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#ExploreHumboldt: The Arcata Community Forest

Forest bathing can be the cure to the daily hustle and bustle of student life

Humboldt’s natural areas are world-class, but many students don’t take full advantage of the resources that surround us. Between classes, homework, employment, friends, clubs, housing and family (are you stressed yet?) it can be hard to find time to wander around in the woods.

This column will provide information on my favorite natural areas to visit around Humboldt County. There’s so much to see and with such a low barrier for entry, I feel like more people should be getting out there.

Humboldt is home to many creatures large and small. This Coastal Giant Salamander was found posing in the middle of a trail. Watch your step! | Photo by Jett Williams

Opening your senses to a natural environment is a process called forest bathing, and has been proven to slow heart rates and decrease depression and anxiety.

In the coming months, classroom life and elongated periods of sitting will become the new norm, making any opportunity to go out and stretch our legs extremely valuable.

Most of us are transfers, as only 15 percent of the student body is from this area. I’m one of the 85 percent, having moved here from the Bay last summer. When I first arrived in Arcata, it took me a while to get out of my shell and start exploring.

After a year up here, I’m still finding new spots to check out. The natural areas are so dense and varied, you never run out of things to do.

Deeper in the Arcata Community Forest is Trail 13. One of the standout features of this bike-centered trail is a massive burned log you walk or ride through. | Photo by Jett Williams

For newcomers, some of these spots might seem intimidating or unattractive. We’ve all seen “Murder Mountain,” and heard the stories about Humboldt County’s missing person rate. But these sensationalized tales do little to reflect the true nature of the area we now call home.

The truth is, exploring Humboldt is as safe as exploring anywhere else. A multitude of dark forests and narrow roads give the illusion of being miles from nowhere, but there’s tons to explore within a short drive, bike or bus ride, or even a walk.

Because this is the first week of school and we’re still getting settled into our routines, we’ll start with something close and easy: The Arcata Community Forest.

The Arcata Community Forest’s map looks dense and confusing, but the forest becomes more intuitively navigated the more time you spend under its dense canopy.

This is the most accessible area for the majority of HSU students, as it starts right where the East side of campus ends. A 10-minute walk from anywhere on campus and you’re surrounded by towering redwoods and bright green ferns and breathing humid forest air.

Some majors like Forestry use the ACF as a place to get hands-on training and experience. But students are never required to walk the gravel roads and twisting trails that crisscross the forest’s 790 acres.

Some parts of the ACF have limited cell service, so I recommend downloading Avenza PDF Maps. This app is recommended by the City of Arcata and allows you to download free maps of the local parks. These maps provide you with accurate trail info without relying on a cell signal and are a valuable asset to keep you from getting lost.

Because of its proximity to campus, one of the best ways to experience the ACF is by working it into your weekly schedule. The lower section of the ACF offers a small network of interlaced multi-use trails perfect for a quick walk before or after class. Fill your mid-day gap by taking the access trail from the corner of Union and 14th up to Redwood Park for a picnic lunch!

The terrain of the Arcata Community Forest is unique and varied, and tight single track often gives way to vast open views. | Photo by Jett Williams

More ambitious explorers can climb to the upper regions of the park for a more private experience, but solitude comes with a cost. The coastal mountains gain elevation quickly and will leave you feeling equal parts sore and satisfied.

It’s all worth it, as some of the park’s most scenic trails can be found in the remote Western regions. Road 14, a gated gravel road which starts off of Granite Ave., takes you along the Jolly Giant creek up to a scenic picnic table on the site of the former Jolly Giant Reservoir. From there, you have a multitude of options to extend your route, create loops back to campus or return the way you came.

The ACF is a valuable source of solitude and stress relief for HSU Students, as it couldn’t be any closer to campus. Use this resource to your advantage, and don’t forget to tag #ExploreHumboldt on your next adventure.

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