After 3-days of rain in Oregon, and my car breaking down, we finally made our way to Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, based on a suggestion from some friends. Elk Meadow Campground is the only campground at Prairie Creek State Park that accepts reservations, which is really handy because things can get really busy in the summer. We were there in early June, so things were not that busy, but of all of the campgrounds on our Redwoods trip, this was the busiest by far.
The park ranger working the entry booth was really friendly and very helpful. She gave me loads of information on the park and surrounding area, as well as a huge bag of Jr. Park Ranger stuff for Laddy. Upon check-in, you are assigned your very own pesky chipmunk and Stellar’s Jay, who will stay with you your entire stay. They really make you feel welcome, and like you packed the very best stuff on earth (the chipmunk ended up jumping into my galley off the tree looking for something munchable, which was interesting and not too appealing). They say the bear boxes are there more for the overly intelligent birds than for the bears…regardless, lock your food up, or it will go and these guys are serious party animals and will thwart any effort to keep a clean campsite if not kept honest.
After a few rough days of traveling, we planned to stay here for 2 days, and I wish we had stayed longer. The place is drop dead gorgeous. The campsites are large on the outer part of the loop. We were a good distance from the creek too, so mosquitoes were not an issue. The Redwoods provide a bit of privacy and there are some shrubs and large ferns to help. Things are spaced out well. During busy times, I can see how folks might feel like everyone is there with them. The inner loop, especially near the bathrooms, has very little privacy.
The sites themselves are quite basic. You have a paved parking pad, a picnic table, fire ring, and a bear box. There is plenty of room for friends with tents, a dance floor, and a medium sized band…spot number 21 was huge! There are centrally located water spigots for folks to share.
Bathrooms are nice, with flushies and sinks. Showers are in their own rooms and are the CA standard of $0.50/5-minutes. I found the shower rooms a bit dark, so watch your step.
The park boasts over 75-miles of hiking, which I wish we could have experienced more. 4-year-olds, it seems, don’t like to ‘hike’. So we went on several ‘walks’ – luckily, he doesn’t realize they are the same! We kept it to the short walks around the campground, and just down the road, always with a destination in mind. The visitors center was pretty good, but not quiet as interesting as some of the others we visited on the trip. Still, it is worth popping in.
We also drove a good portion of the 3-mile Cal-Barrel drive. There are no turn arounds that will accommodate trailers or RVs, so make sure you unhook and leave your rig at camp. It is a really beautiful drive, that is only open seasonally.
As for activities near by, we went to the Trees of Mystery (near Klamath). Orick is supposedly an outdoor persons dream, but like I said, we are working on making Laddy more of an outdoors person, with stronger legs and didn’t get to make full use of that area. Patrick’s Point isn’t too much further down the road, for more hiking, and the lagoons are just down the road also (we didn’t stop this trip though). One other thing I want to go back and do are hikes along the coastal side of the park. The road in was flooded at the elk meadow, so I didn’t make it. The Fern Valley hike is meant to be one of the most amazing and great for kids to walk. Next time! Plus, when Laddy is a little older, and we have let him watch Star Wars, we can tell him that we are walking through the area where the Ewok scenes were filmed in the “Empire Strikes Back”! That should make hiking more interesting!
The park offers fireside programs each night, and lots of elk viewing just steps from the campground. There are lots of smaller, shorter trails that take you through some amazing forest right in the campground as well, and we made good use of those. Just down 101 is another meadow with a very large herd of Roosevelt Elk, and that is fun to go watch (the road often floods after a rain, so make sure you check the depth…it was nearly 2 feet when we were there, and with the car troubles I had, I wasn’t willing to risk it…taller vehicles will have no problem). We pulled over and watched, even though we were further away. The elk were always there.
We really enjoyed our stay here and next time through, will stay here again for sure. Hopefully longer than 2 days!