Fifteen miles west of Highway 101, Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park is off the beaten tourist track. It’s small—less than one square mile, with only five miles of trails. But those who come earn big rewards: a sublime redwood forest full of big trees and few people.
Families prize Grizzly Creek’s rustic amenities. In summer, kids can ride their bikes around a paved campground loop with only 28 sites, some bordering the Van Duzen River. Visitors can have close and safe encounters with park wildlife, including bears, moles, mountain lions, and steelhead trout, via a taxidermy and skeleton display at the visitor center. On weekends, campers can gather for campfire programs, one of the few old-fashioned park experiences left.
The park was established in 1943. Its finest old-growth redwood grove, four miles down the road from the visitor center, was added in 1984. The grove was named for Owen R. Cheatham, former chairman of the board of Georgia Pacific, which spared and donated the trees.
Cheatham Grove provided a backdrop for the scooter chase scene in Return of the Jedi. Star Wars fans still make this pilgrimage.
Camping — Grizzly Creek has 30 family sites, a group site, and one hike/bike site.
Boating — The Van Duzen River fluctuates in depth seasonally, but strong river currents make rafting and kayaking in winter and early spring a Class III adventure.
Trails — 4.5 miles of trails offer scenic views. Picnicking — open for day use. To reserve a 30-unit group picnic area, call (707) 777-3683.
Swimming — Grizzly Creek joins the Van Duzen River to create a popular swimming spot. Use caution in the strong currents; no lifeguards are on duty.
Fishing — In late fall and early winter, steelhead and salmon migrate from the ocean. All anglers aged 16 and over must carry a valid California fishing license.