Sunday, May 19, 2013

Travel Review: Hendy Woods State Park

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Redwood forest; good times; fun, fun, fun
Cons: I'm not there right now
The Bottom Line:
Beautiful redwoods
Nice, relaxing camping spot
Brings great memories

Hendy Woods Provides a Nice, Relaxing Campground in a Beautiful Redwood Forest

I grew up camping.  Almost all of our family vacations involved either our tent trailer or a regular trailer.  And one of our favorite spots was Hendy Woods State Park.  To this day, mention to place to anyone in my family, and you'll get warm smiles brought on by memories of many wonderful trips.


Hendy Woods is located off state route 128 in Mendocino County, California.  It's a three hour drive from San Francisco, but much of that is because it's not a direct route and you need to take small roads.

Speaking of small roads, the nearest towns are small, too.  The closest town is Philo, and it's got one small store that is good for emergencies.  Booneville is only 8 miles away, and it's big enough that you should be able to find anything else you might need there.  You know, things like badminton sets (not that my family bought one there on one trip or anything).

Before you turn off route 128, you'll pass Gowen's Oak Tree Fruit Stand.  They've got fresh fruit and vegetables, including delicious corn.  Don't forget to get a frozen apple pie as well.


The campground consists of two loops.  Honestly, there isn't too much difference between them.  One is a giant loop while the other is a figure 8.  All of the campsites are surrounded by redwood trees.  A couple sites get some sun, but most of the sites provide you with shade pretty much all day.

Between the two loops, there are close to 100 camp sites.  All of them accommodate tents, most will take trailers of various sizes.  According to their web site, the largest recreational vehicle they will fit is 35 feet.

While the campground does take trailers, there are no hook ups in the sites.  There is a dump station you can use, however, but no place to recharge your battery.

In recent years, the park has built a couple of small cabins you can rent.  They include beds, a table, and a fire ring outside.  I don't know if I've ever seen anybody in them.  Frankly, I think I'd prefer a tent to staying in one of them.  They are very basic with no amenities.

Like with most campgrounds, you can see your neighbors.  There's enough space between sites that you get your own trees and some privacy.  We've run into noisy groups occasionally, but most of the time the only time you'll hear your neighbors is when they are having lots of fun.  Things pretty much settle down at night, and it gets very quiet.

Each loop has two bathrooms.  They are standard state park fair, clean but not super fancy.  Be forewarned that they charge for showers.  Well, actually, they charge for hot water.  You can get all the cold water you want for free, but if you actually want to take a warm shower, it will cost.  I'm not sure of the going rate, but it does seem like it is rather outrageous, so bring lots of quarters.  Or you can buy them from the campground host.

There is a campfire ring that offers programs weekends during the summer.  They also have a Jr. Ranger program for kids during the summer.


About the only activity offered is hiking.  There are two groves, Big Hendy and Little Hendy.  Little Hendy has a single loop, while Big Hendy has several loops that take you ever deeper into the redwoods.  Neither grove takes that long to walk through.  As a kid, Big Hendy always seemed to take forever, and to this day I prefer Little Hendy as a result.  But you can hike Big Hendy in an hour or less if you want.

I know there are other trails you can hike, but my family has always stuck with those two groves.  Unfortunately, the signs aren't the best on the trails, which mean you can get confused.  The park isn't truly big enough to get lost, but you might wander around a bit longer than you intended if you aren't familiar with the trails.

If you want a longer hike, there is a two to three mile fire road that will take you into downtown Philo.  Like the other trails, the length is the only challenge.  All the trails are mostly flat, meaning anyone can enjoy them.

Navarro River

The park does have the Navarro River on one side, and you can easily walk to it if you so desire.  As a result, they claim that you can swim at this state park.  And maybe in really wet years, you can.  Granted, we don't usually head down to the river, but I don't remember seeing enough water to really swim.  Wading, sure, but any more than that not so much.

Day Use

There is a day use area of the park.  For the going day use fee set by the state of California, you can go down to the picnic area that is within easy walking distance of the Big Hendy Grove and the Navarro River.  I've only ever camped there, but I have walked by the day use area, and it seems nice.

Seasons and Reservations

Like many California State Parks, Hendy Woods takes reservations.  I've never made them, but I know the park is popular on weekends, so you'll want to book early for a trip.

As I am writing this, the official web site is announcing the park is closed from November 1, 2009 until May 14, 2010.  I know they didn't use to close in the winter.  In fact, I can think of several trips where we camped in the rain and were one of the few families there.  I'm not sure if this is a new policy or an attempt to balance the budget during the current (2010) state budget crisis.  My guess is it is the latter, but you might want to double check before you make definite plans.

Why I Love It Here

There are two big reasons I love going to Hendy Woods.  The first is nature.  Redwood forests are impressive and peaceful.  Go for a hike, and you'll forget there are other people around.  You have to lean completely back to see the tops of the trees.  And they smell so wonderful, too.

The second reason is my family.  I view the lack of outside activities as a plus.  Yes, we make sure to hike the trails, but when we aren't doing that, we play lots of games as a family.  Since all of us love to do that, it is tons of fun.


Everyone needs to spend time in the redwoods.  There is no substitute for the majesty and splendor of these giant trees.  And Hendy Woods State Park is the perfect place to do it.  Just leave room for me and my family.  We will definitely be back.

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