After navigating one too many atmospheric rivers, you may be itchy to paddle some real rapids. Willow Creek awaits with canoes, kayaks and Thai food for when you need to refuel. Looking for a low-key excursion with appropriate libations? Try a boozy cruise with California's smallest bar as you take in the beauty of the bay. Stop in at a craft chocolate shop for a treat before you embark. Enjoy the fruits of the rains with luscious floral colors through June or hike amid the tall trees. Find the quirky art supplies you need to get creative or visit an artistic sanctuary to kick your creativity into high gear. The kids are tired of the winter blues, too! Take them to the Humboldt Bay Maritime Museum to see incredible model of a steam schooner. Make headway to Woodley Island to see boats afloat. It is easy to steer your family clear of the shoals of summer boredom!

Solo paddling on the Trinity River. - MICHAEL KAHAN
  • Michael Kahan
  • Solo paddling on the Trinity River.

Outdoorsy Types

Your desire for adventure is limited only by how far you want to go. The sound of fast flowing water lures you to Willow Creek. Any one of four outfitters can provide a day of spray-filled memories. Find the one that suits your needs. Are you a beginner? Tutorials abound. Taking the whole family along? No problem. Your 4 year old is welcome on the right tour.

Trinity River Rafting (, 31021 State Route 299 W, Big Flat, 530-623-3033) has many options including River Awareness trips. Learn about the aquatic life, river currents and lives of Native peoples as you paddle along.

Bigfoot Rafting (, 31221 State Route 299, Junction City, 530-623-1113) loves whitewater. The wide choice of tours leaves you with little excuse. Time to pick up that paddle!

Six Rivers Rafting(, 39008 State Route 299 Unit 3, Willow Creek, 707-599-4221) will satisfy your hunger with a farm-to-table tour. Your whitewater adventure can lead to a delicious woodfire pizza.

Redwoods and Rivers(, 800-429-0090) Is the choice for teambuilding, group events, or women's only trips? Do you want to immerse yourself totally? Their guide school offers river guide and swift water rescue training.

click to enlarge Roosevelt Elk at Redwood National Park  on the prairie near Cal Barrel Road. - MARK LARSON
  • Mark Larson
  • Roosevelt Elk at Redwood National Park on the prairie near Cal Barrel Road.

If you prefer the big trees that call Humboldt home, head for theCal-Barrel Trail in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park (US Highway 101 to Cal-Barrel Road). The 3.5-mile gravel road is open to cars and hikers, but no RVs or trailers. Leashed dogs and free roaming children are welcome. The there-and-back trail also connects to the Rhododendron Trail. Cal-Barrel is close to the landmark Corkscrew Tree and Atlas Grove (dogs not allowed on Rhododendron or in Atlas). Nothing brings perspective to life more than an ancient tree that dwarfs us puny humans.

click to enlarge A marker on the Cal-Barrel Trail. - MARK LARSON
  • Mark Larson
  • A marker on the Cal-Barrel Trail.
click to enlarge Along the trail In the Mckay Forest. - MARK LARSON
  • Mark Larson
  • Along the trail In the Mckay Forest.

If you are looking for a more urban arbor of enchantment, the 2.1-mile McKay Forest Northridge Trail loop (5371 Northridge Road, Eureka) will bewitch you with its reverent silence. A recent addition to the McKay Forest trail system, it is rough in some places (read: muddy) but has well-marked intersections. Some sections of the trail system are groomed for accessibility. Bring the family and the leashed pooch and enjoy the walk. Wait until the kids stumble upon a patch of massive burned-out redwood stumps.

click to enlarge Creative possibilites are endless at Maker's Apron. - INSIDER PHOTO
  • Insider photo
  • Creative possibilites are endless at Maker's Apron.

Artsy Types

Humboldt has the fuel to spark your creativity. Roll up your sleeves and join a class, or share studio space with kindred souls. The art closet is open. Step on in! Start atMaker's Apron(317 E St., Eureka, 707-572-4280) and its Makerspace. The store window proudly proclaims: It's like an art store and a hardware store fell in love and had a little baby. Inside you will find affordable paints and bright fabric, as well as a jar of clock faces or a $1 handful of babies (plastic, not real). Donate your extra art supplies or other acceptable bits (check Donate Stuff at Keep them out of the waste stream and help expand access to materials. Take a creative reuse class with your kids and work on a family project.

