Coastal Trail

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The California Coastal Trail, or CCT, is an environmental project adopted by the California Coastal Conservancy, an organization developed with the purpose of enhancing coastal resources and providing access to the shore, in 2001. The trail is designed to connect the entire coast of California by forming an extensive hiking trail. Upon completion, the trail will be 1,200 miles long spanning from Oregon to Mexico. The trail is currently about halfway complete, and expenses are predicted to reach $668,350,000 when finished. “The California Coastal Trail will not be one single pathway that connects the entire coastline. It will consist of different, and approximately parallel trails that accommodate the needs of varying visitors. Some portions of the trail will be for beach walkers, and other sections will be for bicyclists and equestrians. The trail will also have paths to detour around seasonal nesting grounds or other sensitive sites.” Though the paths may not all be physically connected, whenever possible all trails will be “within sight, sound, or at least the scent of the sea.” A two volume trail guide has been written about the California Coastal Trail entitled, “Hiking the California Coastal Trail.”  The California Coastal Trail has its own website.

Coastal Trail Sections

Walking along a coastal bluff, gulls and sea lions cry amidst the sound of crashing breakers. A gray whale spouts occasionally in the vast blue waters below and wind whistles through the alders. Trails lead down to secluded beaches where the driftwood piles and ancient rocks hide crabs and sea stars.

Although the parks are best known for redwoods, 70 miles (142 km) of Coastal Trail offers the adventurous hiker a different experience. Delicate tidepool creatures, sandy beaches, and the jagged Pacific coastline await your exploration.

Day hikes and longer backpack trips may be done on the Coastal Trail. Permits are required at all backcountry camps and are available at the park visitor centers.

The Coastal Trail is nearly continuous in the parks; the one major detour is the Highway 101 bridge over the Klamath River. Several access points and five backcountry camps are within an easy day’s walk of each other.

Crescent Beach Section

  • Location: Redwood National Park
  • Trailhead: Crescent Beach picnic area on Enderts Beach Road off Hwy 101.
  • Mileage: 3.5
  • Difficulty Level: Easy, flat
  • Description: This is a flat, meandering, kid-friendly trail that leads to a pleasant stretch of beach, perfect for beachcombing or an extended walk. Colossal Sitka spruce highlight the walk, and Roosevelt elk regularly graze in the open prairie areas adjacent to the beach. Please remember that elk are wild and can get defensive if threatened.

Last Chance Section (bikes allowed – on trail only, not at the beach)

Location: Redwood National Park and Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park. All trees blocking the trail have been cleared.

  • Trailhead: Marked north trailhead is at the end of Enderts Beach Road, 3 miles south of Crescent City. Marked south trailhead is at Hwy 101 mile marker 15.6. Look for signs marked CT.
  • Mileage: 6
  • Difficulty Level: Strenuous, numerous steep grades with switchbacks
  • Description: Starts out strenuous and then levels off on the old coast highway road. Ocean vistas greet you in the first mile; side route to Enderts Beach allows tidepool exploration (no bikes on beach). Check at the visitor center or at the trailhead bulletin board for low tide schedule. Trails ascends through red alder and Sitka spruce and meets old-growth redwood forest. Junction with Damnation Creek Trail exists at milepost 16.0. Backcountry camping is possible at Nickel Creek primitive campground, approximately 0.5-mile beyond trailhead.

DeMartin Section
Location: Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park and Redwood National Park. All trees blocking the trail have been cleared.

  • Trailhead: Marked north trailhead is off Hwy 101 at mile marker 15.6. Look for signs marked CT. Marked south trailhead is at Hwy 101 mile marker 12.8. If you plan to access the trail from the south, park at the Wilson Creek picnic area and proceed cautiously across Hwy 101.
  • Mileage: 6
  • Difficulty Level: Moderate, some steep grades and switchbacks
  • Description: This hike travels through grand old-growth Sitka spruce, western hemlock, Douglas-fir, and redwoods. Climb through the forest to 10 backcountry sites with toilets. Descend to prairie bald spots and sweeping ocean panoramas. With all the berries, look out for bears!

Klamath Section

  • Location: Redwood National Park
  • Trailhead: Marked north trailhead begins at Wilson Creek Picnic Area off Hwy 101. Marked south trailhead begins at the Klamath River Overlook on Requa Road.
  • Mileage: 5.5
  • Difficulty Level: Moderate, some steep grades and switchbacks
  • Description: From Wilson Creek and False Klamath Cove, hike south approximately 2 miles and take a short spur to Hidden Beach and tidepools. (Check for low tide times at the visitor center). Go back to the main trail and ramble up to Klamath River Overlook where whale-watching is famous. Along the way, experience far-reaching ocean views along a mixed Sitka spruce and red alder forest path. Check out the off-shore seastacks covered with thousands of seabirds: murres, cormorants, pigeon guillemots, and more!

