Top Trails Northern California’s Redwood Coast  by Mike White

Top Trails Northern California’s Redwood Coast Guide Book

by Mike White (Wilderness Press)
Top Trails Northern California’s Redwood Coast  by Mike White
The rugged Northern California coast of Mendocino, Humboldt, and Del Norte Counties is one of the most dramatic stretches of coastline in North America. Unlike the sandy beaches typically associated with Hollywood visions of Southern California, steep bluffs, rocky beaches, and offshore rocks combine to create the classic portrait of the Golden State’s far northern coastline. Above this stunning seascape resides a forest containing the world’s tallest trees. In Top Trails Northern California’s Redwood Coast, veteran outdoors author Mike White presents 57 diverse routes, suited to all ability levels and interests. These trails range from a gentle half-mile morning loop to a 29-mile backpack adventure. Whether you’re looking for lush, oldgrowth redwoods or picture-postcard vistas to Pacific Ocean sea stacks, dazzling sunsets, and migrating whales, you’ll find it here.

© 2014 Mike White/Wilderness Press. All Rights Reserved.

Trails from the "Top Trails Northern California’s Redwood Coast" Guide Book
Displaying trails 20 of 57.

Displaying trails 1 to 20 of 57.

Overlooked by many visitors heading to the renowned redwood groves in the nearby parks, lovely Patrick’s Point State Park offers some of the most picturesque coastal scenery on the north coast. Jutting into the Pacific, the park’s 200-foottall bluffs offer sublime ocean views peppered with scenic sea-stacks and offshore rocks, at least when the persistent fog takes a day off.
Rocky Point, CA - Hiking,Trail Running - Trail Length: 4.2
Most of the trails into the old-growth redwoods of Humboldt Redwoods State Park are relatively flat, visiting the impressive giants on alluvial flats. The Allens Trail is the polar opposite, gaining more than 1,000 feet in a little more than a mile of switchbacks on the way to a redwood-filled grove high above the Eel River. Because of the steep grade, you probably won’t have a lot of company. The ever-present traffic noise from US 101 mars the first part of the climb, but it fades away by the time you reach serene Allens Grove.
Weott, CA - Hiking,Trail Running - Trail Length: 2.6
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Near the fringe of bucolic Anderson Valley, Hendy Woods State Park is a fine spot for enjoying some magnificently tall, old-growth redwoods without the crush of tourists common to the more popular parks along US 101. Farther inland, Hendy Woods is not as foggy as parks closer to the ocean, typically experiencing warmer temperatures as well.
Philo, CA - Hiking,Trail Running - Trail Length: 1.4
A cursory glance at Big River suggests that this modest waterway was misnamed. However, the appellation was granted not for the river itself but for the enormous redwoods that used to grow along its banks. The Big River Haul Road was once a flurry of activity with huge logs originally transported by rail and then truck to nearby mills. Through public and private donations and the work of countless volunteers, California State Parks acquired 7,334 acres surrounding the river in 2002.
Mendocino, CA - Hiking,Trail Running - Trail Length: 9
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Bull Creek is home to the largest remaining contiguous redwood stand in existence, and this short loop allows access to a picturesque portion known as the Rockefeller Forest. The route follows a section of the Tall Tree Trail and the Homestead Trail on a circuit through Upper Bull Creek Flat immediately north of the creek. The redwoods are most impressive along the Tall Tree Trail, which travels alongside the creek, but the slightly elevated Homestead Trail offers an enjoyable perspective as well. While the loop parallels Mattole Road, traffic is generally light enough, particularly in the off-season, to only occasionally interrupt the tranquility of the grove.
Weott, CA - Hiking,Trail Running - Trail Length: 2.5
The short Big Tree Loop is one of the main highlights for summer visitors to Humboldt Redwoods State Park, when a seasonal footbridge allows easy access across Bull Creek to a stand of impressive old-growth redwoods. The most notable tree, the Giant holds the distinction of being the National Champion Redwood, awarded based upon a number of factors, including diameter, height, and crown spread. Additionally, visitors can gain a better perspective on just how massive a mature redwood can be while viewing the Flatiron Tree, a huge downed redwood sprawling across the forest floor. Away from these popular tourist attractions, the loop travels through a cathedral-like forest containing many fine redwood specimens. The picnic area at the trailhead offers the opportunity for lunch following the short and easy hike.
