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Best Hikes, Itinerary and Planning Guide

Best Hikes, Itinerary and Planning Guide

Redwood National Park

Crater Lake National Park was at the top of Kristin’s bucket list for a long time. We started planning a visit, and decided to include Redwood National Park, since it’s relatively close. And we ended up enjoying Redwood more in many ways. Redwood is unique because it’s not just a national park – it also includes three California State Parks: Del Norte Coast, Jedediah Smith, and Prairie Creek. Managed collectively, they’re known as “Redwood National and State Parks.” The primary mission of…

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Boy Scout Tree Trail

Boy Scout Tree Trail

Redwood National Park

We were feeling a bit sad on our last full day in Redwood National and State Parks. But we were going to go out with a bang. Our main activity for the day was Boy Scout Tree Trail, a 5.6 mile out-and-back hike located in Jedediah Smith State Park. The trail is gorgeous, and features many old growth redwood trees. A small waterfall, called Fern Falls, makes the turnaround point a scenic lunch spot. Near the end of the trail…

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Backpacking Redwood Creek & Tall Trees

Backpacking Redwood Creek & Tall Trees

Redwood National Park

There are plenty of places to backpack in Redwood National & State Parks. All backcountry camping must be done at designated campsites – except for Redwood Creek, located in southern Redwood National Park. Along the creek, camping on gravel bars is allowed. We only had time to do one backpacking trip in the park, and Redwood Creek was our choice…

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James Irvine and Miner’s Ridge Trails with Fern Canyon

James Irvine and Miner’s Ridge Trails with Fern Canyon

Redwood National Park

We woke up in our campsite at Gold Bluffs Beach in Redwood National & State Parks refreshed and ready to go. Our plan was to hike to the picturesque Fern Canyon, one of the most popular spots in the park. Ferns line its walls and a stream runs through it. Part of Jurassic Park 2 was filmed there due to its primeval appearance. The trail to Fern Canyon is a 12.1 mile loop linking the James Irvine and Miner’s Ridge…

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Gold Bluffs Beach Campground

Gold Bluffs Beach Campground

Redwood National Park

When I heard about Gold Bluffs Beach Campground in Redwood National & State Parks, I immediately wanted to stay there. I pictured myself sitting on the warm sand, soaking up the sun. I had only been to Northern CA once before so…in my mind, it was a combination of camping and a beach vacation. Reserving a campsite at any campground in Redwood can be a challenge. Back in 2017 when we reserved a site for Gold Bluffs, we were online…

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Lyons Ranch Trail

Lyons Ranch Trail

Redwood National Park

Towering redwood trees. That’s what you think of when you come to Redwood National & State Parks. Our first hike in the park though? It would feature no redwoods. Lyons Ranch, a National Historic Site, has an easy 4.5 mile loop trail and features wide open prairies, dramatic views, and historic structures. You can see more than just trees at Redwood N&SP. Lyons Ranch Trail is in a remote section of the park called Bald Hills, near the park’s southeast…

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Dark Hollow Falls and Rose River Loop Trail

Dark Hollow Falls and Rose River Loop Trail

Shenandoah National Park

Rose River in Shenandoah National Park has been on our to-do list for awhile. Several attempts in the past floundered due to laziness or something coming up at the last minute. We’d made it to Mathews Arm Campground for the weekend, so we took the opportunity to finally hike Rose River Loop. The hike is located off Skyline Drive in Shenandoah’s Central District, across from Big Meadows Campground. We decided to make a 5.1 mile loop that included Dark Hollow Falls.

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Backpacking Overall Run & Beecher Ridge Trails

Backpacking Overall Run & Beecher Ridge Trails

Shenandoah National Park

I had been wanting to check out Overall Run Falls in Shenandoah National Park for some time.  At 93 feet, Overall Run Falls is the highest waterfall in the park, but you don’t hear as much about it as other waterfalls like Dark Hollow Falls or White Oak Canyon.  So on a warm spring day, we went to see for ourselves.  We planned for a one-night backpacking trip to see the falls and make a lollipop loop with Overall Run and Heiskell Hollow Trail.  Our plans changed slightly during the hike, and we returned on Beecher Ridge Trail instead of Heiskell Hollow Trail, creating an 11.6 mi lollipop…

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Garwood Trail

Garwood Trail

Saguaro National Park

Our intention was to visit as much of Saguaro National Park as we could.  Crisscrossing desert trails in the northwest corner of the Rincon Mountain (east) District are known as the Cactus Forest.  We wanted to hike somewhere up there, so we reserved a full day for it.  Our initial plan was to do a longer loop, but we were exhausted after backpacking to Manning Camp, so we decided on a shorter hike.  A ranger at the Rincon Visitor Center recommended a 4.0 mile out-and-back on Garwood Trail…

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Backpacking to Manning Camp

Backpacking to Manning Camp

Saguaro National Park

On our second to last day in Saguaro, we went to a “Star Party” at the Rincon Visitor Center.  We like astronomy, planets, and stars, so we made sure to go.  Before going outside to stargaze, the ranger at the visitor center gave us a rundown on the history of the park.  He explained how the park was created by President Herbert Hoover as a National Monument.  The ranger then said, “The park has a lot of diversity, not just the desert environment, but also the Rincon Mountains at 8,000 feet.  Up there is Manning Camp, but nobody really goes there.”  We sat there feeling slightly miffed, but also smug, because we had been at Manning Camp just two days before…

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