Redwood Creek Challenge Trail: The Adventure Awaits

by Lisa Stiglic, contributing writer

"Adventure is out there!" -Charles Muntz, Up.

Disney California Adventure is full of exploration opportunities, hence the "adventure" in the name. When the park debuted 15 years ago, guests immediately gravitated to the "E-ticket" attractions such as California Screamin', Grizzly River Run, and Soarin' Over California (now Soarin' Around the World) to experience these new adventures. But tucked away under the shadow of Grizzly Peak was a quiet realm of forest solitude full of untouched exploration just waiting for guests to unveil—The Redwood Creek Challenge Trail.

As an opening day Disney California Adventure cast member, I already knew about this hidden gem, and deemed it a personal favorite; it reminded me of my home state of Washington, minus the rain. Once I had little explorers, we always made the trek to Redwood Creek Challenge Trail so they could expend their energy while I could take a quick break and revitalize my own.

This nature's playground pays homage to the grandeur of Northern California's redwood trees and is much like the concept of Pirate's Lair on Disneyland's Tom Sawyer Island—a land base where exploration and play are encouraged. Redwood Creek Challenge Trail's anchor is a multi-leveled rangers' compound complete with lookout towers, swinging bridges, and an ascending (or descending depending on which direction you choose) cargo net obstacle course.

Big Sir is a nod to the giant sequoias found in California's Kings Canyon National Park. Photo by Lisa Stiglic.

"The wilderness must be explored!" -Russell, Up.

With the debut of Brother Bear a few years after grand opening, Disney added a themed character element to Redwood Creek Challenge Trail; visiting bears Koda and Kenai greeted guests and starred in the live-action show at Ahwahnee Circle Camp. Upon the release of Up, Koda and Kenai were replaced by Explorer Scout Russell and his canine sidekick, Dug, who offered the chance for adventurers of all ages to earn their wilderness explorer badges. Maps are handed out to seekers upon entrance to Redwood Creek Challenge Trail. Six tasks are assigned to would-be scouts and upon completion of each challenge, guests scratch off the silver circles to reveal the "badges". Collect all six badges and report to the ranger-on-duty to receive a Senior Wilderness Explorer sticker.

"An explorer is a friend to all, be it plants or fish or tiny mole." -Russell, Up.

First on the map is the tracking exercise. Beaver, black bear, coyote, and river otter are just a few of the animal tracks to find while exploring. This is always a favorite of the younger rangers and is a great interactive activity for the whole family.

Explorer Scout Russell would be the first to spot the elk tracks. Photo by Lisa Stiglic.

Next up is the bravery badge on the tire slides at The Sequoia Smokejumpers Training Tower. Nearby at Cliff Hanger Traverse Rock Climb, adventurers ascend the cliff to earn badge number three.

Guests 13 and under can race each other on the tire slides. Minimum height requirement for this and for the rock climb is 42 inches tall. Photo by Lisa Stiglic.

Badge four on the activity map is to howl like a wolf! On the second story of the fort in between bridges and the cargo net, explorers will find the Hoot-n-Holler slides. Just howl like a wolf on the way down and the badge is earned!

In the far back of the corner behind the ranger's fort, guests may spot what looks like a family of bears made out of boulders. This area is a terrific rest stop for smaller explorers to slide down the rock "slide", climb through the swinging log, or splash in the creek nearby while parents take a break.

Besides a great photo op location, the Boulder Bears area offers plenty of shade for explorers to unwind. Photo by Lisa Stiglic.

Once you've caught your breath, enter Kenai's Spirit Cave for some interactive storytelling to reveal your spirit animal. This completes map task number five.

The exit map reveals the Spirit Cave animals' traits. Photo by Lisa Stiglic.

The final task on the map is a riddle of sorts. Locate Ahwahnee Camp Circle and follow the outer ring of animal totems. To earn the badge, would-be scouts must read each animal poem and match it with the correct trait listed on the map.

Beaver and dragonfly totem near Ahwahnee Camp Circle may or may not be a part of the puzzle solving badge. Photo by Lisa Stiglic.

Once all six tasks are completed and the silver discs scratched off, explorers can take their maps back to the entrance to receive their stickers. The on-duty ranger is present in front of the large Redwood Creek Challenge Trail display map. (If you'd like to keep your map clean, you can still ask for the sticker without having to scratch off the silver circles).

The Senior Wilderness Explorer map and graduating sticker. Photo by Lisa Stiglic.

"Thanks for the adventure—now go have a new one!" -Ellie, Up.

It seems Russell and Dug have decided to expand their travels and are exploring Shanghai Disneyland as told to me by the ranger-on-duty. This means no meet-and-greet characters or live-shows at the Ahwahnee Camp Circle presently. But, in keeping with the spirit of adventure, Redwood Creek Challenge Trail is still an adventure all its own. So, when you find yourself a bit tired with or without kids or just want some relaxation time, trek over to the Grizzly Peak area to the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail and start your own adventure.



  1. By DisneyGator

    No meet and greet with Dug and Russel??? Really??? Thanks Shanghai.

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