Our Top 10 Things to Do
1. While the tide is low, walk to Battery Point Lighthouse in Crescent City. It’s the oldest continuously operating lighthouse in the U.S., and a 200-foot sandbar between the mainland and lighthouse makes it inaccessible except at low tide. Supposedly a ghost haunts Battery Point, which turned 150 this year. Open April-September.
2. Take a hike. Just a stone’s throw from the hostel you’ll find dozens of trails zig-zagging hundreds of miles through redwood forests, marshland, prairie, coniferous forests and woodland. Here are a few of our hostellers’ favorites:
a) Hostel to Trees of Mystery and beyond (4-7 miles, fairly easy): Climb the steps next to the hostel and hike 2 miles to the Trees of Mystery (see #3). Cross the road and continue .5 miles to Hidden Beach—tucked out of sight from the World—and on your way back, the trail meets up with the Coastal Trail.
b) Tall Trees area: Drive 17 miles south to Redwood Information Center, just past Orick, and grab a free permit to Tall Trees Grove (only 50 vehicle permits are issued each day). Hike Tall Trees Trail (1.2 miles, moderate) to see the world’s tallest trees on the alluvial flat formed by Redwood Creek. The trails connects to Emerald Ridge Trail (2.8 miles, moderate), which meets Dolason Prairie Trail (4.75 miles, moderate) and leads to a back country camp in the middle of the wilds.
c) Damnation Creek (2.5 miles each way, strenuous): Drive a few miles north on Highway 101 to milepost 16 and park in the turnout, then walk down a steep trail that drops 1000 feet—yes, it’s also a 1000-foot climb back up, but folks say it’s worth every laborious step. Old growth meets the sea, spectacularly.
d) Fern Canyon (various trails, easy-to-moderate). This lush, deep canyon near the coast is decorated in seven fern species, lining the walls like a Jurassic landscape. From the hostel, drive south on Highway 101 through Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, and turn right at Davison Road. Follow the gravel road to Gold Bluffs Beach, and continue another 15 minutes to Fern Canyon. Day-use fee of $6 per vehicle.
e) Lady Bird Johnson Grove (1 mile loop, easy): Herein lies the spot where President and Mrs. Johnson dedicated Redwood National Park in 1967. This loop is a nice old-growth walk with detailed ecological information. Drive 15 miles south of the hostel on Highway 101 to Bald Hills Road, turn left and follow the signs.
3. Ride a gondola into the Trees of Mystery (707-482-2251). Excellent for families and anyone else who love the trees, but doesn’t want to work too hard reaching them. It does cost money and the gargantuan statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox strike some as kitschy, but everyone needs a little kitsch now and then. Don’t miss the Native American museum (free!) and gift shop (also free, unless you buy something).
Just 1.5 miles south of the hostel. Look for gargantuan statues on the side of the road.
4. Visit injured seals and sea lions at the Northcoast Marine Mammal Center in Crescent City. Harbor seals, endangered Stellar Sea Lions and other critters live outside in pens and can be visited anytime; read below for gift shop hours and the feeding schedule. The center is a working hospital and not designed as a tourist attraction, so it’s low key, but visitors are welcome.
Daily feedings at 8 a.m., noon, 4 p.m. & 8 p.m. Take Highway 101 North, left on Front Street, left into City Park, right onto Howe Drive, which runs parallel to the ocean, and center is at the end. Donations accepted. (707) 465-6265.
