Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Run for 3-9-11. 4 mi on the Damnation Creek Trail

Today, I decided to give the Damnation Creek Trail. It's a 4 mile out and back. It goes down for 2 miles to the coast, then back up for 2 miles.
I really wasn't impressed by the trail going down. It had mud, big roots, difficult footing and going down with a dog, made me "cautious" Going back up was a total leg killer, very steep and awesome.
Here is an elevation chart and pictures.

The Damnation Creek Trail

Length 4.0 mi · Climbing 1170 ft
California > Redwood National and State Parks > Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park
The Damnation Creek Trail


The Damnation Creek Trail comes highly recommended - judging by the recommendations of park staff, visitors, and guidebooks, it's one of the region's most-loved trails. It's certainly a nice trail, with an 1100-foot elevation drop to add a little challenge, and a variety of pristine woodland environments. Since it's on a west-facing hill next to the ocean, the trail is often shrouded in fog from the summer marine layer, adding considerably to the primeval old-growth atmosphere. If you're especially lucky the trail will start in sunshine and then descend into the fog. The constantly-changing lighting makes the hike especially fun.
The big drawback of this trail is the presence of Highway 101. The biggest and most scenic redwoods are at the top of the trail where there's the most traffic noise. By the time the noise fades away, the redwoods are no longer as impressive. Also, although you're on a steep hillside over the ocean, the trail is wooded so there are no ocean views. To be fair, though, ocean views aren't very common anywhere in Redwood National and State Parks.


Click here to see the trailhead location in Google Maps or in Google Street View.
The trail is a little tricky to find since it starts from an unmarked dirt pullout on the west side of Highway 101. The pullout is at mile marker 16.
Click map to show all trails and roads
Part of the Trail Map of Redwood National and State Parks (Redwood Hikes Press, 2009)

Hike description

The trail begins with a climb through a very attractive grove of big redwoods. This area looks much like a lowland redwood grove, although it's not a lowland. There's lots of variation in the size, texture, and colors of the trees. At the foot of the redwoods is a thicket of rhodedendron and unusually tall huckleberry shrubs, which actually look more like trees here. This area must be spectacular when the rhodendron is in bloom, although I've never been there at the right time.
The trail descends through very nice old-growth redwood forest to the Coastal Trail, which is actually a paved road. The distant hooting of Crescent City's foghorn can sometimes be heard.
Deeper into the fog on the Damnation Creek Trail
After you cross the Coastal Trail, the traffic noise fades away and the redwoods get a lot smaller. It's still a very attractive redwood forest, though, resembling the uplands of Prairie Creek with its light-colored redwood trunks and understory of light-green huckleberry and ferns.
The redwoods end around mile 1.5. There's a nice view of a spruce-covered hillside across Damnation Creek, then the trail crests and you get your first good look at the ocean. The final descent is on a rather precarious stairway crudely carved into the rock. At the bottom of the trail is a narrow, rocky beach. There's no sand and the beach may be completely covered at high tide, but you might be able to walk up and down the beach a little ways. If the tide is unusually low there may be tidepools.
The return trip, although uphill, is actually more enjoyable than the outbound trip. After an initial steep section the trail really isn't that difficult, and the redwoods get progressively more scenic.
The Damnation Creek Trail

© 2008 David Baselt

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