Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

 Introduction:

What? : Fifty miles north of Eureka, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park protects many coast redwood old growth groves, sandy beaches, Ferns cascade down Fern Canyon walls, and open meadows grazed by herds of Roosevelt elks. Here you can find my most recommended short hike to see the old Redwoods, the Big Tree Loop that is near the main road and the park visitor center.

 

This location is part of my "Redwood Parks at Northern California Coastline" road-trip suggestions and trip planner blog.

Link to the trip planner blog

 

 



Where? : The park is just off Highway 101; 50 miles north of Eureka. To get to park headquarters, exit onto Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway. Use this road also if you are coming from the north.

Google Map Link

 

When? : Year round visit. Summer temperatures range from 40 to 75F but are cooler along the coast. At summer month morning and evening fog is common. Winter brings chillier 35 - 55F days. Prepare for rain from November to May.

 

Due note 1: If you look at the map you will see that Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park is covering the mountains east of the famous Newton B Drury Parkway and with a narrow ocean front section, it surrounding a large forest section that define as Murrelet State Wilderness (west of the park road) and continue into Redwood National Park.

 


Due note 2: In the park and the wilderness you will find many hiking options, some are short, but you can combine few trails and create a long day hike adventure.

 

Due note 3: Elk Prairie Campground has 75 campsites; this is Prairie Creek’s main campground. It conveniently located near the Elk Prairie and the main park trails. Elk Prairie Campgrounds spots are available for reservations at www.parks.ca.gov/prairiecreek

 

Due note 4: Gold Bluffs Beach Campground is a large campground right on the ocean beach near the Fern Canyon. Order your campground in advance because this is very popular campground.

 

Due note 5: When driving on highway 101 look at open meadows, you may see Roosevelt Elk herds at any spot along the road.

 

Due note 6: Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park is part several others redwood state and National parks that stretch up at the Northern California's coast and protect the remaining of the old growth Redwoods trees.

 


My thoughts: I visit here several times and hike both short and long hikes, every visit left with me an unforgettable majestic experience. Old growth Redwood Forest experience at it best. I also manage to spend time viewing the Roosevelt Elks and visit several times Fern canyon.

Highly recommended park to visit, probably the best location for one day trip

 

 

The redwoods:

California’s coast redwoods (sequoia sempervirens) exist in a narrow band that runs for 500 miles from Monterey to just over the Oregon border. The redwoods follow the rain and fog at elevations below 2,000 feet, where heavy winter rains and moderate year-round temperatures occur. Trees can grow up to 350 feet tall or more, with a base diameter of about 20 feet.

Redwoods are “living fossils” dating back 100 million years to the Cretaceous Period- the time of the dinosaurs. The oldest coast redwoods are about 2,000 years old.

As result of extensive logging activity in Between 1880 and the early 1900s, thousands of acres of old-growth redwoods had disappeared; Series of state and national parks in northern California protect the remaining of the old-growth Redwoods.

In 1994, NPS and California State Parks agreed to co-manage four parks: Del Norte Coast, Prairie Creek and Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Parks, and Redwood National Park. Managing the parks together provides protection and preservation of more than 105,000 acres of redwood forest.

After the logging only about 5% of old growth Redwood exist today, 95% of them are in northern California and 80% of them are already protected in one of the parks.

 

 

The visit:

This is one of the most impressive redwood forests with probably the easiest visitor’s accessibility, especially for ones that are driving on highway 101.

The most impressive old redwood groves in the park are located at the valley, along Prairie Creek, on both sides of Newton B Drury Scenic Parkway.

Do not miss this scenic parkway drive, even if you do not have time for a real visit at the park, take off highway 101 and use the 10-mile scenic Drury Parkway with many roadside pull-out’s opportunities for short hikes.

 


There are many hiking trails options along the Newton B Drury Parkway Road, the deep shade of the giant redwood canopy above you and the lushest forest floor covered with large ferns below create a unique hiking experience.

The Park has an extensive network of trails where visitors can appreciate the old-growth redwood forest as it was like before it was logged in many other places.

 

 

Things to do and see at the park:

 

Elk Prairie and Roosevelt Elk viewing:

Roosevelt Elk viewing near the main visitor center and the campground. Here at the grassy open meadow surrounded by giant redwoods you may find a herd of Roosevelt elk. You may see the elks at other open grasslands on the side of 101 road so be drive carefully and be prepared to stop.

Today, after extensive protection programs, Roosevelt Elk thrive in their local habitat. During the elks’ mating season, Sep.-Oct., you can hear bulls challenging each other for mating rights.

