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'Hiking Humboldt Kids'



Now that the first flush of summer vacation is past and the kids are getting antsy, you may be wondering where to go for a child-friendly walk in Humboldt County. Check out the recently published Hiking Humboldt Kids, a new guidebook by hiking enthusiast and local author Rees Hughes.

The well-designed guidebook (written in English and Spanish) with colorful photos is a fun read and good resource for anyone, but especially for families with children looking to get out on a trail not far from home. It's the next book in the "Hiking Humboldt Series," and is the result of a collaboration between Backcountry Press and First 5 Humboldt.

First 5 is an organization that provides advocacy and support to pregnant people and children from birth through age 5, and their families. Community Engagement Coordinator Jennifer Gonzales created the vision for this new hiking book, and she and Executive Director Mary Ann Hansen recruited Hughes to help get children involved with nature with this guidebook.

"There are so many reasons for families to spend more time outside," said Hughes, while crediting Hanson and Gonzales for their vision, collaboration and financing the project. "Being active together, learning to love and appreciate nature at an early age, exploring our own backyard, exercise, getting away from the television or the game console or the computer. We designed Hiking Humboldt Kids to make that decision to get outside a little easier."

"The response from folks about the book has been awesome," said Gonzales. "Families are excited to be getting the books just in time for summer days to visit new places with their kiddos. It has been fun talking with folks about the joys of experiencing the outdoors together, especially through the eyes of young children. When we enjoy these walks together, we are not only creating lasting memories, we are regulating our nervous systems, reducing stress and building our body's abilities to better cope with future stressors. All by simply walking together outdoors."

A parent himself with lots of hiking experience with children, Hughes begins the guidebook with helpful advice, checklists and safety reminders for how to prepare for — and enjoy — hiking with children. Each trail-location recommendation includes a helpful map, a description of the route and its "difficulty," walking length, whether dogs, bicycles and strollers are allowed, bathroom availability, whether public transport is possible and driving directions.

The guidebook includes "scavenger hunts" with descriptions and photos of what to look for on many trails. It also offers helpful prompts on how to keep children interested and busy with activities while out walking the trails.

For families with children looking for a walk that has options for distance, isn't too physically challenging and doesn't require an entrance fee, my advice is to start with one of the following trails listed in the guidebook. The guidebook's 25 walk recommendations are grouped into four geographic locations around the county, including Humboldt Bay.

For trails in or near Eureka, check out Sequoia Park's redwood forest and duck pond (plus its new playground and restrooms) or the Waterfront Trail North and the Hikshari' Trail with their great views of Humboldt Bay.

Along Old Arcata Road, the Freshwater Farms trail is an easy out-and-back walk next to a tidal slough. The Ma-le'l Dunes North trails on the Samoa peninsula offer a loop option and a fun side trail to a giant sand pile in the dunes and on to the ocean beach (no dogs, open only Friday through Monday with parking and restrooms). Two other easy trails a few miles away to the south of Eureka are the Elk River to Falk out-and-back trail (Headwaters Forest Preserve parking lot and restrooms) and the Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge (visitor center parking lot and restrooms).

In Arcata, the flat Bay Trail North goes through the Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary, and I recommend taking its trails for excellent wildlife-viewing (park near the visitor center) — currently there's lots of construction underway at the Marsh, however. The many trails in the Arcata Community Forest offer a wide selection of easy to more challenging options (a good place to start is Redwood Park (parking, playground and restrooms available). Not far away in Blue Lake, there's usually more sunshine, less fog and an easy unpaved levee walk out-and-back along the Baduwa't River (aka the Mad River) and other trails in town.

To the north, good places to hike with children include the out-and-back Hammond Trail in McKinleyville (bicycles allowed, park at the Hiller Park playground and restrooms). Sue-meg State Park north of Trinidad is a wonderful place as well (though the park has an entrance fee); park at the visitor center lot (bathrooms) and get a map and start with the trail to the Yurok replica Sumeg Village.

For children ready for a bigger hiking challenge, try the great views from the Trinidad Head trail. Taking a longer drive north, check out the Trillium Falls Trail (a real waterfall) and Prairie Creek Trail in Redwood National and State Parks (a loop option is to go north near the creek and make a loop back via the Big Tree on the Foothill Trail). In a longer drive south of Eureka to redwood forests, check out the Cheatham Grove (a Return of the Jedi filming location) on State Route 36 and Founders Grove along the Avenue of the Giants.

For more information about these and other, more physically challenging trails that perhaps you've never heard of, find a copy of Hiking Humboldt Kids. The guidebook is available free for Humboldt County families with children 5 and younger from First 5 Humboldt playgroups, through local early childhood care and education settings, such as classrooms, preschools and family childcare homes, a library tour and other events. Both hard copy and digital versions are available for purchase directly through Backcountry Press' website,, and at local bookstores. Each Humboldt County Library branch has copies for check out as well.

Mark Larson (he/him) is a retired Cal Poly Humboldt journalism professor and active freelance photographer who likes to walk.


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