Helen Putnam Park offers something for everyone: hiking, running, uphill, pond, fishing, wildlife, and playground.
A family-friendly retreat in the magnificent Redwoods! Gualala River Redwood Parkis a private campground with large sites, river access, hiking, biking, kayaking, a playground, general store, volleyball net, horseshoes, and ping pong. What more does a family need?
The Gualala River Redwood Park campground is nestled in a Redwood grove and sits right on the Gualala River about 1 mile from the coast. It is approximately a 2-hour drive from Petaluma. The drive is windy, but amazing, as it goes from Russian River Redwoods to stunning coastal views on Highway 1.
There are 120 sites in the campground. Each site has electric outlets and water. 20 of the campsites are right above the Gualala River. Most of the inner loop sites are huge (for California standards). We have a monstrous family-size tent and we could get our tent, plus 2 more tents, in our site with plenty of room.
Right in the middle of the campground sits the Trading Post and activity area. There is a lot to do here for kids: aplayground, 4 ping pong tables (paddles are provided and balls are 50 cents), a horseshoe toss, sandbox, and volleyball net.
The Trading Post is a little store, open every day, that has pretty much everything you need for a comfortable camping experience. They stock all the necessities and staple camping foods if you forget something. You can buy firewood and ice here ($2.50/bag). They also have yummy treats for the kids including ice cream bars and popsicles! Even though we packed everything we needed for the weekend, the kids still loved going to the Trading Post every day and buying a little treat.
Don’t miss the “Cathedral of Trees” which is an almost perfect circle of Redwood Trees with a stump in the middle to sit and enjoy a little quiet moment.
There are a few easy access points to the Gualala River, which is pretty low right now but there was enough water in it to paddle around on a kayak or raft. The kids will havea great time skipping rocks all day and wading knee deep in the water.
If you’re looking for some beach time, right down the street you can pick any of several coastal entry points along Highway 1. There are so many of them! We went to Gualala Point Regional Park. This park has a short path that leads right to the ocean. The ocean here is breathtaking but beware – this is not a swimming beach, the current is extremely dangerous.
The nearby little town of Gualala is absolutely adorable! It is quaint, but there are some eateries and shops if you want to include that in your adventure.
Overall camping at Gualala River Redwood Park isfantastic. There is so much to do in this area. In the campground alone there is a lot for kids. Our kids had a blast riding around the loops on their scooters and bikes, playing in the river, playing ping pong, and in the playground.
In a perfect world, however, there are always imperfections. We don’t have many complaints about the campground, but the fact is there is only one flush-toilet bathroom. The bathroom is right in the middle of the campground and has 5 or 6 stalls, 2 sinks, and 2 showers. The showers were pretty clean but the whole bathroom is outdated. During our 3 night stay, we didn’t have to wait in line for a stall but the lines were long for the showers in the afternoon.
Also the mosquitoes were present so we had to use repellant and burn the fire a lot to keep them away. It may be a seasonal thing but they were sure rampant in July!
Finally, there is absolutely no cell phone signal there. It is actually a good thing to “unplug” if you’re camping, but there is no signal in the whole area of Gualala. So make sure you catch up on your phone calls, texts, and emails before you go because no one will be able to reach you until you are back in Guerneville!