The Lost Man Creek Trail


Length 22.0 mi · Climbing 3100 ft
California > Redwood National and State Parks > Redwood National Park

Old-growth redwoods on the Lost Man Creek Trail

Background

The Lost Man Creek Trail is a gravel 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; it’s pleasant, quiet, and easy to hike. Overall, though, it’s a little dull. The wide logging road is less engaging than singletrack trails, and except for a few short stretches of old-growth redwoods, 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.

If you want to hike or ride this trail in reverse, the upper end of the trail is hard to identify because it’s completely unmarked. As you drive up Bald Hills Road, it’s the first road on the left. The Lost Man Creek Trail is the narrow road that climbs a hill, not the wide road with a gate and a private property sign that heads downhill.

Click map to show all roads and trails
Part of the Trail Map of Redwood National and State Parks (Redwood Hikes Press, 2021)

Hike description

Here’s the trailhead location in Google Maps and Google Street View.

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. 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.

Climbing out of the old growth, Lost Man Creek Trail

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 was clearcut in the 1950s and 1960s, so the road wasn’t cut through the trees; instead the trees regrew after the road was built.

Second growth on the Lost Man Creek Trail

3.8 miles in, a prominent, unmarked dirt road 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 appearance 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 for a few miles. The trail is also level for a while. The woods are perfectly quiet and it’s a nice walk.

Holter Ridge

As the trail continues along the ridgetop, the woods become more intensively-logged. The left side is privately-owned and is still being actively logged; the somewhat dismal-looking forest seems to be mostly Douglas-Fir, with few redwoods. The right side, which is in Redwood National Park, has recently been thinned as part of a forest restoration project that aims to reduce the amounts of Douglas-Fir and return the forest to its former redwood-dominant state. A lot of small trees have been cut down and scattered around, and some logging roads have been created or re-opened in this area.

As the road undulates up and down along the ridge the forest becomes more dark and dismal, with huge redwood stumps and a lot of dead branches on the ground and no groundcover to speak of. A few huge redwoods have been left standing, indicating that at one time the ridgetop must have had a remarkable old-growth grove.

Near the end of the hike the road crests a hill and enters an old-growth fir grove with a few big redwoods rising 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 the left.

Holter Ridge


 

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