The Coastal Trail
Flint Ridge Section
Length 9.2 mi · Climbing 1520 ft
The Flint Ridge Section of the Coastal Trail (formerly called the Flint Ridge Trail) cuts through a remnant patch of old-growth redwoods near the mouth of the Klamath River. At one time the redwoods in this area 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 around Flint Ridge. Nonetheless, the redwoods at low elevations - 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. Throughout, the forest is nearly pure redwood.
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.
Unusually for a redwood trail, the trail can get somewhat overgrown, especially the high point near the ridge.
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. As you approach Marshall Pond, a beaver dam is clearly visible just to the left of the trail. Emerging onto the sunny shore of the 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. Redwoods appear at the first switchback, and at the second switchback the trail enters full-blown old-growth.
The climb is quite spectacular, with a lot of big trees and even a few monster trees. There's a lush groundcover of sorrel and salal, with lots of huckleberry and ferns. A constant hum of traffic noise from Highway 101 fills the grove. As the trail approaches the ridge, the trees become less impressive. The trail never quite gets to the ridge but remains a few yards to the south.
As the trail finally begins its descent, the trees again become larger. This area of really nice trees isn't as extensive as the previous area was, maybe because the trail doesn't descend as far.
The trail runs through a brief but dismal stretch of logged redwood forest. After just a few yards, the second-growth redwoods give way to typical Coastal Trail woodland: an attractive mix of red alders and 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 David Baselt