If you need some serious space, the Sanctuary (1301 J St., Arcata, 707-822-0898) offers studio memberships. The community art and makers center is equipped with tools, materials and musical instruments ready for you and your muse. The Sanctuary also offers classes like Thursday's popular Art Night/Jam on J Street, where you can let the music inspire your artwork. All that is needed is you.

Some muses come in hot. Fire Arts Center (520 S. G St., Arcata, 707-826-1445) has been the epicenter of Humboldt ceramics and glass for more than 24 years. Is your partner hooked on the beauty and drama of Netflix's Blown Away glass competition? Glass blowing classes make a great gift. Take a class with them for your own pottery throw down. Fire Arts Center also offers open and personal studio space. Don't want to get clay under your fingernails? Donate to become a patron of the arts instead. Members and instructors exhibit their works in the onsite retail gallery. To get the full picture visit the studios' social media and at Or just come and play! Art is what you make of it.

Spring rolls and curry at Lily's Thai. - ALLIE HOSTLER
  • Allie Hostler
  • Spring rolls and curry at Lily's Thai.


Humboldt's diverse appetites are enticed by the offerings of dedicated restaurateurs, traditional smokers and creative chocolatiers. Delicious, local, decadent. Just the way you like it. Traditional Asian cuisine awaits you in Willow Creek. Drop by Lily's Thai Kitchen (40640 State Route 299, Willow Creek, 530-629-1829) to pick up a mouth-watering panang curry that will hook you for life. Owner Kim Pravong brings the town of 1,300 a world of flavor. You don't have to go without tom yum kai (hot and sour chicken soup). Feed your craving for pad thai or satay. Handmade steamed dumplings and translucent spring rolls await your pleasure. Follow Lily's on Facebook to keep up with seasonal specials.

If you can't make it to Willow Creek, there are other options. Living in Northern California gives you access to the most delicious of fish: king salmon. Where can you find them? Katy's Smokehouse (740 Edwards St., Trinidad, 707-677-0151), which has been smoking salmon caught by Trinidad's fishermen since the 1940s. Although Katy State herself is long gone, the smoking process she learned from the Yurok Nation is going strong enough that tribal members still bring in their own fish to be smoked. The 3 ½ day process of brining and smoking, both cold and hot, ends with a mouthwatering salmon free of additives. Design a gourmet dinner around the daily fresh catches, be it halibut, scallops or jumbo prawns. Grab a can of smoked oysters and albacore tuna for later. Once hooked, you can replenish your larder via In the meantime, who's up for smoked salmon tacos?

click to enlarge There's more than just chocolate samples at Dick Taylor Chocolate. - INSIDER PHOTO
  • Insider Photo
  • There's more than just chocolate samples at Dick Taylor Chocolate.

Once you have satisfied the savory, go for the sweet by asking yourself, "What is better than a chocolate factory?" One that gives tastings! Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate creates an impressive lineup of artisan chocolates. Not willing to rest on their chocolate laurels, partners Adam Dick and Dustin Taylor have added baked goodies to the menu in their smart new café (333 First St., Eureka, 707-798-6010). Whether you fall for the heavenly peanut butter truffle brownies or the exquisite cheesecake, you will want more. For the gourmand, a flight of drinking chocolate, and for your inner child, hot chocolate complete with whipped cream moustache. Take a few chocolate mousses home along with some cookies (chewy yet crisp), and did you see the cupcakes? Declare your fidelity. Check for factory tours so you can immerse yourself properly. If you are a hardcore aficionado, follow Dick Taylor on Facebook for announcements of special microbatches.

click to enlarge Model ships on display at the Humboldt Bay Maritime Museum. - INSIDER PHOTO
  • Insider photo
  • Model ships on display at the Humboldt Bay Maritime Museum.

