The Yurok Tribe resides in the heart of Redwood National Park on the Northern California coast, Yurok country, where old-growth trees tower to the sky with trunks so enormous it can take dozens of people to reach around the base, fingertip to fingertip. Traditional Yurok stories teach that the redwood trees are sacred living beings.
California’s largest tribe, the Yuroks count nearly 5,000 enrolled members. Their ancestral lands contain the vast majority of the coastline near present day Klamath, stretching up the Klamath River for more than 40 miles.
Yurok country’s deep redwood forest etched with trails, and its peaceful and wild coastline, beacon tourists from around the world. VisitYurokCountry.com is your best resource when planning a trip.
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Redwood National Park
Here, redwood trees rise up to 350 feet in height and sometimes number 2,000 years in age. Iconic animals call this area home, like Roosevelt elk, black bears and bald eagles. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot O-mah, or Bigfoot. Afterall, these are his stomping grounds. The Yurok tribe has also gone to extensive lengths to preserve thunderbirds, the California condor. With wings stretching 9 1/2 feet from tip to tip, the birds have been spiritually tied to Yurok ceremonies since time immemorial.
Perhaps John Steinbeck best conveyed the redwoods’ distinctive power: “The redwoods, once seen, leave a mark or create a vision that stays with you always. No one has ever successfully painted or photographed a redwood tree. The feeling they produce is not transferable. From them comes silence and awe. It’s not only their unbelievable stature, nor the color which seems to shift and vary under your eyes, no, they are not like any trees we know, they are ambassadors from another time.”
Yurok Scenic Byways
Yurok Scenic Byways consist of five tribally designated roads that are within the Tribe’s Ancestral Territory and possess ecological, cultural and recreational values. The byways include: Requa Road, Bald Hills Road, Highway 169, Highway 101, and Hwy 96. Each route leads to a special location. For instance, Bald Hills Road traverses now rare oak grasslands, where herds of Roosevelt elk can be seen in their native habitat.
While meandering along the byways, imagine how the coastal Yuroks lived off the land. Admire the redwoods, serene lagoons, and the lifeblood of the Yurok People: the Klamath River.
Create your coastal experience from tranquil to thrilling with kayaking or gentle river rafting to a high-energy jet boat excursion with Klamath Jet Boat Tours.
World-class steelhead and salmon fill the Klamath and Smith Rivers. Take a guided fishing tour, to either river or ocean. Request the Yurok-owned guide service operated by the Carlson family. Ocean charters are available from nearby Crescent City. August through October, you can cast a line for Chinook (King) salmon in the Klamath River.
Additionally, beautiful beaches dot the coastline — try Kellog Beach, Point St. George, Crescent Beach, Hidden Beach and Klamath Beach, among others. Keep an eye out for California sea lions basking in the sun.
Hike & Backpack
Roughly 164 miles of hiking trails snake through the area’s national and state parks, plus the California Coastal Trail meanders right through Yurok territory. With numerous trail options, hiking is easily adaptable to preferred level of challenge or ease. Check out the Ah-Pah Interpretive Trail, Klamath River Overlook, Stout Grove Hik and Boy Scout Tree Trail.
Or marvel at the redwood forest from above while riding the Skytrail accessed from the Trees of Mystery in Klamath.
Sometimes after a full day of exploring, a hot shower, good meal and a night in a comfortable bed are essential.
A Yurok couple owns the Historic Requa Inn in Klamath. The century-old bed-and-breakfast sits on the banks of the Klamath River in the middle of Redwood National Park. Requa is a Yurok word meaning mouth of the river. “This has been our home for time immemorial,” owner Jan Wortman previously told ICMN. “My grandparents met at a dance hall across the street from the Requa Inn in 1917.”
Or consider calling Redwood Hotel Casino home base. A Holiday Inn Express, guests relax and replenish in the comfort of their rooms and with a savory meal at the Abalone Grill. A host of slot machines offer entertainment along with hand-crafted libations.
For those traveling to Yurok country by camper, there’s Redwood RV Park or Requa RV Park. Backpackers who prefer to sleep in tent on the Earth should check out Jedediah Smith Campground, Nickle Creek Campground, Flint Ridge Campsite, Gold Bluffs Beach Campground or Mill Creek Campground.
Yurok Country Visitor Center
The tribe’s hub for tourist information and local businesses offers essential educational information for visitors about the Yurok Tribe’s heritage and culture. The Yurok Tribe is the first tribe in California to receive direct funding from the National ScenicByways Program to build a visitor center. Located in downtown Klamath on the corner of Klamath Blvd. and Klamath Circle, the visitor center is within walking distance from Redwood Hotel Casino.
This story was originally published April 20, 2017.