For Nature Lovers: Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

from Off the Beaten Path | 318
Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, California© 2009 iStock/Eric Foltz PhotographyFour Roosevelt elk cows pause as they graze at Boyes Prairie. To the north the prairie gives way to old-growth coast redwoods.

127011 Newton B. Drury Pkwy., Orick, California

Driving north on Rte. 101, travelers are almost certain to notice the sudden appearance of the majestic Roosevelt elk in Boyes Prairie near the park headquarters and visitors center. A display at the center features a month-by-month account of the life cycle of this magnificent tree—the largest in California. Another entire room is devoted to the ecology of the mighty redwoods, for instance.

The 14,000-acre park is a preserve for these trees (Sequoia sempervirens), the tallest species on Earth. Some specimens here soar 300 feet. They and their companion plants can be seen close up on more than 30 trails that range from easy to strenuous and from one-tenth of a mile to seven miles long. Some lead down to Gold Bluffs Beach. The James Irvine Trail, for example, is a four-mile hike through redwoods and a lush undergrowth of hemlock, laurel, and alder. It connects with the Fern Canyon Trail, where eight species of ferns cling to the steplike ledges of the canyon wall. A herd of elk roams the beach and should be given a wide berth. They are wild and unpredictable. You can camp at the beach or near park headquarters at Elk Prairie.

–Open year-round. Admission charged.

www.parks.ca.gov

(707) 465-7347