Family Vacation: The Redwoods

I had a big birthday this past fall and more than anything, I wanted to be hike beneath enormous trees with my family. I wanted to be overwhelmed by God’s amazing earth. I wanted to be humbled by it all. Does this make sense?

We planned a great trip, one which I would recommend to anyone. We flew out to San Francisco and drove six hours north to the Redwood National Forest. We rented a cabin for three nights and soaked up nature.

When we landed in San Francisco, it was truly remarkable October day. Lots of sun and about 65 degrees. We headed over the Golden Gate bridge and immediately satisfied our hunger in Sausalito at Sushi Ran, which may be the BEST sushi we’ve had anywhere.

Our kids got to the Golden Gate bridge for the first time.

Our kids got to the Golden Gate bridge for the first time.

Sushi Ran in Sausalito proved to be a meal worth remembering!

Sushi Ran in Sausalito proved to be a meal worth remembering!

Now, I need to fess up about something. I really thought that our cabins were just four hours north of San Fran. I Google-mapped it, and I accidentally plugged in the wrong address. So, I felt a bit guilty as we left the airport on our long car trip, after already spending five hours in the air. But, it was what is was. In the end, it didn’t matter as we’d all happily drive six hours again for the adventure we got … but on the front end, and not knowing how amazing our trip would be, I was doubting this. If you go, don’t doubt. It’s worth every minute this trip takes.

We stayed at Elk Meadow Cabins which is located right smack in the middle of Redwood National Park. These are perfectly delightful cabins that are close to many activities: hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, kayacking, fishing and more. I found out about these cabins while reading an article in National Geographic. I figured if it was good enough for National Geographic, it was good enough for us!

Cabins and elk at Elk Meadow Cabins

After we were settled, our first foray out was to hike the park and the manager of Elk Meadow Cabins was our guide. That’s convenience. Before we even hiked in the Redwood National Forest, he drove us to see this view:

The northern CA coastline. This is where the Klamath River meets the Pacific Ocean. The salmon fishing here is awesome if you come in September. We even saw a whale!

Once we entered the forest, we never quite adjusted to our awe at these:

Redwood National Park, California

Those are some big trees! The redwoods are amazing.

Redwood National Park, California

Redwood National Park, California

So just how big are these trees?

You will look TINY next to these huge trees at the Redwood National Park, California

For perspective, look at these tree trunks with my kids.

And another photo showing just how tiny we look in comparison to these trees in the Redwood National Park in CA

And another photo showing just how tiny we look in comparison to these trees.

Seriously, when I say big, I mean big. As in Big Tree (in the Redwood National Park).

I dare say that even the most jaded teenager would be in awe. Our kids range in age from 8-13. Our 8 year old did great on the hikes, the bike rides and horseback riding. I think he would have done just fine younger, but not younger than 6 years old.

Getting ready for our trail ride at the National Redwood Park

Getting ready for our trail ride.

If you go, do get some mountain bikes and ride. It's as if you are in your own personal movie. It's that magical. Redwood National Park

If you go, do get some mountain bikes and ride. It’s as if you are in your own personal movie. It’s that magical.

The moss covering the trees is straight out of a fairy tale.

Every morning and afternoon greeted us with a gorgeous display of color.

From where we stayed, we had access to the beach (10 minute drive), the redwoods, and fern canyon. There seemed to be micro-climates at each turn.

An afternoon at the beach.

We had lots of opportunities to enjoy the new iPhone 5 panorama feature!

Little jelly fish

Near the beach was Fern Canyon. Of anything I wish I could re-do on this trip, it would be to have allotted more time for this gorgeous canyon. We should have taken 2 more hours to explore it fully. These 50 ft walls are covered in moss and ferns dripping with water. It’s amazing. If it looks familiar, it’s where Jurassic Park 2: The Lost World was filmed.

Entering Fern Canyon

Did I mention the Elk? In the meadow, on the beach, outside our cabin… they are everywhere!

October showed off lots of pretty leaves. We lucked out on the weather as apparently it can be either gorgeous in October, or pretty darn cold.

One thing to note: for all of our meals, besides that Sushi Ran, we cooked at our cabin. So, be prepared to stop by a local grocery store and load up. This trip is not about eating gourmet meals and dressing up. It is about connecting as a family to each other and the sheer wonder of nature.

America is blessed with gorgeous national, state and city parks. Don’t forget to include them in your vacation plans!