California Camping: Patrick's Point State Park
Get Away From It All
Nestled amid the temperate rain forest of Northern California Redwoods on a triangular-shaped peninsula that juts into the ocean is a little-known paradise: Patrick's Point State Park. Make this your destination for a coastal vacation with day-trip excursions to nearby Redwoods National Park.
This park has multiple attractions, including tidal pools, rocky beaches, steep, but picturesque hiking trails that allows for a phenomenal unspoiled view of the ocean, and access to a Yurok (Northern California Indian) village. And if that weren't enough, the park is equipped with showers, uncrowded campsites that are well-tended and completely trash free, and selected RV campsites that overlook spectacular ocean views.
Patrick's Point State Park has limited camping spots due to the rugged terrain and steep coastline. The park is and frequented by loyal campers returning to its natural abundance, but it is not overrun with tourists. Once you visit this place, you'll be hooked! You will want to plan well-ahead. When you get there, even if the park is full, you will not feel overcrowded.
Patrick's Point State Park is located about 25 miles north of Arcata on Pacific Coast Highway 101.
Points of Interest
Make sure to plan a few days at this park so you can explore all it has to offer.
Agate Beach—A steep, mostly well-maintained quarter-mile trail provides access to this beach. If you are moderately fit, you should have little trouble getting up and down the trail, though you should pace yourself and walk slowly if hiking isn't something you regularly do. The beach is beautiful and a relatively smooth walk. Teeming with driftwood and the colorful polished rocks that are the beach's namesake, the beach offers many nooks and crannies to explore.
All of the ocean areas near the beaches at Patrick's Point State Park have rip tides and sneaker waves, so do as the park service advises, and don't turn your back to the ocean, not for a minute!
Palmer's Point Beach and Tide Pools—The very steep, quarter mile trail prevents many campers from exploring down around Palmer's Point beach. When we visited during July 2007, the bottom stairs of the beach access trail were well-worn, so watch your step. The beach is strewn with enormous boulders. As the tide washes in the landscape quickly changes and you could be trapped, so use common sense when you are down there. Hidden behind and atop the rocks are tidal pools containing sea stars, anemones, and other special finds. This is also a good viewing area for wildlife. We watched seals and sea lions from a fairly close vantage point because they would come and sun themselves on the rocks offshore. One of the highlights of our trip was seeing a very rare California sea otter. We were astonished to be treated to such a rare sight!
Ceremonial and Lookout Rocks—The hike to this pleasant location in the park is an enjoyable stroll compared to much of the climbing you must do to get down to the beaches. Once there, you will discover a climber's playland. If you are very afraid of heights, it is worth climbing halfway for the spectacular views offered from different vantage points on the sea stack. Take some additional time and explore around the rocks. We glimpsed a fawn wriggling through a thicket in the brush.
Sumêg Village—When we visited, this Native California Indian village was under rennovation. We learned that the village is used and maintained by the Yurok Indians, who use its structures to teach tribal members about their heritage and to pass on sacred family traditions. The adjacent discovery garden was not being maintained.
Things You Should Consider
A Great Family Destination...For Older Children
This park offers a great family destination for you as long as your children are not at an age where they are prone to wander off. If your children are too young or too willful, you may want to put this trip on hold. The areas near the the beach access trails are at the top of steep ocean cliffs and could be very dangerous to young toddlers who are prone to wander.
Bring Your Bikes
As part of a family vacation, try to bring bikes for your children. The areas around the campgrounds are smooth and paved. If you do your camping during a weekday you will have lots of room to roam. With 6 miles of paved trails in addition to beach access, bicycles are highly advisable.
Plan to Be Wet Every Morning
Our campsite was located under 50-foot tall redwood trees that have stood on that peninsula for centuries, getting watered by coastal fog that rolls in like clockwork every morning. That coastal fog is like living in a cloud. This makes it difficult to light a campfire in the mornings. If you plan to do most of your cooking over a campfire, bring extra dryer lint in a sealed plastic bag that can stay dry.
Pack Your Food in the Bear Lockers
We never saw a bear in the park. But apparently, bears do roam the area, so each camp site is equipped with a locking bear locker. We did see and hear raccoons and other critters at night, so be sure to use the food lockers and keep your campsite clean.
Bring a Few Rolls of Quarters with You
The camp offered wonderfully hot showers, but they are coin operated. Make sure to bring quarters with you.
The Dollar Store and McDonalds are Only a 30-minute Drive Away
South in Arcata is a shopping center with a McDonalds and a Dollar Store equipped with lots of camping equipment, groceries, buckets and shovels, and anything else you might forget. Though I find it detracts from the camping experience to run into town, sometimes it is a necessity. The cost of food is very high in Arcata so do bring what you can with you.
Expect to Take More Pictures than You Planned
Around every turn is an amazing photo opportunity. You will want to plan for this. If you enjoy photography, I guarantee you will want to get your camera ready for some heavy use. If your equipment is sensitive to moisture, plan to store it in the car at night or bring some resealable plastic bags to store your camera or digital phone. There are restrictions on commercial photography in the park.
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