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.
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 of old-growth redwoods the road, though pleasant, quiet, and easy to hike, isn't especially scenic. Although the road climbs to a high ridge, there are no views to speak of. There's 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.
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.
The trail gets off to a good start, entering a dark and exceptionally lush grove of big redwoods in the bottom of a deep canyon, the most impressive part of the entire hike. Although you can't see it from the trail, a large creek rushes noisily below. A few picnic tables sit by the side of the road, part of the Lost Man Creek Picnic Area.
After a few hundred yards the canyon narrows; at the same time the redwoods get smaller and the scenery less interesting. The road is carved into a steep hillside with the maple-lined creek about 50 feet below; to your left, a steep fern-covered embankment rises up. Some big redwoods 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.
After about a mile the canyon opens up again and the trail enters a very attractive redwood grove. Unfortunately the understory is especially dense here so you can't actually see a whole lot. The road crosses a new steel bridge and immediately begins to climb. As the road climbs the redwoods quickly get smaller, but if you look to the right there's a good view of a redwood-covered streamside flat a few yards below.
It's hard to pinpoint exactly where the old growth ends, but at some point the road emerges from under the canopy and takes on an appearance typical of mainline logging roads. 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, an overgrown dirt road marked "not a trail" branches off to the left. This is the "B Line" road (the Lost Man Creek Trail was the A line), 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 at one time the park service considered opening it as a dead-end trail.
After reaching the ridgetop the mainline logging road appeanance comes to an end as the trail plunges into dense second-growth woods. Although it isn't old growth the woods are actually pretty nice, especially on the right side where there's a bright and sunny stand of furs that shows few signs of logging; the small trees are partially covered with white bark that adds to their attractiveness, and there's a groundcover of huckleberry. In contrast, the left side is dominated by heavily-logged redwoods with little groundcover. The woods are perfelctly quiet and it's a nice walk, if perhaps a little dull. A lot of old logging roads, now mostly treated by the park's road removal program, branch off from the trail.
As the road undulates up and down along the ridge the forest becomes 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. 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, 2014 David Baselt