1. All it takes for those driving along the Redwood Highway through Humboldt County to miss Patrick’s Point State Park is a single dropped Cheeto. Even if the crispy treat sticks to the front of your shirt—and they’re good at that—glancing away from the road for that split second is all it takes to miss one of California’s less-visited-yet-breathtaking state parks. It’s a small state park, but for those camping for a few days, it’s a great location for visitors to see some of the area’s more spectacular natural sites.

    Within a short drive of Patrick’s Point State Park are the following attractions for nature lovers:


    Trinidad State Park and Bay

    Trinidad beach and bay lie to either side of Trinidad Head and are 5 miles south of Patrick’s Point, accessible by either the freeway or Patrick’s Point Drive. Most other attractions to the south require a drive through Eureka, which should be avoided if possible. In Trinidad, you will find restaurants, a grocery store, a post office, a gas station and little else. But it is a beautiful tiny berg.


    Humboldt Lagoons State Park

    Four lagoons are to the north of Patrick’s Point. The first of which, Big Lagoon, is a mere two miles from the point. Two brackish lagoons and one freshwater pond allow for a variety of fishing techniques; the fourth lagoon is basically a sand pit, so all you’re likely to catch there is some sun… if it isn’t foggy, which it always is. Although this, too, is a state park, there is no admission fee as the highway cuts right through it.


    Redwood National Park

    Driving north from the lagoons, you pass through the ersatz shanty town of Orick. Shortly thereafter, before actually reaching the entrance of the national park, Bald Hills Road will take you to the Ladybird Johnson Grove of old-growth redwoods. This is one of my favorite places and one of the lesser-traveled and more mysterious old growth forests in Humboldt County. I especially love it in the fog, because I can almost imagine sharing the primeval forest with dinosaurs. The trail is short and very easy for anyone.

    Elk Prairie is just up the road if you exit 101 and take the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway into Redwood National Park. The last time I was there, it was free to drive through the park, but times are hard and freebies are bound to disappear eventually. After passing Rolf’s Restaurant (which is worth investigating if you like wild game on occasion), you can usually spot elk on the prairie, but if they’re laying down, they may be hard to see. One of the park’s two campgrounds is located here.


    For the adventurous that have time, you can detour to the coast and visit Fern Canyon, one of my favorite places on Earth. This shallow but densely overgrown canyon twists through subtropical rain forest and its creek runs year around. This is also a very easy hike, but expect to get your feet wet.


    Klamath River                                                                                                                                 Only another 10 miles or so brings you to the Klamath River, the town of the same name and the Del Norte County border. Time to turn around, unless you’ve come to pull a few salmon out of the Klamath… along with about a thousand other people.


    Patrick’s Point State Park

    Just within and immediately around Patrick’s Point State Park, you will find plenty to keep you occupied. It helps if you know how to swim and how to surf, and do it well; and remembered to bring both the wetsuit and your most maneuverable board. The point is very popular with surfers, as the surf is small but consistently good and breaks to both sides of the point. The only problem is all of the jagged rocks sticking up out of the water—and worse, the ones just barely submerged, not to mention more than a fair share of great white sharks. Don’t try surfing here without an experienced local.


    The point provides many excellent ocean views—and because it sticks out into the Pacific and whales tend to swim close to the shore here anyway, this is an excellent place for gray whale-spotting during their long migration. Killer whales are not an uncommon sight here, either. You’re also likely to see seals, sea lions and elephant seals along the shoreline.


    Agate Beach is just below and north of the point and lives up to its name. I’m not sure why, but raw agates wash up onto this particular beach regularly. I don’t know if it’s legal to collect these agates, but everyone does. In addition, locals have been known to find the occasional piece of jade, interesting chunks of driftwood, bottle caps and once I found an alien rectal probe… but I don’t want to get into that now.


    Although it doesn’t qualify as a hike, but rather a pleasant walk, you can always take a stroll south on Patrick’s Point Drive from the park. After about a mile and a half, you’ll come to where the side of the road drops off into a cliff (and yes, parts of the road wash away regularly; I was stranded more than once while living there). This is an excellent place for snapping photos of the rugged coast, with many large rocks jutting up from the frothy water. The one problem is that there is no sidewalk—not to mention that the road is very narrow at places—but it isn’t so heavily traveled that this should be a problem, and you’ll hear cars coming from a distance because the locals all drive like maniacs.


    Another part of the park is a recreation of a Yurok Indian village. You won’t find any indigenous persons living there, but I believe all of the lodges, canoes and other features were built by craftsmen from the local Cher-Ae Heights Reservation in Trinidad. Which leads me to another diversion in the area.


    Trinidad                                  For those who simply cannot resist the temptation to gamble, there is a casino at the Cher-Ae Heights Reservation. When I lived in Trinidad, I had to listen to the nearly constant laments from local white folk about how those “damn Indians” were taking advantage of hard working white folk… because the hard working white folk were stupid enough to blow their money gambling. My thoughts on the matter are this: white folk stole the Indians’ land and forced them onto useless plots of land, then declared that each tribe was independent and allowed to govern itself how it saw fit. The Indians were smart enough to capitalize on this enormous loophole (at least, that’s how some white folk looked at this exemption from state laws once the Indians learned how to take advantage of it) and are now getting rich off the stupidity and avarice of what may be the ancestors of the white folk who stole their lands. Sounds like a “gotcha moment” to me.

    You can find a much better way of spending your money about halfway between Patrick’s Point and the town of Trinidad, at Larrupin Café. Arguably the best restaurant in all of Humboldt County, this place is not unreasonably expensive, considering the quality and décor. A semi-fancy restaurant with lax dress codes, they serve up yuppie fare that this yuppie hater just can’t pass up. Try the phyllo-wrapped chicken; you won’t be disappointed.


     Maybe the best way to enjoy the area around Patrick’s Point (and if you stay more than a couple days, trust me: you will want to explore because the park is very small) is to just get in your car, pick a direction and drive. If you stay within Trinidad, it’s hard to get lost because there are only half a dozen streets. If you stay on the Redwood Highway, you’ll see sights like this everywhere you go… until you hit Eureka.


    Patrick’s Point State Park

    4150 Patrick’s Point Dr
    Trinidad, CA 95570
    (707) 677-3570

    25 miles north of Eureka off Ca. Hwy 101 (Redwood Highway) at the north terminus of Patrick’s Point Dr.


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