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Elk Prairie Trail

Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

July 5th, 2007

2.6 miles
160 vertical feet
Total Time: 1:18

Rating: 7/10

Directions: From Eureka, take 101 north past the town of Orick. Turn left onto Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway. Turn left into the Prairie Creek Redwoods campground if you want to do exactly the same hike I did, or you can park along the road near the southern edge of the loop, at the start of the elk prairie. The trail is basically a loop around the elk prairie, so you can park at either end.   View Driving Map

While the others napped, I decided to do a solo hike starting from the Elk Prairie campground. I started by heading over to the trailhead near camp site 61. I followed the Nature Trail as it headed into the forest. The trail follows Prairie Creek, and doesn't appear to get much use. In fact, on my entire hike I didn't see any other hikers until I neared the campground again.

Prairie Creek

I don't often hike by myself, and it suddenly occurred to me that I was hiking in bear country, and I hadn't even brought my trekking poles with me. That realization pretty much heightened my senses for the rest of the hike. I don't recommend solo hiking, but I felt a little safer knowing I was so close to so many people.

Elk in the prairie

The trail shortly breaks out into the open in front of the elk prairie. I saw two cyclists on the Davison Trail who were watching two elk in the prairie. I went over and joined them (the cyclists), and took some pictures. Then I turned right briefly onto the Davison Trail, and then left onto the Elk Prairie Trail. The trail skirts the edge of the prairie, then crosses Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway. There's not much traffic, so it's safe to cross on foot.

The forest

Trail through the forest

More trail through the forest

The trail picks up on the other side and quickly changes character. Instead of the prairie, you're now at the edge of an old-growth redwood forest. To your left you can see the prairie across the road, and to your right is the wonderful forest. This is the best part of the hike, despite the fact that you can see the road right there and hear cars as they pass by.

The elk prairie as seen from the redwood forest

Towering redwood

Old growth redwood forest

The trail heads further and further inward, veering away from the road, for a little over a mile. It then crosses Boyes Creek before reaching an intersection. Turn left and pass through a grove of redwoods before reaching the road again. Cross the road and head into the campground area. You could hike back along the campground road if you wanted, but why? It's nicer to simply stay on the trail, which winds through some nice redwood forest, passes the campfire center, and then joins the camp road at camp site 26.

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