11 Top-Rated Things to Do in Trinidad, CA
Despite being one of the oldest coastal towns in California, Trinidad still maintains a hidden gem quality in the Golden State. Not to spoil the secret, but this quaint ocean city in Northern California offers one of the most charming coastal atmospheres on this side of the country.
Dramatic seaside boulders punctuate much of the shore surrounding Trinidad. The outstanding Trinidad Head also punctuates the shoreline, jutting into the ocean to provide a panoramic view. And it's not only the ocean waves that provide a postcard image. Trinidad's immediate surroundings also include brackish lagoons that abound with wildlife.
Trinidad is approximately halfway along Northern California's Redwood Highway on the 101, meaning Trinidad has tall trees in either direction. This proximity makes the village an excellent basecamp for exploring some of America's most mystic groves.
Discover your next California getaway with our list of the top places to visit and things to do in Trinidad.
1. Catch the Sunset at Trinidad State Beach
Highlights: Stunning state beach with massive sea stacks and tidal features
Trinidad State Beach offers one of the most captivating ocean scenes on the entire West Coast. This tremendous public space stretches between Trinidad Head to the south and Elk Head to the north. Prominent sea stacks punctuate the sprawling sand in between. With plenty to admire, dazzling sunsets add even more appeal to the stunning ocean environment.
An enormous sea stack known as Pewetole Island divides Trinidad State Beach into two separate coves. The southern cove is the main access point, with parking on the west side of town at the end of Lighthouse Road. This parking area is also where hikers start the Trinidad Head Loop Trail.
Simply exploring is the top thing to do at this main beach area. The changing tide lends access to some of the rocks that dot the coastline. Walking and photography are also popular activities. Setting up a beach chair and taking in the ocean scene is also recommended.
The north cove of Trinidad State Beach is known as College Cove. A parking area farther north near Elk Head, and a short hike through dense forest lend access to College Cove. This extra effort usually makes the cove more secluded, with a wilderness feel. Plan to check it out during low tide for the safest time to visit.
2. Get a Great View atop Trinidad Head
Highlight: Quintessential hiking route with panoramic ocean views
Among Trinidad's many adventures, the looped hiking trail circling Trinidad Head offers the most panoramic views. The approximately 1.5-mile route has several small spur trails that lead to benches and great places to sit and watch the waves at work. And surrounded by Trinidad State Beach to the north and Trinidad Bay to the south, great views unfold in every direction.
Alongside postcard views of the ocean, the Trinidad Head Loop has several opportunities to see wildlife. Animal sightings include gray whales during their migration months (typically December through January and March through April). Seals and dolphins are also commonly spotted, as well as various seabirds.
The route is navigable in either direction, and climbs approximately 300 feet both ways. Sunsets can be a breathtaking time to make the trek. Visitors catch a glance at the still-operating Trinidad Lighthouse along the route, dating back to 1871. Parking for the hike is in the same area as Trinidad State Beach parking at the end of Lighthouse Road.
3. Launch a Boat in Trinidad Harbor
Highlights: Scenic and skinny harbor with a pier, boating, seafood, and a beach
Trinidad Harbor is on the west side of town near the Trinidad Head Loop Trail. A massive rock topped with greenery, known as Little Head, shelters this small part of the coast. The Trinidad Pier, also known as the Seascape Pier, stretches along the protected face of this rock and out into the open ocean.
The Harbor and Pier are popular places to visit for residents and tourists alike. A public boat launch is available for those with their own vessel, and three commercial fishing charters operate from the pier. A tad inland, the Seascape Restaurant offers fresh seafood caught daily. A nearby bait and tackle shop provides fishing supplies.
A scenic beach extends from either side of Little Head. The east side of the rock, opposite the pier, is larger and facilitates launching non-motorized boats from the shore. Both beaches access the beautiful Trinidad Bay, abundant with picturesque rocks poking out of the surf.
4. Catch Some Waves at Moonstone Beach County Park
Highlights: Scenic shoreline with several big boulders jutting out of the shore
While Trinidad State Beach attracts all types of visitors, other public coastlines nearby have a more local feel. Less than four miles to the south, Moonstone Beach County Park is one such semi-kept secret worth visiting.
