Do you have a favorite place that continues to draw you back? The redwoods in Humboldt County do that for us! There are dozens of trails with giant redwoods, beaches, elk, and history to explore and we want to explore all of them!
Of course this can’t all happen in one weekend…so we continue to make trips back up there as often as possible. This time we stayed at
Patrick’s Point Sue-meg State Park and hiked 3 trails in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park we hadn’t been on.
Skunk Cabbage Trail
When a local suggests a trail to check out, we definitely add it to the list! Skunk Cabbage Trail may have an odd name and isn’t full of the large redwoods the rest of the area is known for but if you are looking for one that is less-trafficked and is soo lush and green this one is for you!
The trail is lined with ferns and lichen dripping off the spruce trees. At night in the fog this might be a little creepy especially with the tree roots reaching up from the ground trying to trip you! BUT, during the day with the light gently filtering through the forest it is AMAZING!
A wild winter storm had hit this area a couple days before bringing tons of rain, wind and even snow so the dirt parking lot was muddy and had a few tree limbs strewn about. A small group of people were just finishing the hike when we got there so we checked with them to see if the trail was passable. It was with a few trees down to climb over.
The hike starts off pretty level for the first 2 miles as it follows Skunk Cabbage Creek. Small wooden bridges help you cross several small streams that feed into the creek. Some of the trees that were down were easy to go around or climb over. You know you are close to the turnaround point when you hear waves crashing as you get closer to the ocean.
When you reach mile 3 there is a junction and a small clearing at the edge of the bluff where a bench used to be. You can choose to head up then down to the beach or use it as a turnaround spot. We opted to turn around here. The sun was dipping down and we still needed to get to the campground to set up camp.
We have heard that the Roosevelt Elk hang out on the beaches below sometimes! This would be incredible to see! We did find them in Elk Meadow hunkered down from the storm.
Sue-meg’s State Park Campground
Sue-meg is one of our favorite campgrounds to stay at with the ocean right next to the tent camping and trails within the campground to explore. The last time we stayed here we had the most amazing sunsets and sunrises just outside our campsite!
When we reached the campground the power was out from the storm so fewer people were in the day use areas. We set up camp and went over to Patrick’s Point and Wedding Rock to watch the sun set on our first night back in the redwoods. It was definitely the calm before the next storm! The sky was incredible!
Our first night camping was chilly and windy! Thankfully no rain until we were already in the truck. We went through 3 bundles of wood while playing Uno and enjoying leftover turkey dinner and delicious wine. The hubs won the Uno game! Oh! And there were sooo many stars out! It was incredible to see!
Overnight the wind attempted to blow off our tailgate tent it was so powerful. We could hear the wind coming before it hit the truck! The campground is partially sheltered by trees along the bluffs but it was still crazy windy! The power had come back on sometime after we checked in and the morning so we were able to take a hot shower in the morning and warm up a bit before our day of hiking.
After breakfast we headed up to Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park.
Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park
On our way up to Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park we saw more of the previous storm damage along the highway and a bunch of PG&E trucks gathering to fix some more of the downed power lines. The Prairie Creek Redwoods SP visitor center was without power so we weren’t able to chat with anyone about trail conditions. We usually like to check in to see how they are and if there are any to avoid. This time we took our chances and followed our printed map and AllTrails app.
We had 2 hikes planned for this park and were going to ask which one to do but since we didn’t have that option we went with the shorter of the two, the Clintonia Loop. It was supposed to be 7 miles but somehow turned out to be 9.4….this happens to us more often than one would think!
To the right of the visitor center you will find the trailhead for Prairie Creek trail and will immediately be met by a couple giants. Cross the bridge that passes by them and continue on. The trail winds around some of the bigger redwoods along this trail. It is always nice to have beauty right away to get you excited for the rest of the hike!
Nature Trail comes up pretty quick, hang a left and follow this fern lined trail for about .3 miles to James Irvine trail. This trail goes for about 4 miles as you wind your way up and down along some nice switchbacks through the forest.
Enjoy the views! We stopped so often to admire the giants and also to go over or around some of them that had recently fallen. The pops of yellow on the thimbleberry bushes lit up the trail as we hiked along. We saw several other hikers on this trail. Maybe a small group every 15 minutes or so which was nice since this is a heavily trafficked trail during peak season.
When we reached the trail junction with Clintonia Trail we paused to decide whether or not to do the other hike we had on our list. The longer hike we had on our list, www.redwoodhikes.com , was from James Irvine Trail to Fern Canyon, along Gold Bluffs Beach and back up Miner’s Ridge but with the weather, we weren’t going to tempt fate. We took the left onto Clintonia Trail.
Clintonia Trail was about a mile of climbing a little and winding our way away from the canyon with Godwood Creek below toward Miner’s Ridge. The trees were a little more spaced out and more light reached us as well as the rain that was starting to come down.
We put on our rain gear and continued on. Lots of fungi were on downed trees as well as along the trails here. Definitely gives you something to look at the ENTIRE time! Between the fun mushrooms on the ground hiding under the ferns and the giant redwoods around us sheltering us from the rain we were definitely enjoying the nature surrounding us!
At Miner’s Ridge trail we were at the highest part of our hike. The trail was pretty level for about 1.5 miles until it started to drop back down to James Irvine Trail.