5. Go tidepooling. The nearest spot is just across the street at Wilson Beach, and at low tide you can scramble onto the rocks for a look at marine life. Also, Lagoon Creek is ¼ mile south of the hostel on the right and another good spot is Enderts Beach, a ½-mile walk down the Coastal Trail from the Crescent Beach Overlook, about 11 miles north of the hostel off Highway 101. Check our information board for the tide chart, or logon to plan your tidepooling. (Click on Crescent City at the bottom). Be careful near the sea. "Sneaker waves" have been known to pull unsuspecting tidepoolers into the ocean…
6. Play on your computer. While it’s not exactly wilderness trekking, we understand that sometimes the day is best spent whiled away with a laptop and a cup of joe. For the closest free Wi-Fi access, drive 6 miles south of the hostel to the Pem-Mey store/gas station in Klamath. Espresso, snacks, Subway sandwiches and an unsecured Internet connection await you. Must have own laptop. The other options are north of us in Crescent City (about 13 miles), and include a corner coffee shop (Coffee Corner on the corner of Highway 101 South and 5th Street, which also has a computer for rent); a bakery/diner (Glen’s on 3rd Street); a restaurant with some fine vegetarian options as well as good beer (the Good Harvest Cafe, in front of Home Depot); and a deli (Chomperz, off Northcrest Drive). If you don’t have your o
wn computer, try the Del Norte County Library off Front Street in Crescent City (Tuesday-Friday 1-6 pm, Sat. 10 am-1 pm) or Tech Town Computers on Highway 101 North / 4th Street in Crescent City, next to Denny’s.
7. Watch the birds. Del Norte County is a migratory hot spot in the spring, with myriad species clamoring for space across the road from the hostel at False Klamath Rock, or off the coast of Crescent City at Castle Rock National Wildlife Refuge. Follow the California Birding Trail (californiaredwoodsbirdingtrail.org) or print a list of Del Norte County’s birdlist (californiaredwoodsbirdingtrail.org)
8. Swing. At City Park in Crescent City, you’ll find a public swimming pool and Castle PlayLand for kids and toddlers–with plenty of swings–as well as a fantastic view of the ocean, picnic tables, grass and the Crescent City Cultural Center & Chamber of Commerce. The library is across the street (Tuesday-Friday 1-6 pm, Sat. 10 am-1 pm).
From the hostel, take Highway 101 North for 13 miles, turn left at Front Street, and turn left at Play Street.
9. Drive a little…see a lot. We must admit, sometimes it does rain a bit. Okay, it can pour. This is an opportune moment to remind everyone that without 80-plus inches of annual rainfall, those glorious Redwoods filling the memory cards of our digital cameras would turn brittle from thirst, and their shallow roots would weaken into scraggly threads of rope, toppling tree after mighty tree. Just so you know.
For those soggy days, hop in the car and pick a route:
A) Drive 10 miles south of the hostel to Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway, which leads into Prairie Creek State Park (thick clusters of Redwoods, herds of Roosevelt Elk, creeks, prairie).
B) Drive south over the Klamath River and take the first exit to the Coastal Drive. This meandering crawl is an unpaved marvel. Stop when you spot two farmhouses below. These "houses" were actually a U.S. military outpost built after Pearl Harbor, when Americans feared a Japanese attack by sea.
C) Drive 10 miles north to Elk Valley Road, turn right and then turn right onto Howland Hills Road, which is 9 miles long and takes 60 minutes to drive (the closest you’ll get to driving through a tree without paying $5.95).
10. Get in the water! You can swim, surf, kayak or canoe the rivers, oceans & lagoons. Our most recommended kayak outfitter to the south is Kayak Zak’s (for lagoon kayak rentals or guided sea kayaking) at 707-498-1130 … and to the north is Lunker Fish Trips (for kayaking the Smith River) at 707-458-4704. Both outfitters are seasonal, usually from Memorial Day thru Labor Day. Our fave surfing outfitter is Noll Surfboards in Crescent City, at 707-465-4400. If you want to get crazy and charter a boat into the ocean for deep-sea fishing, try Tally Ho II at 707-464-1236.
3 Extras: If the above don’t keep you busy all day, try a jet boat tour up the Klamath River from May thru September (Klamath River Jet Boat Tours at 707-482-7775), tour the Redwoods in the Fun Bus (707-482-0227) or watch the sea lions and schooners at Crescent City Harbor.