Nestled farther inland than most of California’s coast redwood forests
HIGHLIGHTS: Fifteen miles west of Highway 101, Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park is off the beaten tourist track. It’s small—less than 1 square mile, with only five miles of trails. But those who come earn big rewards: a sublime redwood forest full of big trees and few people.
Families prize Grizzly Creek’s rustic amenities. In summer, kids can ride their bikes around a paved campground loop with only 28 sites, some bordering the Van Duzen River. They can have close and safe encounters with park wildlife, including bears, moles, mountain lions and steelhead trout, via a taxidermy and skeleton display at the visitor center. On weekends, they can gather for campfire programs. “It’s an old-fashioned park experience,” says Ranger Emily Peterson, “one of the few left.”
ACTIVITIES: Swimming, camping, hiking, boating, fishing and picnicking.
- Grizzly Creek joins the Van Duzen River to create a popular swimming spot near the visitor center and campground. Use caution in the strong currents; no lifeguards are on duty. Avid swimmers might also want to try “Swimmers Delight” in nearby Van Duzen County Park. It’s just off Highway 36, near Cheatham Grove (see “Hidden Gem” section below).
Just for Kids
- For starters, try the “animal hunt” in the Grizzly Creek Visitor Center. Displays of more than 40 local wildlife species include a wood duck, northern flying squirrel, ring-tailed cat, river otter and mountain lion. Grab a checklist at the door and start learning.
- Redwoods EdVentures: Fun for the entire family. Take a self-guided treasure hunt in many North Coast redwood state parks, including Grizzly Creek. Find the final clue and win a cool patch!
- Most of the park’s ranger- or docent-led programs (including campfire talks, nature walks and Junior Ranger programs) start up on Memorial Day weekend and end after Labor Day. For the schedule, check at the visitor center, on park bulletin boards, or call 707-777-3683. Aimed at kids age 7 through 12, these programs offer games, crafts, hiking and exploring with other children.
- You and your kids can work your way through California State Parks’ Adventure Guide. Download the guide, pick it up at the visitor center or call 916-653-8959 to order a copy. It’s applicable to any state park visit.
- Before heading to the park, explore the Redwoods Learning Center. It offers fun, redwoods-themed activities, classroom tools, and ways to get involved in redwood protection. Redwoods bingo, anyone?
VISITOR CENTER: In the main part of the park, just south of Highway 36.
CAMPGROUNDS: Between the Van Duzen River and Highway 36, Grizzly Creek’s campground has showers and 28 family sites. RVs up to 24 feet; no hookups. Reservations are recommended between Labor Day and Memorial Day. Go online to ReserveAmerica.com (external link), the park website (external link) or call (707) 777-3683. If you’re willing to haul your gear a short distance, consider one of the hike-in sites in Cheatham Grove, 4.5 miles west of the main part of the park (first-come, first-served).
TRAILS: Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park has about 5 miles of trails. “We have hikes for everybody,” says Ranger Emily Peterson. “Both steep and flat trails near the visitor center. And Cheatham Grove down the road—the old-growth experience in a nutshell.”
- Cheatham Grove (0.7-mile loop): About four miles west of the visitor center, the skyscraping redwoods of Cheatham Grove stand in a lushly carpeted forest. The beauty of this grove inspired Owen R. Cheatham, founder of what would become the Georgia Pacific Plywood and Lumber Company, to spare the trees for others to enjoy.
- Fisher Wouk Trail (0.6-mile round trip): Along the north side of the Van Duzen River, the Fisher Wouk Trail leads through some the most stately redwoods in the main part of the park. The trail is dedicated to Abraham Isaac Wouk, the son of Pulitzer prize–winning author Herman Wouk, who wrote the Caine Mutiny and War and Remembrance. Abraham died in a swimming pool accident in 1951, when he was only five. Start from the campground or the highway access west of the visitor center. Go to the end of the trail and return the way you came. In June, the forest floor is sprinkled with the delicate white blossoms of sugar scoops—ranger Emily Peterson’s favorite flower.
- Memorial Trail Loop (1.25-mile loop): The 1.25-mile-long Memorial Trail offers a good introduction to the park’s drier inland redwoods. Start at the picnic area by the parking lot and walk across the Van Duzen River on a footbridge to the trailhead (summer only) for what ranger Emily Peterson calls “a beautiful hiking trail that is a little bit steeper than Cheatham Grove.”
- Nature, Hikers, and Grizzly Creek Loops (0.9 miles for all three loops): Across Highway 36 from the visitor center are three connecting loop trails, Nature, Hikers, and Grizzly Creek. They’re all short, and steep enough to have stairs in some places. Interpretive signs enrich the Nature Trail section.
MUST-SEE UNIQUE FEATURE OR SEASONAL HIGHLIGHT: In the summer of 2009, visitors found a marbled murrelet chick on the ground—proof that this endangered species nests in the treetops here. To see some of the park’s most impressive redwoods, stroll along the 0.7-mile trail through Cheatham Grove, in a separate park parcel 4.5 miles west of the main entrance. These skyscraping trees were featured in the film Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi.
HIDDEN GEM: If you’ve come all this way, why not cool off while exploring three excellent redwood groves in adjacent Van Duzen County Park? Also known as “Swimmers Delight,” Van Duzen has the biggest, best swimming hole around. It’s just off Highway 36, next to Cheatham Grove.
FEATURES ACCESSIBLE TO PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES: Restroom, campsites.
DOGS: On leash in developed areas. Not on trails or beach.
ENTRANCE FEE: $8 for day-use vehicle entry; no charge to walk or bike into the park.
- Visit Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park (external link) webpage or call or write the park office at 707-777-3683 or 16949 Highway 36 in Carlotta, California 95528.
- The park’s brochure contains valuable information on the park’s natural and cultural history, as well as tips for planning your visit.
- Humboldt Redwoods Interpretive Association (external link) is a good resource for learning about the region’s natural and cultural history.
- If you have an hour: Walk the 0.7-mile loop through Cheatham Grove.
- If you have half a day: Walk through Cheatham Grove and learn about park wildlife and history at the visitor center. Lunch beside the Van Duzen River.
- If you have a full day: Try all of the park’s trails, followed (in summertime) by a swim in the Van Duzen River, a barbeque, and a campfire program.
STOP: To the north, be sure to check out the lovely, Victorian village of Ferndale (external link) and Fort Humboldt State Historic Park (external link). To the south, a stop at Humboldt Redwoods State Park should include the Avenue of the Giants. To the east, stop at Ruth Lake.
FAVORITE HIKE: Cross the Van Duzen River on the summer bridge and follow a dirt road for a short distance to Memorial Trail on your left.
FAVORITE PARK ATTRACTION: Solitude. Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park covers only a few acres, but it is large enough to provide a sense of seclusion. It receives so few visitors that on a weekday it is possible to be the only person in one of its groves of coast redwoods.
DON’T MISS: Cheatham Grove (external link), a stand of virgin redwoods located three miles west of the main part of the state park.
California’s Redwood Coast website (external site) offers resources to help plan your trip to Humboldt County.
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Acres Protected by the League: 214
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