Coke Smith Photography & Travelogue

Coastal California: From Point Reyes to Redwoods National Park

  Giant three ton bull Northern Elephant Seal basking in the morning sun at Point Reyes


This page summarizes dozens of day trips, week long road-trips, family visit trips and about eight years of field trips up and down the north coast of California.

Living in Sacramento for nearly a decade provided me with a great location for day trips to the coast.  Simply a 2.5 hour drive to the north west would locate me in spectacular Point Reyes National Seashore.  Lien and I would spend countless days exploring the coast, lagoons and forests of this special place.  For eight years, I taught a winter semester course titled “The Natural History of Point Reyes” which involved January field trips taking students in to the field to study the nature and ecology of the park.  These were five-day field seminars which involved nature walks, lectures and reports.  I loved teaching these classes!  They were basically my training ground in becoming a seasoned naturalist. 

Also included in this webpage is the coast of northern California all the way up to Redwoods National Park north of Arcata.  Luckily I have my younger brother, Larry and his family, to exploit as a home base while we explore the region’s vast natural heritage.  One of my favorite spots is the “Lost Coast” region south of Eureka.  Using what surely started as a logging road way back when, we have explored this extremely remote and nearly wild stretch of California coast.  The windy mountain road hugs the coast traveling through mixed conifer forests and coastal grasslands and providing views of the amazing coastal scenery.  The road eventually turns inland and terminates in the amazing old growth redwood forest of Humboldt Redwoods State Park, where I am pretty sure several scenes of Star Wars VI were filmed.

Hiking and exploring the wilderness of Prairie Creek State Park north of Redwoods National Park is also a high point for our north coast trips.  Hiking the old growth forests of the Cal-Barrel grove is a spectacular way to spend an afternoon.  Usually it is easy to spot herds of Roosevelt Elk grazing in the grasslands of the park.  Fern Canyon is a spectacular spot to trek to as well.


Please take a look at our North America Image Galleries!

California Scenes Image Gallery


Check out the images below that highlight some of the scenery we have experienced over the years while exploring California’s amazing northern coast! 




Tule Elk bulls in the morning fog on the north extension of Point Reyes National Seashore in the Tule Elk Preserve.  This is one of the few herds left in California.  These were once a common cervid species in California.





Roosevelt Elk are California's second subspecies of elk.  This young bull was photographed feeding right on the coastal strand near Fern Canyon in Prairie Creek State Park in northern California.




Female Roosevelt Elk in Prairie Creek State Park.





This Roosevelt Elk bull is munching bedstraw in Redwoods National Park in northern California.



Ferns like this Spiny Wood Fern are common in the temperate Redwood rainforest found along the fog belt of northern California.  Here, were there is fog there are Redwoods!




Praire Creek State Park's Fern Canyon is a lovely trek in to a maiden hair fern-laiden canyon.



Although I can think of no stands of Darlingtonia californica situated on the California coast (the ones I am familiar with are a bit inland), these are a carnivorous plant that is unique to the northern California and southern Oregon area of North America.  These are coevolutionary niche equivalents to the Nepenthes plants I have seen in Borneo and Madagascar.  These were photographed in the Darlingtonia Wayside near Florence, Oregon.




Point Reyes headlands jutting out in to the Pacific.  Trekking these headlands can yield sights of Elephant Seals, California Sea Lions and Peregrine Falcons and many more species!  The wildflower display in the spring is awesome as well.



A sunset in the early 1990's with a bunch of my students in the foreground.  A nice conclusion to a wonderful field day  in Point Reyes.





A glorious Redwoods National Park sunset.



A stand of second and old growth Sequoia sempervirens (Coastal Redwoods) at Samuel P. Taylor State Park to the south east of Point Reyes.



The dune grass (Ammophilia arenaria) community along the coastal strand of Point Reyes National Seashore.



Drake's Estero (estuary) is a great natural laboratory to study the flora and fauna found in this sort of habitat, which is becoming more and more rare in North America.



Drake's Bay, Point Reyes National Seashore.



Prior to the earthquake of 1906, these two fences used to be connected!  Over 13 feet movement in one day!  This picture was taken directly on top of the San Andreas Fault.



Tule Elk in the Point Reyes' Elk Preserve!



A bull Northern Elephant Seal in a recently established colony at Point Reyes National Seashore.



Pacific Salamander (identification still waiting confirmation...) found trekking a streamside in Samuel P.Taylor State Part near Point Reyes.  Turning over logs can reveal some fascinating critters!



Rough-skinned Newts are also common along the coast all the way to the Northwest.  Although they are not considered dangerous, they do have some the strongest toxins in the animal kingdom in their skin!  But you would pretty much have to rub it violently in to open wounds to have any ill-effects.




Banana Slug porno captured along the trail in Lady Bird Johnson Grove of Redwoods National Park in northern California.




This Bat Star (Patiria miniata) was photographed in the beach sands near Chimney Rock in Point Reyes National Seashore.