Crescent City is on the Pacific Coast Highway in northern California and noted for its crescent-shaped beach, Ocean World sea park, and nearby redwoods and state parks.
The Pacific Coast Highway, Highway 101, becomes the main street that runs right through Crescent City. Although it is incorporated as a city it's more small town in size, with a population under 10,000. It's in northern California, about a 20-minute drive south of the Oregon border.
If you enjoy beaches it's well worth a stop on your PCH drive. In fact the town would make a good place for a stop of one or two nights, as there's plenty to do in the area including visiting redwood forests and hiking in the nearby state parks.
Crescent City gets its name from the large crescent-shaped sandy beach just to the south of town, and called South Beach. It's immediately south of the harbor where the Pacific Coast Highway starts to get into town (or starts to leave town if you're driving north-south). You can rent surfboards and paddleboards here.
Crescent Beach is a couple of miles further south from South Beach, and then there's Enderts Beach a mile south of that. Both of these have tide pools for kids to explore, and there are plenty of parking spots and some picnic tables, if you want to stop and have something to eat.
If you want a good hike then you can join the California Coastal Trail at Enderts Beach and in six miles you'll reach Damnation Creek Trail Beach. This is a rocky and remote beach, but a great spot for some dramatic photos.
In the town itself there's a large harbor which has its own colony of seals. There are also plenty of eating places around the harbor, and the town, though small, has lots of places to stay..
On the west side of Highway 101 near the harbor, and marked by two huge statues of sea lions, is Ocean World. It's open seven days a week though as most of their attractions depend on sunlight it closes at dusk.
take a 45-minute guided tour and will learn a lot about the creatures you'll
see as you drive along the California coast, and some you probably won't see -
at Ocean World you get to pet a shark. Seals, sea lions, and stingrays are
amongst the other attractions, in the tanks that contain over half a million
gallons of water. Website.
If you drive north out of town along the coast road, in a few minutes you'll reach Point St George. There's a large parking area where the road ends and you can get out and stretch your legs here. There are dramatic cliffs and offshore rocks, and trails allow you to explore some of the beaches in this remote spot.
Crescent City does make a good base for a few days of exploration. The various Redwood National and State Parks are all within easy reach and these include:
A few miles south of Crescent City, the Pacific Coast Highway runs right through the Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park. This covers an area of over 31,000 acres and includes several miles of coastline as well as hiking trails and of course groves of redwood trees. Website.
This is a few miles north and east of the town center, and there are plenty of redwood groves to walk in and admire. If you only have time for one, make it the Stout Memorial Grove, and there are also 18 miles (29 km) of hiking trails in the park's 10,000 acres.
It's named after the explorer Jedediah Smith, who was the first American to travel by land from the Mississippi River to reach the California coast, a feat he achieved in 1826 and which included him passing through what eventually became this state park. Website.
A short drive south from Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park and Highway 101 winds through the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. You can then head off the main highway onto the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway, a lovely drive through the magnificent redwood trees.
There are also lots of hikes to choose from, one of the most popular being along Fern Canyon. The huge ferns that line the trail make you think you've entered Lord of the Rings territory, though in fact the canyon has appeared not in The Lord of the Rings but in both Jurassic Park II and Return of the Jedi. You should also make time to visit Elk Prairie, which is home to a herd of Roosevelt elk. Website.
The main Redwood National Park is to the south of these various state parks, though it's hard to know where the exact boundaries are. You can read more about this on our National Parks page.
Crescent City has a Mediterranean climate, making it a good place to visit all year round. There's very little rain in the summer months, though it's obviously cooler than southern California and average summer temperatures are in the 50s or 60s, though it can get into the 90s in a good summer. Winters see most of the rain, with occasional light snow flurries.
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