When you live on the coast you get accustomed to certain maritime things. You know, like hearing fog horns, continually sweeping up sand in your house, having lighthouses in half of your family photos. We love lighthouses, but then you probably already knew that. While we were touring the Northern California coast we got to stop at a few including the Trinidad Head Lighthouse.
Okay, this is one of those times that you have to read about our whole experience so you can see how humorous our travels can be. Highs and lows. Everyday. And our visit to the Trinidad Head Lighthouse was no exception.
We always try to add hiking into our trips when possible. The Trinidad Head Lighthouse was a great opportunity for us because the town of Trinidad, California is so hilly. I guess I’ll just start from the beginning.
Lunch in Trinidad
OMG. I’m so glad we’re starting here. We stopped for lunch at the Trinidad Lighthouse Cafe and were basically starving, so anything sounded good. Also, we always have to try to find a place that has good kid food, but it also ideal for us tasteful adults.
So the Lighthouse Cafe had lunch stuff and blah blah blah fish and chips, and blah blah blah adult root beer (#truestory), and blah blah blah mashed potato cones. Wha?!?!?! Yes, that’s right: the most amazing mashed potatoes with all kinds of incredible toppings served up in a savory ice cream cone. Truly, this was the more genius thing we ate on the whole trip, and that includes the totally awesome tempura asparagus from the Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite. The mashed potato cone was truly life changing and falls into our top five best vacation foods we’ve ever eaten.
Note: the Trinidad Lighthouse Cafe has family friendly prices for lunch, kid food and beers. It was nice to see a really great place have thoughtful pricing when they could totally hike it up because they’re in a tourist town. Thank you for being awesome!
Oop, that’s not the Trinidad Head Lighthouse
So we finished lunch and headed towards the water, following signs for the Trinidad Head Lighthouse. We found it!!!! It was so easy and there was totally parking right next to it!!!… and then we found out that where we were was a replica of the real Trinidad Head Lighthouse which was actually down the hill, across the spit, up the mountain and then around Trinidad Head.
No worries though, we enjoyed the view from the bluff and got a kick out of the fact that we were duped by a replica lighthouse. The setting of the faux-lighthouse was actually quite stunning though and we were completely glad we stopped.
Tip: if you’re not up for hiking but love lighthouses, make the stop at the replica. It’s actually a memorial and looks just like the real thing. Oh, and if you’re worried that your friends will know that it’s fake, don’t think twice; it’s a smashing good structure and is quite picturesque.
Hiking over Trinidad Head
We got back into the car and headed down the hill, continuing to follow the signs we’d initially been tracking with. The parking area fell between a cliff and a beach, with a huge collection of crab pots just sitting around giving it the perfect Passamaquoddy feeling. We parked, felt the crazy wind chilling us to the bone, bundled up and headed up the mini-mountain.
We were actually quite fortunate when it came to the time of year we were visiting, as there were grapes growing all along the pathway and they were in bloom, which we’d never seen. And as we hiked there were more and more beautiful flowers and stuff. It was a win-win.
The path around Trinidad Head is steep but smooth. It’s not stroller or wheelchair friendly in the slightest, but it’s doable with kids. There are several spots to stop along the way, with benches at viewpoints and fun bunny trails you can crouch down to wander through. Really, it’s kind of the perfect trail to do with kids. We even got to see some beautiful, huge garden snails crossing our path. It’s always fun to see little things in nature and kids are typically thrilled with them.
So, we kept going up the path, enjoying the view points, peeling off our jackets because it was such a workout, and then we go to the top of Trinidad Head. There was another memorial up there and a little spur path heading down from it, but no lighthouse…
Tip: when you’re on a hike with kids, playing a simple game like I Spy or something with the alphabet will help pass the time and distract a little person from realizing that they’re tired… or that they don’t want to hike.
The grand sight
We followed the last little bunny trail away and started to go down the hill just a bit. At the end of the small trail was a platform and rail, but just bushes beyond. We all went down to it, admired the view of the Pacific Ocean and then looked at each other a bit confused. “Where’s the Trinidad Head Lighthouse?” we thought.
As we were about to give up and maybe find another trail, we saw a tiny roof just below us. Um, there was the Trinidad Head Lighthouse: hiding in the bushes, barely visible. Now we understood why there was the replica structure on the bluff in the town. Well, lesson learned but yes, we still had an amazing hike.
On the way back down the Trinidad Head trail we encountered a pack of firemen training on the path. Yep, that’s how steep and tiring it is. We let them do their thing and we barreled down the hill. It was great to have a view of the town of Trinidad on the way down. The pier in the harbor was really interesting with the most beautiful water below. Chris thought it was like the town from the movie Popeye.
Note: we loved the hike and truly thought the peek-a-boo view of the lighthouse was hilarious. If you have an hour or two, it’s worth doing the trek to get some great photos and fresh, sea air.
A little beach time
You can’t park at a beach with kids and not let them play on the beach for a bit. The wind had died down a bit so we climbed down the dune to the shore. It was actually a really beautiful cove with perfect sand. There were succulents growing on the cliffs above us and tide pools to explore. Had the day been nicer, we would’ve done a picnic here, but c’est la vie.
Tip: we always have a small collection of beach toys in our car. If you might possibly end up at a beach or a park with a sand box, it’s always nice to be prepared with good toys to keep the kids occupied.
Tip 2: get over any issues you have with sand. You can always vacuum out your vehicle. Let kids play in the sand. You’ll have fun too if you join in.
See, we sometimes don’t research things fully and do make travel mistakes, but we still have incredible experiences. I guess our visit to the Trinidad Head Lighthouse just goes to show that even when the main point of visiting something or somewhere is a dud, you can still have a great time and make awesome memories. And now you can learn from us and have accurate expectations when you hike to see the Trinidad Head Lighthouse.
Tuesday 7th of June 2016
Love lighthouses and haven't visited many in California. Need to seek some out. When I lived in Oregon, there were many to explore!
Tuesday 7th of June 2016
I completely second that - sometimes the best time you have is when you make travel mistakes :D
Saturday 4th of June 2016
I'm sorry but the mashed potato cones are totally stealing the spot light in this post. Lighthouse Schmighthouse.
Saturday 4th of June 2016
This is really funny and it reminds me about a hunt for a church in Rome we had read about in 'angels and Demons' - we got into the one we thought was it and it didn't quite match the book but we tried hard to find parallels and convinced us it was - to of course then discover it was the one in front! still, it makes for great memories (and the replica lighthouse in your case looks really nice too, so I take it as a successful trip anyway!)
Saturday 4th of June 2016
I have never seen grape blooms either....pretty. I love lighthouses and travel mishaps...so all good.