We had one full day in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park and we squeezed as much as possible into the day that was cut a little short by an overnight storm. It began by driving our truck through a standing redwood at the Klamath Tour-Thru Tree. We then entered the park and walked/hiked the Ah-Pah Interpretive Trail, the Little Creek Trail, and the Moorman Pond Trail, visited Corkscrew Tree and Big Tree Wayside, stopped in the Prairie Creek Visitor Center, and hiked through spectacular Fern Canyon.
Big Tree Wayside
Big Tree Wayside is part of the 160 acre Russ Memorial Grove that named for Joseph Russ, whose family donated the land to Save The Redwoods League in 1923. It was the first memorial grove in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. Because of its accessibility, this is a very popular stop for park visitors who have limited time in the park.
Big Tree Trail is an easy, paved, 100 yard access trail that leads to the base of Big Tree and a wooden viewing platform with viewing telescopes and interpretive displays.
Big Tree, one of the largest old-growth redwoods in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, is a massive, 1,500 year-old coast redwood that stands just over 300 feet tall and measures more than 20 feet in diameter. It stands in a small open space and a viewing platform surrounds the tree to protect it’s shallow root system. Here, signs tell of the park’s history and share stories of those who came before us, while viewing telescopes and educational signs give you a chance to learn more about redwoods and see tree details up close. One silly signpost highlights the fact that no matter where you turn, you’re surrounded by incredible big trees.
Circle Trail is an easy, level, 0.3 mile trail that begins at Big Tree and wanders through an ancient redwood forest of tightly clustered redwoods called Cathedral Trees, fallen giants, and leafy green ferns. It’s a great family-friendly trail and your kids will love climbing on the fallen trees along the trail!
Know Before You Go
- Big Tree Wayside, also called the Big Tree Trail, is located on Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway, just 1.0 mile north of the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park Visitor Center and Elk Prairie Meadows, where you can often find a herd of free-roaming Roosevelt elk. There are restrooms at the trailhead and limited RV and trailer parking.
- With stable, firm surfaces and minimal slope, this 100 yard trail can accommodate wheelchairs, strollers, and people with limited mobility.
- Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park is located off Highway 101 at 127011 Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway, Orick, California 95555, 50 miles north of Eureka and 25 miles south of Crescent City in Humboldt County.
- The 14,000 acre California state park protects sandy beaches, open meadows grazed by a herd of Roosevelt elk, a canyon dripping in lush ferns, 75 miles of trails, and stands of the world’s tallest living trees, the coast redwood. It was used as a filming location for Jurassic Park.
- Download the Prairie Creek State Park Map.
- There are two campgrounds at Prairie Creek Redwoods that take reservations year-round: Gold Bluffs Beach Campground and Elk Prairie Campground. The latter has accessible cabins for rent with heaters and lights but no kitchen or bathroom. Each cabin has two single over double bunk beds and you must bring bedding. No pets and no smoking in the cabins.
- Dogs must be on a leash no more than six feet long and must be confined to a tent or vehicle at night. Except for service animals, pets are not allowed on trails.
- Two sections of the 1,200 mile California Coastal Trail run through Prairie Creek Redwoods: a 6.0 mile section from Carruthers Cove Trailhead to Gold Bluffs Beach and an 11.0 mile section from Gold Bluffs Beach to Kuchel Visitor Center in Orick.
- Big Tree Trail, Prairie Creek Trail, Revelation Trail, and Elk Prairie Trail are the accessible trails within Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park.
- Jedediah Smith Redwoods, Del Norte Coast Redwoods, and Prairie Creek Redwoods state parks joined with Redwood National Park to form Redwood National and State Parks in 1994. Today, the four parks’ combined 133,000 acres contain 45 percent of California’s old growth redwood forest. They have been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and form a portion of the protected California Coast Ranges Biosphere Reserve. They are the only parks in the California State Parks system that accept the Federal Access Pass discount.