Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park - Prairie Creek Long Loop Hike


What? :

This loop is 6.15-mile-long hike. It is mainly flat, following the main Prairie Creek River with few short climbs.

Fifty miles north of Eureka, Prairie Creek Redwoods State and National Park protects many old growth redwood groves, sandy beaches, Fern’s 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


Additional Related Blogs:


Where? :

The park is just off Highway 101; 50 miles north of Eureka, 34 miles south of Crescent City. 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: 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.


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:


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: The place to park your car is not in the small parking lot near the visitor center (parking is limited for a short time) but rather on the side road of the main park road.


Due note 7: The Newton B Drury Parkway is closed to vehicles on the first Saturday of each month from October to May for Hike and Bike Day.


My thoughts:

I visit this section of the redwood park several times and hike both short and long hikes. The trails along the Prairie Creek River are easy and flat and provide access to the amazing redwood trees. It is always fun to do a hike in this area, the river, fern and the bog trees.

In all my visit I manage to see the Roosevelt Elks that are enjoying the open grassland.



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 Hike:

Although I already did this hike several time I always try to come back and hike it again, this is one of the most impressive old-redwood groves in the park.


The hike start right at the Prairie Creek Visitor Center, from here the trail get into the forest at the right side. 

Cross the bridge and keep hiking as the trail find it way along the large standing and falling trees.

Keep hiking and after about 0.7 miles you will cross the river over a wooden bridge.

After 1.1 mile you will cross a side creek and the trail will keep following the main Prairie Creek River.

Soon after you will reach a trail junction, if you turn right you will reach the road and the trail on the other side, this will be a short version of this hike, keep hiking left.

After hiking for about 1.6 mile, you will see a large twisted redwood on the left (road) side of the trail, this is probably Corkscrew Tree.

After 2.1 mile you will reach the spot where the trail heading to the road (east), you can see on your left the trail junction leading north. When I visit here the bridge was off.

Cross the road carefully and keep hiking on the trail on the other side.

After 0.15 mile you will reach a trail junction to the right, this will be the trail that will lead us back to our hike starting point, we will hike there after visiting Carl Schenck Grove.

Soon after this trail junction the trail cross the river over a wooden bridge, after the bridge turn left and head north in the creek.

The Brown Creek Trail runs through dense and lush old-growth forest. The trees along this trail section are tall and straight and the ground is covered with a dense carpet of large ferns and other low vegetation, everything is green.

I saw only one other group of hikers in this section of the trail, and the side creek is isolates it from Newton B. Drury Scenic Pkwy traffic noise.


After half a mile from the wooden bridge you will see a side trail to your right and a small bridge crossing the stream, the trail leading into the redwood grove.

The “official” name of this grove is Carl Alwin Schenck Redwood Grove.

The trees in this grove are named after founding fathers of the American forestry movement.

The grove has two trail loops with numbered markers bearing the names of founders of the American forestry movement. Most of the stands and metal plates markers are still visible.

After enjoying the stroll among those giant redwoods, it is the time to start your hike back.

Cross the small bridge and re connect to Brown Creek Trail, turn left into the direction you came through.

You can keep going and have a much larger loop, over Rhododendron and South Fork trails but I did not have the time for it.


Hike back, cross the wood bridge and reach the trail junction with Foothill Trail. This will be about 3.8 miles from the start of your hike at the visitor center.

After ½ mile from the trail junction you will cross a side creek, after another half a mile you will cross another side creek.

Short hike from this point will lead you to the open below the Big Tree.

Big Tree is considered to be the 16th largest Redwood tree with height of 196ft (60m) and it also have an impressive large trunk, over 16 ft at base level and 11.2 ft at a higher section.

Keep hiking on the trail parallel to the main road, cross Carl-Barrel side road, and after 1.1 mile from big tree you will reach back to the visitor center and your hike starting point.

This will be after hiking for 6.2 miles.


Additional Pictures: