California Hiking Northern California Coast Trip report

Tall Trees & Lady Bird Johnson Groves and Hidden Beach

The day after our most hiccup free hike of our vacation so far the rain arrived. We had picked up a permit for the entry road to the Tall Trees Grove Trailhead. details here

Covered benches at the trailhead allowed us to get our rain gear set while staying out of the rain.

The trail to the Tall Trees descended 700′ in just under a mile and a half to the grove.
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A mile long loop explored the grove which was home to the tallest know redwood until a 1989 storm removed some of it’s 367.8′ height.
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We took a brief detour on the Redwood Creek Trail to visit Redwood Creek before finishing our counter-clockwise loop.

We then climbed back up to the car and headed back. Before returning to Highway 101 we stopped along Bald Hill Road at the Lady Bird Johnson Grove.

A 1.4 mile lollipop loop here visits a grove of redwoods dedicated to the wife of President Johnson who was a supporter of creating the Redwoods National Park.
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A footbridge led from the parking lot over Bald Hill Road to the start of the short loop.

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My foot had been holding up pretty well, my two sock system seemed to be working, but now my stomach was starting to give me problems. By the time we had reached our next stop, the Lagoon Creek picnic area, I really wasn’t feeling well.

The picnic area was located along Highway 101, 25.7 miles north of Bald Hills Road (13.5 miles south of Crescent City). We had originally planned on doing this hike before heading home on Friday but when my foot began acting up we changed our plans. We had been planning on starting the Tall Trees hike from the Dolason Prairie Trailhead which didn’t require the free permit but would have been over 15 miles round trip with around 3000′ of elevation gain. When we decided to go the free permit route it shortened that hike to 4 miles and 700′ of elevation gain freeing us up to add in the Lady Bird Johnson Grove and to move Hidden Beach up a day.

The hike to Hidden Beach was only 2.4 miles but the California Coastal Trail provided an opportunity to extend the hike to a Klamath River Overlook for a total of approximately 8 miles. Between my foot issues and now not feeling well we decided that we’d only be doing the 2.4 mile option this trip.

The trail began at a signboard at the northern end of the picnic area.

After crossing a footbridge over the lagoon’s outlet creek a short walk brought us to the start of the Yurok Loop.



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We took the right hand fork which brought us through windswept meadows overlooking the ocean. The rain had ended and now the clouds were breaking up revealing pockets of blue sky.
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The meadows were home to several wildflowers and some ripe salmonberries.

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We stayed right on the Coastal Trail when it split from the Yurok Trail following it approximately a half mile to a sign for Hidden Beach.
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The short spur trail led down to the secluded little beach with a view north to False Klamath Rock.
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We didn’t stay long on the beach as I was not feeling well at all so we headed back to the Yurok Loop which we completed by following the trail on the back side of a small hill.

It was too bad that we weren’t able to explore more of the Coastal Trail to the south as the weather was so much better and the meadows along that stretch were really nice. I just wanted to get back to the room and rest though. We were heading home the next day and just had a 3 mile hike at the Rough and Ready Botanical Wayside planned on the way. Happy Trails!

Flicker: Tall Trees & Lady Bird Johnson Grove and Hidden Beach

California Hiking Northern California Coast Trip report

Fern Canyon – Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

My left foot was still pretty tender in the morning but we had more hikes planned so we came up with a plan for Heather to bring an extra pair of shoes in case I needed to try and use hers again. I was using my newer pair and hers were just small enough that using them on a longer hike would probably cause other issues.

As we were driving south of Crescent City to Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park I came up with another idea, wearing two socks on that foot. I pulled a sock from the extra pair I carry and slipped it on. When I put my shoe back on it did seem to have helped.

We parked at the visitors center which was across from a meadow where a few elk were lounging in the distance.

Unfortunately one of the big differences between having to use our phones and the camera I lost, was the ability to zoom so the elk are just some dark dots up and to the right of the sign.

Our plan here was to do a loop by taking the James Irvine Trail to Fern Canyon then hiking along the beach to the Beach Campground and returning via the Miners Ridge Trail which would be right around 13 miles.
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We followed pointers for the James Irvine Trail crossing Prairie Creek on a scenic footbridge.
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It was great to be back amid the redwoods again. Walking through the giant trees is simply awe inspiring.
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We kept right on the James Irvine Trail when the Miners Ridge Trail split off to the left.
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We stuck to the James Irvine Trail for approximately four and a half more miles as it descended through the lush green forest. Occasionally wildflowers made appearances along the way.
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We turned left at a sign for Fern Canyon.

A short descent ending with a few stairs brought us to Home Creek.


From the canyon floor it was roughly a half mile to the mouth of the canyon. During summer months planks are installed for the necessary creek crossings but they weren’t set up yet so we forded the creek a few times as we made our way through the 50 to 80 foot deep canyon lined with 5 different types of ferns.



We met a couple at the entrance to the canyon who had just finished an out and back exploration. They informed us that Davison Road, which is the road to the parking lot near Fern Canyon, was closed at the Beach Campground and they were walking back via the beach. That had been our plan too so it didn’t affect us, but it helped explain the lack of hikers in the canyon.

