Disney California Adventure strives to show its guests the very best of California. But how accurately do the lands inside the park portray their visions of California? Let’s take a look at Grizzly Peak and its similarities to the real Pacific Northwest National Parks.
Grizzly Peak in DCA is made up of 3 distinct areas and attractions: Grizzly River Run, Soarin’ and the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail. I think the Grand Californian Hotel & Spa can also be lumped in here as a fourth area. Once you enter this part of the park, there is no denying that you are transported to a beautiful wilderness. But how well does Grizzly Peak measure up to the Pacific Northwest of California?
Grizzly River Run
The most recognizable feature is the mountaintop that closely resembles the head of a grizzly bear. The inspirations were Half Dome and El Capitan in Yosemite National Park.
DCA’s Grizzy Mountain is 150 feet tall.
Disney Imagineers made up this legend to go with the peak:
“Long ago, Ah-ha-le, the Coyote met Oo-soo-ma-te, the Grizzly Bear on top of the mountain. Seeing that the Grizzly was a powerful being, Coyote asked him to always watch over and protect the land. Then one day, people came and tried to chase Oo-soo ma-te from the mountain. But Grizzly was strong and held his ground. When Coyote saw the brave bear standing alone against so many, he turned Oo-soo-ma-te into stone so he could never be driven away. To this day, people claim they can hear the great bear spirit in the wind that roars through the caverns and trees of Grizzly Peak.”
Grizzly Peak features 2 waterfalls: Bear Claw Falls and Frog Jump Falls. Yosemite has many waterfalls that the Imagineers could have drawn inspiration from, including Yosemite Falls, Bridalveil Fall, Vernal Fall and Horsetail Fall.
If Grizzly Peak is based off El Capitan or Half Dome, the attraction Grizzly River Run could very well be any of the rivers or streams that abound in Yosemite National Park.
Grizzly River Run itself reminds me of some of the rivers of Yosemite.
Soarin’ is a unique attraction that let’s you take a trip over California (or around the world on the new version) on Flight 5505. It’s a real great area; the queue is a museum to California’s aviation heritage.
Soarin’ is located in Grizzly Peak Airfield. The airfield is home to the California Aviators, aerial firefighters who protect the forests.
The Soarin’ theater was built by the California Aviators who wanted to bring the experience of flying to everyone.
I love the new theme of the Humphrey’s Service and Supplies gift shop with the old-fashioned wood-paneled station wagon parked outside. It was styled to look like the little shop on the edge of civilization that your family would stop at to stock up on supplies for the camping trip.
Redwood Creek Challenge Trail
This trail reminds me a lot of Sequoia and King’s Canyon National Parks in California.
The big split tree is named ‘Big Sir’, a 35-foot-tall redwood stump fell from a storm in 1935.
Compared to the real redwoods:
Cross section of a 1,000-year-old Millennium Tree on the Redwood Challenge Trail.
Then the real thing:
There are several activities that you can engage in within the trail. You can track animals by their prints on the ground in Wawona Walk and then compare the footprints to signs along the trail.
In the Redwood Creek area there is a small stream and the Spirit Cave. Inside the Spirit Cave you can place your hand on a bear paw print and determine your spirit animal.
- Bear (loving, strong)
- Wolf (wise, loyal)
- Eagle (intelligent, brave)
- Moose (dependable, honest)
- Beaver (hard-working, industrious)
- Salmon (instinctive, strong-willed)
- Skunk (curious, adventurous)
The highest parts of the Challenge Trail are Mt. Whitney Lookout and Mt. Shasta Lookout. These two towers are connected by a fun suspended rope bridge.
There is a rock climb, a rock slide and the Eagle’s Ascent, which is a couple of rope bridges that lead to the top of the ranger lookout.
Mt. Lassen Lookout is the Ranger headquarters and has tons of little tributes to real National Parks. Even the poster on the wall is in the same design that the National Parks are using today.
Don’t miss the Boulder Bears and the Squirrel Scramble (a swaying suspension bridge). One of the more fun things to do in this area (but sadly only for kids who are at least 42″ tall) is the Sequoia Smoke Jumpers Training Tower. Kids can hang onto a rope as they zip line.
One of my favorite little details is the fire hazard sign that you’ll find in all National Parks.
Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa
The Grand Californian is Disneyland‘s flagship hotel and was built in 2001. The design is from the Arts and Crafts movement of the early 1900’s. The outside entrance of the hotel is designed after the National Parks lodges in the west, including Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite and the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone.
So what do you think? Did Disney imagineers do a good job with matching the park to the real thing? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!