Weott, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 0.6
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Most visitors to Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park stop at the Big Tree Wayside and stroll to the base of the enormous tree, which can cause some congestion during the peak summer season. The accompanying traffic noise combined with the tree’s popularity makes for a less than ideal way to admire and appreciate this coast redwood icon. However, you can escape most of the crowds by taking a longer loop, even though you won’t be able to completely avoid the sound of traffic. Beginning at the Big Tree, the loop follows a section of the Circle Loop, heads south through lowland redwood groves, and returns via a trail through more stately redwoods along lushly lined Prairie Creek.
Orick, CA - Hiking,Trail Running - Trail Length: 3
Given its distance from the megapopulation centers of Northern California compared to the more popular redwood parks farther south, you would think that Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park would experience fewer visitors. But the Boy Scout Tree Trail seems to defy convention, as the small parking area is often full on summer weekends. The only trail to enter the heart of the park’s backcountry traverses through attractive groves of old-growth redwoods on the way to an immense coastal sequoia and a scenic waterfall. The trail’s distance from the highway allows visitors the opportunity to enjoy the redwoods the way they should be enjoyed—in peace and quiet.
Crescent City, CA - Hiking,Trail Running - Trail Length: 5.4
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The Browns Creek Loop, which offers plenty of diversity in 3.6 miles, is one of the better routes in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. After an easy stroll through pleasant forest, the South Fork Trail climbs into a serene upland forest to meet the Rhododendron Trail. A pleasant descent then continues through upland redwoods past numerous showy rhododendrons, which are in full bloom in late spring. When you reach Brown Creek, the namesake trail heads downstream and visits some magnificent old-growth redwoods. Separated by a ridge from Newton B. Drury Parkway, the trail is not plagued by the sounds of automobile traffic. You are more apt to hear the ocean from its upper elevations than any man-made noise.
Orick, CA - Hiking,Trail Running - Trail Length: 3.6
For those looking for a longer hike among impressive redwoods, there’s a lot to like on the Bull Creek Flats and Big Tree Loop. The trip begins by heading downstream along Bull Creek and passing through an old-growth redwood forest, reaching a crescendo in the Big Tree area on Upper Bull Creek Flat. Farther on is a second climax at Lower Bull Creek Flat, where a side trip on the 0.6-mile Rockefeller Grove Loop (see Trail 21) leads beneath some impressive redwood monarchs. Crossing a seasonal bridge over the creek, the loop then turns upstream, closely following the north bank. The redwood forest on this side of Bull Creek is less impressive, and the route merges with Mattole Road for a couple of short stretches.
Weott, CA - Hiking,Trail Running - Trail Length: 9.4
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Directly east of the scenic coastline that most people associate with Mendocino County lies the nearly forgotten forests of the coastal hills. Hidden away amid the trees are redwood groves, tumbling streams, and waterfalls. This trip visits one such wonder, a 50-foot-tall waterfall near an untouched stand of virgin redwoods in a deep, narrow canyon within the 50,000-acre, multiple-use Jackson State Demonstration Forest.
Mendocino, CA - Hiking,Trail Running - Trail Length: 2.9
Founded by William Kent in the 1860s, Spring Ranch was used as a dairy farm, sheep and cattle ranch, and vegetable garden, producing goods for the burgeoning North Coast lumber industry. The State of California acquired the property, which is blessed with stunning coastal headlands, in the 1990s. The old family residence on the east side of the highway was recently sold and renovated as a vacation home and wedding venue, and descendants of the Springs still farm the property behind the house.
Little River, CA - Hiking,Trail Running - Trail Length: 2.9
