Backpack Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

Prairie Creek Redwoods Visitor Center

This is a fantastic option for backpacking in Redwood National and State Park area. You'll get the opportunity to hike through massive redwoods, visit Fern Canyon and camp on the beach.

This is the itinerary for our 3 day backpacking trip at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park in early May.

The original plan was to backpack Redwood Creek Trail in Redwood National Park.  A couple issues stopped us from doing that: The water level was too high in May and multiple Park Rangers warned us that our car might get broken into if we left it in the town of Orick, where there were multiple reports last summer. The south entrance is gated but we couldn't access that section of trail because of the water level. 

So, I looked at the maps and rerouted our trip through Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. There would be more first growth (more giant redwoods), we would camp and watch the sunset on the beach at Gold Bluffs Beach Campground (bathrooms, shower, water, and picnic table at this site) and we could swing by Fern Canyon.

We obtained our permit at Thomas H. Kuchel Visitor Center for backpacker parking and a Hike & Bike permit for Gold Bluffs Beach Campground.  Gold Bluffs has car camping available as well, but in order to use the Hike & Bike section you need a permit. 

We did a figure 8 route instead of a loop because we wanted to add some miles to our first day and include Clintonia Trail.  (A standard loop can easily be accomplished by doing James Irvine Trail and returning on Miner's Ridge Trail).

Day 1 - 6.8 Miles

We parked the car at the designated backpacker area right next to the Prairie Creek Visitor Center. Our hike started on the James Irvine Trail, in 3 miles we hit the Clintonia Trail and headed south for 1.5 miles to the Miner's Ridge Trail.  From here it's 2.3 miles to Gold Bluffs Beach Campground, where we spent our first night. The Hike & Bike section is to the south and it's clearly marked.  If you're going in May, make sure to bring stakes for the tent, it was very windy.  There are incredible views of the trees along the cliff side and the ocean. 

Day 2 - 7.8+ Miles

 Leaving Gold Bluffs Beach Campground we walked towards the beach and hiked this entire section on the sand. It's 1.5 miles north to Fern Canyon where we explored and ate lunch for about 45 minutes. Make sure to bring sandals or be prepared to go barefoot as we did, the water was above our boots in some sections. It's a beautiful green covered canyon, and scenes from Jurassic Park were filmed in this area. 

From here it's 2.5 miles on the James Irvine Trail until the Clintonia Trail, once again. This will be a repeat 1.5 mile section but it got us to the second half of Miner's Ridge Trail that we hadn't done yet.  We continued on Miner's Ridge Trail for 2.3 miles until we returned to the visitor center and Elk Prairie Campground (bathrooms, water, fire pit and picnic table at this site).  This is where we spent our second night, we found an awesome car camping spot and paid a little extra instead of the $5 for the Hike and Bike area. 

Day 3 - 5.7 Miles

We wanted to be out in the backcountry for all three days but the switch to Prairie Creek Redwood State Park didn't allow that, they only have one backcountry site - Gold Bluffs Beach Campground.  So, on our last day we decided to do a day hike from Elk Prairie Campground and then return home.  We did the 5.7 mile West Ridge Loop. 

Total Miles without the day hike on Day 3 - 14.3

Total Miles - 20

The trees are massive, far bigger than the redwoods at Redwood Regional Park.  Watching the sunset from your tent in Gold Bluffs Beach Campground is incredible.  This was my first time backpacking along a beach and it was definitely a welcomed challenge.  There were high wind warnings all week and on the 2nd day we saw a giant redwood fall, it was unreal and sounded like thunder when it hit the ground. 

It's not a hard hike and the miles are low but it's extremely enjoyable and we both recommend it. 

Pack List

  • Backpack
  • Tent with rain fly and stakes
  • Sleeping bag
  • Hiking boots
  • Hydration reservoir or water bottle
  • Food
  • Hard shell layer
  • Sandals
  • Head lamp
  • Camera
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RT Distance 20 Miles
Activities Camping, Photography, Backpacking, Hiking
Skill Level Beginner
Season Spring, Summer, Autumn
Trail Type Loop
Features
Bathrooms
Beach
Easy Parking
Forest
Groups
River
Scenic
Wildlife

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

Redwoods

Lucked out and got a camping spot without a reservation. The camp ground was awesome with some decent facilities. We took miners Ridge which ran from our campsite to the one out on the beach. It's about 4 miles each way of incredible redwood forest. Will definitely come back here

Excellent adventure

Beautiful scenery here


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