I’ve been exploring tide pools along the coast of northern Humboldt and Del Norte Counties for 40 years. This post shares excellent places to find tide pools where you can observe sea stars, anemones, mussels, and the other myriad life that lives on the rocks of the intertidal zone of the Pacific Ocean.
Before we get to tide-pool destinations in Northern California’s Humboldt County and Del Norte County, let’s cover some basic advice and also key safety and etiquette issues.
Want to Explore Tide Pools? Come at Low Tide!
And overall, the lower the tide the better. Note that low tides are designated by negative numbers in tide tables. A -2.5-foot tide will expose much more rock than a -1.0-foot one will.
Find the official NOAA table here. You can enter a location for anywhere in Humboldt County or Del Norte County.
What to Wear
Wear warm clothes, of course, and be aware that it’s often substantially colder at the ocean than even a hundred yards inland. You’ll be fully exposed to winds, and the Pacific Ocean itself is quite cold, which chills the water just above it.
Definitely wear sturdy boots or shoes that have good traction because…
Wet Rock Is Slippery…
So be extra careful to maintain your balance.
In many instances, you don’t actually need to walk on rocks; you can stand on sandy beach and still observe the beautiful sea creatures.
Always Keep an Eye on Incoming Ocean Waves
Waves can come in larger sets, and every so often a “sneaker” wave that’s substantially larger than the others can hit.
Also be aware if the tide is going in or out. If it’s coming in, that spot that’s fine now will eventually be underwater.
Be Very Careful Where You Step
Try to always step on bare rock; otherwise you are killing critters with every step. Note that seaweed and other aquatic plants are wet and slippery.
Touching, Lifting Animals at Tide Pools
If you truly want to touch, do so very gently with a finger wetted in ocean water. Do not lift or pry any creature/animal you find in a tide pool; doing so can damage or kill them.
If you do move a rock to see what’s below, make sure you replace it gently in the exact same spot.
Leave seashells where they are, including on the beach. Even apparently “empty” ones can provide habitat for a variety of creatures, and the minerals in the shells will eventually be broken down and returned to the environment for reuse.
Best Tide Pool Locations: Northern Humboldt County and Del Norte County
Many of these locations are within the boundaries of Redwood National & State Parks, which is the subject of my book Hike the Parks: Redwood National & State Parks. The book contains 38 hikes, plus info on whale watching, beautiful drives, campgrounds, and more. Where relevant, I list the Hike # in parentheses.
And there are many, many places to observe tide pools and exposed rocks. If it’s a really low tide and you see a beach with exposed rocks, you will almost certainly find interesting things to view.
All of these locations are along or near US Highway 101. I list them from south to north, and I only focus on the area north of Trinidad.
Trinidad State Beach (Hike 1)
Take Exit 728 off US Highway 101 about 12 miles north of Arcata. Head west on Main Street and follow signs to Trinidad Beach. Check the area on the north side, near the large island/tombolo.
Patricks Point State Park Headlands and Agate Beach (Hikes 2 and 3)
Take Exit 734 from US Highway 101, signed for Patricks Point State Park. Follow Patricks Point Drive into the park. Get the park brochure and use the excellent map to guide you to the headlands, served by a network of trails that take you down to the rocky shoreline where you’ll find tide pools and exposed rocks covered with marine life. Agate Beach, on the north edge of Patricks Point State Park, also merits a visit.
Hidden Beach, California Coastal Trail, Redwood National Park (Hikes 23 and 24)
Hidden Beach, accessed by the California Coastal Trail, is another excellent location. Start at the Lagoon Creek picnic area, which is on the west side of US Highway 101 about 6.7 miles north of the Klamath River bridge, 0.9 mile north of Trees of Mystery, and just south of the south end of Wilson Creek Beach. Walk a level mile on the Coastal Trail until a sign directs you right to Hidden Beach.
Wilson Creek Beach, Redwood National Park
This beach makes a great place for a short stroll on the strand or to just watch the waves pound False Klamath Rock and the other stony points poking out of the Pacific. Find the turnoff on the west side of US Highway 101 about 0.7 mile north of the Lagoon Creek picnic area and 1.6 miles north of Trees of Mystery.
Enderts Beach, Redwood National Park (Hike 26)
Take Enderts Beach Road, which is on the west side of US Highway 101 about 0.5 mile north of where the highway leaves the forest before you reach Crescent City and 2 miles south of Elk Valley Road in Crescent City. Follow Enderts Beach Road 1.8 miles to its end at the Crescent Beach Overlook (make sure you check out the views!). From here, it’s a 0.6 mile hike to Enderts Beach on the California Coastal Trail.
Pebble Beach Drive, Crescent City
Pebble Beach Drive to Point St. George in Crescent City is one of the most spectacular shoreline drives on the West Coast; it includes vista points, beach access, and a paved trail along much of its length, with many places to find tide pools and rocks with marine life.
Start at US Highway 101 and Fifth Street in downtown Crescent City, 0.2 mile northwest of Front Street and 0.5 mile southeast of Northcrest Drive. Head southwest 0.6 mile until Fifth Street ends at Taylor Street, and then curve right and immediately left onto Pebble Beach Drive.
From here on, the road runs beside the shore. Several parking areas allow a full panorama of ocean, cliff, and rock, including Castle Rock National Wildlife Refuge, and you can access Pebble Beach, which features an extensive assortment of multihued wave-rounded rocks. Once you’ve traveled 2.6 miles from Fifth Street and US 101, Pebble Beach Drive meets Washington Boulevard.
Point St. George Heritage Area, Crescent City (Hike 27)
A network of trails runs along the bluffs that begin at Point St. George Heritage Area and end at the northern end of Pebble Beach. From the intersection of Pebble Beach Drive and Washington Boulevard (described just above in the Pebble Beach section) continue left on Pebble Beach Drive, passing a parking lot after 0.2 mile and two other smaller roadside parking areas on the left before reaching the road’s end at the large trailhead parking area after another 1.0 mile. Follow the trails to quickly reach the bluffs. Several trails and old roads take you down to the rocky shoreline and the tide pools.
Your Take: Northern Humboldt County and Del Norte County Tidepools
Have other favorite locations to share?