Travel

Turns Out Bigfoot's Hometown Is in Northern California

Sasquatch for mayor!

Gary Crabbe/Enlightened Images/Alamy Stock Photo
Gary Crabbe/Enlightened Images/Alamy Stock Photo
Gary Crabbe/Enlightened Images/Alamy Stock Photo

The tales are as tall as the trees in the tiny town of Willow Creek, California. Located about an hour southeast of Redwood National Park‘s ancient giants, the town sits surrounded by the dense forests and rugged mountains of Northern California, an outdoorsperson’s haven to boot and a far cry from the usual Golden State weekend trips. This is not a place you “accidentally end up” or “go on a whim.” More likely than not, if you’re headed to Willow Creek, you know exactly what-and who-you’re after: Sasquatch. This is, after all, the beating heart of Bigfoot Country.

Though rumors about unusual, giant, humanoid creatures in the area have circulated for centuries, it was the Patterson–Gimlin film-a 59 second, yet-disproven clip of a massive figure walking along the banks of nearby Bluff Creek-that put Willow Creek on the map and established its reputation as the Bigfoot Capital of the World. In the time since the tape was released, researchers, journalists, and serious believers alike (not to mention brave and curious tourists) have come here in hopes of coming face-to-face with Bigfoot. And though few have succeeded, those who have are forever changed.

Although you won’t find the trappings of a traditional tourist destination here (just a handful of bars, restaurants, and shops lining the main strip), you’ll find that what Willow Creek lacks in big-city amenities, it makes up for in big nature-not to mention big secrets. Here’s what to do if you find yourself passing through Bigfoot’s very own hometown.

Gary Crabbe/Enlightened Images/Alamy Stock Photo
Gary Crabbe/Enlightened Images/Alamy Stock Photo
Gary Crabbe/Enlightened Images/Alamy Stock Photo

Get acquainted with Bigfoot Country

Much like Roswell embraced its reputation as a UFO capital after the famous 1947 incident, so did Willow Creek swell with Bigfoot pride after the release of the Patterson–Gimlin film and the dozens of other sightings that happened before and since. (Locals would argue, though, that while aliens probably never actually touched down in New Mexico, a small population of sasquatches does genuinely exist in the backcountry of Northern California.)

Scattered throughout the town, you’ll find a score of local spots themed after Bigfoot: there’s a museum, a steakhouse, a bookstore, a motel, and more. But the Bigfoot Museum, the town’s biggest attraction, is the undoubtedly best place in town to learn about the more than 300 sasquatch sightings that’ve been recorded in the area. Inside, you’ll find sections on Willow Creek’s history, as well as a room full of artifacts and evidence of sasquatch’s existence, including plaster casts of alleged Bigfoot tracks and a collection of stories about firsthand encounters. (There’s also a stellar gift shop and, out front, a tktk-tall Bigfoot statue you can use to convince your friends you managed to have a sighting.)

The fun continues along the Bigfoot Scenic Byway, which stretches for 153 miles through Bigfoot Country beginning in Willow Creek and heading north to Yreka. You’ll drive through the natural beauty of the Hoopa Valley Reservation (stop at Hoopa Tribal Museum for exhibits on the history and culture of the local Hupa, Yurok, and Karuk tribes); past Bluff Creek and Clear Creek (where, in the summer, you can take a dip in crystal-clear swimming holes); and up to the former boomtowns of Happy Camp and Yreka, the latter now home to historic buildings and museums, old-timey cafes, and craft breweries. Along the way, you’ll find plenty of beautiful spots to camp out and bask in nature-as well as plenty of places to park it for the night in hopes of running into a certain cryptid.

You can also time your trip for the annual Bigfoot Daze Festival. Over Labor Day weekend each September, the town of Willow Creek comes together to celebrate all things sasquatch with logging competitions, food, vendors, live music, a parade, a horseshoe tournament, a Bigfoot Call contest (!!!), and more. After a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, the party is back on for 2022; prepare to do your very best primal scream.

