The California Coastal Trail runs through Humboldt Lagoons State Park. A good starting point is the Redwood National and State Parks information center in Orick (just north of Humboldt Lagoons). From there, it’s 5.8 miles past Freshwater and Stone lagoons to Dry Lagoon day-use area. It’s another 6.4 miles past Big Lagoon to Sue-meg State Park.
Much of this route runs along sand spits that are sometimes breached by ocean waves. It’s best to avoid these routes in the rainy season and to avoid the highest tides all year round. Bring water, appropriate clothing, and a park map.
To see if your chosen route is passable call Humboldt Lagoons State Park, 707-677-3570 (Sue-meg kiosk, staffed seasonally); or Redwood Information Center, 707-465-7765.
You may want to bring binoculars on your hikes. Humboldt Lagoons is on one of the world’s major bird migration routes, the Pacific Flyway.
Dry Lagoon Beach
2 miles roundtrip, or less
To explore the quiet beach beside Dry Lagoon, park at the day-use area just east of Highway 101. Hike north near the water’s edge toward the base of the triangle-shaped promontory Sharp Point. The bird-watching should be great. On the way back, meander slightly inland, where you’ll see a variety of hardy dune plants, including sand verbena, morning glory, beach strawberry, and (non-edible) beach carrot.
Stone Lagoon Coastal Trail
2 miles roundtrip
To hike the sand spit on the west side of Stone Lagoon, park at the day-use area north of Stone Lagoon. From there, head south on the California Coast Trail for 1 mile, until it starts heading uphill. The ocean sometimes washes out this trail in the rainy season, so call ahead to ask if the trail is passable: Humboldt Lagoons State Park, 707-677-3570 (Sue-meg kiosk, staffed seasonally); or Redwood Information Center, 707-465-7765.
Stagecoach Hill/Azalea Nature Trail
0.5 mile loop
A springtime treat, Azalea Nature Trail lies just east of Highway 101, between Big Lagoon and Stone Lagoon. Take the Kane Road exit east. When the road forks in about half a mile, veer left onto a well-graded dirt road. In another half mile or so, you’ll see a state park sign on the right and parking for a few cars on the left.
The trail starts in a Sitka spruce forest with disappointingly sparse sword fern and salmonberry. That quickly leads to a sunny slope overlooking the ocean that’s covered with 10-foot-tall azaleas. In May and June it’s solid pink, white, and red. The trail is flat, a bit overgrown. But who can complain about an abundance of blossoms?
Dry Lagoon to Ryan’s Cove and back
4.5 miles roundtrip
Drive to the Dry Lagoon day-use area just off Highway 101. Heading north on a flat portion of the California Coastal Trail, you’ll pass by sand verbena, beach strawberries and (inedible) beach carrots. Later, ascending the hill west of Stone Lagoon, you may temporarily lose sight of your hiking partners amid supersize cow parsnip and bracken. In spring, look for sun-loving wildflowers here, including red columbine, purple self heal, and dark-blue lupine. Farther up and into the forest, you’ll pass stands of alder and Sitka spruce with lush greenery underneath, including thimbleberries, salmon berries, huckleberries, and blackberries.
After you’ve gone about 2.2 miles from the start, turn right off the main trail to descend to Ryan’s Cove and the park’s boat-in campground at Stone Lagoon. Where a creek crosses the trail, look for the generous leaves and huge yellow flowers of skunk cabbage.
Return the way you came. The views of Dry Lagoon and its scenic beach are even better on the way back.
Big Lagoon Beach
3.5 miles one way
Big Lagoon Beach Trail spans the 3.5 miles of sandy shoreline between Big Lagoon and the Pacific Ocean. Start at Dry Lagoon day-use area. For a longer hike, continue south to Sue-meg State Park.
Call ahead to make sure the route is passable. In the rainy season, surf can wash out the trail. Humboldt Lagoons State Park, 707-677-3570 (Sue-meg kiosk, staffed seasonally); or Redwood Information Center, 707-465-7765.
Gold Beach to Sue-meg
30 to 35 miles, 7 days, 6 nights, guided by Coastwalk
Once a year, the nonprofit Coastwalk leads the Humboldt Redwoods Classic, a leisurely trek that starts at Gold Bluffs Beach in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, traverses Humboldt Lagoons State Park, and triumphantly ends up at Sue-meg State Park a week later. You do the walking and Coastwalk provides volunteer guides, gear-hauling, campsites, and meals cooked by local volunteers. Maximum group size is 20.
For more information, go to the Coastwalk website. http://coastwalk.org/overnight-hikes/
Big Lagoon Beach to Sue-meg
8.5 miles roundtrip
Just off Highway 101, drive 1 mile to Dry Lagoon day-use area. If conditions are right, a scenic 8.5-mile hike to Sue-meg Point State Park and back is possible. From the parking lot, walk three-quarters of a mile southward to Big Lagoon. Then walk along the crest of the barrier beach. But be careful. At high tide, ocean waves can breach the spit in the rainy season. Call ahead to Sue-meg State Park (kiosk, staffed seasonally) or Redwood Information Center, 707-465-7765, to make sure the route is passable.
Orick to Sue-meg
12.2 miles one way
Park at Redwoods Information Center near Orick. From here walk south on the California Coastal Trail past Freshwater Lagoon, Stone Lagoon, Dry Lagoon, and Big Lagoon, Agate Beach, and into the center of Sue-meg State Park. The route generally follows flat sandy ridges beside the ocean. In the middle section, however, it heads up and down 320 feet in elevation on the south side of Stone Lagoon. It heads up another 180 feet near Sue-meg.
In the rainy season, surf can wash out the trail, and this route should never be attempted at extremely high tides. Call ahead to make sure the route will be passable. Sue-meg State Park (kiosk, staffed seasonally), 707-677-3570; or Redwood Information Center, 707-465-7765.
For a 2-day trip, make arrangements to spend the night at Stone Lagoon’s boat- and hike-in campground.