Orick, California

Hike the Friendship Ridge Trail loop via the Coastal Trail

8 Miles Total - 1500 ft gain - Loop Trail

Originally added by John Maurizi

A perfect loop hike to experience wildlife, coastal prairie, and redwoods. Not to mention a canyon with walls lined with fern!

This loop hikes starts at the Fern Canyon Trailhead.  To get to Fern Canyon, drive to the end of Davison Rd, also known as Gold Bluff Beach road.  There is a pay station at the entrance to the road ($8 in 2015).  After heavy rain, the road may be impassable for passenger cars.  

From the parking area, hike north along the obvious trail. This is the Coastal Trail which is about 70 miles long. However, 4.8 miles of it passes through Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. This loop covers 2.75 miles until you reach the West Ridge Trail.  During this section you do not catch a glimpse of the ocean. But keep a look out for Roosevelt Elk and Banana Slugs!  The trail follows a fairly straight path along the tree line and the prairie before you can reach the ocean. It is completely flat and this section is very enjoyable. Along the way you will also pass Gold Dust Waterfall as well as several other lessor waterfalls.  After 2.75 miles you reach the trailhead for the West Ridge Trail.

The entire West Ridge Trail is 7 miles long. As part of this loop you will only hike 1.9 mikes of it. This section, from the Coastal Trail to the Friendship Ridge Trail has two distinct differences as you ascend. The first part is overgrown with tall fern and bushes. It is also steep in sections and the combined with the overgrowth makes for difficult hiking.

However, once you are on the ridge, it is one of the most enjoyable hikes in the park. It is an easy trail that meanders along the ridge through Oregon White Oak trees. This section was one of my favorite hikes on this trip. However, the only way to experience this section is by doing a loop hike from the Prairie Creek Visitor Center, which is 12.5 miles or the one I did from the Fern Canyon
Trailhead. 

After the 1.9 miles, you reach the Friendship Ridge Trail.  It is about 3 miles long and ends at Fern Canyon, which you can explore from the top down. The Friendship Ridge Trail is a connector trail for the West Ridge Trail and the James Irvine Trail. The trail is nice, well maintained and easy to follow. It really has no views except that of the forest which is also pleasant to see. A positive note is that most of this section you are descending. Because it is over three miles, the gradual descent is easy on the knees. You end on the James Irvine Trail but it is a short walk to the head of Fern Canyon which is a highlight of
Prairie Creek.

The hike out of Fern Canyon is only about .5 miles and is very easy. There is a small stream in the canyon which is easily crossed on wood blanks placed by the park service. There is a log/tree jam about three quarters of the way up the canyon which can be passed with a little effort. Once out of the canyon it's .3 miles back to the car.



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Photography
Hiking
Beach
Scenic
Waterfall
Wildlife

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