 


 

The Big Tree hiking loop:

Easy 3.2 loop trail that will take you into the most impressive old grove redwoods in the park.

This is probably the best short and easy trail I did among the giant redwood, highly recommended.

There are few downsides to this hike, it is the most popular trail in the park, on busy summer days there might not be any parking available, the trail go’s along the main park road where you will hear the cars.

Start your hike at the park visitor center, take the wooden footbridge across Prairie Creek and, after a few yards, turn right onto Prairie Creek Trail.



Turn right at the first trail intersection, following the sign directing you to the parkway. At the parkway, there’s a trail directly across the road that leads to the Big Tree Area. The Big Tree is one of the largest redwoods in Prairie Creek. The 21-foot-diameter tree stands in a little clearing, isolated from the other trees, with a wooden platform around it (protect the soil).


From Big Tree area, the easiest way to return would be the Foothill Trail, which follows a straight and flat old roadbed along the edge of the redwood forest. You can also take the Cathedral Trees Trail that is much more interesting and passes through superb hillside redwood grove. The Cathedral Trees Trail climbs into redwood uplands, which have a noticeably denser trees compare to the valley below. The trail climbs and passes several groups of impressive redwoods. Cross the Call Barrel Forest Rd. and descends through the forest to Drury Parkway. Cross the road carefully and walk back to the visitor center.

 

 

Drive up Call Barrel Rd.:

If you want to have a redwood hike-like experience from your car Call Barrel road is your drive. Cal-Barrel Road start at Drury Parkway about a quarter mile north of the park visitor center (on the east, right, side of the main road). 3.6-mile drive on an old logging road climbing 720 ft into the east side of Prairie Creek.

The dirt road is open to cars in summer only, RVs and trailers aren’t allowed (do not get in, no place to turn around). This is a drivable road to all cars, it’s one of the few places where you can go on an old-growth redwood drive.

This is an out and back drive that dead-end at the Rhododendron Trail.

 


 

Visit at Fern Canyon and ocean front:

Fern Canyon is a quarter of a mile long canyon where the 50-foot-high canyon walls are completely covered by ferns and are dripping with moisture. The Canyon is located at the ocean front of the Prairie Creek Redwoods State. Fern Canyon was chosen as a location for filming Jurassic Park 2: The Lost World.

A detailed blog on my visit at Fern Canyon can be found here:

Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park - Fern Canyon

 

 


The James Irvine and Miners’ Ridge loop:

This is a 12-miles-long loop hike and considered to be one of the world’s best redwood hikes, and I can understand why.

The long hike covers a variety of environments, passing through an old growth redwood forest, crossing the shoreline mountains ridgetop with second growth forest sections, pass through a wide undeveloped beach, and even go through the amazing Fern Canyon.

You can do this loop hike in any direction; I chose to hike it counterclockwise direction.

The trail starts at the park visitor center, cross the large bridge across Prairie Creek, and find James Irvine Trail. The trail starts with a climb through a spectacular redwood forest and after 0.6 miles you will reach a trail junction.

Keep walking on James Irvine Trail (right), on your way back you will return to this junction from Miners Ridge Trail.

James Irvine Trail keep climbing moderately through the creek, after 2.2 miles from the trail junction you will pass another trail to your left (Clintonia Trail). From this point additional 1.3 miles down Home Creek will bring you to Fern Canyon upper entrance.

Here, turn left and get down the stairs into Fern Canyon, a ¼ mile long hike down the canyon will take you to the end of the canyon section.







After enjoying your visit at Fern Canyon, hike ¼ mile south to the nearby parking lot.

From here find a trail that is leading to the ocean front. Hike 1.2 mile south on the open and undeveloped beach all the way to the Gold Bluffs Beach Campground.















Walk to the campground road and find the entrance into Miners’ Ridge Trail few hundred feet north of the campground.


Miners’ Ridge Trail start at the lush Squashan Creek and after a mile it start to climb the mountain ridge. About 1.9 miles from the coastal road, you will reach the mountain ridgeline and a trail junction with Clintonia Trail. Keep hiking right on Miners’ Ridge Trail and after 1.6 miles you will reconnect back to James Irvine Trail, 0.6-mile hike will bring you back to your starting point at the park visitor center.

 

www:

https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=415

http://www.redwoodhikes.com/PrairieCreek/PrairieCreek.html

 

Map:

https://www.parks.ca.gov/pages/415/files/PrairieCreekSPFinalWeb2016.pdf

 

Pictures:

 



























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