After a few days spent devoting myself to the salty coast while winding up the 101 in California, my three-person van crew decided to trade sandy shorelines for towering trees with a trip to Redwood National Park. I was surprised to learn that this park is actually spread out along the 101, and there is no fee to enter – so there’s no excuse not to visit Redwood National Park if you’re passing through!
We began our visit with a stop at the Thomas H. Kuchel Visitor Center, which sits right along the coast. It doesn’t seem like your regular National Parks visitor center, but it’s a great place to begin your redwood adventure. While I was chatting with a ranger about the best trail for spotting banana slugs, we spotted a late-season gray whale breaching just off the shore, incredible.
Just a few minutes up the road, and I had my next wildlife encounter: a field full of grazing elk families welcomed us into the appropriately named Elk Meadows trailhead area. I could have gladly sat and watched the creatures munch on grass all day, but our sights were set on the Trillium Falls Trail, a 2.5 mile loop through misted corridors of old and young redwood trees.
The journey begins with a rather unceremonious diversion from a wide paved path onto a narrow dirt trail that quickly winds up a small hill into the thickets. Suddenly, you find yourself immersed in a moist wonderland filled with ferns, banana slugs, and tasty salmonberries.
Winding through the redwoods for about ¾ of a mile leads you to a small bridge perched above the trail’s namesake falls. Only about 10 feet tall, the waterfalls themselves aren’t the star of this area: it’s the ecosystem thriving here that will capture your attention.
The first mile of the hike took us over an hour; we were constantly snapping photos and capturing audio from birds, rustling branches, and babbling water. The Trillium Falls trail certainly isn’t meant to test your limits as a hiker, but it will gladly introduce you to a world of wonderment that promises to break your stride every few steps with something new to stop and look at.
The remainder of the trail is less impressive than the first segment, but the pleasantries are plentiful as you complete the loop through younger forest, across an old logging road, and back to the paved path that leads to the parking lot. The Trillium Falls trail at Redwood National Park was by no means a strenuous excursion, but it was a beautiful jaunt into the redwoods during my adventure up the Pacific coast.
If I wasn’t on such a pressing mission to make my way from Half Moon Bay, CA to Seattle, WA, I would have gladly spent much more time at Redwood National Park. The sprawling geography of the park invites visitors to experience everything from seaside excursions along tide pools and piles of driftwood to hiking deep within the heart of redwood forests.