The Flint Ridge Section of the Coastal Trail (formerly the Flint Ridge Trail) cuts through a remnant patch of old-growth redwoods near the mouth of the Klamath River. At one time the Klamath redwoods were so spectacular that the area was a prime candidate to become the main body of Redwood National Park, but when the logging companies found out they logged most of the redwoods before the government could purchase the land.
Typically for this area, the redwoods don't grow near sea level, so the trail starts in a forest of red alder and spruce, then climbs into the redwoods. There aren't any true lowland redwoods on this trail. The uplands are nearly pure redwood, with some douglas-fir near the ridge.
The first half of this trail has by far the best redwoods; you wouldn't miss too much if you were to hike up to the ridge and turn around at about the two mile marker, where the trail starts to descend.
The redwoods near the beginning and end of the trail are the most impressive. The middle portion of the trail has more of an upland appearance, with smaller trees and dense huckleberry shrubs.
Flint Ridge resembles the uplands of Prairie Creek, but has more variety in the colors and sizes of the trees. On the other hand, Flint Ridge lacks the magnificent scale of Prairie Creek and also has traffic noise: along almost the entire trail there's a constant hum of distant traffic from Highway 101.
The trail is little-used and, unusually for a redwood trail, can get somewhat overgrown.
Flint Ridge is about four miles north of Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. From Highway 101, take exit 768, just south of the long bridges over the Klamath River. Turn left at the end of the off-ramp and take West Klamath Beach Road for 1.5 miles until you reach Alder Camp Road. At the intersection, across from the Douglas Memorial Bridge site, is a small trailhead parking lot.
Walk west on Alder Camp Road for a few yards until you see the trailhead to your right. The trail enters the lush woods and descends slightly. Emerging onto the sunny shore of the pond (which is a former mill pond), the trail runs through a thicket of blackberries that bears abundant fruit in early September. Ducks paddle around on the water and honk quietly, and the scenic pond is surrounded by redwood-covered hills. This would be a perfect place for a picnic if there were a picnic table or even a flat patch of ground.
The trail emerges onto a dirt road. Turn left, then left again onto another dirt road. The road follows the north shore of the pond, then turns into a trail and begins climbing. The trail climbs through a bright stand of small hardwood trees, then it passes through a narrow band of logged redwoods, and finally enters full-blown old-growth.
The climb through the redwoods is quite spectacular, with a lot of big trees and even a few monster trees. There's a lush groundcover of sorrel and salal under a dense layer of tall huckleberry shrubs and ferns. A constant hum of traffic noise from Highway 101 fills the grove.
The redwoods are at their best as the trail climbs through two switchbacks midway up the slope. This area is relatively open, with less huckleberry. As the trail approaches the ridge, the environment starts to look less lush; the trees become less impressive and the huckleberry shrubs become larger and denser. The trail never quite gets to the ridge but remains a few yards to the south.
The descent isn't nearly as impressive as the climb; the trees are smaller and the woods less open. Nonetheless, as the trail descends, the trees gradually become a little larger. Keep in mind that the woods will look better during the return trip, because the sides of the trees facing the ocean are a brilliant light grey, while the sides away from the ocean are a somewhat dingly-looking dark brown.
Just as the trail enters an especially attractive area of good-sized, light-colored redwoods, the old growth comes to an end and the trail runs through a brief but dismal stretch of logged redwood forest. The contrast between the bright, orderly old growth and the dark, disheveled second growth is striking. After about 50 yards the second-growth redwoods give way to typical Coastal Trail woodland: an attractive mix of red alders and small spruce with the usual lush groundcover of ferns and sorrel. As the trail continues to descend, the hum of traffic is replaced by the roar of the surf and in summertime the air becomes cooler.
The trail meets the wider, better-maintained trail to Flint Ridge Campground. The campground doesn't offer any ocean views, but is filled with the crash of the surf. Although it's near Coastal Drive, the dirt road doesn't get much traffic so the campground is peaceful.
Shortly after the campground the trail ends at Coastal Drive, opposite a small dirt parking lot. An unofficial trail appears to lead down to the beach but quickly becomes excessively steep and overgrown.
© 2008, 2013 David Baselt