Top Trails: Northern California's Redwood Coast: Must-Do Hikes for Everyone

Top Trails: Northern California's Redwood Coast: Must-Do Hikes for Everyone

by Mike White


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At last there is a definitive guidebook for the magnificent and beautifully mysterious hikers' paradise known as the Redwood Coast of Northern California. In this new title in the Top Trails series, veteran outdoors author Mike White leads day-trippers and backpackers into some of the most awe-inspiring terrain on earth. Step-by-step in his trail-worn boots, the author created a menu of 57 diverse routes, from a gentle half-mile morning loop to a 29-mile backpacking adventure. Winding through Mendocino, Humboldt, and Del Norte counties, he guides readers into this landscape of lush, old-growth redwoods; picture-postcard vistas to Pacific Ocean sea stacks; winding descents to undisturbed beaches and mesmerizing tide-pool life; pathways to inland canyons; and untamed wilderness shy on humans but boisterous with herds of Roosevelt elk. For readers ready to hit the trail, this is the can't-do-without guide and for armchair travelers, it's 57 journeys into wonderland.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780899979465
Publisher: Wilderness Press
Publication date: 07/01/2018
Series: Top Trails
Pages: 360
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

Mike White grew up in Portland, OR, where his adventures in the Cascade Range spawned his interest in the outdoors. He became a full-time writer, eventually writing or contributing to numerous outdoor guides. A featured speaker for outdoors and conservation organizations, he lives in Reno, NV.

Read an Excerpt

Following are 2 kinds of excerpts:
Area Overviews for all 7 chapters of the bookOne complete hiking entry (from Chapter 1)
CHAPTER 1: Mendocino County (12 Hikes)
Area Overview
Famous for a picturesque coastline of high bluffs, rocky sea stacks, tidepools, and strips of sandy beach, Mendocino County also is home to a lesser-known inland forest with isolated pockets of old growth redwoods, rugged stream canyons, and a few waterfalls. Most of these features are protected within a number of state parks or reserves, providing the public with straightforward access to some of the area's best scenery.
California Highway 1, also known as the Shoreline Highway, provides the principal access to these lands, with many of the state parks located directly adjacent to this scenic highway. Inland trails in Hendy Woods (Trail 1), Montgomery Woods (Trail 2), and Jackson State Demonstration Forest (Trails 7 & 11) are the exceptions, accessible via state and county roads.
Situated a good distance away from major population centers, visitors to Mendocino County are rarely just passing through. Fortunately, several of the state parks have campgrounds and the resort communities strung out along Highway 1 offer numerous lodging options, spanning the range from private campgrounds to high-end bed-and-breakfasts.

CHAPTER 2: Kings Range National Conservation Area and Sinkyone Wilderness State Park (3 Hikes)
Area Overview
The rugged and steep topography of the Lost Coast has few equals. Rising 4,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean to the apex of the King Range in a little over four miles is relief uncommon to the world's shorelines. The mountains are so steep here that highway engineers were forced to abandon the coastline route of the Shoreline Highway north of Rockport in favor of directing the road inland to a junction with Highway 101. Nowadays the wild-looking landscape is contained within the Kings Range Conservation Area and Sinkyone Wilderness State Park. However, during the logging heyday, mills, railroads, ports, and settlements littered the area. Fortunately, nature has done a fabulous job of returning the land to a pristine state. Today hikers, backpackers, and equestrians can travel routes through a untamed and highly picturesque wilderness, usually with little or no company, which creates perhaps the premier coastal hiking area in the nation.
Not only is the incomparable scenery a prime attribute of the Lost Coast, but also the opportunity to see such a diverse and prolific assortment of wildlife ranks just as high. Stretches of pristine beach are complemented by sightings of a wide variety of marine mammals, including harbor seals, sea lions, and migrating whales. Low tides provide plenty of opportunities for tidepooling. And the skies are commonly filled with an assortment of birds, with the occasional osprey or eagle making an appearance. Inland trails offer the occasional stunning coastline vista, as well as the potential sighting of Roosevelt elk or black bear.
Unlike the majority of the North Coast's hiking trails, the Lost Coast is a backpacker's paradise, with the Lost Coast Trail the main highlight. Remote, rugged, and lonely, the path is arguably the quintessential coast-backpacking trip.

CHAPTER 3: Humboldt Redwoods State Park and Humboldt County (14 Hikes)
Area Overview
Humboldt Redwoods State Park harbors the most impressive redwood groves on the planet. If not for the nearby presence of Highway 101 and for the Avenue of the Giants running right through the middle of the park, this redwood haven would be an idyllic spot for admiring the tall trees in a reverential atmosphere. As is, the park is still perhaps the premier place to witness some of the last remaining stands of old-growth redwoods in a cathedral-like setting. Straddling the course of the main and south forks of the Eel River, the adjacent alluvial flats provide the prime growing conditions for creating towering Sequoia sempervirens, some approaching 400 feet tall. Although well inland from the majority of redwood parks with warmer temperatures and drier conditions, summer fog creeps up the river and nourishes the coast redwoods. Because of this pattern, the trees are more impressive in the north end of the park, diminishing in stature as you head farther south.
Backpackers and long-distance hikers will be disappointed with the lack of opportunities in Humboldt Redwoods. Although some longer trails exist, they forsake the tall trees to travel through unimpressive second-growth forest, better suited for mountain bikers looking for a fun ride than hikers wishing to experience the majesty of the forest. Day-trippers will find an abundant collection of short trails, most of which require little elevation gain. Therefore, the combination of impressive redwood groves, easy paths, and a closer proximity to major population centers than other redwood parks, makes Humboldt Redwoods an attractive destination for tourists. Hikers looking to enjoy the redwoods in peace and tranquility should gravitate toward lesser-used trails, or visit the park during the off-season.

