Wednesday, May 05, 2021

California Coastal Trail - Arcata to Crescent City - hiking guide

Little River State Beach, Trinidad State Beach, Patrick's Point State Park, Humboldt Lagoons State Park

Redwood National Park, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park


The California Coastal Trail (CCT) is approximately 1200 miles of interconnected public trail following the coast from Mexico to Oregon. Or at least that's the dream. Currently, the trail is about 60% complete. In more populous areas, it often takes the form of boardwalks and multi-use paths marked by the swirl of blue wave crest. In rural areas, it may be pushed to the beach when that is usable, or to the nearest public route when that is not.

swirl of blue wave crest above Guthrie Creek as it arrives at the ocean
The crest for the CCT marks a coastal access trail at the Lost Coast Headlands. There are thoughts of a route beside the ocean, but the primary route is substantially inland along Mattole Road for now. The beach becomes impassible in several places and above the high tide mark is private property.

The hiking trail route of the CCT is largely actual trail as it passes through the Redwood National and State Parks. Humboldt Lagoons State Park and Patrick's Point State Park south of these have more continuous beach and trail through them, with caveats. This seems like the sort of thing for which there should be a hiking guide. The closest thing I can find is the summary of the named sections through the Redwood National and State Parks. (Some of the mileages in these summaries have no relation to reality.) There are extensive details in the Humboldt County CCT Implementation Strategy from 2010, but I haven't found anything similar for Del Norte County. There are books on hiking the whole of the CCT. Considering the popularity of the Lost Coast Trail, another piece of mostly trail CCT, this particular section should have more interest.

opening to Hidden Beach
The trail is a mix of beach and trees. (The entry to Hidden Beach along the Klamath Section.)

Out of completeness, I will cover from Arcata to Crescent City, but the part of most interest is from Patrick's Point State Park to the north end of the Enderts Beach Section. This has one long road section to cross the Klamath River and is otherwise short road walks between long trail sections.

Do not bring dogs. Dogs are only allowed on leash in campgrounds and parking lots in the various parks. They are not allowed on trails.

Do not bring hammocks. The parks are very attached to their trees and the things that attach to those trees. They do not appreciate hammocks no matter how thick your tree straps are.


It is surprisingly easy to shuttle all or part of this hike using public transportation. The Redwood Transit Authority Route 20 between Crescent City and Arcata with numerous relevant stops along the way. If those stops aren't enough, they are also open to "flag stops". Passengers wishing to board at a flag stop should call ahead of time. (It might also be a good idea for scheduled stops as the place to wait may not be obvious.) Adult fares vary from $2 to $8 depending on how long the ride is and seniors pay half.


The state and national parks all require camping in designated areas only. There are hike and bike sites in some of the parks and backcountry campgrounds in others. These have fees or require a free permit, respectively. Campgrounds that have not been removed have vault toilets. Two backcountry camps have been removed, so finding a spot at a private campground may be necessary if the camps are too far apart.

camp with table, fire pit, and bear box
Site 4 at DeMartin Campground, one of the backcountry camps along the trail. A free permit is required to stay here. There are bears, so the sites include bear boxes.

You may notice that none of the camping is under old growth redwoods. This is because people camping have a tendency to keep things "clean enough" and it isn't clean enough if there are crumbs around or orange peels, banana peels, or apple cores. These things attract scavenger birds that are not normally found in the old growth forests. These scavenger birds attack the nests of endangered birds who only live in the old growth. It is essential to be absolutely impeccable about food habits when in or near the old growth redwoods. (And please don't leave orange peels around normally. They are very difficult for the little bugs to digest. If you absolutely have to get rid of your organic garbage, all of it must be buried, not just tossed out of sight.)

A note on direction

Some people get really hung up on direction. I encountered a Pacific Crest Trail "thru" hiker who asked me why all those John Muir Trail hikers wanted to go south. He said you've got the sun in your face and all that snow on the north side of passes to climb up instead of glissade down. There are also timing issues that work out better going north. Meanwhile, those JMT hikers are thinking they are hiking up steadily more difficult passes until the Mount Whitney finale. They are generally hiking later in the year, so heading south means hiking up the cool side and down the warm side. The concerns are different when hiking only 9% of the trail rather than 100%.

People hiking the CCT in its entirety seem to favor a southward direction. I personally don't see any reason to hike one way or the other for this section. I do agree that it is less pleasant to hike with the sun in your face, particularly if it is also reflecting off the ocean for double intensity, so I'm writing this in the northward direction. There is a strong contingent who believe south is the only correct direction on the Lost Coast Trail because there can be quite strong winds coming from the north. This can occur along these somewhat more northern coasts as well. This is a weather phenomenon one may never actually experience while on the trail. Admittedly, a visible sun is another weather phenomenon that may not occur, particularly in the summer when it can be very foggy for days.

