For those who believe that California is just one big suburb, we submit Hendy Woods State Park into the equation. Geographically, the park is less than three hours from San Francisco. In most other ways, it’s about a lifetime away from the City by the Bay. Pack your RV at noon, and you can have an early dinner among some of the oldest redwoods in California. For many years, Hendy Woods State Park was privately owned, so it didn’t see the patronage it sees now. Generally, the weather is warm and sunny here, even when it’s cool and foggy in other parts of Northern California. Hendy Woods State Park is a little farther inland than most of the other redwood parks in the area. There are a lot of things you can do in all the sunshine, too, such as fish (catch-and-release) from a picturesque bridge, swim or boat on the Navarro River, or just relax and enjoy your campsite. Speaking of campsites, Hendy Woods State Park has more than 90 spots to park your RV for a night or a weekend. Some are sunny, and some are shady. All of the campsites are within easy walking distance of the park’s day-use area. So, enjoy what the park has to offer during the day, then go back to your camper to enjoy the night sky. Although Hendy Woods attracts about 50,000 visitors a year, state officials tried to close this park in 2012. Luckily, officials re-ran the numbers after a series of peaceful protests, and Hendy Woods State Park is still alive and operates year-round for RV and tent campers alike.
To reach Hendy Woods State Park from the Santa Rosa area, you can take the direct route up Highway 101 to Route 128, or you can take the scenic route up the Coast Highway to Stornetta. If you go the direct route, be sure and designate a driver, because you go through the heart of California’s wine country. If you prefer the scenic route, and it is very picturesque, you must take the long, winding, and narrow Mountain View Road. These kinds of roads can be daunting if you're maneuvering a big motorhome or hauling a trailer. The good news is that there is almost no traffic, so you can take it as slow as you need to. Navarro River Redwoods State Park is conveniently located less than 20 miles from Henly Woods if you're looking to tick multiple parks off of your bucket list. Hendy Woods State Park does not have very much RV parking. But chances are, you won’t take your rig out of your spot. The Day-Use Area is just a stone’s throw from the campground, and pretty much all the hiking trails begin or end in one of these places.
Wildcat Campground has 49 sites and is close to the Day-Use Area. The campsites are arranged in a C-shape. At your site, you will find a picnic table, food locker, and barbecue stove. However, there are no hookups. Campground amenities include an amphitheater, dump station, and drinking water spigots. Pets are welcome, but they must be on a leash when hanging around outside the RV. Don't collect your own firewood—you may purchase it from the camp host or at the ranger station. Fires are only permitted at your camp stove. Most sites can accommodate RVs up to 35 feet long, and reservations can be made up to six months in advance.
The Azalea Campground offers 45 tent and RV campsites arranged in a loop formation. Drinking water spigots are available, and campground amenities include restroom and shower facilities. Each campsite features a food locker, picnic table, and barbecue stove. Most of these sites offer no hookups, except for a few ADA-accessible sites which have electric connections. You can book your space up to six months ahead of time. The park is open all year long but gets especially busy from May to September. Reservations are highly recommended, but if you can't plan until the last minute, some of the sites are offered on a first-come, first-served basis. Most sites can accommodate RVs up to 35 feet long. Pets are welcome.
Although the Azalea Campground is a reservation campground, a few sites are held for guests arriving on a first-come, first-served basis. Once you get to your campsite, you will find a food locker, picnic table, and barbecue stove. Most sites can accommodate RVs up to 35 feet long. Pets are welcome.
If you want a night or two away from the campervan, consider staying in the Cabin Colony at Hendy Woods. The cabins are located just next to the RV campground. You're still guaranteed an authentic camping experience, as the cabins are equipped with just the basics. The three, one-room cabins available are equipped with bunk beds, a wood stove, and a table and chairs. One of the cabins is ADA certified, and reservations can be made up to six months in advance.
Take a break from your RV and spend a night in one of the four cabins located just outside the RV camping areas. Each one-room cabin has a bunk bed, a table, and chairs, a wood stove, and that’s about it. Sometimes you want a break from your home on wheels, and sometimes you want to bring along more family and friends than your rig might accommodate. These rustic cabins are the best option for such circumstances.
Russian immigrant Petrov Zailenko lived in this park for about twenty years during the 1960s and 1970s, and during that time, he became a local celebrity. He knew everything about the park, hunted small game for food, and built a few shelters and lean-tos out of redwood trees. You can still see these structures along the Hermit Hut Trail. You can also see what’s best described as an interpretive sign, but you have to see it to believe it. Zalienko died in 1981, and mourners scattered his ashes in the park.
Who doesn’t like looking for buried treasure? All you need to participate in the worldwide scavenger hunt known as Geocaching is a GPS-enabled device, a pencil, a few small prizes, like pencil erasers, and a sense of adventure. Look along the trails for buried or hidden boxes which look like those old metal lunch boxes. Take out the prize, sign the logbook, give yourself a virtual smiley face, replace the geocache swag, and look for the next treasure location. Geocaching is an activity that people of all ages will enjoy.
When you make the trip to Hendy Woods State Park, you're in for outstanding views of some of the oldest trees in the world. Some trees reach up to 300 feet and have been around for hundreds, even thousands of years. Massive, fallen tree stumps can be seen near the trails, along with ferns, California laurels, and Douglas firs. But you're also in for more than just trees when you visit. Photographers from near and far come to capture the staggering redwoods, sweeping meadows, and the ever-scenic Navarro River. If you're quiet enough, you may even spot some wildlife. When you visit during the autumn, take a detour or day trip to the countryside of Sonoma to get your fall foliage fix from the comfort of your RV.
If it is not quite warm enough to swim, you can still take your canoe or kayak out of your RV and have some fun on the water. Most people launch their watercraft in the Day-Use Area. The part of the Navarro River near the Day-Use Area is a bit wider and deeper than some other parts closer to the headwaters. If you inch closer to the park entrance, the water is broader and deeper still.
There is not very much sunlight in the forested part of the park because of the tall, thick tree line, but the Navarro River gets plenty of sunlight, especially during July and August. Remember that even when the sun is warm, the water may be pretty chilly. Nevertheless, swimming or tubing in the shadow of redwood trees is a very relaxing experience. Whether you're taking a dip in Hendy Woods, or any other swimming hole in the Bay Area, don't forget to pack your bathing suit and your sunscreen in the Airstream.
Geographically, Hendy Woods State Park is in a transition zone between meadow and forest. So, the hiking trails cover a diverse landscape in a minimal amount of space. When you look at the giant redwood trees, which are the tallest in the world, you may notice black marks. These are fire scars, and these trees are very fire-resistant. To best view these trees, try one of the several trails like the Discovery Trail that goes around Big Hendy Grove. It’s a bit of a walk to reach these trails if you start at the RV campground. But that’s why you go hiking in the first place, to stretch your legs. Several Hendy Woods State Park trails are wheelchair and stroller-friendly.
You've heard about the breathtaking redwoods, but you probably haven't heard about some of the other lifeforms that populate Hendy Woods State Park. If you have patient eyes, you may be able to witness some of the various critters that live in these woods. Preditors like bobcats, mountain lions, and gray fox make the occasional appearance, as do large black bears picking berries from bushes. The area is also a habitat for black-tailed deer, raccoons, cottontails, skunks, and chipmunks. If you point your eyes to the sky, you may spot Steller's jays, thrushes, and woodpeckers amongst the leaves.