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Humboldt Redwoods State Park is the oldest park in the Redwood National and State Parks complex, comprised of three other state parks in this region of northern California. The park started as an experiment in 1921 when the Save The Redwoods League was able to save one small grove of old-growth redwoods from loggers. It wasn't just the redwoods they saved; they also preserved habitat for numerous species of birds, river otters, salmon, bobcat, bald eagles, and black bears. The moody coastal rainforest system has a lush undergrowth of ferns, trillium redwood sorrel, and orchids.
Since its founding, the park has expanded to approximately 53,000 acres, a third of which is made up of old-growth redwood forests. The massive trees are well over 300 feet tall, and some of them are believed to be nearly 2,000 years old. And those are just the living ones; these trees have been around since the days of the dinosaurs. There are 189,000 acres of these trees preserved in California today. It is both a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an International Biosphere Reserve. Humboldt Redwoods is situated inland, 200 miles north of San Francisco.
One of the unique features of Humboldt Redwoods State Park is the infamous Avenue of the Giants. This 32-mile long road roughly parallels Highway 101, the “Redwood Highway.” The drive takes you through the dark, mysterious forest that reaches 300 feet above you. There are numerous pullouts where you can walk through old groves, have a picnic, and access the Eel River.
Speaking of the Eel River, there are plenty of opportunities for watersports at Humboldt Redwoods State Park. This large river meanders for 30 miles through the park and has plenty of beaches, boat launches, and swimming holes spread out along its banks. There are even some bars accessible to 4WD vehicles when the conditions are right. Just be careful around the water. The currents can be fast, especially after heavy rains. Fishing for steelhead and salmon is available with a proper fishing license.
The large area covered by this park make it perfect for hosting over 100 miles of hiking, bicycling, and horseback trails. Five of the trails are wheelchair-accessible. One of them goes through the Founders Grove, which takes you past the Dyerville Giant and the tree named after the founder of Save The Redwoods League. The three-quarter mile Stephen’s Grove Loop Trail takes you through one of the first groves protected by the park and remnants of a campground covered by a flood during the last century. Many strenuous hikes are also available, like the 13.6-mile Look Prairie-Peavine Ridge-Thornton Loop-Homestead Trail, which takes you through various ecosystems, old-growth forests, and marvelous viewpoints.
There are over 250 RV campsites in Humboldt Redwoods State Park spread out in three campgrounds. One is open year-round while the other two are open seasonally. These are old campgrounds; you won’t find any hookups or dump station, and the roads are winding and narrow. If you plan on camping at Humboldt Redwoods State Park, be sure to reserve a rental RV 24 feet or less. All campgrounds provide a fire ring and picnic table, while some also include a food storage locker. You may bring your pets into the campgrounds as long as they’re on a leash; unfortunately, pets are not allowed on the trails.
The Burlington Campground is the main RV campground with 58 sites, some of which are wheelchair-accessible. This campground is open year-round and is located along the Eel River, under the redwood canopy.
Hidden Springs Campground is the largest with 155 sites, though it is seasonal. It’s located along the Avenue of the Giants, offers showers, and has easy access to hiking trails and the Eel River. There is plenty of shade and privacy at this campground.
The smallest campground, Albee Creek, is tucked away up in the hills. It offers 40 sites with showers and is also seasonal. This campground is located in a meadow setting adjacent to Albee Creek and Rockefeller Forest. You’ll be rewarded with great views of the stars on a clear night.
Humboldt Redwoods State Park has an outstanding visitor center with great natural and historical exhibits. You can also see the Kellogg Travel Log, a hollowed-out redwood that has the distinction of being the first RV when it was mounted to a truck chassis. The park also hosts two marathons, one in the spring and the other in the fall, through the Avenue of the Giants. Part of the park is closed for this, but it’s a fun party.
There are opportunities to fill up the gas tank both north and south of the park along Highway 101. If you’re going to be exploring the entire redwoods parks complex, you’re probably going to want to book an RV in Humboldt County and continue north from here. You can refuel and reprovision in Eureka, 30 miles to the north. While stopping in Eureka, take the kids to the Sequoia Park Zoo and walk around Old Town Eureka. Fill up your stomach at one of Eureka’s steak & seafood restaurants and continue your motorhome journey along the Redwood Highway, hitting Crescent City next.