Flint Ridge Section

  • Location: Redwood National Park
  • Trailhead: Marked west trailhead is on the Coastal Drive, off Klamath Beach Road. Marked east trailhead is off Alder Camp Road, near the Old Douglas Memorial Bridge.
  • Mileage: 4.5
  • Difficulty Level: Strenuous, steep grades and switchbacks
  • Description: This hike starts at a pond and climbs through redwoods to ocean vistas. For those interested in backpacking, the Flint Ridge camp is available ¼ mile in from Coastal Drive on the western side. Expect solitude and a steep climb through one of the finest old-growth redwood forests in the parks. Marshall Pond was actually a mill pond during the logging days, but the birds don’t mind!

Gold Bluffs Beach Section

  • Location: Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park
  • Trailhead: Marked north trailhead is on Coastal Drive 1.5 miles from Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway junction. Marked south trailhead is on Davison Road just past the Gold Bluffs Beach entrance station.
  • Mileage: 4.8
  • Difficulty Level: Steep down to beach, then easy, level hike
  • Description: This route traverses downhill to Carruthers Cove, a secluded stretch of beach. (Check for low tide times). Backpacking is possible at Ossagon Camp. Discover 30-foot walls of ferns at Fern Canyon, a ¼-mile walk (seasonal bridges available only in the summer). Experience vast coastal prairies, elk watching, spring lupine, and seastacks jammed with seabirds. Walk the road to Gold Bluffs Beach campground.

Skunk Cabbage Section

  • Location: Redwood National Park
  • Trailhead: Marked north trailhead is on Davison Road just past Gold Bluffs Beach entrance station. Marked south trailhead is on Hwy 101 at mile marker 122.69.
  • Mileage: 5.25
  • Difficulty Level: Moderate, some steep grades with switchbacks
  • Description: From the beach, this trail rises through wind-sheared shrubs to the steep banks of Skunk Cabbage Creek, blanketed with ferns and lined with the heavy limbs of big-leaf maple. The trail crosses grassy hillsides bedecked with seasonal wildflowers and emerges at an overlook. It then descends into the creek drainage where you will experience the pungent smell of the creek’s namesake, skunk cabbage. The trail passes massive redwoods, spruce, and western hemlocks. As you go by high canyon walls, notice the huge remnant spruce stumps. Sitka spruce was used to make WW II airplanes. The trail ends after passing through second-growth forest whose young trees grow so close together they are called “dog hair.”

History

1769 marked the beginning of the California Coast exploration by Europeans. The Portola Expedition was the first to make the journey on land, and the de Anza expeditions followed the Portola Expedition soon after. The paths taken by the expeditions are now remembered by the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail. The Juan Bautista trail shares a portion of its route with the Coastal Trail.

The Coastal Initiative stating that “A hiking, bicycle, and equestrian trails system shall be established along or near the coast” and that “ideally the trails system should be continuous and located near the shoreline” was passed in 1972 with 55% popular vote. Policy makers and coastal managers have envisioned a continuous coastal trail in California for generations. Governor Davis and the White House Millennium Trail Council designated the California Coastal Trail as California’s Millennium Legacy Trail in 1999. Due to its new recognition, federal agencies began to aid in the development of the trail. In 2001, state legislation approved the completion of the trail, which led to its designation as a state trail. In 2001, the State Coastal Conservancy was directed to provide the specifications needed to complete the coastal trail and their report came out in 2003. Activity on the project since 2003 is listed in the “What’s New” section on the California Coastal Trail website.

Goals

The California Coastal Conservancy has six goals for the California Coastal Trail:

  1. To “provide a continuous trail as close to the ocean as possible”
  2. To have full support of the state
  3. To better the public’s knowledge of the good that will come with the California Coastal Trail
  4. To have all the policies related to the trail respect the rights of the private landowners (SB 908 Report 8)
  5. To design the trail to create positive experiences for the public while at the same time protecting the environment
  6. To have the trail connect to other trail systems and provide a way to the coastal area from urban areas

The conservancy expects that the trail will improve the economy. The trail will attract tourists, create jobs, and make selling surrounding real estate easier. The trail is also hoped to protect the environment. People looking to enjoy nature can do so without hurting sensitive areas if they stay on the trail. Another goal is to improve quality of life through recreation by encouraging people to use the trail for exercise. Finally, the conservancy wants people to think of trails as a means of transportation (SB 908 Report 9). To achieve these goals the trail must meet four requirements. It must always be within sight or sound of the ocean. It must serve as a starting point to reach various destinations. It must be separated from all motor traffic. It must respect the current environment and not disrupt the natural habitat.

Stats

  • Trail Measurement: 1,200 Miles
  • Compass Latitude: 33°45'35.6"N
  • Compass Longitude: 118°24'58.2"W
  • Numeric Latitude: 33.7598834
  • Numeric Longitude: -118.4161813
  • Elevation in Meters:
  • Elevation in Feet:

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References and More Info

  • Trail Location
  • Trail Measurement
    1,200 Miles
  • Compass Latitude
    33°45'35.6"N
  • Compass Longitude
    118°24'58.2"W
  • Numeric Latitude
    33.7598834
  • Numeric Longitude
    -118.4161813
  • Trail Images
  • Trail Maps
    • Trail GPS Files
      • Trail Weather
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