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A huge thank you to Best Western Plus Humboldt Bay Inn in Eureka, CA for hosting this portion of our trip. All opinions are mine alone.
When I was about 10 years old, my family went on an amazing California road trip. Well, okay, maybe it wasn’t super amazing. The van broke down before we reached the Redwoods, and the only rental car my parents were able to find while it was being fixed was a little Honda Accord. We had 4 adults and 3 kids. Mind you this was before seat belt laws and car seat laws were enforced. And the car had a bench seat in front. So we all squeezed in to the “clown car” as we called it and went on our trip and then went back to get our van. Part of that trip was exploring the Lower Humboldt County Redwoods.
Maybe it was that trip that made it a goal of mine to take my kids on a west coast road trip, I don’t know. Maybe I wanted to break the Redwoods curse (because our van broke down when we were going to go to the Redwoods last summer on our no good vacation). But we decided to give a go at it the end of March. I will be sharing all about our epic West Coast road trip in the coming weeks, but today I want to focus on our time in Eureka, CA exploring the Lower Humboldt County Redwoods. From where we stayed, to what we did, check out the highlights below.
We headed up to Eureka, California after spending a week in Southern California and a night in Santa Rosa, CA. By this time, I was definitely ready for some cooler temperatures. We lucked out and only had light rain, and even a pretty nice sunny day during our 48 hours in the Lower Humboldt County Redwoods area.
Where we stayed in the Lower Humboldt County Redwoods Area
When looking for a place to stay I knew I wanted to stay in Eureka, CA. I am not going to lie, mostly because I like the name. EUREKA! But really, Eureka is a great place to stay. It is right in the heart of Humboldt County (and is the county seat) and only a short drive from Humboldt Redwoods State Park and the other Lower Humboldt County Redwoods.
I started searching different hotels in the Eureka, CA area. Many of the hotels seemed old or out dated. But there was one hotel that my entire family was excited about. The Best Western Plus Humboldt Bay Inn. So I reached out to them and they were super kind enough to host this portion of our trip.
Why were we excited for this hotel? The rooms were nice and clean, and looked like they were recently renovated. The lobby was gorgeous. But honestly, it was the area called the Oasis that had us excited about this hotel. The Oasis is like your own little spa retreat. It had a pool that was partially indoors and partially outdoors (and included a shallow toddler pool area), a small hot tub by the pool, fountains, a pool table, water features, heat lamps, fire pits, and the biggest hot tub ever!
The Oasis was truly an amazing place to go relax after a long day of hiking the Lower Humboldt County Redwoods.
We also loved the full breakfast offered at the hotel each morning that included hot eats. It was a great way to get fueled each morning for our adventures. When we go back (because we did not have time to do even half the stuff we wanted to) I will definitely be staying here again. Plus, if you are a Best Western Rewards member, each stay can earn you points towards free hotel stays.
Exploring the Lower Humboldt County Redwoods
The focus of our time in Humboldt County was visiting the Redwoods. We split our time in Humboldt County between the Lower Humboldt County area (from the Southern line up to Eureka) and Northern Humboldt County (Klamath and Crescent City area). In this post I am only going to share with you our time in the Lower Humboldt County Redwoods.
When deciding what to do in the Redwoods, I used the site Redwood Hikes. The site is great and has information on the climate, road conditions, best views, hikes, and more. We used this site to help plan what we wanted to see in the Redwoods.
The first day we traveled from Santa Rosa up to Eureka. It was a bit of a drive so we did not do any hikes that day. Instead, we detoured off Highway 101 and drove down the Avenue of the Giants in Humboldt Redwoods State Park. The Avenue of the Giants is a 31 mile scenic drive on old Highway 101 where you will find some of the largest Redwood trees that you can see without a hike. While you will see several trail heads that start here, there are also several pull outs along the road and even some picnic areas you can explore that do not require hiking. We stopped at a couple of these pullouts just to let the kids out to explore and see the giant trees. The Humboldt Redwoods State Park visitor center is also located on the Avenue of the Giants. They have bathrooms here and a gift shop, along with a picnic area.
