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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

North Coast adventures from California’s Redwood Coast to Southern Oregon

By Jackie Burrell The Mercury News

BIG SUR/THE LOST COAST, Calif. – California’s famous shoreline assumes a variety of names as it winds its way from the sunny south to the forest-dotted north. But whatever you call the region that straddles the California-Oregon border, where the Redwood Coast meets Oregon’s shore, this remote stretch offers a spectacular escape from civilization.

Redwood-shaded hiking trails wind across expansive state and national parks. The Pacific unfurls over deserted beaches. And just offshore, fantastical sea stacks capture the imagination, remnants of a bygone age.

Highway 101 becomes a winding, bucolic byway out here, hugging the shore for the grandest of road trips. Here are eight must-see stops along the way, beginning on Oregon’s southernmost coast and winding down.

Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor, Oregon

You’ve seen the images on Instagram – dramatic sea stacks, improbably topped by trees, rising from the surging, nearly turquoise surf. This otherworldly seascape was formed by ancient lava flows, eroded over millions of years into these towering rocks and islets.

Some 2,000 of them dot the Southern Oregon coast, but the most spectacular are clustered along the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor, a 12-mile stretch of stunning scenery along Highway 101. It’s named for Oregon State Parks’ first superintendent, who suggested creating a national park along this coastline in the 1940s.

The corridor offers a dozen or so pullouts that make it easy to hike these trails, drink in the views and enjoy some of the loveliest picnic spots imaginable. Some sites, such as Secret Beach and Whaleshead, have easy beach access. (Just beware of sneaker waves.) But the most extraordinary view is at Natural Bridges, named for its seven stunning arch rocks and blowholes. If you make only one stop, this is the one.

Just make sure you stick to the actual, designated trails. The cliffside ecosystem is fragile, the edges eroded – that’s how we got this incredible scene, after all – and some places are exceedingly steep and slippery.

Details: The scenic corridor begins just north of Brookings, Oregon. Pull-outs are well marked and several offer picnic tables and vault toilets. The Natural Bridges pull-out is 1.8 miles north of the Thomas Creek Bridge. Find maps and details at Grab picnic fare at the Railroad Street Market & Deli, 534 Railroad St. in Brookings.

Port Orford, Oregon

The small fishing town of Port Orford, which lies about 30 miles north of the Boardman scenic corridor, is known for its “dolly dock,” one of just two in the country, where you can watch the town’s fishing fleet – 30 boats – lowered into the water by crane each day.

Trace the town’s maritime history at the Lifeboat Station Museum at Port Orford Heads State Park, where the interpretive exhibits include one of the 36-foot lifeboats used by U.S. Coast Guard “surfmen” to rescue shipwrecked sailors from 1934 to 1970. A signal from the Heads lookout tower sent surfmen racing down the 280-foot cliffs of Nellies Cove to reach the boathouse and set out to sea. You can still see traces of that steep cliffside stairway from the park’s Cove Trail. The boathouse is long gone, but pilings remain, along with remnants of the rails used to launch the boats.

Browse the museum, hike the trails – the Tower Trail takes you to the site of the long-ago observation tower – then check out the town’s art galleries and murals. When hunger pangs hit, head for the much-loved Crazy Norwegian on the main drag for chowder and fish and chips.

Details: The Lifeboat Station Museum is open from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. daily (closed Tuesday) from May to September;, Find details about the town’s murals and galleries at The Crazy Norwegian’s Fish & Chips is open from noon to 7 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday at 259 Sixth St. in Port Orford.

WildSpring, Port Orford

It’s not often you run across a place like this, an eco-friendly bed and breakfast that sits on five forested acres and feels more like a serene retreat for Middle Earth elves than an inn. The art-filled grounds include a seven-circuit labyrinth, a slate-tiled hot tub offers ocean views and five charming, shingled cottages with names like “Earthsea” are tucked among the trees. And once you settle into your cozy, antique-filled cabin, you won’t want to go anywhere except, perhaps, for a soak under a starry sky.

Details: WildSpring Guest Habitat cottage rates vary by season, $298 to $338 in April and May, for example, and $338 to $368 from June through September, with a two-night minimum. 92978 Cemetery Loop, Port Orford, Oregon;

Crescent City, California

Beaches, tide pools and a lighthouse await in this small city just south of the Oregon border. The seafront here is striking, with huge gray rocks and crumbled sea stacks scattered across the water, like some gigantic game of marbles. At low tide, grab some tennies or rugged water shoes and head for Crescent City’s Pebble Beach or Enderts Beach, three miles south in Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park. Or head out to Battery Point Lighthouse, where you can see barnacles, crabs and other sea life on the rocky walk out to the tidal island.

Built in 1856, the Cape Cod-style lighthouse is accessible only at low tide. Check out the exhibits, take the tour and hear the tale of the 1964 tsunami that swept across the city and stranded the lighthouse keepers in the tower.

Afterward, grab a bite at SeaQuake Brewing, where a Battery Point blonde ale or Fogline hazy pairs nicely with locally caught fish, bacon-topped burgers and inventive, brick-oven pizzas.

