The Lost Man Creek Trail
Length 22.0 mi · Climbing 3100 ft
The Lost Man Creek Trail is a dirt logging road road that begins at the Lost Man Creek Picnic Area off Highway 101, climbs at an easy grade up to Holter Ridge, then runs along the ridge to Bald Hills Road. The trail is open to bicycles. Surprisingly, the official Redwood National Park website and some guidebooks suggest that cyclists complete a 20.5-mile loop by riding down Bald Hills Road and taking Highway 101 to the paved Davison Trail. This route seems unacceptably dangerous since it includes a 1.3-mile section of Highway 101, a narrow two-lane road with only a 12 inch wide shoulder and lots of trucks and RVs roaring by at 75 miles an hour (you can see what it looks like with Google Maps' Street View). A much better alternative is to ride out-and-back on the Lost Man Creek Trail.
As a hiking route, the Lost Man Creek Trail has its moments but overall is a little dull. The wide logging road is less engaging than singletrack trails, and except for a few short stretches the old-growth redwoods aren't all that scenic. Although the road climbs to a high ridge, there are no views to speak of. There is a pretty nice redwood grove about one mile in, right at the point where the road starts to climb, so one possibility is to hike to this point and then return.
The trail gets off to a good start, entering a very nice and very lush grove of big redwoods. The large creek rushes noisily below. A few picnic tables sit by the side of the road, part of the Lost Man Creek Picnic Area. You can't see the creek from the trail, but especially in winter you can hear it roaring by.
After a few hundred yards the canyon becomes narrower and the scenery less interesting. The road is carved into a steep hillside with the creek about 50 feet below. To your left, a steep fern-covered embankment rises up. There aren't a lot of big redwoods near the trail in this area, although some are visible on the other side of the canyon. At one point a tiny brook flows down the embankment and a cluster of handsome redwoods is visible through the notch that the brook has eroded in the embankment.
The dirt road crosses two bridges over the creek. At this point the canyon opens up again, and soon you reach a very attractive redwood grove. At this point the the road begins to climb. As you climb the redwoods get smaller and peter out (it's a lot more enjoyable to hike in the opposite direction, in which case you'll be treated to a nice descent into a lush redwood canyon).
It's hard to pinpoint exactly where the old growth ends, but at some point the road emerges from under the canopy. It's still surrounded by forest, but the trees stand back from the road, and foliage covers the trees from top to bottom, creating a green wall that leans out and away from the road. This area has apparently been clearcut; the road was not cut through the trees, but instead the trees regrew after the road was built.
3.8 miles in, a well-maintained dirt road branches off to the left. This is the "B Line" road, and it descends about 5 miles to the Highway 101 bypass around Prairie Creek Redwoods. If the highway weren't in the way, the B Line would connect with Cal Barrel Road. The B line is actually pretty scenic for a second-growth logging road, and the park service has considered opening it as a dead-end trail.
Shortly after the B Line intersection, the Lost Man Creek Trail reaches Holter Ridge. Here, you enter a more attractive forest that shows fewer signs of logging, perhaps because there are no redwoods growing here. The woods are perfectly quiet and it's a nice walk, if perhaps a little dull. A lot of old logging roads branch off from the trail.
Shortly after the 6-mile mark, the trail crests at an intersection with road A110. Up until this point the forest, though not old growth, has actually been pretty nice, bright and sunny with white-barked alder trees and huckleberry groundcover. However, at this point the forest makes a dramatic change for the worse. Dark and dismal, with big redwood stumps and a lot of dead branches on the ground and no groundcover to speak of, this area has obviously been logged recently.
The road undulates up and down along the ridge. A few old redwoods have been left standing here and there, and it's surprising to see such large trees on an exposed ridgetop at high elevation.
Near the end of the hike the road crests a hill and enters an area of old growth. The forest is dominated by non-redwood trees, but a few big redwoods rise up over the other trees, impressively straight and tall. When fog sweeps over the ridge, condensed water rains down from these scattered trees like mini-cloudbursts, surrounding each one with a circle of moisture.
The trail ends at a dirt turnout off of Bald Hills Road. The Redwood Creek Overlook is 0.3 miles up the road to your left.
© 2009 David Baselt