Terra Galleria Photography

Six Coastal Highlights of Redwood National Park

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Because the star attraction of Redwood National Park are – what else ? – the redwood forests, it is easy to overlook the coastal part of the park. However, Redwood National Park is only one of two US National Parks where you can drive to the edge of the Pacific Ocean. You’ll find there a very wild coast. With little hiking, you can discover a great variety of settings to photograph. In this post, I’ll describe from South to North the highlights of this coastline which stretches for no less than 65 miles in Northern California.

Gold Bluffs Beach

You’ll likely come to Gold Bluffs Beach as part of a visit to Fern Canyon where you walk between 50 feet high vertical walls solidly covered with ferns. The beach itself is sandy (unlike many in the area which are gravel), wide and empty.

A bit inland, there are tall grass and weathered logs, as well as bluffs that catch the last light of the day. You access Gold Bluffs Beach via the narrow and unpaved Davison Road (trailers prohibited). You can stay at delightful campground right on the beach, which feels very remote.

By the way, the color in the first image came seemingly out of nowhere as 10 minutes before the whole sky appeared gray, as seen in the second image. Be ready and don’t give up!

High Bluff and Klamath River Overlooks

A pair of narrow spur roads, respectively on the south and north sides of the Klamath River (near Klamath) lead to high overlooks above the ocean from which you can try to look for whales. From the High Bluff Overlook, at the end of Coastal Drive (large vehicles prohibited) you look at a wild section of the coast, including the landmark Split Rock, which is beautiful at sunset.

With lucky timing, from the 600 feet elevation of the Klamath River Overlook (large vehicles not recommended), you could stand above a low layer of coastal fog. The light on the river mouth is normally best at sunset, but sunrise (and moonrise) creates more dramatic backlight on the fog.

False Klamath Cove

False Klamath Cove is the only spot along Hwy 101 where you can easily access the beach, which is roadside. Be sure to keep an eye for it, as Hwy 101 borders the ocean for only about half a mile, between Lagoon Creek and Wilson Creek picnic areas.

Best photographed at sunset, False Klamath Cove offers several interesting elements: two streams flowing into the Pacific, innumerable boulders standing in the surf, and off-shore sea stacks. I prefer either the north end or the south end of the beach, as there are more features than in the middle of the beach.

Hidden Beach

Nearby Hidden Beach (situated 1 mile south of False Klamath Cove) presents even more possibilities: driftwood, boulders, tidepools, and an off-shore tree-toped sea stack. On each of my visits, I’ve had the secluded cove to myself. The shortest trail (1.4 mi RT) starts just west of the motel opposite Trees of Mystery, a few miles south from False Klamath Cove. The nearby lagoon has some interesting lilypads which are easy to photograph at any time of the day.

Enderts Beach

Enderts Beach Overlook, reached from Crescent City, provides a great view of the steep cliffs to the south and Crescent Beach to the North. In the springtime, the hills are covered with wildflowers. The best light on the cliffs is at sunset. However, mid-morning light will bring out better the turquoise color of the ocean on a clear day while mid-day light can even work, backlighting the fog.

A 1-mile RT trail winds down to Enderts Beach, following a high bluff with great overhead ocean views, then passing a valley filled with alder which are striking in winter. At the south end of the beach, you’ll find the richest tide pools in the area. To explore the intertidal zone, be sure to check tide tables, and arrive at a minus tide. I found out the hard way that moderate tide might not be enough to uncover the pools, especially if high surf pounds the beach.

For a change from the redwood forest hikes (the best of which are possibly in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park), the coast of Redwood National Park has much to offer. What are your favorite spots there?

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  1. M. D. Vaden says:

    One of my favorite hikes is the Westridge and Prairie Creek loop, in Praiire Creek redwoods state park. My favorite adventures are off-trail though, looking for beautiful spots and large trees. A new largest coast redwood was found last year, but the search for more continues. All the while, taking more images long the way.


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