This roller coaster of a trail is both a challenge and thrill — taking the hiker from a ridge top strewn with giant redwoods to a windswept promontory overlooking the Pacific.
Most of the trails I recommend to bnb guests are close by, in either the Jed Smith Forest (officially, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park) or the Smith River National Recreation Area. With so much good hiking this close to the bnb, why go further afield — to Orrick and the Tall Trees Grove or Lady Bird Johnson Grove. Damnation Creek Trail proves the exception and is worth the 45 minutes or so to get there.
What makes this trail unique is its redwoods-to-ocean transverse. The trailhead, on 101 about 10 miles south of town, starts at about 1,000 ft above sea level, in a dense grove of towering, exceptionally large, old-growth redwoods. Then, over the course of a two-mile walk (a two mile descent on the way in, much of it on a narrow and sometimes slick path), the trail ends at a rocky and scrubby bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. In between are the above mentioned redwoods, tons of rhododendron and huckleberry, and then vast stretches of Spruce. I think it is the rapid transition from redwood and fir to spruce and pine that makes this trail so exhilarating. Another factor that gets your blood racing is the steep descent during the section of the trail closest to the ocean. Just remember to pace yourself as the return hike is uphill — all the way!
Add to the description of flora the fact that the trail crosses the old highway 101, now almost fully grown over. But dig just a little and you will hit pavement, seeing even the painted white lines separating north- and southbound traffic, and you have a challenging, beautiful, and interesting hike in the redwoods.
The only possible down side to this trail is the filtered road noise during the first 100 yards so. It’s a small price to pay, though, for the climactic view of the ocean.
Directions from the bnb: If you are hiking Stout Grove or the Boy Scout Trail and want to squeeze in one more hike (for a very full day of hiking) just continue on Howland Hill Road until it dead ends at Elk Valley Road. Go left to the traffic light and left again on 101. The trail head will be about 10 miles south (at mile marker 16), on your right as you are driving south.
Damnation Creek Trail
Length: 2.2 miles roundtrip
Trail Type: one-way in, one-way out
Difficulty: moderate to challenging, switchbacks and about a mile of occasionally sharp descents as you get closer and closer to the ocean (conversely, a challenging climb on the return leg).
Change in elevation/climbing: 1,100 ft
Location, distance from bnb~hiouchi: trailhead and parking at milepost marker 16, Hwy. 101 just south of Crescent City; 45 minutes by car from the bnb
Snapshot description: Short, occasionally challenging trail that moves from old growth redwoods to sandy, scrub and eventually a rocky bluff high above the beach. Popular trail that is often shrouded in fog. Car noise from 101 can be a distraction on the trail’s early section, though well worth the effort to hike it.