Crescent City

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.

Aerial view of Crescent City and its harbor in northern CaliforniaCrescent City

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.

Entrance sign for the Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park in CaliforniaDel Norte Coast Redwoods State Park

Crescent City Beaches

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.

Harbor Wall in Crescent City, CaliforniaHarbor Wall in Crescent City

What to Do in Crescent City

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..

Ocean World

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.

Starfish at Ocean World sea park in Crescent City, northern CaliforniaStarfish at Ocean World

You 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

Point St George

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.

Around Crescent City

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:

Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park

Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park in CaliforniaDel Norte Coast Redwoods State Park

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.

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State ParkJedediah Smith Redwoods State Park

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.

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State ParkJedediah Smith Redwoods State Park

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.

Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

The Cathedral Tree in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park near Crescent City, CaliforniaThe Cathedral Tree in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

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.

Fern Canyon in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park near Crescent City, CaliforniaFern Canyon

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.

Herd of Roosevelt ElkRoosevelt Elk

Redwood National Park

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.

Redwood trees in Redwood National Park in CaliforniaRedwood National Park

Crescent City Climate

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.

Where to Stay in Crescent City

Other California Coast pages

  • San Luis Obispo

    San Luis Obispo in California is half-way between Los Angeles and San Francisco, on the Pacific Coast Highway and with lots of things to do and see.

  • Moss Beach Hotel

    For a Moss Beach hotel just off the Pacific Coast Highway, the Seal Cove Inn offers good accommodation north of Half Moon Bay, minutes from the ocean.

  • Whale Watching in California

    Whale watching in California is one of the most popular things to do along the Pacific Coast Highway, in places like San Diego, San Francisco and many more.

  • Newport Beach

    Newport Beach is a small city on the Pacific coast of southern California, right on the Pacific Coast Highway and noted for its beaches and surfing.

  • Visiting Hearst Castle

    This Visiting Hearst Castle page gives all the practicalities including location, types of tour, length of tours, how long to allow, and much more information.

  • Vagabond's House Inn

    Historic and romantic Vagabond's House Inn Bed and Breakfast in Carmel is a great place to stay with free wine and cheese and generous breakfast.

  • Unique Inns on the Pacific Coast Highway

    Unique Inns on the Pacific Coast Highway include some of the best independently-owned boutique hotels, spas, and lodges in California, Oregon and Washington.

  • Top Wildlife Spots on the California Coast

    Pacific Coast Highway Travel recommends some of the top wildlife spots along the California coast.

  • Dana Point

    Dana Point in California is the official start or end of the Pacific Coast Highway, and its attractions include whale watching, and Doheny State Beach.

  • Santa Catalina Island

    Santa Catalina Island, or Catalina Island, is off the shore of Southern California and reachable from Long Beach, San Pedro, Newport Beach, and Dana Point.

  • Stanford Inn by the Sea Mendocino

    The Stanford Inn by the Sea in Mendocino on the California coast is an eco-resort with yoga classes and the award-winning Ravens Restaurant.

  • Santa Monica Pier

    Santa Monica Pier is just off the Pacific Coast Highway in Santa Monica near Los Angeles, with an amusement park, an aquarium and many other attractions.

  • Santa Monica, California

    Santa Monica in California is famous for its pier, and beaches, and is one of the best west coast vacation spots, with hotels, restaurants, surfing, museums.

  • Santa Cruz

    Santa Cruz on the Pacific Coast Highway in California has its famous boardwalk, beaches, wine tastings, Surfing Museum, Mission, and Marine Discovery Center.

  • Santa Cruz Downtown Wine Tastings

    There are plenty of Santa Cruz downtown wine tastings including Beauregard Vineyards,Storrs Winery and Pelican Ranch Winery,all with tasting rooms.

  • Santa Barbara

    Standing on the Pacific Coast Highway in California, Santa Barbara is an attractive resort with a historic downtown, sandy beaches, a mission, and good museums.

  • San Simeon

    San Simeon is a tiny town of a few hundred people close to Hearst Castle on the California coast midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

  • San Clemente California

    San Clemente in California is a small city on the Pacific Coast Highway midway between San Diego and Los Angeles, noted for its beaches and surfing.

  • Point Lobos State Reserve near Carmel and Monterey, with photos

    A walk around the Point Lobos State Reserve near Monterey and Carmel provides lots of photo opportunities, especially of the Harbor Seal Birthing Area.

  • Pismo Beach

    Pismo Beach is a small beach town on California's Central Coast, a resort famous for surfing and clams.

  • Pelican Inn and Suites in Cambria on the Central Coast of California

    The Pelican Inn and Suites in Cambria on California's Central Coast has oceanfront views, swimming pool, gardens, and is right on the beach near Hearst Castle.

  • Pacific Grove

    Pacific Grove is a small city on the California coast, next to Monterey and close to Carmel, with attractions including its historic Victorian houses.

  • Oceanside

    Oceanside is a typical southern California beach town with a surf culture and with the Pacific Coast Highway running right through it.

  • Malibu

    Malibu is a beach city north of Los Angeles famous for the celebrities who live there in expensive homes and the Pacific Coast Highway runs through it and there are beaches and hikes for all to enjoy.

  • Morro Bay

    Morro Bay is a delightful small town on the California coast roughly halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles and noted for the huge Morro Rock.



Recent Articles

  1. Laguna Niguel Beach Trolley Starts Thursday May 26 2022

    May 27, 22 03:40 AM

    Laguna Niguel Trolley Starts Thursday May 26 2022. The Laguna Niguel Trolley runs on weekends from Memorial Day Weekend thru Labor Day Weekend. Explore Laguna Niguel from the hills to the sea with fre…

    Read More

  2. What Makes Coronado The Most Gorgeous Beach In San Diego?

    May 27, 22 03:40 AM

    Coronado Beach is a top tourist attraction in San Diego - and not just because it is the most gorgeous beach. It is a perfect vacation destination for everyone - thanks to the miles-long shoreline, a…

    Read More

  3. Best Things to Do in Ventura

    May 12, 22 09:53 AM

    The best things to do in Ventura include beaches and museums, seeing the mission, going to Ventura Pier, and a boat trip to the Channel Islands National Park.

    Read More