Things to Do
The Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park Visitor Center has maps, books, and memorabilia, as well as educational displays hand-crafted by former ranger Rick Johnson. The outstanding wildlife display includes a mole, a wood duck, and a “raccoon in habitat” emerging from a trashcan.
Staff at the visitor center can help you decide what to do. Take a hike? Swim in the Van Duzen River? Go fishing or kayaking? Go on a “quest” treasure hunt for kids? Settle in at the cozy campground?
“Ninety-nine percent of our clientele are families,” says ranger Emily Peterson, “many of whom have been coming here for years and years.”
If you have an hour, walk the 0.7-mile loop through Cheatham Grove.
If you have half a day, walk through Cheatham Grove and learn about park wildlife and history at the visitor center. Lunch beside the Van Duzen River.
If you have a full day, try all of the park’s trails, followed (in summer) by a swim in the Van Duzen River, a barbeque, and a campfire program.
Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park has about five miles of trails with hikes for everybody. Both steep and flat trails take off near the visitor center, and Cheatham Grove down the road has the old-growth redwood experience in a nutshell.
Bring water, appropriate clothing, and a park map.
Cheatham Grove 0.7 mile loop
About four miles west of the visitor center, the skyscraping redwoods of Cheatham Grove stand in a lushly carpeted forest. The beauty of this grove inspired Owen R. Cheatham, founder of what would become the Georgia Pacific Plywood and Lumber Company, to spare the trees for others to enjoy.
A “Quest” brochure is available online http://www.redwood-edventures.org/pdf/quest-grizzlycreek.pdf or at the visitor center to introduce young hikers (ages 7 to 12) to the grove.
Fisher Wouk Trail 0.6 mile roundtrip
Along the north side of the Van Duzen River, the Fisher Wouk Trail leads through some the most stately redwoods in the main part of the park. The trail is dedicated to Abraham Isaac Wouk, the son of Pulitzer prize-winning author Herman Wouk, who wrote The Caine Mutiny and War and Remembrance. Abraham died in a swimming pool accident in 1951, when he was only five.
Start from the campground or the highway access west of the visitor center. Go to the end of the trail and return the way you came. In June, the forest floor is sprinkled with the delicate white blossoms of sugar scoops.
Memorial Trail Loop 1.25 mile loop
The 1.25-mile-long Memorial Trail offers a good introduction to the park’s drier inland redwoods. Start at the picnic area parking lot and walk across the Van Duzen River on a footbridge to the trailhead (summer only) for “a beautiful hiking trail that is a little bit steeper than Cheatham Grove,” says ranger Emily Peterson.
Nature, Hikers, and Grizzly Creek Loop 0.9 mile for all three loops
Across Highway 36 from the visitor center are three connecting loop trails—Nature, Hikers, and Grizzly Creek. They’re all short and steep enough to have stairs in some places. Interpretive signs enrich the Nature Trail section.
The depth of the Van Duzen River fluctuates with the seasons. There’s shallow water and a calm swimming hole near the campground in the summer, but in winter and early spring strong river currents make rafting and kayaking a Class III adventure.
Between the Van Duzen River and Highway 36, Grizzly Creek’s campground has 28 family sites. Reservations are recommended between Labor Day and Memorial Day. Go online to www.parks.ca.gov or call 800-444-7275.
To reserve a group camp, contact the park directly at 707-777-3683.
The park once had a few environmental campsites at Cheatham Grove. The river washed out the access road to their pit toilets in the winter of 2012/2013, however, and they are no longer open.
In late fall and early winter, steelhead and salmon migrate from the ocean to this park. All anglers age 16 and over must carry a valid California fishing license. Visit www.wildlife.ca.gov for complete regulations.
The visitor center has a schedule of summertime events and programs, including campfire programs, nature walks, and the Junior Ranger program (for children 7 to 12). Take a self-guided tour on the Nature Trail across the road from the campground. Or download a Quest brochure for tour of Cheatham Grove http://www.redwood-edventures.org/pdf/quest-grizzlycreek.pdf.
Grizzly Creek joins the Van Duzen River to create a popular swimming spot near the visitor center and campground. Use caution in the strong currents; no lifeguards are on duty. Avid swimmers might also want to try “Swimmers Delight” in nearby Van Duzen County Park. It’s just off Highway 36, near Cheatham Grove.
Day-use permits are $8 per vehicle, payable at the visitor center. To reserve a 30-unit group picnic area, call 707-777-3683.
Just for Kids
For starters, try the “animal hunt” in the Grizzly Creek Visitor Center. Displays of more than 40 local wildlife species include a wood duck, northern flying squirrel, ring-tailed cat, river otter, and mountain lion. Grab a checklist at the door and start learning.
Redwood EdVentures http://www.redwood-edventures.org/quests.php Fun for the entire family. Take a self-guided treasure hunt in many North Coast redwood state parks, including Grizzly Creek. Find the final clue and win a cool patch!
Most of the park’s ranger- or docent-led programs (including campfire talks, nature walks, and Junior Ranger programs) start up on Memorial Day weekend and end after Labor Day. Check at the visitor center, on park bulletin boards, or call 707-777-3683 for the schedule. Aimed at kids age 7 through 12, these programs offer games, crafts, hiking, and exploring with other children.
You and your kids can work your way through California State Parks’ Adventure Guide http://kids.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=24064. Download the guide, pick it up at the visitor center, or call 916-654-2249 to order a copy. It’s applicable to any state park visit.
Before heading to the park, explore the Redwoods Learning Center http://education.savetheredwoods.org/kit/index.php, set up by Save the Redwoods League. It offers fun, redwood-themed activities, classroom tools, and ways to get involved in redwood protection. Redwoods bingo http://education.savetheredwoods.org/kit/PDF/activity_bingo.pdf, anyone?