In planning our trip to Northern California and the Redwoods we selected the small coastal town of Trinidad to be our home base. It’s just a little over an hour south of Crescent City and reasonably close to some of the nearby state and national parks. There are a number of beaches to explore close to Trinidad along with Patrick’s Point State Park.
Since we were already going to be spending 7 hours in route to Oakland Intl Airport (using the Companion Pass from Southwest Airlines) we decided to split the drive from Oakland up to Trinidad into two days.
Rail Biking Through The Redwoods
We began scouring the web in hopes of finding some unique experiences along the way that were within a reasonable driving distance from Oakland. We discovered this rail bike tour offered by Skunk Train in Fort Bragg where you get to pedal a rail car through the redwoods. After a long flight to Oakland Fort Bragg was a reasonable stopover point. You can click to read more about our rail bike experience and a couple of stops we made along the way up to Fort Bragg.
Where We Stayed At Trinidad
Trinidad California is a small town located about 30 minutes north of Eureka with most lodging being bed and breakfasts or RV/camping. On this trip we found a gem of a cottage outside of town near Patrick’s Point and right on the coast through Airbnb.
This was a perfect home base, centrally located close to beaches and hiking trails just outside of Trinidad and close enough for day trips up to Crescent City and Jedidiah Smith Redwood State Park or points south. The cottage had everything we needed to enjoy our stay including a cozy gas fireplace for those cool mornings. The views from the cottage were amazing complete with binoculars to zoom in on the seals and sea lions below, and if the weather is just right the views of the night sky are out of this world! One evening in particular… well… lets just say it’s been quite a few years since we saw so many stars. We spent 6 nights there in August and were invited to enjoy breakfast at the B&B next door which we took advantage of twice. If you are looking for a private and peaceful get-a-way overlooking the ocean with ocean breezes and beautiful sunsets search no more. We confidently give our highest recommendation for The Whale Tail!
Patrick’s Point State Park is located about six miles north of Trinidad off Highway 101. There are three campgrounds in the park and a number of trails down to the beach or to some amazing viewpoints.
Entrance fee was $8 in 2019 for day-use vehicle entry with no charge to walk or bike into the park.
Pets must be leashed and are only allowed in developed areas, not on trails or the beach.
On the northern end of Patrick’s Point State Park lies Agate Beach. You can park your car at the Agate Beach campground and take the trail down from the bluff to the beach. Take care when descending the trail as it is quite steep in sections with some of the stairs in desperate need of repairs during our visit.
Enjoy a time watching wildlife, exploring tide pools or hunting for agates. Note the beach is not recommended for swimming due to the cold water, drop-offs and rip tides so exercise caution when visiting.
If you are pressed for time head over to Wedding Rock, the trail is pretty short but can be steep for some. The day we were there the Coast Guard was holding rescue maneuvers.
Patrick’s Point Gallery:
Trinidad Area Beaches and Nearby Trails
We enjoyed exploring a number of beaches and hikes in the immediate Trinidad area.
Luffenholtz Beach park is located just south of the small town of Trinidad right on Scenic Drive. There is room for a few cars right at the stairs to access the beach that usually get taken first, additional parking is located about a hundred yards south of the beach access. There are picnic tables located on the bluff near the scenic overlook that looks toward the town of Trinidad and Trinidad Head.
Houda Point Beach
Houda Point Beach is located a few miles south of Trinidad. Access is via a short trail from the parking lot that leads to the top of Houda Point. Houda Point Beach is located north of the point. There are some shallow sea caves that are accessible however you should be aware of the tides.
College Cove Trail
Located near Trinidad Head in the north cove of Trinidad State Beach is College Cove Beach. Pewetole Island separates the two coves. When the tide is low you are able to walk through an arch that separates the two beaches. Hiking trails located on the bluff above the beach lead to viewpoints on Elk Head located north of College Cove.
To reach the parking lot for College Cove drive out Stagecoach Road from downtown Trinidad past the entrance to Trinidad State Beach, look for a road with signs for College Cove and Elk Head. You can reach the beach by heading west on the wide trail from the parking lot toward Elk Head, then turn left off onto an unsigned narrower and steep trail that descends quickly. Be aware that being more secluded College Cove Beach does have a reputation as being clothing-optional.
There are plenty of other beaches in the area to explore as well, you might check out California Beaches for additional info.
Located about 1 1/2 hour north of Trinidad is the 44 acre Stout Memorial Grove, often considered the heart of the Jedediah Smith Redwoods State park. The loop trail leads through colossal redwoods 300+ feet tall with waist-high ferns carpeting the forest floor. Other plants and tree growth has been blocked by flood waters that prevent their growth allowing for a magnificent view of these redwoods. Stout Grove is a little more remote providing the benefit of lower numbers of visitors compared to other locations. We have a separate post about Stout Grove you can read by clicking for more details.
The Fern Canyon trail is located about 30 miles north of Trinidad. The trail leads through a narrow gorge with moisture dripping from 50 to 80 feet high cliffs completely covered with ferns and moss. Some ancient fern species can trace their ancestry back hundreds of millions of years. Perhaps that’s why Fern Canyon was a featured location in Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park 2: The Lost World and the BBC series Walking with Dinosaurs.
The trail follows Home Creek through the forest for about one mile. It is mostly clear with the only hindrance being the creek as it snakes it’s way over the canyon floor along with the occasional downed tree. The walls become higher and the gorge narrows as you make your way into the canyon.
View our complete write up on Fern Canyon with additional photos and directions.
If you are short on time but desperate to get up close to a colossal redwood then the Big Tree Wayside is a must stop on your way through Prairie Creek Redwood State Park. This giant is one of the largest in the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park at roughly 300 feet in height and a circumference of 74 feet, it’s estimated to be about 1500 years old.
Getting to the Big Tree is a super easy stroll from the parking area which is located just north of the Prairie Creek Visitor Center off of the Newton B Drury Parkway. You can read more about Big Tree Wayside here.