The Little River denotes the southern end of the county beach, with Little River State Beach extending for miles on the other side. The Moonstone shoreline itself is less than 500 feet long. But with giant boulders and big waves, it's a scenic spot to explore or go surfing. For group get-togethers, the Beach House, formerly Merryman's Beach House is a special event venue next to the beach.
Scenic attractions line the entire stretch of coast south of Trinidad. North of Moonstone Beach, closer to Trinidad, Luffenholtz Beach is another long stretch of scenic shoreline. Colossal sea stacks and scenic viewpoints litter this entire cove, recently purchased by the Trinidad Land Trust. Picnic tables and tide pools also vie for attention.
Between Moonstone and Luffenholtz, Houda Point offers another scenic beach and view-enabling promontory. At Houda, the double-humped sea stack known as Camel Rock is the main focal point.
5. Camp at Sue-Meg State Park
Highlights: One-square-mile state park with ocean views and over 100 campsites
Less than six miles north of Trinidad on the 101, Sue-Meg State Park is another densely packed adventure destination. This approximately one-square-mile state park encompasses a forested headland jutting into the ocean.
One of the most popular things to do at Sue-Meg is hiking the two-mile Rim Trail, revealing impressive views of the ocean. The Rim Trail connects to the exceptional viewpoint known as Wedding Rock. Agate Beach also draws a lot of attention on the north side of the park with a beautiful shoreline.
The park is also an excellent spot for camping, with over 120 campsites spread across three campgrounds. All campsites are best suited for drive-in tent camping, although some accommodate small RVs (no hookups available). All campsites are reservable ahead of time.
Sue-Meg is popular on the weekends but not as popular as the neighboring campgrounds in Redwood National and State Parks. For that reason, Sue-Meg State Park is a real find when planning a redwoods vacation.
6. Stand Beneath California Redwoods
Highlights: Easy driving distance to Redwood National and State Parks
Several groves of massive redwoods surround Trinidad. These tallest trees in the country thrive in Northern California and are indeed a sight to see (and crane your neck up toward).
Trinidad is approximately halfway on the stretch of the 101 also known as the Redwood Highway. This means big trees are in either direction down the road.
To the north, the cooperative Redwoods National and State Parks beckon for all-day and overnight adventures. Over 200 miles of multi-use trails span throughout this sprawling acreage of mystical forest. Farther north along the 101, Prairie Creek Redwoods offers additional acreage to explore.
South of Trinidad, the Arcata Community Forest offers a laid-back place to hike between big trees.
Forty miles south of Arcata, the impressive expanse of Humboldt Redwoods State Park draws visitors from across the world. In Humboldt Redwoods, the alternative Avenue of the Giants offers a much more leisurely pace next to the 101.
Read More: Best Campgrounds in Redwood National and State Parks, CA
7. Take a Day Trip to Eureka
Highlights: Vibrant city with an eclectic community and Victorian architecture
Eureka, the largest city on the California coast north of San Francisco, is a short and scenic 30-minute drive south of Trinidad. The town provides a basecamp for sightseeing in this area of California. It offers more options for lodging alongside a thriving cultural scene.
Eureka has a historic feel, with Victorian architecture on many street corners. This is especially true in the city's Historic Old Town. One of Eureka's top tourist attractions, this landmark district abuts Humboldt Bay and houses several modern facilities like museums, restaurants, and shopping. Historic Old Town is also where to see the largest collection of public murals on display across the sides of many buildings.
Eureka is also home to one of the most photographed houses in the country: the Carson Mansion. This late-1800s abode once belonged to a prominent timber baron. Today, it's a near-perfect example of old Victorian architecture.
Above all, the city is an excellent basecamp for exploring outdoors. From historic parks to National Wildlife Refuges and community forests stacked with redwoods, it's Eureka's wild environment that also deserves a visit.
8. Explore Humboldt Lagoons State Park
Highlights: State park with several lagoons, hiking trails, and wildlife viewing opportunities
North of Sue-Meg, and less than 15 miles from Trinidad, Humboldt Lagoons State Park is part of the world's most expansive lagoon system. These shallow and brackish bodies of water are next to the ocean, separated by large sand spits. These environments cater to fun things to do outside, and provide habitat for several species of wildlife.
