Located in an attractive valley surrounded by conifer-covered hills, this park features a campground next to what used to be a small lake created by a dam across the Eel River. Overlooking the former lake is the elegant Benbow Inn, built in the 1920s. Sadly a four-lane highway now cuts right through the middle of the campground and past the inn’s otherwise splendid terrace. What’s more, to save on maintenance and seismic retrofitting costs and to protect the salmon, the dam was removed in 2017, leaving a less-than-scenic gravel lakebed. At the same time the park’s name, which used to be “Benbow Lake State Recreation Area”, was changed to just “Benbow State Recreation Area”.
While the inn with its nice restaurant remains popular, the park’s day use area is little-used; on a recent Labor Day weekend, it had all of two visitors. At least the campground, which was closed from 2013–2017 due to budget cuts, is once again open every summer from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
*The Thrap Mill and Pioneer Trails (5.5 miles)
The park’s one and only trail loop passes through some fairly scenic old-growth redwood uplands, eventually reaching a partially-logged flat where a redwood mill once stood.
*Benbow Campground ($35, Memorial Day – Labor Day)
enbow’s campground is dominated by Highway 101, which cuts right through the middle of it, but otherwise the campground is very nice, with some sites in a sunny, open oak grove and others in a cool, shady redwood grove.
© 2010, 2017, 2019 David Baselt