Along Miner’s Ridge trail the wind had picked up and the tree tops were swaying and small branches started falling around us. Listening for the large crack-thud noises we picked up the pace a little through here. We could hear larger tree branches breaking and falling further away from us. Very scary when you are out hiking and are tired! We kept hoping adrenaline would kick in if we had to run from a tree or tree limb falling! 🙂
Back on James Irvine trail the wind felt less invasive and we continued on without any incidents. As we exited the forest we really started feeling the rain.
Our next stop was Trillium Falls at the southern end of the park. What better time to visit a waterfall than while in the rain??
Trillium Falls Trail
We drove down to Davison Road at the southern end of Prairie Creek Redwoods SP to check out Trillium Falls trail. Tired and hungry we agreed to only go to the waterfall and turn around. The full hike is only 2.8 miles but to the falls and back, it is a mere 1.5 miles which were perfect after our long hike.
The trail was narrow and went up through some pretty impressive redwoods and then down to a small waterfall. The waterfall flowed over moss and redwood sorrel covered rocks. We stood on the long and bouncy bridge and soaked in the sounds and smells of this spot. Visiting the redwoods in the rain is so magical. The air is already fresh and then add in the smell of rain and wet dirt and the sound of water rushing over a waterfall. PERFECT!
We could hear a family with excited children coming to explore this part of the trail so we headed back from here to let them have the space to themselves. We were the only other ones on the trail!
Heading back the rain and wind picked up so we opted to grab dinner in town. The town of Trinidad is only 10 minutes south of the campground making it very handy to grab supplies or dinner when you don’t want to cook outside in the wind and rain!
Strawberry Rock Trail
Full-disclosure here, Strawberry Rock trail is on private property. The Trinidad Coastal Land Trust is trying to raise funds to purchase the easement for this trail to keep it from being developed. While this trail is technically on private property, it is well-trafficked and safe to use.
This 3-mile round trip hike takes you through some second-growth redwoods, past a rock quarry with a couple of labyrinths and up to Strawberry Rock. The Outbound has a great trail description of this hike!
Early on in the hike look up to see a banner hanging in the trees to “STOP CLEARCUTTING”. The drawing on it is beautiful and if you look closely you can see a tree-people camp above.
We stopped at the labyrinths and played a little before taking the fire road up to Strawberry Rock.
There are rocks in the shapes of arrows showing you where to go, look for them on the trails as well as some that are painted with directions. When we reached Strawberry Rock we were faced with the decision of whether or not to climb up with just a rope that someone has left attached or enjoy the views of the ocean from where we were.
Since it had been raining and it was slippery we stayed where we were and enjoyed being above the trees with a clear view straight out to the ocean! I can see why people think this place is spiritual and find inspiration here.
After reaching the truck, we settled in for the 4.5 hour drive home. We always feel so excited when we are heading north toward the redwoods and a little sad as we leave them. To make things a little better we took the Avenue of the Giants scenic route on the way home. It is always so beautiful to drive through!
Have you been through this area? Do you stop at the various turnouts with tiny trails leading off them? We stop at different ones each time. It is so peaceful there when no one is around!
Sue-meg State Park Campground was $35/night. One of the best state parks we have stayed at! **Note as of October 2021, Patrick’s Point State Park was renamed to Sue-meg State Park to more accurately reflect the history and culture of the Yurok Tribe who have historically tended the land.**
Skunk Cabbage Trail: 6 miles roundtrip (or 9 if you go to the beach too), 600 ft elevation gain/loss, easy out and back hike, free parking for about 10-15 vehicles, pit toilet available in the parking lot.
Prairie Creek Redwoods SP – Clintonia Loop Trail: 9.4 miles balloon hike with 1,339 ft elevation gain/loss, moderate hike (due to the length), free parking for about 10 cars near the visitor center or use the overflow parking along the main road, flushing toilets available outside the visitor center.
Prairie Creek Redwoods SP – Trillium Falls Trail: full loop hike is 2.8 miles, easy hike to the falls and back is 1.5 miles with 262 ft elevation gain/loss, free parking for 30 cars or so, flushing toilets available in the parking lot (if they aren’t closed for repair).
Strawberry Rock Trail: 3.2 miles roundtrip, out and back easy hike, free parking at the end of the frontage road, no facilities.
Things We Love:
Camping and hiking during the winter can be a little daunting. If you don’t enjoy the cold, don’t torture yourself with winter camping. It isn’t comfy like summer camping where the sun is up till past 9 pm and only starts cooling off at sunset. The plus side to winter camping is there are less people, the stars come out at a decent hour and you get to enjoy a campfire longer!
Wondering how to keep warm at night? The right gear of course! It only dropped down into the 40’s at night but the wind was crazy. We won’t camp in the freezing temps…we have our limits! We both slept in our silkweight/long johns, like what one might wear under their ski pants. Since we have more winter camping on the horizon and we froze last year we invested in a better sleeping bag. The week before our trip, the Big Agnes Dream Island 15 sleeping bag came!!
We had been researching and looking and looking for a couple weeks and decided on this one. It fits 2 people nicely in the back of our truck and has a nice cotton/polyester lining with a water resistant nylon outside. Love the bright color and especially loved that it wraps up around your head like a mummy bag! There’s a little slot for your hand to curl the bag around you tighter and BOTH sides zip and unzip! Amazingly not all of the double sleeping bags do. Check out the reviews on Amazon and see if it’s right for you too! Click on the link below to be taken directly to Amazon.