Some of my most memorable moments in life began with the decision to venture down a dirt path. There is nothing like setting out into nature with the pure intention of discovery — each bend provides anticipation, each hill you climb brings accomplishment, the sights spur inspiration, and every step brings you closer to yourself.
For me, time on the trail isn’t just about getting somewhere; it’s just as much about the journey. Whether it be in the deep jungles of Costa Rica, the bustling steps of Cinque Terra, Italy, or the desolation of Death Valley, I have found that hitting the trail brings not only physical enjoyment but also a mental clarity that cannot be replicated. Although just about any trail can inspire, I have yet to find a setting more incredible than a meandering, fern-lined pathway through a grove of towering, old-growth redwood trees.
Just this past Memorial Day weekend, I made the trip to Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, and although I am still recovering from a spring skiing injury, I couldn’t stay away from what the trails there had to offer. I was determined to see the lush, 50-foot walls of Fern Canyon. I took the easy route and began from the Fern Canyon day use area just north of Gold Bluffs Beach campground. It was a short 0.1 miles to the entrance of the canyon where Home Creek flows under a series of foot bridges that guide you into this mystical crevice. The combination of the brilliant green flora, the soothing trickle of the creek, and the dramatic canyon walls was unlike anything I have ever experienced. I only wish that I was able to complete the 1-mile loop trail via a stairway out of the canyon, but my current physical condition forced me to turn back after running into a series of precarious downed tree crossings. Next time, I will take the highly recommended James Irvine Trail from the Prairie Creek Visitor Center, which takes you through 4.6 miles of ancient redwoods and ends dramatically at this magical oasis.
Without a system of trails to access incredible natural wonders like Fern Canyon, people like me and you would never have the chance to experience their beauty. Here at Save the Redwoods League we find this connection to be of utmost importance. A perfect example is our 2016 announcement of the opening of the 2.3 mile Peter Douglass Trail, which is an extension of the Lost Coast Trail in Mendocino County. The Shady Dell property that this trail highlights, contains unique redwood trees that have been shaped like candelabras by the salty winds of the Pacific. Breathtaking views of the coastline and roaming Roosevelt Elk add to the lure. Because of The League’s acquisition of this property and partnership with serval other organizations to build the trail itself, the public can now enjoy this beautiful landscape for the years to come.
Traveling south down Highway-1 to Sonoma County, the Stewarts Point property will soon serve as another prime example of how trails can be a transformational tool for connecting people with the natural world. In February 2017, we transferred a conservation easement on the property to the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District. This transaction included a trail easement, which will provide public access to this incredible, coastal treasure. Expected to be completed in 2019, this just under a mile trail along the coastal bluff will allow visitors to take in the grand scenery and will ultimately connect with the California Coastal Trail network. In addition, a cultural access easement was included in this agreement, which will grant the Kashia Band of Pomo Indians access to their ancestral lands.
Even further south in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, The League has been actively working alongside California State Parks to restore the beloved Pfeiffer Falls Trail since 2008, when the Basin Complex fire destroyed the trail’s three bridges and damaged its pathways. Once restoration is complete, the new trail will wind through redwood forests and will cross Pfeiffer Redwood Creek via a newly built bridge. This approximately 1.6-mile trail to the falls can be complimented by adding an additional, less than a mile, detour on the Valley View Trail, which boasts views of the Big Sur River valley out to the Pacific Ocean. Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is north of the current Highway-1 closures in the Big Sur area and is open for “limited use.” For information on the park’s current conditions, please visit the California State Parks website (external link) and sign up for our newsletter to find out more about the re-opening of this treasured trail.
These are just a few highlights in Save the Redwoods League’s long history of advocating for trails and partnering to provide public access. These important pathways to discovery can be complicated to create and maintain, but I think many of you will agree, they’re worth it.
In honor of National Trails Day, I challenge you to lace up your hiking boots and find your trail today! You can even use these resources to plan your next trip to the redwoods.