Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park
Deep in California's wet and wild northwest corner
HIGHLIGHTS: Way up in California's wet and wild northwest corner, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park has black bear, Roosevelt elk, bobcats, mountain lions, spotted owls and marbled murrelets. Its well-preserved redwoods include over 280 memorial groves established by Save the Redwoods League. The park is managed cooperatively by state and federal parks administrators, along with Del Norte Coast and Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Parks and Redwood National Park. The League has protected over 16,000 acres in this park.
ACTIVITIES: The park offers over 75 miles of hiking trails and bicycle trails, a self-guided nature trail, whale watching and picnicking. Have a look at mighty elk or hike the 2-mile Rhododendron Trail in May or June to view the forest splashed with colorful blossoms.
VISITOR CENTER: 50 miles north of Eureka and 25 miles south of Crescent City on Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway off of Highway 101. Open year round, at the southern end of the parkway.
CAMPGROUNDS: Elk Prairie Campground lies along Prairie Creek, just south of the visitor center. Gold Bluffs Beach Campground is 10 miles from Orick on Davison Road, off Highway 101. For a reservation at Elk Prairie, call (800) 444-7275 or visit www.reserveamerica.com. Gold Bluffs is first-come, first served.
TRAILS: Starting at the Prairie Creek Visitor's Center, you can connect with either the James Irvine or the Miners Ridge trailheads for a splendid day-long 11.6 mile loop. Along the way you'll walk through tremendously varied terrain, vegetation and wildlife, including (of course!) magnificent redwood forests, the sheer walls of Fern Canyon, a remote stretch of Gold Bluffs Beach (that has tiny flakes of real gold), and wide-open grasslands that nourish about 35 of the park's Roosevelt elk. Elevation gain: 1,350 feet.
MUST-SEE UNIQUE FEATURE OR SEASONAL HIGHLIGHT: Roosevelt elk (Cervus elaphus roosevelti) rut in the fall. Picture 1,200-pound bulls bugling and crashing together with their huge antlers. Park guide Rachel McCain calls it "a Discovery Channel moment." Don't miss it.
HIDDEN GEM: Most people come to Prairie Creek for redwoods and miss the spectacular coastline. For a good sample of the latter, try hiking the 2.6-mile Carruthers Cove Trail, which is accessed via the Coastal Drive or Ossagon Creek Trail. Keep in mind, though, that this trail is accessible at low tide only. Tides are posted at the visitor center.
MORE INFORMATION: Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park or The North Coast Redwood Interpretive Association (NCRIA), or call the visitor center at (707) 465-7354.
STOP: Sharon Rabichow, Planned Giving Officer, recommends stopping for an overnight stay at the Historic Requa Inn.
Two fun stops on the drive up include Humboldt Lagoons State Park and the Trees of Mystery.
FAVORITE HIKE: Some favorite trails include Rhododendron, Big Tree loop, Corkscrew Tree, Fern Canyon and the Elk Prairie.
FAVORITE PARK ATTRACTION: Fern Canyon and Roosevelt elk.
DON'T MISS: Be sure to visit Redwood National Park.
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