While I am writing this south to north, I will try to make it easy to use north to south if that is your taste, and times being what they are.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Little South Fork Elk River Trail

Headwaters Forest Reserve

Click for map.

I think I have missed fawn lily (AKA adderstongue) season, which is very strongly April. There's still some to find into May. Thinking of fawn lilies made me think of the Elk River Trail, although the splotchy leaved things there are actually fetid adderstongue which is a different group of the lily family. It would be cool to see in bloom, too. The flowers come February and into March, so it's even more missed. On the other hand, it's a good hike and the bypass at the slide area should be less treacherous now that it has been mostly dry for a few weeks. I headed south to spend the afternoon on a long hike to a tiny loop under old growth redwoods.

big maple leaves and a dangling flower group like white grapes
Beside the citizen science sign for the bigleaf maple, I could see flowers blooming and leaves filling in the gaps. It's hard to get a good look at flowers hanging so high up.

paved road
Along this wide, paved road. The first mile is ADA compliant.

pink flowers
Flowers that don't belong can be found next to the caretaker's residence door.

lots of fruit blooms
A scattering of petals over the ground alerted me to an even more enthusiastic burst of high flowers from... some sort of cherry?

Friday, April 23, 2021

Rim Trail and Ceremonial Rock

Patricks Point State Park

Click for map.

I headed out to Patrick's Point to "see it all". (This park has an $8/car day use fee.) I have missed a couple spots so far. The entrance station was in a moment of being unmanned, so I stopped by the visitor center. The volunteer within didn't know the answers to my camping questions. She probably does know various interesting things about many of the parks, but I wasn't able to form the right questions to get that either. So I left and popped over to see the Sumeg Village. It's not one of the spaces I've missed, but it is in the process of being renewed, so it's not the same as it was.

dug out canoe with more details than other sorts
The trail to the Sumeg Village starts just past the living being of a canoe.

very short buildings
Not much change to the houses yet. These appear short because much of the space is actually below ground.

slats cut from a nearby log
Materials are being gathered. This likely represents quite a bit of work as traditional methods are being used.

Then I remembered that the village is actually at the end of my planned loop around the park and returned to the entrance station to have my questions quickly answered by the returned attendant. (It's $5 each to stay at the hike/bike at Lookout Rock and $20 per site at Ryan's Cove hike/boat-in at Humboldt Lagoons. You register at the Patrick's Point entrance station for those. Why wouldn't you make that information easy to find on the parks' web sites?) Then I went around the other side to find the Penn Creek Trail. It wanders over to and around a loop of camping. It was empty in spite of the "campground full" sign at the entrance. I guess some of it is just closed off to reduce the density of people.

lots of signs
The Rim Trail is the preferred primary route for the California Coastal Trail and was marked with the crest in 2008, but this one on the Penn Creek Trail was the only one I actually saw.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Azalea Nature Trail on Stagecoach Hill

Humboldt Lagoons State Park

Click for map.

With time left in the day and it being practically across the road, I went to visit the azaleas on Stagecoach Hill even though I didn't expect much of the azaleas themselves. There's a couple rhododendron on a fence beside the freeway in Trinidad that have started to throw off color and there's even one or two trees so big they stretch over a house roof that are already dripping with flowers, but there's not a lot to be seen of azaleas or rhododendrons in the more natural settings. I turned up Kane Road because I knew that's where to turn. It was signed at the next junction, then I stopped where things just start to look like driveway instead of road way, but there's enough room to park head in. Across the road, I found a small sign next to a large trail. If the flowers are showy, you'll know it before starting because the road travels along the bottom of the hill covered in bushes on the way to the parking and the start.

small sign next to a big trail
Parking and the start of the trail are under the Sitka spruce.

I started up under the Sitka spruce. Undergrowth bushes arched over my head. Bits of green the right height, but they were salmonberries. Not the ones. They have a scattering of purple flowers, but no fruit yet.

purple flower of simple shape among leaves with a fringe
The salmonberry has showy leaves and a simple flower and the azaleas are the other way around.

trail going two ways, it's a fork
The trail splits.

The sign at the start says a half mile loop, so no surprise when the trail suddenly split. I took the left side route and ended up staying under the canopy of spruce for longer.

big white flowers, a triangle of triangles
The trilliums will be doing their thing for a while longer.