Scenic spots to swim, float, and soak in the sun at the West's amazing national parks
To step from a redwood forest onto the wide-to-the-sky spread of Gold Bluffs Beach is an unforgettable memory. Equally memorable are the Roosevelt elk grazing in the meadows, then making their regal, antlered way through the sand. The world’s tallest trees, America’s largest elk—sometimes size does matter.
Officially in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, the beach is cooperatively managed by California State Parks and the surrounding Redwood National Park.
Don’t miss: The oasis of Fern Canyon, back from the beach, where sinuous walls, blanketed by moist green, press in on a cobbled stream.
Get there: 50 miles north of Eureka and 40 miles south of Crescent City, take Davison Rd. off U.S. 101; $8 per vehicle;