest Bathing is all about. Forests like these resonate with the ancient parts of our being – the ones for whom a place like this meant food, security, connection, and joy. Forest Bathing helps you find a way to quiet your thoughts, and open your senses to the immensity of life that surrounds us all of the time. 

This program offers you the opportunity to do a deep dive into that world of support and connection in the most powerful way possible. These are the oldest trees on the planet, and they hold an inestimable measure of wisdom and memory.

In the same way that an animal suffers when removed from the habitat to which it has evolved, humans need nature, and, in particular, forests. Forest therapy is not the same as just walking in the woods. It is a guided experience that includes activities that are specifically designed to help participants perceive and interact with the natural world in a way that very few in western societies do. There is an ever-growing body of worldwide scientific studies that reveal not just the mental, but physical benefits of Nature Therapy and, in many countries nature therapy is becoming an integral part of health care. 

Spending mindful time in a forest has been shown to be extremely beneficial for everything from depression and anxiety to immune system disorders.

During Nature Therapy Walks will move at a very slow pace and are suitable for anyone who can walk slowly for an hour or two. These aren’t nature walks in the traditional sense, although we will be happy to answer questions about such things after our walks. These are about finding your intuitive connection to the family of life in the forest, exploring that, and taking the effortless comfort that comes from moving at our natural pace in our natural habitat.

Redwood Adventures at the Elk Meadow Cabins, provides a variety of Forest Therapy programs such as Shinrin-Yoku “Forest Bathing” Walks. They also provide consulting for organizations to utilize Forest Therapy as a health and wellness tool to reduce stress and offer tools for your staff to connect more deeply to where they work.

For more information or to schedule a session contact Redwood Adventures at 707-727-9266 or

Watch the whales, now from land

Great news land lubbers: Weekly whale watching walking tours are almost here.

Kayak Trinidad, one of the North Coast’s top paddle outfitters and guide services, will offer a two-hour walking tour among the cliffs of the beautiful seaside village of Trinidad, California. They will start Feb. 23rd and go every Sunday through May.

For those of you who love seeing whales but are less inclined to venture into the ocean in kayaks, this guided tour lead by their seasoned guides and naturalists is a great option. And it’s only $25 per person.

Call 707-329-0085, email or visit for details and reservations

3 perfect off-season trips

Redwoods by Candlelight. Gary Todorff

Don’t run from the cool weather. Embrace it. Own it. Light it up by candlelight in the forest. Hike to a gushing waterfall. Or spy on seals along the mouth of a river. Here are three autumn adventures in Northern Humboldt County will will make the season pass like a cool breeze.


Redwoods by Candlelight

Fog or sunshine, which sky conditions provide the optimal view experience to marvel at the redwoods? Hard to say, with pros and cons for each. But there’s a third option gaining popularity: darkness. 

For the 30th annual Candlelight Walk in the Redwoods, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park will, due to public demand, host the event over two evenings, Friday and Saturday, Dec. 6 and 7. Doors will open at 5 p.m. in the visitor center, a shabby-chic cabin built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, just north of Orick. 

After snacks, a raffle and silent auction to benefit the park, the luminary-lit processions will proceed at 6 p.m., on an easy ¼-mile level path to the campfire ring, for tales as tall as the trees. Please leave your candles and dogs at home. Advance reservations, which begin Nov. 1, are highly recommended ($10, free to kids 12 and under). Rain or shine. Call (707) 465-7327 or visit

Trillium Falls

With star attractions like big trees, Roosevelt elk and Fern Canyon, Redwood National and State Park visitors often overlook a fourth natural star, the Trillium Falls Trail, which features deciduous and redwood forests, Pacific rhododendron, plenty of Western trillium — one of the foremost wildflowers on the North Coast — and patches of giant trillium, in the spring.

But the real showcase of the moderate trail loop, which rises and falls and switches back and forth over 3 miles, is Trillium Falls, the largest and most beautiful in the parks, which really shows off in the fall rains. A steel bridge over Prairie Creek offers an excellent view of the boulder-strewn cascade. 

To start the walk to the water from U.S. Highway 101 just north of Orick, go west on Davison Road at the Elk Meadow Day Use Area, then take a quick left to the parking area, which has restrooms, picnic tables and, sometimes, a herd of resting elk. Start at the trailhead at the southern end and tiptoe around said antlered layabouts if present.

Hammond Trail

Lastly, do Humboldt like the locals do — they selected the Hammond Trail, a 5-mile section of the California Coastal Trail between Arcata and McKinleyville, as the best place to walk, jog and bike in one reader poll. Besides two-wheeled riders, the path, which meanders along a river, estuary, beaches, forests and sand hills, welcomes riders on four hooves. 

