Greenwood Creek State Beach

Greenwood Trail

To beach is 1 mile round trip

Sea stacks, sea caves and a short sandy beach beckon the sojourner to Greenwood Creek State Beach. Picnic sites strategically placed on the bluffs and a coastal trail offer visitors two ways to partake of the inspiring tableau.

The pretty picture also includes a grassy marine terrace accented by a few cypress trees. Park namesake Greenwood Creek carves a course through the bluffs and empties into the sea. In summer, a sand bar closes the mouth of Greenwood Creek; winter rains open it, allowing steelhead to spawn upstream. Migratory ducks and geese winter along the creek.

Greenwood Cove was one of many 19th-century doghole ports on the Mendocino coast. Schooners slipped cautiously alongside the grimly named Casket Wharf while timber was hoisted aboard. A steel cable lifted a slings-full of locally cut and milled lumber onto the ships.

It was a tricky, often treacherous, operation, but the only transport option available in a region lacking good roads or a natural harbor. Greenwood’s cable operation continued until the 1920s.

The town of Elk was originally named Greenwood in honor of Caleb Greenwood and family who settled here in the 1850s. Caleb’s father was an organizer of the ill-fated Donner Party; Caleb organized an expedition to Donner Lake in order to rescue survivors of that unspeakable winter ordeal.

The once-sleepy hamlet of Elk now boasts a number of fine restaurants and upscale inns. A state park visitor center is located in Elk in a historic lumber mill office. Exhibits interpret the region’s environment, logging industry and Native American traditions.

Directions to trailhead: Greenwood Creek State Beach is located just west of Highway 1 in Elk, some 17 miles south of Mendocino. The visitor center is a very short walk north of the state beach parking lot.

The hike: Descending from the bluffs, the trail soon forks. The right fork leads to a picnic site. The left (main trail) continues downhill to a picnic site as well, then reaches the beach.

You can walk down-coast 0.2 mile to the mouth of Greenwood Creek and to a cliff beyond that blocks further passage. Hikers can travel about 0.2 mile up-coast before cliffs thwart northward progress.

© 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.