For those who believe that California is just one big suburb, we submit Hendy Woods State Park. Geographically, it’s 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 a number of years, Hendy Woods State Park was privately owned, so logging activity was limited. Preservation efforts began in earnest around 1940, and California bought the land for this Park in 1958.
Generally, the weather is warm and clear here, even when it’s cool and foggy in other parts of Northern California. Hendy Woods State Park is a little further inland than most of the other redwood parks in the area. There are a lot of things you can do in all this sunshine. Fish (catch-and-release only) off 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 for a weekend. Some are sunny and some are shady. All of them 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 RV to enjoy the night sky.
Although it attracts about 50,000 visitors a year, state officials tried to close this park in 2012. But officials re-ran the numbers after a series of peaceful protests, so thankfully, Hendy Woods State Park is still alive and kicking.
RV Rentals in Hendy Woods State Park
Transportation in Hendy Woods State Park
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 scenic, you must take the long, winding, and narrow Mountain View Road. The good news is that there is almost no traffic, so you can take it as slow as you need to go.
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.
Campgrounds and parking in Hendy Woods State Park
Campsites in Hendy Woods State Park
The Azalea Campground offers 45 tent and RV campsites arranged in a loop. Drinking water spigots are available. 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 site 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, although some sites are offered on a first-come, first-served basis. Most sites can accommodate RVs up to 35 feet long. Pets are welcome.
Wildcat Campground has 49 sites and it is a little closer 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. Amenities include an amphitheater, dump station, and drinking water spigots. Pets are welcome, but they must be on a leash when outside the RV. Don't collect your own firewood since 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.
Reservations are highly recommended, although some sites are offered on a first-come, first-served basis. At 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.
Seasonal activities in Hendy Woods State Park
Geographically, Hendy Woods State Park is in a transition zone between meadow and forest. So, the hiking trails cover a diverse landscape in a very limited amount of space. When you look at the giant redwood trees, which are the tallest trees 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 go 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. Several Hendy Woods State Park trails are wheelchair and stroller-friendly.
There is not very much sunlight in the forested part of the park. But the Navarro River gets lots of sunlight, especially in July and August. Remember that even when the sun is warm, the water may be pretty cool. Nevertheless, swimming or tubing in the shadow of redwood trees is a very relaxing experience.
Kayaking and Canoeing
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. This part of the Navarro River 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 wider and deeper still.
Who doesn’t like looking for buried treasure? All you need to participate 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.
Exploring the Legend of the Hendy Hermit
Russian immigrant Petrov Zailenko lived in this Park for about twenty years in the 1960s and 1970s. He became a local celebrity. He knew pretty much 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 them 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.
Staying at the Cabins
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. Talk about rustic.