CHAPTER 4: Redwood National Park & Vicinity (11 Hikes)
Area Overview
Redwood is the only national park along the far north coast of California. Set aside in the 1960s, the park protects a section of the Redwood Creek drainage, along with a strip of coastline. Although the national park lacks some of the majesty of the old-growth stands found in the state parks due to its late arrival to the party, Redwood National Park offers more of a wilderness feel. Although Highway 101 runs right through the area, many of the trails are located well away from this thoroughfare, offering a higher dose of tranquility than many of the state park trails. Along with three neighboring state parks, Redwood offers a variety of hikes with stunning coastline vistas, sandy beaches, serene forests, and enchanting streams.

CHAPTER 5: Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park (7 Hikes)
Area Overview
Similar to Humboldt Redwoods, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park is bisected by a major waterway bordered by impressive redwoods and accessed by a scenic highway. The banks of Prairie Creek indeed harbor a lush old growth redwood forest and the Newton B. Drury Parkway provides easy tourist access to these wonders. Unlike its neighbor to the south, Prairie Creek has a better network of trails and a scenic strip of coastline. The centerpiece of the park is Elk Prairie, with picnic areas, campgrounds, and a visitor center, as well as being home to a resident population of Roosevelt elk. Away from Elk Prairie the park rarely feels crowded.

CHAPTER 6: Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park (5 Hikes)
Area Overview
Similar to the other redwood parks along the North Coast, the steep topography of Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park provides many picture-postcard scenes. Unlike its neighbors, the park's most impressive redwood groves are not positioned alongside a major waterway but instead grow on the steep hillside above the ocean. Persistent fog along this stretch of coastline nourishes the tall trees, oftentimes adding a touch of ethereal mystery to the region.
Most of the prime hiking trails within the narrow park are relatively short and coastal in nature, either starting from Highway 101 and descending to the beach, or traversing the hillsides above the ocean. Consequently, ocean views are abundant.

CHAPTER 7: Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park & Vicinity (5 Hikes)
Area Overview
Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park is the farthest north redwood park in California, which helps to reduce the number of tourists as compared to some of the parks farther south. Jed Smith is also perhaps the most pristine of the national and state parks and offers some of the best redwood scenery as well. Unfortunately for hikers, trails are rather scarce, especially ones that enter the magnificent redwood backcountry. Most of the area's hiking trails are short and close to highways and roads, with the Boy Scout Trail the lone exception. Additionally, the location of the largest trees, including the Del Norte Titan and the Grove of Titans, is kept secret to minimize environmental degradation.

