The Lyons Ranch Trail
Length 4.5 mi · Climbing 750 ft
From Highway 101, Bald Hills Road climbs mostly through redwoods as far as the Dolason Prairie Trailhead, 11 miles from Highway 101. Soon after this trailhead the pavement becomes intermittent, then ends completely, and the road emerges onto a large hilltop prairie with increasingly broad vistas. Bumping over the ridgetop with a cloud of dust behind you, you'll wind your way up a knoll and, 17 miles from Highway 101, arrive at the Lyons Ranch Historic Site trailhead.
The Lyons Ranch area is strikingly different from the rest of Redwood National Park. A former cattle and sheep ranch, the area is dominated by grassy prairies with sweeping views of the Redwood Creek watershed. There are sparse oak groves but no redwoods. In contrast with the lush, dense woods of the park's lower elevations, Lyons Ranch features dramatic wide-open spaces. In winter it seems arid and windblown, and sometimes there's snow and ice on the trail. In summer it offers a bright, sunny reprieve from the gloomy weather along the coast. At any time it seems very remote.
The Lyons Ranch Trail is a gravel road (closed to vehicles) that leads to "Home Place", which was the site of the original Lyons house but today contains only a barn and two bunkhouses. Although the wooded parts of the trail aren't especially interesting, the views over the Redwood Creek drainage are the best in the park. Nearby Ranch Road makes a nice loop, leading past the historic Long Ridge Sheep Shed. Ranch Road isn't marked as a trail but seems to be popular with hikers anyway.
Click here to see the trailhead location in Google Maps.
Two roads branch off from the trailhead. Straight ahead, the Lyons Ranch Trail proceeds along the ridge, while to your left, a well-maintained dirt road heads downhill. Take the Lyons Ranch Trail.
After continuing along the sometimes-windy ridge for a short distance, another road branches off; it leads up a low knoll to a weather station. Stay on the road to the left, which begins to descend through prairie and patches of open oak woods, offering new views as it curves around the knoll. There's a little valley with the Long Ridge Sheep Shed visible far below, then a wider up-valley view of the Redwood Creek basin. In winter the distant peaks are snow-capped. Next there are dramatic views of Bridge Creek Ridge with its huge square clearcuts. Even at this distance, you can clearly make out how tall the redwoods at the edges of the clearcuts are. Finally, the road ends up at Home Place, which is a little cluster of rustic buildings, a barn and two shacks.
The shortest way back to the parking lot is the way you came. However, many hikers prefer to make a loop by taking Ranch Road instead, adding a mile and 200 feet of climbing to the hike. The road is unmarked, but it's not difficult to follow; just start returning on the Lyons Ranch Trail, then take the first and only dirt road to your right. Follow the road through some woods (which are somewhat less scenic than the woods on the Lyons Ranch Trail), and when you reach the sheep shed, turn left and climb back to the parking lot. The final climb up an open, grassy hillside features some great views.
© 2009, 2011 David Baselt