Our first stop in California was at the Florence Keller Campground just outside of Crescent City. Even though we’re only about 20 miles south of the Oregon border, at our spot here in the redwood forest we might as well be a world away. Florence Keller is adjacent to the very northern section of the Redwood National Park. The 50 sites are spread among a stand of stately second growth redwood trees, lush ferns and moss, moss and more moss.
When researching places to stay in the area I found tons of private parks with just so-so online reviews, one state park that’s closed for the season, one state park that charges $35/night for dry camping (gasp- looks like we’re not in Oregon anymore) and this small county park that I almost bypassed because its website listed 50 tent sites and no RV sites. But then I noticed the line that said “vehicles up to 32 feet may be accommodated”. Hmmm, okay that sounds promising. I called the county office and was told that a few sites were big enough for our 25′ trailer but since it was first come, first serve we would have to take our chances. I was also told that the campground was not likely to be crowded this time of year. Sounds promising. We figured it was worth a shot and if it didn’t work out we could either suck it up and pay $35/night at the state park next door or head down the road to one of the cheaper, but crummier, private park options. I guess you already know how this story ends because I started by telling you where we stayed and then showing a you a picture of it. So when I tell you how we arrived and the place was pretty much deserted and we found an awesome spot that we fit in just fine, I’m sure you’re like duh, I know, I saw the picture already. What you don’t know is just how nice this little campground among the trees is.
Each site has a beautiful setting with tall trees all around, there’s a few walking trails, two picnic areas, a huge playground, a volley ball court, some horseshoe pits and even a ropes course. And did I mention that it’s only $15/night? Take that you silly state park. The best part is how close you are to acres and acres of old growth redwoods. There are tons of hiking trails in the nearby Redwood National Park, all within a few minutes drive. I found the most perfect hike for us over by the Del Norte State park. It trekked through an old growth forest before coming out on a cliff over looking the ocean. I read all the reviews and got all excited thinking this would be the most perfect hike ever- then I discovered that no dogs are allowed in the Redwood National Park. What, really? I guess I should have know because it is a national park. But the thing is that Phineas really loves hikes in the woods, and he just discovered that he really loves redwood trees as well. (I’m not positive about this last part, but I mean everyone loves redwoods, right?) On other occasions such as this we might have left him home while we go and have all the fun ourselves. The problem is that it’s been raining for like a week now and the poor thing needs to get out and about. That means no old growth hike for us. So we do the next best thing- we hop in the truck and take a drive down a skinny, winding road through a forest of monstrous trees.
Howland Hill Rd is a six mile unpaved stretch of road through the heart of Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park (which is inside the redwood national park). Huge, majestic redwoods line the road which zig zags around the giants on a skinny mostly one way tract. A number of supposedly awesome hiking trails can be accessed from the road, but since the pooch wasn’t welcome we contented ourselves with oohing and awwing out the window. We did stop at one trail head and walked around a bit, capturing the obligatory photo of each of us standing by one of the giants.
While the drive was nice, we were still in need of some exercise, and not just the kind you get from craning your neck up at big trees. Lucky for us at the end of Howland Hill rd near Hwy 199 there are a few access points into the Smith River National Recreation Area. This 450 acres of protected land along the Smith River is managed by the U.S. forest service and is known as a great place for fishing, river rafting, horseback riding, and hiking. The best part- dogs are welcome. We took Craig’s Creek Trail which starts next to the Smith River and winds its way up through a forest of diverse foliage.
The hike was invigorating and just what we needed after being cooped up inside the last few days due to the rainy weather. If our stay at Florence Keller campground and exploration of the surrounding area is any indication we’re in for a real treat here in California.