Peter Douglas Trail

Shady Dell trail

When the Peter Douglas Trail was opened in 2016, it marked the first time in more than 100 years that members of the public could experience Shady Dell. This trail, which extends the Lost Coast Trail to the south by 2.3 miles, makes it possible for visitors to explore the hidden gems of this legendary landscape.

The Peter Douglas Trail showcases the diverse and spectacular treasures of Shady Dell while protecting its ecological integrity. As you begin hiking from the northern trailhead by Usal Creek and the Usal Beach Campground, you will ascend into the mystical grove of ancient candelabra-shaped redwoods, passing beneath their massive, tangled limbs. These unique trees, warped by wind and salty air, are breathtaking to behold.

As you continue traversing Shady Dell’s rugged and scenic terrain, you will notice a rich array of plants and wildlife. The trail winds through redwood and Douglas fir forest, lush grassy bluffs, wildflower-strewn meadows, and over a creek that flows through tranquil alder groves. You can pause to relax on one of the benches overlooking the Pacific Ocean, and watch for passing whales. This is a magical and inspiring place to connect with nature.

Get directions to the trail, and learn about seasonal highlights and hidden gems.

Partnership makes a dream come true

The creation of this amazing trail is a testament to the incredible power of partnership. Save the Redwoods League worked with several partner organizations and individuals with the shared goal of opening Shady Dell’s awe-inspiring beauty to the public.

With the management of our on-the-ground partner Mendocino Land Trust, crews from the California Conservation Corps, Americorps and Coastwalk California cleared and dug the trail. Talented local contractors led the construction of a bridge, boardwalks and over 300 steps. All of this was made possible with the support of the State Coastal Conservancy and members of the League, and the partnership of California State Parks and the California Coastal Commission.

Crew building trail
Crew working on the Shady Dell Trail

Honoring Conservation Champion Peter Douglas

This special trail is dedicated in honor of Peter Douglas, the former executive director of the California Coastal Commission and coauthor of the landmark 1976 Coastal Act. Douglas is remembered for his passionate and effective advocacy for coastal protections, and for his saying that “the coast is never saved, it is always being saved.” It is easy for visitors to Shady Dell to understand why California’s coast is worth fighting for.

On May 5, 2015, staff from Save the Redwoods League and our partners gathered to formally dedicate the trail to Peter’s memory. Bob Merrill, district manager for the California Coastal Commission, said, “This is such an incredibly fitting memorial for Peter, in the sense that you have this awesome, incredible part of the coast, but also that this is a success story — a part of the coast that’s now been saved, where it took a whole legion of different organizations and people to make it come together.”

Merrill said of Douglas, “He connected with wild places like this. He’s probably here with us in spirit.”