It begins in the Arcata Bottoms at the old steel bridge, retired to trains but open to pedestrians. Look down at the Mad River and you may see people and sea lions alike chasing the same schools of fish. Go north and stop at the market near Widow White Creek and School Road for refreshments. A bit farther north, turn the kids loose on the playground at Hiller Park. Or near the northern end of the trail, which climaxes with panoramic views of Clam Beach. Hop down a Billy goat trail into the coastal meadow for a closer look at harbor seals lounging about by the hundreds around the Mad River mouth.

From the Humboldt Insider Fall 2019 edition.


Fern Canyon: Remote wonder, no crowds

Fern Canyon in Redwood National & State Parks. Kirt Edblom

With so many of California’s best-known natural wonders loved to death, we decided to look for less-traveled alternatives across the state, especially in Northern California. First up:


Seven different varieties of fern including the descendants of species dating back millions of years line the steep walls of a narrow gorge in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. The short loop trail takes you past hanging greenery, tiny waterfalls and moss gardens.

Claim to fame: Steven Spielberg filmed a scene from “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” in the canyon.

Special considerations: It’s a wet hike. Waterproof boots or river sandals are recommended.

Camping: Gold Bluffs Beach Campground and Elk Prairie Campground are nearby.

Getting there: Moderately difficult. While Fern Canyon isn’t really remote compared to other destinations on this list, the 10-mile drive over unpaved road from Highway 101 at Orick helps keep the mobs away. Cost to enter: $8 per car.

More in the San Francisco Chronicle

Best picnic spots in the redwoods

Picnic Tree. Mario Vaden

Don’t let a midday meal stop your Northern Humboldt outdoors experience. Here are tips on where and what to eat to maximize your nature time.

First, as big tree hunters plumb the depths of Redwood National and State Parks to find monster specimens, hidden in plain site is one of the most photogenic champions: the so-called Picnic Tree, an old growth giant next to the campground of Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. It’s been featured in travel magazines and websites, but few who pass notice, on the edge of a pleasant day-use area, just a few steps from the Prairie Creek visitor center, this massive vertical spire, whose sprawling roots flare around its base like the foot of a prehistoric mastodon. Nearby, old stone grills covered in moss add to the prehistoric charm. Should you eat here among the giants, there are plenty of picnic tables from which to choose. And you can work off the meal with a stroll on the Revelation Trail, an easy mile that showcases more mammoth trees.

While technically inside Redwood National Park, most of Bald Hills Road looks like anything but a primeval forest. Rather than foggy groves, the area is dominated by sunny prairies, with occasional clumps of oaks, once grazed by sheep and cattle. The grassy hillsides, with panoramic views of the redwood groves below in the Redwood Creek valley, offer perfect places to picnic, especially in the spring when wildflowers like purple lupines spring up everywhere. To start, from U.S. Highway 101 just north of Orick, turn east on Bald Hills Road, pass the signs for the Lady Bird Johnson and Tall Trees groves, and ascend into what looks like a scene from The Sound of Music. Three suggested lunch stops: Dolason Prairie, which includes a 9-mile trail for the ambitious; Schoolhouse Peak, which at 3,097 feet is the highest point in the park, and the old Lyons Ranch, whose original barn and bunkhouses are intact and worth exploring. The first is 11.5 miles from U.S. Highway 101. The last two, which require a few miles of unpaved road, are just shy of 18 miles from the highway.

If you are compelled to stay in town for a taste. Here’s an idea, EdeBee’s Snack Shack in Orick, a modest outdoor-seating-only cafe along U.S. Highway 101. Don’t let its appearance deceive you. It frequently attracts lines of locals and visitors for lunch and afternoon eats. The Bigfoot, Flaming Redwoods and Prairie Creek burgers leave the kitchen on a steady basis. Those seeking an extra special treat put in for the 8 Point Rack or Great Hunter Burger, made from tasty elk meat (not the endangered Roosevelts roaming the park). Fries, Tater Tots or onion rings round out the classic American meal with a wild twist. Their tortilla wraps and made-to-order sandwiches earn praise from particular palates, too.

Raptors delight awaits in Redwoods

Fern Canyon is a Dinosaurs Paradise

Big dinosaurs might be scary, but the little ones are the real monsters that will get you. Just ask the bad guy in the second Jurassic Park film A Lost World (1997), who made the fatal mistake of underestimating the tenacity of a horde of hungry mini-raptors, waiting to pounce in Fern Canyon, a primeval gorge with 50-foot walls draped in lush and rare feathery fronds. 


This Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park natural wonder has served as the backdrop for many other dinosaur flicks, not surprising considering that its surrounding redwood forest represents one of the oldest ecosystems on planet Earth, remaining unchanged for millions of years. 


Director Steven Spielberg couldnu2019t resist using another nearby geological feature for as eye candy film, Wedding Rock in Patricku2019s Point State Park, which like Fern Canyon, were stand ins for the rainforests of Isla Sorna, the dinosaur land in the film and best-selling novel by Michael Crichton.