Grab the tent and the kids and enjoy the dramatic natural setting of the northern coast of California.

Fun Family Activities Along the Northern Coast of California

by Susan Rickey

Along the northern coast of California, you will find dramatic coastlines, beaches, redwood forests and more, as this region offers some of the tallest trees in the U.S. From San Francisco to Crescent City the beaches, rivers and forests provide an array of activities for families.

1. Redwood Forests

The redwood forests of northern California house some of the tallest trees in the world, of a type similar to trees that predominated in the prehistoric Mesozoic era. The current redwoods may be up to 2,000 years old, with the average age being 500 to 700 years old. Their majestic beauty and the unique forests they support should be on every family's vacation plan. Redwood National Forest along U.S. Highway 101 between Orick, California, and Crescent City, California. Take a car ride on a portion of old Highway 101 and see The Avenue of the Giants. This ride will take you through some of the most valued virgin redwood forests in the world. Stop off at Prairie Grove State Park. Check out the elk lunching in the meadow on the drive in. Park the car and take a hike on the self-guided tour through the forest. The unique science of the forest is explained through markers along the trail. Next stop is Fern Canyon where steep canyons are lined with abundant vegetation. Walk through the canyon while the kids jump over creeks or hide in the ferns.

2. Beaches

Beach combing along the northern California coast will please the entire family. Agate Beach, accessible from Patrick's Point State Park near Trinidad, is a great place to look for semi-precious stones such as agates, jade and moonstones. On the Mendocino Coast near Fort Bragg are three glass beaches. The beaches were city dumps. The trash has been tumbled and polished by the water, rocks and sand into beautiful glass rocks. Even though it is fun to find the glass rocks, leave them for others to find. Find a tide chart to determine the time of low tide. Visit the beach at low tide and look under the rocks. Anemones, starfish and mussels are plentiful and more colorful than any children's TV channel.

3. Rivers

Near Requa, California, head out to where the majestic Klamath River runs into the Pacific Ocean. An easy walk on the sandbar leads out to the point where the river meets the ocean. Whales migrate through this area, porpoises dance in the waves and shore birds are plentiful. Native Americans set up their nets to catch salmon and other fish along the shore. Sea lions and seals call to everyone from a few feet out in the water.

4. Attractions

Ocean World in Crescent City, California, is a touch-and-feel aquarium. Leave this inside visit for the rainy day that will surely show up during the family vacation to the northern California coast. In Trinidad, California State University hosts a marine laboratory that allows visitors. At the touch tank, even the littlest visitor will like picking up the sun starfish. Catching the octopus grabbing for the food with eight arms during feeding time is something that will excite everyone.

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