The Clintonia Trail

Loop hike with the James Irvine and Miners’ Ridge Trails

Length 7.6 mi · Climbing 860 ft
California > Redwood National and State Parks > Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

The Clintonia Trail

This loop is a shorter alternative to the 12-mile James Irvine and Miners’ Ridge loop. Without the beach and Fern Canyon, the Clintonia loop doesn’t have as much variety, but it’s almost entirely in old-growth redwoods.

The loop does have a lot of big redwoods, but overall it’s not as impressive as the neighboring West Ridge and Prairie Creek loop. On the other hand, the Clintonia loop has no traffic noise at all; it’s profoundly quiet except, sometimes, for the distant roar of the surf. So it has much more of a wilderness feel.

The route described below starts from the visitor center, but it’s also possible to hike the Clintonia Trail starting from Fern Canyon to make a 6.5 mile loop. The redwoods wouldn’t be nearly as spectacular that way, but the hike would include the beach and Fern Canyon. This would be a great option if you’re staying at the beach campground.

Take the trail that starts next to the park visitor center. The trail immediately dives into the redwoods and crosses Prairie Creek on a big footbridge. Continue to the third intersection, then turn right onto the James Irvine Trail.

The trail switchbacks up a ridge covered with large redwoods. At the intersection with the Miners’ Ridge Trail, turn right to stay on the James Irvine Trail.

The trail, which is cut into a hillside, meanders through very open old-growth redwood uplands, with views of the big trees and fern-carpeted hillsides. It gradually descends to the valley bottom, where the trees become smaller and the woods are less open. There are, however, a few monster trees to look out for.

The James Irvine Trail

A huge burled redwood on the James Irvine Trail

The trail along the valley bottom is somewhat rough, with lots of exposed tree roots and some short muddy sections. The footbridges in this area are in poor repair, and some have missing planks.

Turn left onto the Clintonia Trail. As it starts climbing up a hillside, the trail soon enters an attractive and remarkably dense grove of small upland redwoods. There isn’t any understory of tanoak or huckleberry here, so although the redwoods are unusually close together, the grove is still very open. The foliage and tree trunks are both very light colored.

The Clintonia Trail passes through an unusually dense grove of small redwoods

Reaching the top of a low, wide knoll, the trail descends slightly and then begins to climb again. As it does, it enters a grove of small spruce trees.

The spruce grove on the Clintonia Trail

On the right is an unmarked side trail to some memorial groves. The trail is unmaintained and has almost completely disappeared; it’s overgrown with ferns and blocked by fallen trees. The trail used to be a quarter-mile long, but today a faint path leads only a few yards before petering out. The trail follows what looks like an old logging road, and the wide path of the road can still be seen.

At this point the Clintonia Trail widens and the scenery changes dramatically. Just like the side trail, it looks like this part of the trail used to be a logging road. The woods abruptly become much darker, with a dense understory of huckleberry, a typical appearance for logged areas. However, although two or three small stumps can be seen along the trail, it seems like very few redwoods were logged because there are still lots of old-growth trees. Maybe only spruce trees were logged, like at nearby Boat Creek.

There’s a second side trail to some more memorial groves; this one is marked, but is also unmaintained.

The redwoods become larger as the trail climbs. Just before it ends, the trail breaks out of the dense huckleberry and enters a much more attractive old-growth upland area. Just a few yards later, turn left onto the Miners’ Ridge Trail.

The Miners’ Ridge Trail climbs a ridge sprinkled with huge redwoods. The biggest trees are right on top of the ridge; on either side, the trees are smaller. As the trail crests and starts to descend, the trees become smaller again.

The Miners’ Ridge Trail

After the intersection with the James Irvine Trail, continue on the James Irvine Trail back to park headquarters.



© 2023 David Baselt