TRAIL ENTRY EXCERPT From Chapter 1: Mendocino County
Trail 6:Mendocino Headlands State Park: Mendocino Headlands
Trail Use: Dayhike, Run
Length: 3.2 miles, 2-4 hours
Vertical Feet: +200/-200
Difficulty: Level 1
Trail Type: Loop
BeachOcean ViewsWildlifeHistoryWildflowersFacilities:RestroomsVisitor CenterResort Town
The quaint and picturesque hamlet of Mendocino, featured in the long running TV series Murder She Wrote, starring Angela Lansbury, provides a fine backdrop to the rugged headlands bordering the town on three sides. A 2-mile walk along the edge of the headlands and through town provides a fine contrast between the handiwork of the Creator and the architecture of man. Sheer bluffs offer beautiful vistas of the rocky coastline pounded by the crashing surf and provide excellent vantage points for observing the varied marine life, including migrating whales, dolphins, seals, and a host of sea birds. Walking through town includes the possibility of grabbing a bite to eat or quaffing a libation—a most civilized way to hike.
The headlands were threatened by a proposed development in the 1960s. Fortunately, the local citizenry banded together and were successful in obtaining historical status for the town and having the headlands declared as open space.
Best Time
The trail is open all year. Wildflowers bloom in spring and early summer, providing opportunities for picture-postcard views of the coastline and the quaint village of Mendocino.
Directions to Trailhead
At a traffic light on Highway 1, turn onto Main Street and head west into the town of Mendocino. In addition to four designated parking lots farther on, the Headlands Trail can be accessed from a couple of points in town, including the historic Ford House Visitor Center (restrooms) at the north end of town, or at the intersection of Main and Hesser streets at the south end. Four blocks north of Main, Hesser intersects Little Lakes Road, where a left-hand turn soon leads onto northbound Hesser Drive. Three parking areas within the next 1/4-mile provide short and easy connections to the headlands trail. Farther along, after Hesser Drive turns east, is the last parking lot, 0.1 mile prior to the intersection of Lansing Street. In addition to picnic tables, this parking lot has restrooms, although they were closed in 2013 due to the budget crisis. The trip description below begins near the Ford House Visitor Center.
Trail Description
Securing a parking space on Main Street, which can be difficult on busy weekends when the weather is favorable, enables you to finish the loop in the historic part of town and then grab a post-trip brew or a bite to eat. From the Ford House, 1 a path leads shortly over to the top of the bluff above, from where you have a fine view [ocean views] of Big River entering the ocean. 2 Turn right and follow the path along the bluff south of town through open prairie carpeted with seasonal wildflowers, [wildflowers] eventually coming above Portuguese Beach. Reach a junction with the lateral from the intersection of Main and Hesser streets and then follow the path curving south along the edge of a promontory to the site of the blowhole, encircled by a wood fence. Although you won't likely see any plumes of ocean spray erupting out of the blowhole, the churning ocean waters inside are nonetheless dramatic in their own right. Farther on, a side trail 3 on the left leads down a set of stairs to Portuguese Beach, also known locally as Point Beach. [beach]
From the Portuguese Beach junction, the main trail continues around the point and eventually heads in a northerly direction. Offshore rocks and islets create a dramatic visual counterpoint to the crashing Pacific waves, as well as providing nesting grounds for a variety of seabirds in spring, including Brandt's cormorants, common Murres, Pigeon Guillemot, and Rhinoceros Auklet. Other birds one might encounter in the area include egrets, loons, ospreys, and oystercatchers. The bluffs are also excellent vantage points for whale watchers in winter and early spring. [wildlife] The largest islet, Goat Island, was once pastureland for a herd of goats. Other signs of civilization can be seen along the route, including iron chains and redwood pilings, visual reminders of the logging heydays. [history] The main path continues a wandering circuit northward along the serpentine course of the bluffs.
Eventually the shoreline and the trail curve east, arriving at the final parking area 4 near a grove of cypress trees. Picnic tables and

Table of Contents

Redwoods Coast Trails Table
The Redwood Coast Map
Using Top Trails

Organization of Top Trails
Choosing a Trail
Introduction to Location
Geography & Topography
When to Go
Trail Selection
Key Features
Trail Safety
Fees, Camping & Permits
On the Trail
Have a Plan
Carry the Essentials
Other Useful Items
Trail Etiquette

Chapter 1
1 Big Hendy Loop
2 Montgomery Woods Trail
3 Fern Canyon & Pygmy Forest Loop
4 Chapman Point & Spring Ranch Headlands
5 Big River Haul Road
6 Mendocino Headlands
7 Forest History Trail
8 Russian Gulch Loop
9 Point Cabrillo Light Station
10 Ecological Staircase Trail
11 Chamberlain Creek Falls Loop
12 Ten Mile Beach

Chapter 2
King Range & Sinkyone Wilderness
13 Lost Coast Trail: North Section
14 Lightning Trail to King Peak
15 Lost Coast Trail: South Section

Chapter 3
16 Franklin K. Lane Loop
17 Stephens Grove Loop
18 Nature Trail Loop
19 Founders Grove & Mahan Loop
20 Rockefeller Grove Loop
21 Big Tree Loop
22 Big Tree & Homestead Loop
23 Bull Creek Flats & Big Tree Loop
24 Allens Trail
25 High Rock River Trail
26 Grieg, French & Bell Groves Loop
27 Drury-Chaney Loop
28 Cheatham Grove
29 Elk River Trail

Chapter 4
Redwood National Park & Vicinity
30 Trinidad Head Loop
31 Agate Beach & Rim Trails
32 Stone Lagoon
33 Redwood Creek Trail
34 Lady Bird Johnson Grove
35 Tall Trees Grove
36 Emerald Ridge Loop
37 Dolason Prairie Trail
38 Lyons Ranch Loop
39 Coastal Trail: Skunk Cabbage Section
40 Trillium Falls Loop

Chapter 5
Prairie Creek
41 Fern Canyon Loop
42 Irvine & Miners Loop
43 Big Tree Loop
44 Brown Creek Loop
45 West Ridge & Prairie Creek Loop
46 Hope Creek & Ten Taypo Creek Loop
47 Ossagon Trail

Chapter 6
Del Norte Coast Redwoods
48 Yurok Loop & Hidden Beach
49 Klamath Overlook
50 Damnation Creek Trail
51 Coastal Trail: Enderts Beach
52 Coastal Trail: Crescent Beach

Chapter 7
Jedediah Smith Redwoods
53 Boy Scout Tree Trail
54 Stout Grove Loop
55 Leiffer & Ellsworth Loops
56 Simpson-Reed & Peterson Loop
57 Myrtle Creek Trail

Appendix 1: Top-Rated Trails
Appendix 2: Campgrounds & RV Parks
Appendix 3: Hotels, Lodges, Motels, & Resorts
Appendix 4: Major Organizations
Appendix 5: Useful Resources
Author and Series Creator

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