We followed a path from the empty parking lot to the beach through an excellent display of lupine.

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After crossing Home Creek on a log we arrived at the ocean and turned south heading for the Beach Campground which was about a mile and a half away.


The lack of zooming capabilities on our phones came into play twice as we walked along the beach. First when we spotted some elk in a gap in the trees.


And again when we were trying to identify a shorebird.
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We took advantage of an empty site at the Beach Campground and Heather changed our of her wet shoes and put on the dry pair she had brought just in case I had needed them. We then located Davison Road and followed it back north a short distance to a sign for the Miners Ridge Trail.
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This trail began as an old roadbed but eventually returned to the mighty redwoods.
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It was 2 miles back to where we had split off on the James Irvine Trail earlier in the day and another 2.2 miles back to the Visitors Center. My foot had held up despite there still being some lingering irritation which was a win and the rest of the day had probably been the smoothest of the vacation so far. Things seemed to be looking up. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Fern Canyon

California Hiking Klamath/Siskiyou Mountains Northern California Coast Oregon Trip report

Shrader Old Growth, Myrtle Tree, Lower Rogue River, and Yontocket

On the fourth day of our vacation we were changing our base of operations from Gold Beach, OR to Crescent City, CA. We planned on checking out of our motel in Gold Beach in the morning and doing three hikes along Jerry’s Flat Road before heading down to our next motel. So far the vacation had been going okay but each day had thrown some kinks our way and this day would do the same.

Our first stop was the Francis Shrader Old Growth Trail.

The interpretive loop was just under a mile long. Brochures were available at the trailhead which we found to be very informative. It was probably the best interpretive trail we’d been on and would make a great hike for kids. Unfortunately our phones didn’t handle the low light conditions of the morning in the forest well so our photos were limited.
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To reach this trail we’d turned off of Jerry’s Flat Road 9.7 miles from Gold Beach onto Road 3300-090 for two miles. Our next stop was just across the Rogue River at the Myrtle Tree Trailhead. To get there we drove 100 feet further along Jerry’s Flat Road and turned left on Road 3310 crossing the river and turning right onto an unmarked road for less than a quarter mile to the signed trailhead.
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This trail was even shorter than the Old Growth Trail at just half a mile out and back. It climbed to Oregon’s largest known myrtle tree.
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Rough skinned newts and snails were numerous on the trail so we had to watch our steps.
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After visiting the tree we returned to Jerry’s Flat Road and followed it across the Rogue Rive to Road 375 where we turned left and followed it to Agness. We parked at the Agness Community Center/Library per the trail signs.

We were a little nervous about our planned 6.2 mile hike here given it was almost the same time of year as our tick filled visit to the nearby Illinois River Trail the previous year.

The first part of the trail follows roads and paths through private property so following the trail signs was important.


Candyflower and wild iris were in bloom along the trail.


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Poison oak was also a common sight.
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The trail had not been maintained yet this year and we encountered blowdown almost immediately after leaving the old roads. We were able to navigate the first few spots without having to deal with any of the poison oak but it meant being more in the brush and it wasn’t long before we’d each brushed off ticks.

After only a mile we came upon a large washout.


I crossed it to see if I could easily pick out the continuation of the trail. It wasn’t obvious and no marking was visible so we considered our options and decided neither of us were too keen on continuing. We were unsure of the trail conditions further on so we turned around, went back to the car, and did a thorough tick check.

It was going to be too early to check in to our motel in Crescent City so we decided to pick out another hike from our guidebook that would be along our way. We chose to check out the the site of a former Native American village in Tolowa Dunes State Park.

We parked at a tricky trailhead to find along Pala Road. My best advice for finding it is to look at the park on Google Maps, find Pala Road near the NE end of the park and get driving directions. 🙂
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Pala Road passed through cow pastures which proved to be interesting on our drive out as we wound up in a heard of dairy cows on their way to be milked.
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As for the hike my left foot had gotten a little tender during the drive. I had been wearing an older pair of hiking shoes and they were really irritating a tendon or ligament on the outside of that foot. Every step shoved the shoe up against it and I was really having trouble walking.

We were headed for the village site which was located atop a small hill.

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We stopped at the picnic tables so I could put some bandages on my foot to try and cushion the contact before heading back downhill to a marked trail junction where we headed for the Smith River.

The scenery in the area was great with several types of flowers blooming and many birds flying overhead including great white egrets and a bald eagle.
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The bandages weren’t helping so Heather came up with the idea of trading shoes. For the rest of the hike we each wore one of the others shoes which did provide some relief. We managed to make it to the Smith River which was less than a half mile from the village site.

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It was late enough now that we’d be able to check in to our room so we called it a day and I limped back to the car. When we got settled I iced my foot and we wondered what the next day had in store. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Shrader Old Growth, Myrtle Tree, Lower Rogue, and Yontocket

California Hiking Northern California Coast Trip report

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park – Stout Grove and Boy Scout Tree

On the second day of our vacation we woke up to rain which seemed fitting since our hike for the day was going to be in the rain forest of Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. We decided to start our hike at Stout Memorial Grove and planned on combining several trails leading us past Boy Scout Tree to Fern Falls and back.

