From Whales to Wildflowers: 5 Spring Trips in the Redwoods

Take a break from spring cleaning and go spring hiking. It’s getting warmer, and that means snowmelt is creating flowing waterfalls, wildflowers are blooming across California, and you can soak up some sun. While all the redwood parks deserve a visit, here are recommendations that can make your spring trips special. From whales to delicate flowers, there’s something for everyone this season.

Photo by Miguel Vieira, Flickr Creative Commons

Photo by Miguel Vieira, Flickr Creative Commons
Whale Watching at Mount Tamalpais State Park
Head out to Mount Tamalpais State Park  in April or May to see migrating whales and amazing ocean views from high points along the coast — just north of San Francisco. Every spring, 20,000 gray whales head from Mexico toward Alaska to their feeding area, and you can see them on their way. Bring your binoculars and look from the Coast View Trail and the western portion of the Matt Davis Trail. For a closer view, try the Steep Ravine cabins or campground, and make a weekend out of it. It’s easiest to spot spouts when the ocean is calm. Don’t miss the redwoods and waterfall along Steep Ravine Trail.

Enter the Garden of Eden

Photo by Kelly The Deluded, Flickr Creative Commons
Enter the Garden of Eden at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
As temperatures start to rise, head out to the peaceful oasis that is Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park  near Santa Cruz. If it’s warm enough, or you’re adventurous enough, take a swim at the Garden of Eden, a swimming hole in the San Lorenzo River. The pool is most popular in the summer, meaning spring could be the season to get a little peace and quiet by the water.
To get to the Garden of Eden pool, park in the Ox Fire Road turnout, 0.75 miles south of the park’s main entrance on Highway 9. Look for the State Parks sign and the green gate. Once parked, follow the Ox Fire Road at the green gate; the hike will be 0.75 miles to the pool. Be sure to follow the rules for the pool: no diving, alcohol, dogs, fires, or glass, and pack your trash out.
If you’re there on a cloudy day or don’t feel like getting wet, there are tons of hiking and biking options for you at Henry Cowell State Park.

Explore via Bike at Arcata Community Forest
Explore via Bike at Arcata Community Forest
For those who would rather pedal than hike, Arcata Community Forest  has several great mountain biking trails. Just a short drive from downtown Arcata, the park has several miles of trails for beginner and intermediate riders, including the Community Forest Loop Road, a relatively flat and wide double-track. Trails are open to hikers and runners as well. Take a break to look for wildflowers, such as the beautiful, white trilliums that bloom in early spring throughout the redwood range.

Experience Blooms at Calaveras Big Trees State Park

Photo by Max Forster.
Experience Blooms at Calaveras Big Trees State Park
It’s the season for an incredible display of white dogwood blossoms among the giant sequoia at Calaveras Big Trees State Park , a Sierra Nevada jewel. Take the Lava Bluff Trail off of Memorial Parkway to experience a variety of environments, and all the different flowers that go with them, including Hartweg’s iris, crimson columbine, monkey-flower, harvest brodiaea, snow plant, wild hyacinth, and lupine. Wear sturdy shoes, because this 2.5-mile loop trail has many steep sections, including some with challenging footing.

Smithe Redwoods State Natural Reserve
Listen to the Waterfall at Smithe Redwoods State Natural Reserve
North of Leggett, off California’s Highway 101, Smithe Redwoods State Natural Reserve  offers majestic old-growth coast redwoods and an amazing 60-foot-tall waterfall. While there is no visitor center, you can enjoy the beautiful and serene Frank and Bess Smithe Grove, as well as a picnic area, and fishing and swimming in the south fork of the Eel River. After enjoying the grove, take the trail that leads to Dora Creek Falls from the parking area. The trail is 0.25 miles beginning from the parking lot on the west side of the highway leading to the falls, which are on the east side near Dora Creek Bridge.
These are just some of the great sights and destinations to visit redwoods this spring, there are many more with their own unique adventures. As always, make sure to check the weather and bring appropriate shoes since spring can mean mud and rain too. Learn more and plan your trips at .

About the author

Pearl is the Communications Assistant at Save the Redwoods League hailing from Nova Scotia, Canada. Though she is far from where she started, the redwood forests of California feel like home now and she's passionate about connecting people to the majesty of the redwoods.


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5 Responses to “From Whales to Wildflowers: 5 Spring Trips in the Redwoods”

  1. Not Moon

    Thank you Pearl McLeod for such an amazing read! This is the best article I’ve found on the site to date!

  2. Patricia C. Ernsberger

    So fortunate to live in No. Calif. (with a redwood in my garden) – I cherish my 50+ years as a League member!

    • Save the Redwoods League

      Thanks for the comment Patricia. Hope you know how grateful we are for your support!

  3. Diane P. Cooley

    After 90 years of living among the Sempervirens, it is wonderful to have such neighbors make me feel young.

  4. Beverly Russell

    Protect and preserve our glorious Redwoods!!


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