California definitely is the land of the big trees and there are several old growth redwood forests in the north end of the state that are now highly protected. This was not always the case and clear cutting the majestic redwoods was still taking place as recently as the 1970s. The damage done can still be seen along Bald Hills Road, which is one of many touring routes through the Redwood National and State Parks. Along this same road is where the Ladybird Johnson Grove can be found, which was named in her honor by Presidents Johnson and Nixon for her conservation effort that led to the creation of this big park.
The boundaries of Redwood National and State Parks may be difficult to fathom upon first glance, but when looking at an official park map it becomes easy to understand. This park protects several strands of old growth redwood forests along the coastal range in northern California between Crescent Beach and San Francisco. Some of the forests are narrow strips of land between the mountains and the beach, while other parts cover a broader range in order to include endangered oak forests and clear cut mountain prairies. Each State Park section of this park has a name, which includes Jedediah Smith, Del Norte Coast Redwoods, Prairie Creek Redwoods and a few more sites near the bay area.
Most of the Redwood Parks can be accessed on the Redwood Highway at the north end and along the Coastal Highway all the way south to San Francisco. There is plenty of signage that lets visitors know what section they are in, while the park brochure highlights facilities, trailheads and campgrounds. There are local tourist traps, museums and lodges along the Coastal Highway that are worth checking out too.
Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park is where Bald Hills Road can be found and this is yet another lengthy touring route in this big park system. Bald Hills Road runs east up the crest of the coastal foothills through several famous redwood forests on the way to Dolan Prairie and the end of the line in the Klamath National Forest, which is where many camping options can be found. A complete tour of Bald Hills Road is guaranteed to be at least a full day of adventure and camping at either end is the best way to go. Points of interest along Bald Hills Road include Redwood Creek Trail, Ladybird Johnson Grove, Tall Trees Trail, Dolason Prairie Trail and Lyons Ranch. Each of these scenic areas has its own unique character and hours can be spent taking it all in.
On a side note, my own 2019 tour of the Redwood National and State Parks was not exactly a relaxing experience. I had just completed a month long tour of the northwest in southwest Oregon and an extensive tour of the parks in California was planned as the next leg of the journey. While in Oregon, I heard the news about a few wildfires that had just popped up in northern California. Judging by how dry the forest conditions were in the entire northwest, I knew from experience that time was limited, because the wildfires definitely were likely to get out of control real soon. A day later the billowing smoke plumes could be seen in the distance from the crest of Bald Hills Road and after camping overnight in the Klamath National Forest, smoke started covering the entire region the next morning.
I have been through many bad forest fires in the past, so I immediately charted a course southeast to Reno, Nevada from northern California. Getting out of harms way was the best choice and from Redwood Del Norte, it took two very harrowing long days to get out of this state, so not hesitating was necessary. I basically rushed from one point of interest to the next all the way to Reno and by the time I got there the smoke was so thick in that city that the tall buildings could not bee seen from a few blocks away. I did get some fire season smoke landscape photos that will make viewers aware of just how bad the 2019 wildfire season was, which will be published in upcoming articles.
Needless to say, I did not spend enough time in the Del Norte Redwoods State Park and the only other sections I visited was parts of the Jedediah Smith and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Parks. Fortunately the ancient tall trees are capable of withstanding seasonal forest fires, so they will always be there when a return trip is planned. With this in mind, if you find yourself in a similar wildfire situation, the best thing to do is evacuate and get out of the way, because the firefighters will need all the breathing room they can get!
Leave no trace!
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