Family Adventures – Northern California

Redwoods, Mountains, and Whales—Oh, My!

There’s No Place Like Northern California

Northern California is almost too beautiful to be true. Outdoor lovers are drawn to its dynamic landscape and temperate climate. Sprawling coasts, mountains, and enchanting forests are all only a short drive away. Imagine days of exploring followed by nights sleeping under the stars. A trip to Northern California will be a deep breath for the whole family.

Meet the Redwoods

Humble yourself among the tallest trees in the world in the Redwood National and State Park. The massive redwoods’ rough reddish bark and several-hundred-foot towering frames are a sight to behold. Thousands of awe-inspiring acres are protected by a special combo of the Redwood National Park and three Redwoods State Parks. Safe and sprawling, it’s no wonder such a range of wildlife roams this sanctuary. From the enormous Roosevelt deer to the wide-eyed Northern spotted owl, threatened species take refuge among the trees. You’re sure to spot them while hiking 200 miles of trails. Rehabilitated logging routes serve as bike-friendly paths, too.

Though the redwoods are the stars of the show, the parks’ 37 miles of coastline are equally impressive. Admire the tidepools teeming with critters: sea urchins, starfish, anemones, and even octopuses.

Can’t get enough of this enormous natural wonder? Stay overnight at one of the four developed or backcountry campsites throughout the parks. Make the waves your lullaby at a coastal site, or try one of the many serene wooded areas to wake up in fresh forest air. Try out this campsite search tool to pick your favorite.

Whale, How ‘Bout It?

Step aside, National Geographic. Witness the magnitude of Earth’s largest mammal before your very eyes. Northern California is a hotspot for whale-watching with 20,000 migrating just off the coast every year. The best way to get up close and personal is to hop on a boat tour. Join Discovery Whale Watch for a morning cruise, when the whales are most active. The sunset trips also provide a vivid backdrop for evening sightings. Spend a few hours circling the feeding grounds of humpback whales, dolphins, and even killer whales of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. You’ll also explore along the shoreline to observe otters, sea lions, and seals. All the while, you’ll be learning from an experienced crew of naturalists and researchers. They are excited to provide the most current wildlife information to their passengers. Any science buffs in the family? Discovery Whale Watch provides you with the unique opportunity to take a photo for the citizen-based science group called Happywhale!

Mount Shasta

Mount Shasta is the ultimate hiker’s hotspot. The city is nestled on the flanks of its namesake volcano which dominates the skyline at 14,000 feet above sea level. There are numerous trails on the mountain itself and over 50 more to choose from in the surrounding Siskiyou County. Circle the seven-mile perimeter of Lake Siskiyou or enjoy an easy one miler to the Ney Springs and Faery Falls. Many of the trails are dog-friendly. The Deadfall Meadow Route is a shady hike with plenty of ponds and lakes for your furry friends to cool down in. If your family is an extreme bunch, try the Mount Shasta avalanche gulch. Follow in John Muir’s footsteps by conquering the challenging two-day 7,000-foot vertical ascent.

The National Park Service operates two campgrounds on the mountain as well as lakeside and riverside sites so you can take in as much scenery as possible. To get the full outdoorsy experience, be sure to check out the oldest fishing hatchery in the west. The Mt. Shasta Fishing Hatchery offers a free tour to see where over 30 million eggs are produced for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The sheer volume of trout is astounding.  The Sisson Museum on the property features an extensive history of the area, complete with a Native American basketry display and a mountaineering wall. It’s fun, and educational.

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Josh is a copywriter, journalist, fiction writer, and screenwriter. He has written for advertising agencies, newspapers, magazines, and Fortune 500 companies. He lives with his wife, two kids, two cats, and the world’s goofiest mutt. When he’s not writing, he’s reading, traveling, hiking, camping, kayaking, or trying to find his next favorite bottle of wine, which is usually the one right in front of him.