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The Most Beautiful Place I've Kayaked: The Coastal Lagoons of Humbolt County, CA

A self-supported trip created by StakedPlainExplorer

Trip Overview

A couple of years ago, I spent my Xmas/New Year vacation camping and hiking in the redwood forests of Northern California. I took my SOT kayak along, because I had been told that the lagoons were not to be missed. Man, was that ever true! I spent two days exploring Big Lagoon and one day on Stone Lagoon. Stone Lagoon was nice, but the real show-stopper was Big Lagoon.

On the first day, I had Big Lagoon all to myself, because the day was foggy, wet, and cold. The water, however, was as flat as a pane of glass. I kayaked the north end on the first day, then the south end on the second. The scenery was magnificent, with lots of wildlife, including a family of otters.

On the north end, I just spent the day following the shoreline, admiring the scenery and taking tons of photos. The south end includes a huge network of reed beds on the inland side of Hwy 101. I spent a good deal of time just exploring the many channels within it, again taking photo after photo.

Along with the camping and day-tripping I did in the Redwoods park system (itself a wonder to behold), this part of California easily rivals my trips into the interior of the Grand Canyon for sheer breathtaking beauty. If you go, do yourself a huge favor and spend the entire week there, or at least a very long weekend. You owe it to yourself to see as much as you can, and to get on those lagoons!

You can put into Stone Lagoon for free from the Kayak Zak's parking lot. You'll need to pay $5.00 to put in from Big Lagoon Campgrounds, but you can put in for free from a little dirt road off of Hwy 101, just north of Tom Creek. Put Google Maps into satellite view and look for it. It's easy to spot on the map, but you'll need to pay close attention from the road. Watch for traffic!

There are campgrounds all over the area, of course, but I found the Trinidad Northbound Rest Area so pleasant and forested that I made that my basecamp and slept in my vehicle. The bathrooms were very clean, there weren't many people, and the attendants were there very frequently. As a quiet spot to just spend the night before heading our for another full day, it was perfect (and free!).

Safety Notes

Lots of fog, so be mindful of other water traffic. Also, the surf on the ocean side of the sea barriers is strong and intense. It's usually deserted, so be careful!

Gear Notes

Kayaked on my 13ft. SOT. Saw a paddle boarder and some fishing boats.


Went in late December. Mildly cold and often foggy.

Trip Details

  • Trip Dates: 12/22/2017-1/2/2018
  • Trip Duration: 2-3 Day Trip, Extended Trip
  • Sport/Activity: Kayaking, Canoeing, Stand Up Paddling, Kayak Fishing
  • Skill Level: Beginner, Intermediate
  • Water Type: Flat/Sheltered Water

Trip Location