Best Places to Camp in Humboldt County

Best Places to Camp in Humboldt County

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  1. Avenue of the Giants

    Born a city boy, I escaped Los Angeles as much as possible in my youth. As a cheapskate, more often than not I went camping. Then fortune planted me in a tiny town in Humboldt County, California, and I found myself perpetually surrounded by redwoods, a few hundred feet from the most spectacular coastline on Earth with deer, foxes, raccoons, bobcats, mountain beavers and any number of other wild critters wandering through my yard on any given day. Understandably, my need to camp diminished, but didn’t go away altogether. Unfortunately, I never did any backpacking in Humboldt County (though I did take a very memorable trip into Mendocino County), but Humboldt is rife with excellent hiking trails… though, just to be difficult, I’ll only name one of them, if only to give you something constructive to do.

     

    Recreation of Yurok Village, Patrick’s Point State Park

     Patrick’s Point State Park is one of the most popular destinations for the few smart enough to decide to do their camping in Humboldt. Located on Patrick’s Point Drive about five miles north of Trinidad, just west of Hwy 101, this spectacular location offers three separate campgrounds (Penn Creek, Abalone and Agate), some with spaces near the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean and other sites nestled among redwoods, Douglas firs, Oregon oaks, alders and a wide variety of other trees. Private sites are not hard to find. Oddly enough, the point is locally famous for surfing by those willing to risk their lives trying to avoid the many sharp rocks protruding from the water. And while camping there, if you find that parts of the park look familiar and you happen to be a fan of Stephen Spielberg’s movies, you may realize that parts of Jurassic Park II were filmed at Patrick’s Point.

     

     

    Trinity River in Hoopa Valley

    Tish Tang Campground is on the Trinity river in the heart of the Hoopa Valley, which is mostly Indian reservation land, though they welcome visitors graciously. You can fish or swim in the river or spend yout time exploring the region where there have been more Bigfoot sightings than anywhere else on earth. Who knows? You may get lucky and stumble into the big, hairy guy yourself.

     

     

    Fish Lake Recreation Area

    Fish Lake hovers above and to the west of the Hoopa Valley at an elevation of around 6,000 feet. This area is a particularly hot Bigfoot-spotting region. During my many visits to the lake to catch the stocked rainbow trout, I saw several enormous hairy creatures with large feet and terrible body odor, but knew none was the legendary beast because most of them said, “Howdy,” to me and all of them drove pickup trucks. The campground fills up during the summer, especially with RVs towing boats (the miniscule lake gets so crowded with fishing boats that the maximum speed limit is often less than three miles per hour), but if you go in the spring after the thaw or in autumn before the campground closes, you may find some peace and quiet.

     

     

    Elk Parairie, Redwood National Park

    Elk Prairie Campground lies within Redwood National Park, less than ten minutes drive north of the miniscule town of Orick, and the place certainly lives up to the name. Predictably, the highway bisects a large, persistently green prairie where visitors can spot elk with ease, especially in the morning and evening. It isn’t unusual for elk to wander right through your campsite—but if they do, think twice before approaching them, especially if you’re camping in the fall, which is the rutting season. Every year, aggressive elk gore careless people. One of my favorite selling points for Elk Prairie is that just before you reach it (if driving up from the south), you’ll pass a restaurant named Rolf’s that has been a landmark of Humboldt County for decades and specializes in locally hunted exotic meats. The last time I ate there, I had a combination platter that included elk, venison (deer), bear and wild pig. I didn’t care for the bear or elk (too gamey for me), but the wild pig makes me drool even now whenever I think of it.

     

     

    Gold Bluffs Beach, Redwood National Park

    Gold Bluffs Beach Campground is not my favorite place to camp, but it lies beside possibly the prettiest place in the world. To get there, go back to Rolf’s and turn west up Davison Road, which becomes a dirt road before long and will take you over the hills to the coast. After crawling through a couple shallow creeks that cross the beachfront road, you’ll come to the campground, which is on the beach, in the sand, and I can’t speak for anyone else but camping in sand is no picnic. Hey, there’s an idea: go out there for a picnic instead. Then, when you’re done digesting, take a walk up Fern Canyon, which also lives up to its name as both walls of the canyon boast so many ferns of various descriptions and thick mats of moss and lichens, only occasional patches of rock or dirt break through the verdant upholstery. Yes, I know you’ve never heard of Fern Canyon, but you have certainly seen it if you’ve ever watched any TV documentary or fiction movie featuring dinosaurs, including the Jurassic Park movies. In fact, when you take a stroll up the canyon, you will easily imagine that dinosaurs probably raced out of sight just before you arrived. The place has a distinctive primal look and feel about it. The canyon is narrow—only twenty or so feet wide in places—between thirty and sixty feet deep and not more than a couple miles long, making it a very easy hike. Small wood-plank bridges are laid across the creek meandering through the canyon for much of the year, but these are removed during the salmon and steelhead spawning runs in the spring and fall, so before you go there, be sure to pack an extra pair of shoes and a towel, for your feet may get soaked.

     

     

    Freshwater Lake, Humboldt Lagoons State Park

    Freshwater Lagoon is where the RV drivers go who don’t care about hookups, because the camping is free. The “campground” consists of a long, wide dirt berm separating Hwy 101 from the beach. It offers no restrooms, tables, water or anything else, so it holds little appeal to tent campers like me, except on one very special day of the year: July 4th. Every Independence Day, hundreds—perhaps thousands—of people crowd onto the beach to enjoy the fireworks display. Mind you, fireworks are illegal in Humboldt, and the display is not provided by the county, so it is a misdemeanor offense to participate, but that’s never stopped anyone. Every year, the sheriff’s and fire departments turn a blind eye to the festivities at Fresh Water Lagoon. First of all, coastal Humboldt County is a subtropical rain forest that gets over 100 inches of rain a year, so wildfires are unheard of; secondly, if the authorities tried to stop the party, they’d make a lot of enemies out of people who are likely neighbors—and then the party would just move down the road, where it might actually cause a public hazard. This is where, year after year, I saw the best amateur fireworks displays, most smuggled into the state from Nevada, Washington or Mexico, and it’s always a good time. Other than that, this campground has little to offer; however, across the street you can find decent trout and smallmouth bass if you go fishing in the lagoon. More often than not, I came home from angling with a nice two-pound rainbow for dinner.

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