With the Kids

The kids are clamoring for an outing. Sneak in some learning with the fun! A working harbor that plays host to pleasure boats, Humboldt Bay is endlessly fascinating. Commercial fishermen rub elbows with brightly attired weekend captains. Start your expedition with a stop at the Humboldt Bay Maritime Museum (off Cookhouse Road and Vance Ave., Samoa). Don the curator will entertain all with the incredible tale of the Tugboat Wars of 1889. You can pick up some knowledge before taking the family to Woodley Island (Startare Drive, Eureka), where you can now easily answer boat questions. ("It's a sloop, honey.") The marina has 237 slips that are awash with activity, including California Poly Humboldt's research vessels and the first responders of the U.S. Coast Guard. The kids will enjoy seeing real ships in action and you will enjoy the stroll along the waterfront. The Table Bluff Lighthouse, built in 1892, once warned sailors of danger before it was retired to be the perfect backdrop for a family selfie. Be sure to stop at the west end of the island to pay respects to "The Fisherman." The sculpture's weathered frame honors the hard work and sacrifices of the people who brave the waves to earn a living.

It has never been easier to be a citizen scientist, especially for kids. Do you have a child that was fascinated by the weather that walloped Humboldt with atmospheric rivers and record snowfall? The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network website gathers weather data collected by people all over, including schools and families. A backyard weather station may give you your own inhouse meteorologist. SandSnap asks for photos of ... sand! Your family can add to the sand granule database, which helps with understanding beach processes. Apps like iNaturalist and eBird are a great way to connect with what goes on in wild Humboldt wherever you are. Was that a California condor near Orick? Time to report a Humboldt County Rare Bird Alert! With each observation your citizen scientist increases the knowledge base. If an app is not for your family, a simple spiral notebook, a pencil and a ruler can spark a study of banana slug lengths. No batteries required.

click to enlarge Native azaleas in bloom at Azalea State Reserve. - MARK LARSON
  • Mark Larson
  • Native azaleas in bloom at Azalea State Reserve.

Not Strictly for Tourists

Humboldt's offerings are here for you to enjoy, from technicolor flora, wildlife sightings or a relaxing cruise. Head out to Stagecoach Hill Azalea Nature Trail in May and June to catch the colorful blooms of a seasonal favorite. A cool stand of Sitka spruce gives way to splashy azaleas, a flowering shrub of the genus Rhododendron. Volunteers worked with the California State Parks to restore the azalea grove to a dazzling profusion of white, pink and red blossoms. The short 0.5 miles of dog and family friendly trail between Big Lagoon and Stone Lagoon overlooks the ocean. Take U.S. Highway 101 to Kane Road east and veer left at the fork.

For those who prefer fauna to flora, try to catch a whale sighting off Centerville Beach near Ferndale. The whale migration swims right past Humboldt, with blue, gray and humpback adults shepherding their youngest from southern calving grounds to feed in the rich waters of the Arctic. Learn about their crepuscular activity — it is best to view whales during twilight, either sunrise or sunset. Early morning is easier on west coast retinas! Bring binoculars and patience. As always, keep an eye out for rising tides and sneaker waves. If you head for higher ground to get a better view, use caution. Centerville's cliffs are well marked with warnings where it is fragile. You can also spy the migration from Table Bluff County Park and the South Spit. Whale watching is also an opportunity for citizen science. Your report to sighting apps like WhaleAlert will help the extraordinary mammals avoid potentially fatal collisions with shipping. How cool is that?

Speaking of cool: How about breezes and cocktails? The Madaketawaits (1 C St., Eureka, 707-445-1910). Take the one-hour evening cruise with a few friends and enjoy drinks from the smallest bar in the state as the packet tours the bay. If you prefer wildlife to wild life, join the 90-minute Sunday morning eco/birdwatching tour of Humboldt Bay. It will fill your bill when you see a pelican whose bill is filled with fish. The captain will wax poetic about the history of the waters, its creatures and its people. The 1910 ferry is the sole survivor of seven that once served the busy port. Support the California Historic Landmark and its continuing service by taking a cocktail for the team!

Why are you still sitting here? Go! Now! Humboldt is waiting with anticipation. Enjoy your Perfect Trip!

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Meg Wall-Wild

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