Details: Battery Point Lighthouse is open at low tide daily between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. at 235 Lighthouse Way in Crescent City, SeaQuake Brewing is open from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily and until 9 p.m. Friday-Saturday at 400 Front St.;

Redwood National and State Parks

This national park is really a quartet of parks that includes Redwood, Prairie Creek Redwoods, Jedediah Smith Redwoods and Del Norte Coast Redwoods. It’s a 139,000-acre collaboration between the federal and state park systems that includes a multitude of glorious trails. If challenging, backcountry hikes are your thing, you’ll certainly find them here. But there are plenty of easy, family-friendly trails too, including some that are ADA accessible.

At Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, east of Crescent City, the beautiful, family-friendly Stout Memorial Grove trail (0.5 miles) runs along the Smith River, where you can picnic and splash on a cobbled beach. Seasoned hikers should allow a half day to hike the park’s Boy Scout Tree trail (5.5 miles) to Fern Falls. (Just note that you’ll be entering the park via Howland Hill Road, a former stagecoach trail that has retained all its narrow, twisty, dirt road qualities. Don’t attempt it with an RV or trailer.)

Looking for an ADA-accessible trail? The Karl Knapp Trail (2.5 miles) at Prairie Creek Redwoods, near Klamath, takes you past some of the tallest redwoods on the planet.

Details: All four parks are free, but some areas and parking lots have day-use fees. Cell signal is spotty; carry paper maps or download maps to your phone and carry plenty of water and snacks. Find hiking maps and trail suggestions at park visitor centers and at

Trees of Mystery, Klamath

You might wonder why we’re suggesting you take time out from visiting four massive national and state parks, all free, to check out a retro, redwood-themed tourist attraction glorifying loggers and charging $25 a pop. You know the one: There’s a 49-foot tall Paul Bunyan and his hefty sidekick, Babe the Blue Ox, out front, ready for their closeup.

To be fair, the Trees of Mystery park is legitimately retro – it opened in 1946. The glorified logger is Bunyan. And there’s more here than interpretive signage. The park’s Redwood Canopy Trail takes visitors up into the midcanopy over aerial suspension bridges, with platforms from which to gaze out and channel your inner Swiss Family Robinson. And a SkyTrail gondola ride takes you up through the canopy to a mountaintop viewing platform for a new perspective. (And Bunyan and Babe are out in the parking lot, happy to pose for free.)

Details: Admission is $13-$25. The trail opens at 9 a.m. daily at 15500 Highway 101 in Klamath; There’s a midcanopy Redwood Sky Walk at Eureka’s Sequoia Zoo, too, with similar prices.

The Historic Requa Inn, Klamath

In the late 19th century, Requa, which means “mouth of the creek” in the Yurok language, was a hub for fishermen and canneries along the Klamath River, and the Yurok village that existed long before that was one of the region’s oldest settlements. Klamath is a sleepy enclave now, but the century-old Requa Inn still bustles with visitors, drawn now by redwoods, trails and river. (Head for the Klamath River Overlook, 1.5 miles from the hotel, for expansive views of the ocean, the Klamath River estuary and, if you’re lucky, migrating whales. It’s a prime picnic spot, too.)

The dozen rooms at this Arts and Crafts-style inn balance modern comfort with period charm. The Emerald Ridge room, for example, has original redwood-slat walls, an antique bedstead and river views, while the sunny Rhododendron boasts period wallpaper and a claw-foot tub. And the Post Office suite was once the town’s post office. You’ll enjoy river views from the breakfast room too, where an a la carte menu offers pancakes, biscuits and eggs.

Details: Rooms start at $136. 451 Requa Road, Klamath;

Fern Canyon, Prairie Creek Redwoods

Whether you’re an outdoorsy type who likes a little splashy adventure or a cinephile with a penchant for velociraptors, this canyon at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park is irresistible.

It’s an incredible, timeless place filled with green fronds of every shade. Rivulets and waterfalls spill down the sides. Creekwater splashes at your feet, and the blue sky is only faintly visible high above. And if you saw Steven Spielberg’s “The Lost World: Jurassic Park,” you may remember the dinosaur attack that unfolded in the deep shade of the towering, fern-covered canyon walls.

It’s an adventure getting here, even without carnivorous theropods. It’s a 9-mile hike on the James Irvine Trail – or an adventurous drive to the Fern Canyon parking lot that includes a 7.5-mile, winding, single-lane dirt road with two stream crossings. (RVs and low-slung sports cars need not apply.) Once there, the 1-mile loop trail runs through a creek bed, so you will get wet. Wear water shoes with grippy tread even at the height of summer, when park rangers place temporary footbridges – wooden planks – over some of the deeper spots.

But it’s a bucket list experience – breathtaking and beautiful. And if you’re better at rolling up your cuffs than we are, you only need change shoes, not pants, back at the car. Then head to Gold Bluffs Beach for a picnic or wind your way back over the steep access road to enjoy the rest of the park.

Details: Access to the park is free, but there’s a $12 day-use fee (cash, checks only) for the Fern Canyon and Gold Bluffs area. If you’re here at peak season (May 15 to Sept. 15), you’ll need to reserve a free, timed parking permit in advance at The Fern Canyon parking area has vault toilets, picnic tables and beach access. Find more information at