Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park

Damnation Creek Trail

From Highway 101 to Damnation Cove is 5 miles round trip
with 1,000-foot elevation gain

Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park delivers the scenery in its name: an impressive coastline, as well as magnificent old-growth redwoods. The combination of redwoods—and a mixed forest of Sitka spruce, Douglas fir and red alder—along with the coast, adds up to some terrific hiking.

The majority of the state park is located on the ocean side of Highway 101; in fact, what is now a splendid hiking trail used to be the Redwood Highway (101). The old highway was abandoned in 1935 for its present route.

Steep Damnation Creek Trail plunges through a virgin redwood forest to a hidden rocky beach. Giant ferns, and the pink and purple rhododendron blossoms climbing 30 feet overhead, contribute to the impression that one has strayed into a tropical rain forest.

The creek name, as the story goes, was proffered by early settlers who had a devil of a time making their way through the thick forest near the creek banks. Even trailblazer Jedediah Smith, whose expedition camped alongside Damnation Creek in June of 1828, found it very rough going.

No, this isn’t your basic mellow walk in a redwood park, on level trails. However, if you hike here, you’re sure to find a measure of solitude.

Allow extra time for this hike; it’s a strenuous journey back to the highway from Damnation Cove. An additional precautionary note: the final length of trail down to the beach is a tricky descent from the sometimes muddy and slippery bluffs and should only be undertaken by those confident in their abilities. Also, rocky Damnation Cove is best explored at low tide when you can view the tidepools.

Directions to trailhead: From Highway 101 in Crescent City, head 8 miles south to the signed turnout on the coast side of the highway at mile-marker 16.

The hike:
The trail soon leaves the sights and sounds of the highway behind as it climbs through redwood forest for 0.25 mile, crests a ridge, and begins its oceanward descent. Joining the redwoods on the wet and wild coastal slope are other big trees—Sitka spruce and Douglas fir—as well as a carpet of oxalis.

As you descend, you’ll walk in the footsteps of the native Yurok, who used this trail to reach the beach, where they gathered seaweed and shellfish. At 0.6 mile, you’ll junction a stretch of pavement-a retired length of the old Coast Highway, now part of Coastal Trail that connects the redwood parks.

Steep switchbacks carry you ever downward. About halfway to the beach, you’ll be treated to tree-framed views of the Pacific as the trail angles along with Damnation Creek. Wooden bridges facilitate crossing of two branches of Damnation Creek.

Near trail’s end you’ll reach a clifftop perch above the mouth of Damnation Creek. It’s an inspiring view: the creek flowing into the surging Pacific, sea stacks and rocky Damnation Cove.

You be the judge of the sketchy trail and the level of the tide as you decide whether or not to descend to the shore.

© 2012 The Trailmaster, Inc.
From John McKinney’s
Day Hiker’s Guide to California’s State Parks
Trail descriptions and maps have been reproduced with the permission of the author.  To learn more about The Trailmaster and other related publications please visit their website at www.thetrailmaster.com.