We started off on the .5 mile loop through the trees of Stout Grove.




We once again found ourselves confused when we arrived at the Smith River where we couldn’t see a clear trail on the far side of Mill Creek. We had not brought our guide book due to the heavy rain and neither of us could remember from looking at the map at the trailhead where exactly the Mill Creek Trail was supposed to be. After following a faint path into the brush and deciding that was wrong we returned to the trailhead and reviewed the map where we realized that we needed to cross Mill Creek near it’s confluence with the Smith River. A bridge is placed over Mill Creek during the summer but had been taken down for the year so we were left to cross on what we refer to as a “hiker” bridge, typically a jumble of small logs and other pieces of wood.

Once we crossed Mill Creek we easily spotted the continuation of the trail and the well marked Mill Creek Trail junction.

It was nearly 4 miles from the Mill Creek Crossing to the Boy Scout Tree Trailhead. We could have driven to it on Howland Hill Rd but where is the adventure in that? The sights along the Mill Creek Trail were well worth the extra walking.







When we reached Howland Hill Road we road walked for about a quarter mile to the Boy Scout Tree Trailhead.

Had we had a current map with us we would have known that we could have avoided much of the road walk by continuing on the Mill Creek Trail as it recrossed the road twice more before the Boy Scout Tree Trail. The redwoods were magnificent along the Boy Scout Tree Trail but we also had to look down along the way as there were other, smaller sights to see in the forest.





We took the short, unmarked, side trail to Boy Scout Tree at the 2.4 mile mark of the Boy Scout Tree Trail where we found the massive tree.



The trail continued another half mile to the small but pretty Fern Falls.




The rain was letting up as we began our return hike and it seemed to bring out the wildlife which we hadn’t seen much of yet.




By the time we’d made it back to the Smith River the rain had stopped and the clouds began to break up.



It had been a long hike, 15.4 miles, but we were glad we chose to hike the Mill Creek Trail instead of driving between the two trailheads. After all we don’t get to see redwoods everyday. Happy Trails!


California Hiking Northern California Coast Trip report

Crescent City Harbor and Damnation Creek

It has been awhile since our last post but we’ve been away on vacation piling up a backlog of hikes. This vacation was our last hurrah of our hiking season and also an early celebration of our 20th anniversary. We kicked things off on Saturday by driving down to Crescent City, CA where we planned on staying two nights. After checking into our hotel we decided to walk along the harbor out to Whaler Island, which is a Del Norte island that was permanently attached to the mainland by a quarry operation.

As we walked along the harbor we were entertained by a number of different animals.







At the far end of the Harbor we followed a path up to the top of rocky Whaler Island for some nice views of the surrounding area as well as a few small tide pools.

Battery Point Lighthouse







There were also a few wildflowers still blooming on amid the rocks.


After returning to the hotel we hopped in our car and headed 10 miles south on Highway 101 to the Damnation Creek Trailhead in the Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park. Our plan was to hike 2.2 miles down to the rocky beach for the sunset, but things began to unravel a bit as soon as we arrived at the trailhead.

We weren’t sure what exactly was meant by bridge failure but we decided to go ahead and hike as far as we could. We would still get to hike through some redwoods and we thought we still might be able to get down to the beach with a little extra effort. I hadn’t been in the redwoods since I was a child and this was Heather’s first visit so we were excited to get our first up close views of the giant trees.




Our next hiccup came when we reached an unsigned trail junction that neither of us clearly recalled from the map (which we left in the car). We initially turned left which wound up being the wrong way and wound up on the Coastal Trail. We realized our mistake after about a quarter mile and turned around returning to the unsigned junction. In the meantime we had spotted some very colorful mushrooms.


Back at the junction we went the other way and quickly arrived at another junction complete with signs.


We took note of the second bridge failure sign and sallied forth. The trail began descending more rapidly and we entered the Tsunami Hazard Zone.

We knew there were two bridges along the trail so we were curious about which one had failed. When we arrived at the first bridge we found it to be in good shape.

Now we knew it was the second bridge that had the issue so the only question was whether we could find away to continue on the trail beyond it. When we spotted the second bridge we were surprised to find the only issue was there were no railings.

We crossed the bridge and continued on leaving the forest behind and entering a meadow above the ocean.


Our guide book had said there was a path down to the creek and rocky beach located in the north end of the meadow which we easily found.

The path brought us to the edge of Damnation Creek.




It was just past low tide when we arrived on the beach which allowed us to explore the tide pools.









The tide pools weren’t the only source of wildlife viewing as numerous seabirds were flying about and sitting on the many rocks visible out in the ocean.






Our final mistake was actually our first mistake in that we hadn’t brought our headlamps with us so we didn’t feel comfortable staying for the full sunset not wanting to hike back uphill in the dark. We reluctently headed back toward the trailhead watching the beautiful sunset over our shoulders.




It hadn’t been a perfectly executed start to our vacation, but it had been a great day and we were excited to see what the rest of the week had to offer. Happy Trails!