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Well away from the more popular parks close to US 101, far-flung Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park harbors the farthest inland coast redwood forest. Three separate parcels are strung out along the banks of the meandering Van Duzen River. The most impressive stand of redwoods is on an alluvial flat in the Cheatham Grove, the westernmost parcel adjacent to Van Duzen County Park.
Shively, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 0.7
This section of the California Coastal Trail (in an outlying section of Redwood National Park) begins at a sandy beach and ends at an overlook with a fine coastal view. Along the way, you pass through lush coastal vegetation well watered by several small rivulets. Picnic areas at the beginning and end offer the opportunity for combining the hike with a picnic lunch—a fine way to spend a few hours on the North Coast.
Crescent City, CA - Hiking,Trail Running - Trail Length: 4
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A short stretch of the Coastal Trail, in an outlying section of Redwood National Park, leads to a picturesque sandy beach. Along the way are stunning coastal views and colorful wildflowers in spring and early summer.
Crescent City, CA - Hiking,Trail Running - Trail Length: 1.5
A seldom-used section of the California Coastal Trail in Redwood National Park beckons hikers to explore a lush coastal forest and a usually deserted strip of sandy beach. The first part is a pleasant stroll through lush forest, highlighted in spring and early summer by a profusion of blooming skunk cabbage. Beyond, the trail climbs stiffly up a coastal bluff and then plunges downhill just as steeply to a scenic and oftentimes empty beach that is more than enough reward. If you would like to make shuttle arrangements, you could park a second car along Davison Road near where it meets the beach (north of the featured trail).
Orick, CA - Hiking,Trail Running - Trail Length: 8
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The relatively short Damnation Creek Trail offers visitors a diverse sampling of beautiful coastal scenery. The route begins in an impressive stand of stately old-growth redwood forest, diminished in magnificence only by the sound of passing cars on US 101. After a stroll through the tall trees, the trail starts an uninterrupted descent to the coast, passing through serene redwood and then spruce forest. A steep descent along verdant Damnation Creek leads the final distance to a rugged, rocky cove at the ocean’s edge. Hikers must save plenty of energy for the mostly uphill return trip.
Klamath River, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 3.8
Aside from not reaching the coastline, the Dolason Prairie Trail offers the most comprehensive example of the Redwood National Park ecosystem. The trail begins at 2,400 feet near the spine of the Bald Hills, a lengthy ridge carpeted mostly with grass-covered prairie, offering sweeping views of the Redwood Creek Watershed. Red-tailed hawks patrol the skies, and coyotes wander the prairie itself, which sheep once grazed. You may see elk feeding on the lush grasses in spring and early summer and hear rutting males bugling in autumn. Intermixed with the prairie are groves of Douglas firs and oaks. Below the prairie, you descend through a bright, upland redwood forest and then a darker, lowland redwood forest, before reaching the usually sunny corridor of Redwood Creek.
Orick, CA - Hiking,Trail Running - Trail Length: 10.4
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The Drury-Chaney Loop is a short, easy romp through an impressive redwood forest. A carpet of redwood sorrel at the beginning is so uniform that it almost appears to be unnatural. As the northernmost maintained trail in Humboldt Redwoods State Park, this path is not as well used as some others.
Shively, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 2.2
At first glance, the landscape of Jug Handle State Natural Reserve appears fairly ordinary. However, the area is one of the best examples of defined plant communities and corresponding soil types in the Northern Hemisphere, with an “ecological staircase” that comprises five distinct, uplifted terraces. The 2.5-mile Ecological Staircase Trail visits some of the five communities, the highlight of which is the pygmy forest. Occupying a flat terrace, plants of the pygmy forest are stunted by highly acidic soils overlaying a layer of hardpan. A free brochure keyed to 40 numbered posts provides insight into the area’s geology and flora. The trail also allows access to the broad beach of Jug Handle Cove via a short side trail.
Caspar, CA - Hiking,Trail Running - Trail Length: 4.7
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