Day 59-60 (September 27-28)
Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California
The Damnation Creek Trail is a magical trail, treating the hiker to mammoth ancient Redwood trees, lush fern groves, an incredibly biodiverse forest, and a fog shrouded rocky coast. The caveat? You really have to work for it.
Hiking the Damnation Creek Trail
Following our morning of wildlife watching at Klamath Beach and lunchtime search for Roosevelt Elk in Prairie Coast Redwoods, we head north to Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park to hike the Damnation Creek Trail.
The Damnation Creek trailhead is just off Hwy 101, and it’s easy to miss the small dirt parking lot at mile marker 16. Although we are aware that the this trail is closed just shy of the Pacific Ocean, we are already missing Gold Bluffs and Fern Canyon due to closure, and do not wish to miss out on yet another must-hike trail in the Redwoods park system. So we set out anyway with hope that there is a work-around to get to the beach.
I’m not going to sugarcoat it: This trail is steep! An 1170 foot elevation loss in the trail’s 2.1 mile descent to the coast means you will have to climb that 1170 feet back up to the trailhead. The first half mile of hiking is not terribly steep and leads one through an ancient Redwood forest, treating the hiker to mammoth trees and lush fern groves. With trekking poles in hand while descending the steep trail, I do most of my photo snapping on the return hike.
Looking back from whence we came, a double-trunk redwood (below) caught my eye, and from this point I did set the trekking poles down every so often to take a picture on the way down…down…down…
When we come to the trail closure .1 mile from shore, we find the closure is caused by a worn wooden footbridge that crosses a small canyon and wet-season creek. The bridge appears to have been closed for a long time, and many hikers before us have made an alternate path into the canyon and across the creek bed, which is almost completely dry this time of year. The crossing requires a somewhat challenging but not technical 10-foot scramble down into and then back out of the creek bed.
Soon after our creek crossing, we reach the dramatic windswept rock cliffs, and overlook a pebble beach. Robert scrambles down to the beach while I am lost in my surroundings: the diverse selection of plants growing at my feet and around me, views to the north, south, seaward, and of the windswept forest behind me. This is an awe-inspiring place.
We sit for a spell on the boulder-strewn beach taking it all in, and just enjoying being in this wild place.
Before beginning the steep trek back to the trailhead, I walk around a bit to take pictures of the many little plants and wildflowers growing on the sides and top of the rocky cliffs.
With my trekking poles lashed to my pack for our ascent, I have hands free for some picture taking. The fog clears not far from shore, and we enjoy the return hike under blue skies, the late afternoon sunshine streaming through the forest.
Although I have read that this is a popular trail, we passed only a handful of other hikers, and were fortunate to enjoy this gorgeous forest and coastline in almost complete solitude.
Craving Mexican food, we happen upon Toreros Famosos, an old-school place in Crescent City that hits the spot. Just look at that rad retro interior: Sunset beach murals, a carved wooden eagle sculpture, 70’s lighting and booths, and even a separate lounge (bar). Outstanding!
After a great night of sleep, we awake in the morning to this view. It’s like a mirror image! I mentioned in a prior post that these woods are a bit spooky, and this just kind of amps that weirdness up a little. We never meet our new neighbors in the twin white Subaru Outback, but they are the only other campers in the empty Redwood forest loops at the KOA. So yeah, weird.
Continuing our route south on Hwy 101, we will wander through Arcata and Eureka Springs before a stop in Redwoods National Park for the night.
Click on a park name below to read about our wanderings through more Redwoods parks: