A Unique North Coast Experience Stirs Holiday Memories


I fondly remember going to Grandma and Grandpa’s house on Christmas Eve as a kid. I guess this would have been between when I was 5 to 10 years old. I always secretly enjoyed it. It just made me smile. Although I suspect everyone in the family enjoyed the drive in as much as I did.

Once we entered the neighborhood, most, if not all, of the sidewalks and driveways would be magically lit up with candles in white paper bags. What it represented I did not know. It was simply special.

Each of the white bags cast a bit of silhouetted light onto the winter darkened streets of the neighborhood that somehow, taken as a whole, lit up the whole night. Deep down, I knew this was old school magic; a tradition that must have come from somewhere else. The drive in always made me feel like we were heroes, family, being honored and welcomed home after a big adventure or a long absence. It was amazing and warmly welcoming. 

This tradition that I hoped might remain a secret to my little world, led me to a one-of-a kind, family-friendly event that happens deep in the Redwood forests of California’s North Coast. An event which captures that same kind of warm, smiley, family feeling I had back when I was a kid on Christmas Eve. 

At the beginning of each December, California’s North Coast plays host to The Candlelight Walk through Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park.

Celebrating its 30th year in 2019, this walk, recently expanded from one night to two (due to popular demand) is a fundraiser organized by the Redwood Parks Conservancy that benefits the Redwoods National and State Parks. This enchanting event helps connect families and individuals to the ancient North Coast old-growth forests through education and stewardship programs.

You have never seen the majestic Redwoods like this before. The half-mile round-trip, ranger-guided walk, that seems to be legitimately lit by the work of fairies, elves, dwarves, or other spirits of the earth, starts at 6:00 p.m. each night. 

How the Candlelight Walk at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park Looks.

The Redwoods lit by candlelight.

Before that, at 5:00 pm in the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park Visitor Center, you can enjoy light refreshments and an auction (which is a great way to get started on, or finish, your Christmas shopping list by the way). The walk happens during the first week of December, so make sure you dress accordingly and bring a flashlight in order to help you get back to your car, just in case.

To walk under the canopy of these stalwart sentinels of the North Coast, at dusk, during the beginning of the holiday season, lit by battery powered pools of light that shed illumination in the sublime sequoia wilderness, is a unique and harmonious way to connect to the spirit of the winter season. A season that is marked by self-reflection and giving.

 Give yourself over to contemplating the beauty and perfection of the stunningly spiritual Redwood trees in a light, and at a time, few others get to enjoy. This holiday highlight can only be found in Humboldt County during this annual event at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park.

If on this wonderful walk you find yourself suddenly overcome by emotion; breathe deep and do not worry. You are simply experiencing the giant guardians of the coast communicating with each other at wavelengths that vibrate around 10 megahertz. This is one of the ways trees talk to one another.

You can rejoice and reflect on being able to actually feel this deep, earth-bound communication that is untold ages old, while you stand amidst the most extensively established stands of Redwoods in the world. 

Or you may simply find yourself connected to the natural world in a way you have never felt before. Whether it is with family and friends, by yourself, or with someone special; you may find a kin of a different kind during this environmentally engaging event. This is the type of magic, the spirituality and connectedness, offered by The Candlelight Tree Walk.

The Candlelight walk is powered by 400 LED lights that help guide your way on this spellbinding walk among some of the oldest living beings on earth. Participants should not bring any open flames. Dogs are also not allowed at this event.

After the walk you can enjoy storytelling, around a traditional campfire, from the voices of North Coast locals. And there is the continuing bidding on the auction items, as well as cookies and hot apple cider.

This is such a highly anticipated event each year that the 2019 events on December 6 and 7 are already sold out. 

I know you may be disappointed by that news, but the Redwoods will be there for a long time to come. If you have never experienced this exclusive entry into the enchanted world that is offered by the Redwoods of California’s North Coast, by candlelight or daylight, make your plans to visit in 2020 now.

 You will not be disappointed.