Individual lagoons within the state park include Big Lagoon, Stone Lagoon, and Freshwater Lagoon. The state park also encompasses Dry Lagoon, which was drained in the early 1900s. Today, Dry Lagoon is a frequent haunt for Roosevelt Elk and migratory birds.
The area is popular with all types of birds. The state park is a prominent stop on the Pacific Flyway, and over 200 bird species, big and small, are known to visit the area. Other wildlife sightings include black bears, river otters, and whales from the shore.
Other popular things to do include dune-hiking, secluded picnicking, and kayaking in all three lagoons. The evolving California Coastal Trail runs through the park and along the sand spits that separate the ocean from the lagoons. Low tide is the best time to traverse the California Coastal Trail through Humboldt Lagoons.
9. Grab a Bite to Eat
Highlights: Several local eateries with seafood and other made-to-order entrees on the menu
While many visit Trinidad for the ocean landscape, the vibrant food scene often leaves them the most satisfied. And even with less than 500 full-time residents, this coastal hamlet has an ever-increasing number of local eateries. And many of these places to eat have seafood on the menu.
For some in-town chow, the Lighthouse Grille is a great place for burgers. Nearby, the Beachcomber Cafe also offers a casual environment to enjoy lunch or dinner.
One of the freshest menus in town is at Seascape Restaurant, next to Trinidad Harbor and Pier. And perhaps the most popular restaurant, Trinidad Bay Eatery & Gallery, offers surf and turf alongside a gift shop.
Great food and places to eat also extend in either direction along the coast. To the north, The Larrupin' Cafe is a high-end and eclectic restaurant adorned with Moroccan rugs, and offering a succulent menu. South of Trinidad, Moonstone Grill is another popular spot for seafood and dining with a view.
10. Attend the Trinidad Fish Festival
Highlights: Annual fish festival popular with families
The Trinidad Fish Festival is a time-honored annual event dating back to the 1950s. What began as an all-you-can-eat seafood feast has now transformed 60 years later into a vibrant all-day celebration of the region.
The festival typically occurs on the third Sunday of June each year, also known as Father's Day. This community celebration serves up freshly caught entrees like salmon and whitefish. It's much more than just a feast these days, and the event also serves up live music, children's activities, and a locally sourced flea market.
11. Engage in History at the Trinidad Museum
Highlights: Local museum displaying several artifacts from the town and land's lengthy history
The Trinidad Museum is near the exit and on-ramp of the 101. Permanent exhibits at the museum tell the village's long cultural history, spanning from indigenous cultures to modern commerce. The actual building of the museum, a late 1800s Victorian bungalow, is an exhibit itself.
Pieces of the museum's collection include remnants of the original cross erected by Spanish explorers in Trinidad in 1775. The outdated Fresnel lens from the Trinidad Lighthouse is also on display. And several native cultural artifacts are presented alongside interpretive information.
Two bountiful gardens occupy the front and back of the Trinidad Museum. The historic garden in the front yard continues to cultivate the original house garden dating back to the early 1900s. In the backyard, a Native Plant Garden strives to re-introduce native species to the community.
Address: 400 Janis Court, Trinidad, California
Best Time to Visit Trinidad, CA
The Northern California Coast enjoys moderate weather throughout the year. However, the best time to visit Trinidad is in the summer months, including June, July, and August. These months have the warmest weather to enjoy the beach and the longest days to explore everything nearby. The clearer forecasts also lend to stunning sunsets almost every late evening.
April and May are also good times to visit Trinidad. The wet winter dries off in April, and daytime temperatures begin to rise, eventually cresting into the 60s (Fahrenheit) by May. These spring months may still bring a little rain, so pack accordingly, but the warmer temperatures provide fun grounds to explore the redwood forests nearby.
September and October also provide a good window for visiting Trinidad. These cooler autumn months fluctuate in temperature and forecast but still provide comfortable daytime temperatures. Rain infiltrates the forecast more steadily by November, ushering in a moderate, albeit wet, winter season.