Yes, I like to stop by state and national park visitor centers first before we do anything else, so I can get the lay of the land and make sure we don’t miss anything. When visiting Redwood National And State Parks, however, that didn’t happen because it would have required us to back-track, waste time, or get too far off our planned route.
There are five Redwood National and State Parks visitor centers and in most of the parks, like Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, the visitor center was our last stop, not our first stop!
The Prairie Creek Visitor Center was a destination partly because it has a pressed penny machine. My son collects them from everywhere we have been and I did the research in advance to find every penny machine along our road trip route!
Besides the pressed penny machine, the visitor center also provides:
- Information about activities, sights, and notable places in Redwood National And State Parks
- Exhibits on the coast redwood forest, wildlife, and regional history
- Back country permits and Tall Trees day-use permits
- Passport stamps and ranger activities
There is also a picnic area, restrooms, trailheads for some popular park trails, and a bookstore with gifts, maps, and souvenirs.
Redwood Access Trail
On the state park map, the Redwood Access Trail is shown to connect the visitor center and the Elk Prairie Campground.
We only walked about half of the Redwood Access Trail alongside Prairie Creek along old-growth redwoods. From the Visitor Center trailhead, we walked to the bridge crossing Prairie Creek, then backtracked a bit to follow the Revelation Trail loop. It’s a beautiful, scenic area that is accessible for all park visitors.
Starting behind the visitor center, the Revelation Trail is an easy, accessible, 0.25 mile loop.
The trail passes unusual redwoods, some with curly bark and others with straight bark, nurse logs, redwood sorrel, and western hemlock, and includes a ramped redwood viewing platform that surrounds a large redwood tree. A guide-wire helps assists with navigation and print and Braille interpretive signs encourage visitors to listen to the sounds of Prairie Creek, smell the aromatic leaves of the California bay laurel, feel the bark of a redwood tree, count steps to figure out the length of a fallen redwood.
Know Before You Go
- The Prairie Creek Visitor Center 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.
- Prairie Creek Visitor Center is open daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm in the summer and daily from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm in the off-season/winter. It is closed New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day.
- 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.