On Day 2 we decided to hit up a few of the hikes that we had been wanting to do. Because we have two toddlers, and because Mike was just getting over bronchitis, we only did short, flat trails for the most part.
Our first loop of the day was the Rockefeller Loop in Humboldt Redwoods State Park. The trail is near Bull Creek and Eel River and was easy to find using the Google Maps links on the Redwood Hikes site. The loop is .7 miles and only has a total incline of 20 feet so we let our twins walk the loop. The loop was gorgeous with lots of old growth Redwood trees, clear path markings, and little foot traffic. We were the only ones on the trail, though others were arriving as we left. There are no bathrooms at the trail head so make sure you find one before you go to the trail.
My kids enjoyed seeing all the downed trees, and ran across one. This was before we went to another trail that actually had a sign asking not to climb on the downed trees. (Oops!) There is one really cool downed tree that is hollow and you can walk through as well.
After we finished the Rockefeller Loop (which took forever because, well, two-year-old twins) we headed to Founders’ Grove. Founders’ Grove is probably the most popular loop in the Humboldt Redwoods State Park. Redwood Hikes has this listed as a 1.3 Mile Loop, and it might have been, but it seemed a lot shorter. We almost regretted wearing the twins in the packs because it was such an easy walk. But maybe that is why it felt shorter, because we didn’t have to wait for them the entire time. Founders’ Grove does have outhouses in the parking lot.
After Founders’ Grove, we took some time to explore the part of the Avenue of the Giants that we had not driven the day before. Then we stopped at the Visitor’s Center/Ranger Station and ate lunch and did a little souvenir shopping. You know what is really cool, you can purchase a Redwood tree and take it home and plant it. In 600 years, the one we purchased is going to be huge!
Our final hike of the day we headed to Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park. Just before you reach the park is the Cheatham Grove Trail. We had one very specific reason for going to this trail.
Once we learned this grove was where they filmed the speed bike scene for Star Wars, Return of the Jedi, we had to go. Did you know the Redwoods have actually been the backdrops for a lot of movies? Yep! You can google movies filmed in the Redwoods to find out if any you love were filmed there.
Cheatham Grove was easy to find and the trail head is well marked. That said, the loop itself has several forks in the trail, and it can be confusing to know if you are going the correct way or not.
The trail had lots of oversized plant growth, which made me think of Return of the Jedi and the Ewoks. It was a flat trail, and only .7 miles. Perfect for all of our kids to walk again.
The trees themselves in the grove were not as impressive as those found in Humboldt Redwoods State Park, but they almost grew in rows, which I can see how that would have made it easier for filming. The trail was still very beautiful, and there were several benches and areas that were great for photos.
After the 3 hikes, we decided to head back to our hotel and let the toddlers nap and the Goof swim, calling it a day.
Day 3 was spent driving to Northern Humboldt County (more to come next week).
Where We Ate in Lower Humboldt County
We didn’t get to explore many restaraunts in the Eureka area. In fact, one we had looked forward to (Samoa Cookhouse) didn’t happen because we ended up arriving in town too late the first night. Boo! During the day we mostly did sandwiches since we were hiking. However, we did get to eat at Kristina’s. It was right in the parking lot of our Best Western hotel, and let me tell you, it was DELICIOUS! And the waitresses were super nice, even to our crazy crew. Be sure to check them out.
Other Activities In Eureka
There is plenty of other activities to do in Eureka if you are staying for a while. Eureka has a great little zoo (Sequoia Park Zoo), lots of shops, and the Humboldt Bay you can check out. Carson Mansion is a great place to check out if you are into old homes and architecture. You can also do boat tours, or check out some coastal trails as well.
If you are wanting to check out the heart of the Redwoods, and see some of the largest, most impressive trees, as well as the most popular sites, Eureka, CA and the lower Humboldt County Redwoods are the place to visit. My family can not wait to get back and do some of the trails we had to pass on this time.