“Great Northcoast MTB ride through Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park with Ossagon trail as highlight.
— Andreas Boehme
This popular mountain bike loop has a lot variety. It travels through old growth redwood forest, coastal Sitka spruce forest, prairie, and along the beach. The route travels along 6 miles of paved roads before turning to 5 miles of singletrack and 7.5 miles of gravel/dirt roads. Although the riding is not very technical,it is a lot of fun, especially the Ossagon trail
which features some fast twisty singletrack.
There are areas of special interest such as a cool waterfall, Fern Canyon, and Gold Bluffs beach. You can't avoid getting wet because there are several creek crossings and a particularly troublesome swampy area along the beach. If you choose, you can also camp out along the way.
Need to Know
You may be lucky to view a herd of Roosevelt Elk grazing in Elk Prairie.
To get to the start, head 40 miles north from Arcata to Newton B Drury Scenic Parkway. Go approximately 1.2 miles and turn left and park near the visitors center at Elk Prairie.
From the parking, head north on Newton B Drury Scenic Parkway. The route travels along 6 miles along the paved road, but there's usually not much traffic. Watch out for cars anyway. Elevation is almost even, only very moderate climbing. Enjoy the impressive drive right through old growth redwoods and coastal forest
At mile 6.3, turn left on the Ossagon trail
(there's a sign explicitly allowing bike riding on this path). This is a really good fun section. After a short climb on perfectly soft forest soil, the singletrack becomes a fast twisty downhill with some features and lots of flow. There's a rideable creek-crossing (if the water is not too high) right at the end of the downhill at mile 8.
Reaching the plain now, take the first trail left on the left, which is the Coastal Trail
and veer left through a swampy area. The landscape changes to prairie and coastal vegetation, while you ride parallel to the beach and always close to the edge of the woods.
Ignore all trail intersections to the left (hiking only) and continue straight, among others at the West Ridge Trail intersection at mile 9. Half a mile later, stop to check out the cool 100 foot waterfall on your left hidden in the woods. There might be some fallen trees across the Coastal Trail
, so be prepared for short stops and hike-a-bike sections.
Next highlight at mile 11.5 is the famous Fern Canyon, a narrow canyon where the walls are completely covered by luxuriant ferns and mosses dripping with moisture. Stop to checkout this beautiful place and unforgettable natural wonder that Steven Spielberg chose as a location for his movie Jurassic Park 2: The Lost World. Coming back to the canyon's end, bear left to stay on the Coastal Trail
A few minutes later at mile 12 you'll reach the end/beginning of Davidson Road, a loose gravel forest road open to car traffic. There is a bathroom located in the parking area and you do also have beach access to the famous Gold Bluffs Beach, that was mined for gold dust in the past (a venture that was never very profitable).
Continue approximately 5 miles along Davidson Road, pass the Gold Bluffs Beach Campground and the park entrance gate (bicycles ride for free). You'll turn away from the coast line and need to manage the last climb of the day (approx. 250 ft). At mile 17.5 turn left onto the Streelow Creek Trail
back to the Elk Prairie Campground. There used to be a sign saying "bicycle/jogging" trail, but that was gone the last time I've ridden there. The Streelow Creek Trail
is an old road that has overgrown into a fast singletrack. Enjoy 1.5 more miles of trail riding, then stay straight over the bridge and continue on dirt road.
At mile 19, make a left on the forest road and shortly after another right into a narrow trail. You'll reach the open space of Elk Prairie shortly after. Pass through the gate at mile 20 and turn left proceeding through the second gate. Follow the signs back to the start at Prairie Creek Redwoods visitors center.
History & Background
Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park is a state park, located in Humboldt County, California, near the town of Orick and 50 miles (80 km) north of Eureka. The 14,000 acre (57 km) park is a coastal sanctuary for old-growth Coast Redwood trees.
The park is jointly managed by the California Department of Parks and Recreation and the National Park Service as a part of the Redwood National and State Parks. These parks (which includes Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, and Redwood National Park) have been collectively designated as a World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve.