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Nearly 95% of all old-growth redwoods left in the world are found in California, and close to half of them are located in the Redwoods National and State Parks complex. This large multi-agency complex includes Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, 50 miles north of Eureka. The park contains the tallest trees in the world, and the species hasn’t changed at all since the Jurassic Age. Their significance and importance to the world have given them protection as both a World Heritage Site and an International Biosphere Reserve.
The Yurok Native Americans once inhabited the 14,000 acres that make up this park. Gold prospectors eventually forced the natives out in the mid-19th century, and when gold didn’t pan out, the timber harvest was just as valuable. This deforestation sparked the formation of the Save the Redwoods League in 1918, and the group was responsible for acquiring Prairie Creek State Park in 1923. Then in 1994, an agreement between California State Parks and the National Parks Service established a co-management program to protect the parks better and serve visitors. Ancestors of the original native inhabitants also help in administering the park's resources today. You can start your exploration of the hundreds of redwoods groves by booking an RV in Humboldt County.
Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park boasts an incredible 75 miles of hiking trails and 20 miles of biking trails. Three miles of trail are wheelchair-accessible, including the Redwood Access Trail and Revelation Trail. The park's most popular trail is probably the half-mile out-and-back into Fern Canyon. This flat hike is almost guaranteed to get your feet wet, but the tall fern-draped canyons will transport you back to the age of the dinosaurs. And that's probably why a major Hollywood dinosaur movie was filmed here. Longer, more challenging hikes include the wooded eight-mile rhododendron trail and the four-and-a-half-mile James Irvine Trail to Gold Bluffs Beach.
Fishing in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park is legal, though largely regulated. Still, the beautiful scenery and cold mountain streams attract numerous anglers every year. You can fish for salmon and trout, including steelhead, in late spring through early fall. One of the oldest hatcheries on the west coast was at Prairie Creek, but unfortunately, it was closed in 1992. However, it's still possible to watch salmon spawning in winter months in Prairie Creek, an easy walk from Elk Prairie Campground. You may also attempt saltwater fishing for smelt and perch from Gold Bluffs Beach.
If the weather is too wet for hiking, take a drive on the park’s four scenic drives while camping at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. The most popular drive is the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway, a ten-mile drive through the center of the park. This road parallels US Highway 101 and is a beautiful alternative to the busy highway. These drives will take you through dark forests, past massive redwoods, and along herds of Roosevelt elk. The elk are commonly seen at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, mostly in the park’s meadows and on the beach.
There are two campgrounds at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. The largest is Elk Prairie with 75 sites near the visitors' center. The Elk Prairie Campground is also the easiest to access with a rental RV since the road is relatively wide and maintained. But due to the small campground spaces, the maximum RV length is 27 feet. This campground is next to a peaceful meadow where you can observe the elk, and most sites have good shade and privacy under the canopy of trees. Amenities at Elk Prairie Campground include hot showers, restrooms, water, and picnic tables with grills. There are no RV hookups or dump station within the park at all.
The other campground at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park is Gold Bluffs Beach. This campground has 26 sites between the dunes and towering golden cliffs. It's more challenging to get to, however, due to the road conditions, and visitors are advised to check the conditions before you try in a rental RV. Trailers aren't allowed, and the maximum RV length is 24 feet. Gold Bluffs Beach Campground has showers, fire pits, restrooms, and picnic tables. Dogs are allowed in both of these campgrounds and on the beach if on a leash, but they're not permitted on the trails. You can access many of the park's hiking trails from either of the state park's RV campgrounds.
Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park has a fun event one day a month during the fall through spring called “Hike and Bike Days.” The park closes the parkway to vehicles and encourages pedestrians and their pets to enjoy the parkway on foot or bicycle. Redwood National Park adjoins Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park and offers even more exploration opportunities. While there's no RV camping in Redwood National Park, you can still enjoy scenic drives, guided tours, and plenty of wildlife. Other nearby redwood parks include Del Norte Coast and Jedediah Smith, both near Crescent City and offering RV camping opportunities. Other attractions in Crescent City include Battery Point Lighthouse and the scenic Crescent City harbor.
If you head south along the Redwoods Highway, you'll wind up in Eureka, where you can find fresh seafood, the Sequoia Park Zoo, and Humboldt Bay. Fill up with gas while in Eureka and do your grocery shopping here; there's gas and a market in Orick near Prairie Creek, but options are limited. If you continue south on US Highway 101 and eventually the Pacific Coast Highway, you’ll drive through the charming towns of Mendocino and Fort Bragg, past Point Reyes National Seashore, and eventually wind up in San Francisco.