MODERATE TO STRENUOUS HIKES
Damnation Creek: from tall trees to the sea
Think of the Damnation Creek Trail , at the 16-mile marker on the west side of Highway 101, as an ecosystem elevator. In a four-mile round trip, you pass through a forest first dominated by ancient redwoods, then Douglas-fir, Sitka spruce, and coastal scrub. If you start your hike about an hour before low tide, you’ll also be able to explore a tidepool zone full of crabs, sea stars, and sea anemones. (Look, but don’t disturb!) The work it takes to get there and back—1,100 feet of down and up—offers big rewards, including a chance to hear the intricate call of the winter wren and the soulful, sustained notes of the varied thrush.
Coastal Trail: ocean bluffs and giant redwoods
Follow the rugged Coastal Trail as it winds along ocean bluffs and giant redwood groves. Among its offerings for hikers are:
On the east side of Highway 101, you can start amid the ancient giants near mile marker 15.6 and head down to Wilson Beach, a trek about 3 miles long and 1,500 feet down (one way). In May and early June, up to 30-foot-tall rhododendrons are in full blush. Highway noise taints the first mile and a half, but you soon arrive at the hushed land of breezes and birdsong. No bikes on this strenuous stretch.
The “Last Chance” section of the Coastal Trail begins at the Crescent Beach Overlook at the south end of Endert’s Beach Road. After an easy half mile of walking or biking, you’ll arrive at Nickel Creek backcountry camp and Endert’s Beach. Stop there at low tide to see sea stars and crabs, or climb up steeply into old-growth forest. Turn around at the junction with the Damnation Creek Trail. This 13-mile round trip showcases some of California’s finest backcountry coast and redwood forest landscapes.
Mill Creek Day Use Area: restoration in action
Learn about North Coast history on a 2.4-mile walk at the Mill Creek Day Use Area and Save the Redwoods League Restoration Projects three miles south of Crescent City on Hamilton Road, just east of Highway 101. From the parking area, walk up the road to the stop sign. In the distance you’ll see some off-limits old Rellim Redwood Company mill buildings. Continue right on Hamilton Road to view restoration science in action, including gloomy control plots (in which trees planted by timber companies are crammed so tightly together that little light gets to the forest floor) and sunnier, more-productive-looking spaces that have been thinned from 800 or more trees per acre to 75 or 150 trees per acre. At a fork in the road at 1.2 miles, turn right onto Rock Creek Road. Within 100 yards, you’ll reach a bridge over the East Fork of Mill Creek. Downstream you can see places where logs added to the stream are creating more diverse habitat for coho salmon and other aquatic species. Learn more about this ten-year restoration project by watching the videos below.
Learn about three cutting-edge forest restoration projects underway in Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park (part of Redwood National and State Parks, a world biosphere reserve).
Mill Creek Campground: lush foliage and logging history
The 1.3-mile-long Trestle Trail loop encircles the campground, with lush foliage and traces of logging that date back to the 1930s. Start just northeast of the bridge in the middle of the campground. At times you’ll follow the old railbed used by Hobbs, Wall & Company to haul logs to Crescent City. A lush understory, interesting birds, and circles of “cathedral” trees sprouting from huge stumps are among the highlights of this pleasant stroll.