YayaErnst/iStock/Getty Images
YayaErnst/iStock/Getty Images
YayaErnst/iStock/Getty Images

Take a day trip to Redwood National Park

Just over an hour north toward the Pacific Coast, go humble yourself amidst some of the tallest, oldest trees on the planet at Redwood National Park. Technically a combination of one national park and three state parks, this truly immense, deeply mossy old-growth forest is similar to the Grand Canyon in that it’s difficult to comprehend the immensity of nature until you’ve actually witnessed it.

Within, you can hike paths like the Boy Scout Trail and Tall Trees Grove that’ll take you winding through acre after acre of California redwoods, some of which reach heights of more than 370 feet (that’s 65 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty!) and have existed for thousands of years. Once you’re out of the woods, wander out onto the park’s foggy beaches-far closer to the moody Pacific Northwestern coasts of Oregon than the cheery sand and surf of SoCal-to explore Endert’s Beach or False Klamath Cove, where you’ll find tide pools abundant with sea life like urchins, mussels, and slimy sea stars.

Back in Willow Creek, the nature appreciation continues: go on a scenic whitewater ride with Bigfoot Rafting or Six Rivers Rafting, or hike through nearby Six Rivers National Forest, where the Patterson–Gimlin film was shot at Bluff Creek.

Enjoy a healthy dose of wine and weed

If you really do have a Bigfoot sighting, chances are you’re going to be pretty damn shaken up afterward and in the need of total relaxation. Luckily, outside of Willow Creek in greater Humboldt County, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to chill out with a deep pour of wine or a full day with your head in the clouds.

Aside from its status as a Bigfoot destination, Humboldt County was once also a major hub for the Golden State’s weed industry. From June through October, hit up Humboldt Cannabis Tours in Eureka to go on half- or full-day guided tours of outdoor farms, greenhouses, and/or dispensaries; you’ll get a chance to learn all about California cannabis, from deep dives on history and culture to an in-depth look at the cultivation process. You can also check into Valkyrie Farm, an Airbnb located on a cannabis farm surrounded by redwoods, where you can enjoy a cozy studio, a wood-fired soaking tub fit for two, seasonal tours, and-most importantly-free samples with your stay.

As it goes in Northern California, you’ll also find top-notch beer, wine, and cider all throughout Humboldt County. Beer aficionados should hit decades-old, award-winning Mad River, one of the first Native American-owned breweries in the country; Six Rivers, a self-proclaimed “Brew with a View” overlooking the Pacific and slinging cocktails, too; and Redwood Curtain on Arcata Bay, where Belgian-style brews get paired with tasty tacos. Meanwhile, winos (and cider-os?) can make a beeline for any number of vineyards in the area. Closer to Willow Creek, Miles Garrett-though not technically open to the public-offers a basic tasting and tours with advance notice, while Moonstone Crossing in Eureka and Wrangletown in Arcata are worth making an afternoon trip for.

Vineyard Perspective/Shutterstock
Vineyard Perspective/Shutterstock
Vineyard Perspective/Shutterstock

Where to eat and stay in Willow Creek

As previously mentioned, you’re not going to find massive hotels or upscale bars-or anything remotely close-in Willow Creek itself. For the most part, you’ll need to forgo the creature comforts in order to meet the creature; roughing it is a part of the experience. The area is replete with campsites including Camp Kimtu, Boise Creek Campground, and East Fork Campground, all surrounded by hushed, verdant woods. If you’d really rather hop into a cozy bed at the end of a long day, you can make it happen, but heads up: though the name may tempt you, skip the Bigfoot Motel for now and head to Coho Cottages or China Creek Cabins instead, where all the windows and private decks peer into the surrounding forests.

As far as libations go, you’ve got a few options in town: Grab breakfast or a light lunch at Osprey Cafe, or grab a diner-style bite at Ol’ Rusty’s. In the evenings, head to Raging Creek Brew-Pub next door to the Bigfoot Museum, before ending your evening amongst fellow Bigfoot believers sipping drinks at Forks Lounge. Of course, there’s also the aforementioned Bigfoot Steakhouse; despite the name, we promise you are not dining on the very same legendary animal you came all this way to see.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat.

Tiana Attride is Thrillist’s associate travel editor. She’s also a burgeoning Bigfoot expert.

Travel

Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: Booking.com polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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