What to Hike Instead: Redwood National Park/Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

Since Redwood National Park is currently closed due to the shutdown, the world-famous trails are technically off-limits. But if you’re still looking for legal, awe-inspiring redwood hikes, there are as many options as there are stars in the sky–it is actually hard to narrow them down!  Ranger Cathy outlines some great areas near San Francisco in place of Muir Woods National Monument.

If you find yourself six hours to the north of San Francisco and driving through Redwood National Park [which has no gates, by the way], there are some great alternatives to get your hike on in the redwoods:

Instead of Lady Bird Johnson Grove, try the comparable Prairie Creek/Foothill loop that starts right behind the Prairie Creek Visitor Center [located on the southern end of the Newton B Drury Scenic Parkway between the towns of Klamath and Orick]. This flat, 2 mile loop skirts along the babbling Prairie Creek, waiting for the winter salmon arrival.  As a special treat, you might even spot an American Dipper in the creek. This grey, amphibious bird has an amusing bobbing tick that adds to the amusement of watching it search for invertebrates under water. At the first ‘Parkway’ sign, cross the Parkway and walk to Big Tree along the old roadbed of old Highway 101. After gazing at the hugeness that is Big Tree, take Foothill Trail back to the Visitor Center, but tread lightly–you might spot a banana slug or Pacific giant salamander under the Bigleaf maples and towering redwoods.

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Perhaps a permit to drive down the Tall Trees Access Road and hike Tall Trees Trail was in your itinerary. Never fear! There is the Brown Creek/Rhododendron/South Fork loop just waiting to be discovered! This 3.5 mile loop climbs 700 feet through upland and lowland redwoods without the 45 minute drive down a gravel road. Just take the Newton B Drury Parkway and look for mile post 129.0. The trailhead is on the northbound side of the Parkway. The South Fork segment is the steepest, while Brown Creek offers glimpses of its namesake creek trickling through the understory.

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Just like Redwood National Park, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park is fee-free [unless you go into the day-use areas past the campground gates] and does not allow dogs on trails. Unlike the National Park, Prairie Creek has been around since the 1920s, so to keep it in pristine shape like it has been for all these years, staying on the trail is encouraged to protect the fragile understory and shallow redwood roots.

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