The Creeping Forest loop is quite popular, mainly because it's conveniently located and not too challenging. In a few minutes' walk it leaves the commotion of the visitor's center area behind and meanders pleasantly through richly green woodland, climbing to an upland redwood grove partway up Middle Ridge.
This area — the part of Middle Ridge opposite Park Headquarters — tends to be somewhat mundane-looking, with small redwoods and a dense huckleberry understory that hides the trees. The highlight of the trail, a little grove tucked into a bowl partway up the ridge, is relatively open and has some pretty good-sized redwoods, but it's a subtle difference and if you're not looking for it you might miss it. Overall the Sunset-Skyline short loop is a much better hike.
From park headquarters, cross Opal Creek and turn right onto the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail. The trail runs alongside the burbling creek and passes some huge trees before descending slightly to Gazos Creek Road. After crossing the road, the trail climbs a few yards to the intersection with the Creeping Forest Trail. Turn left onto this trail, which winds up a hillside, passing through a pleasant mixed-species forest with an especially dense understory of huckleberry shrubs. The redwoods quickly get a lot smaller as the trail climbs, and the understory hides what redwoods there are.
The trail crosses a little ridge and descends into the bowl mentioned above, passing through a patch of forest that doesn't have any redwoods at all and bottoming out at a T intersection. The trail to the left is a short spur leading to Gazos Creek Road. Turn right, and the trail begins to climb again. The understory thins as the trail climbs. As the trail reaches its highest point, the hillside nearly levels out, the huckleberry almost disappears, and some good-sized redwoods appear. At the start of the grove are a lot of really tiny trees, perhaps the result of a forest fire.
The woods become much denser again as the trail starts descending. This forest is classic redwood upland, drier, more scraggly, and less attractive than the lower elevations, especially in summer. The trail crosses a log bridge that can be precariously slippery when wet.
As the trail descends, it passes through a grove where the soil has slid downhill due to earthquakes. As a result the large trees are all leaning in the same direction, while the many small trees are leaning haphazardly against each other.
After passing another short spur trail to Gazos Creek Road, the trail climbs a few yards to a T junction with the Dool Trail. Turn left, cross Gazos Creek Road, and continue downhill on the Dool Trail. This trail, which is noticably lusher and more scenic than the Creeping Forest Trail, descends through a redwood-lined ravine. Increasingly large redwoods are visible through the dense huckleberry as you descend.
At the bottom of the Dool Trail, turn right and take the Skyline-to-the-Sea trail back to park headquarters. Or, turn left to reach Gazos Creek Road, then take North Escape Road back to headquarters. The road passes through an attractive grove of large redwoods known as the Stanford Group.
© 2005, 2010, 2013, 2017 David Baselt