Camp at Nickel Creek
California › Crescent City Beach Education Center
Added by John Chau
Amazing free beach camping in a remote backcountry campsite makes this place totally dope. Plus, it's the northern coastal part of the Redwoods National and State Parks (hence the free camping) and only 5 miles roundtrip. The sunsets are superb and the black bears are abundant. Tide pools, beautiful swells, and a unique natural bridge make this place the perfect place to camp at on the Northern California coast.
First, check in at the Crescent City Ranger Information Center in Crescent City to pick up your free backcountry permit and get permission to park your car at the Crescent City Beach Education Center off of Enderts Beach Road. This is the safest place to park at due to numerous car break-ins at the Crescent City Beach Overlook parking lot since it is gated and operated by park rangers. This does add 2 miles of hiking along the coastline, but offers the peace of mind that your car won't be broken into! Alternatively, you can park at the Crescent Beach Overlook and hike the .5 miles to the campsite.
From the CBEC, hike south along the Coastal Trail through light coastal forests with numerous signs of Roosevelt elk (their tracks are usually always tearing up the trail) and black bear (look for claw marks on trees), cross the road and continue following the path. It's fairly well-maintained, but if you see any trash, please pick it up and pack it out!
You'll have to hike a few hundred feet along the road as the Coastal Trail reconnects with Enderts Beach Road and climbs uphill toward the beach overlook. Check out the view from the overlook and then head back south onto the Coastal Trail as it winds its way along the cliffside overlooking the ocean. Hike through the krummholz groves (flag-shaped trees from the coastal winds) and before long (about .5 miles), you'll have reached the Nickel Creek Backcountry Campsite. Find a spot (the one in the back, closest to the beach offers the best view). Build a fire in the firepit, use the site's bear lockers for your food storage, and head down to the beach to watch the sunset.
- More details about the Nickel Creek Backcountry Site can be found on the Backcountry Trip Planner
- Be aware that the undertow caused by Nickel Creek joining the Pacific can be quite strong. If you get caught in it, swim north, parallel to the shore until you are out of it. Swimming is not recommended here!
- Go in the "off-season" if you want to have the whole place to yourself. Usually late fall-late winter is when no one seems to be out there, most likely because it's often stormy. Hint: For a weekend trip, try going on a Friday when it's predicted to rain. Chances are, no one else will be there! Just bring the right gear.
- Stay away from the cliff ledges because they are prone to collapse under your bodyweight, dropping you several hundred feet to the rocks and water below.
- Backcountry Permit
- Map (from visitor center)
- Bear spray
- Water and/or a water filter (the water from Nickel Creek is freshwater but should be filtered/boiled before use)
- Ten Essentials
- Rain gear
- Cell phone
- Backpacking gear
- Warm clothes for cold nights
- Dry firewood
- Dry bag with extra clothes
- First-aid supplies
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Backpacking, Bodysurfing, Camping, Chillin, Fishing, Hiking, Photography, Running, Surfing
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Not Dog Friendly
Just a reminder to those folks who enjoy camping with their dogs: this is not a dog friendly site, nor is the beach below it. This part of the park is most active for mountain lions, so take care when moving about around dawn or dusk. The coastal trail connects from this spot, and after a brutal climb connects to a beautiful section and the now decommissioned section of Hwy 101.
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