The Elk Prairie Trail

Length 2.8 mi · Climbing 210 ft
California > Redwood National and State Parks > Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

In a few spots the trail briefly emerges from the redwoods and runs along the edge of Elk Prairie

This trail circles Elk Prairie, first running along the edge of the redwoods, then returning through the campground. Judging by the view from Drury Parkway, it seems like the trail would pass through some pretty impressive redwoods, but in fact the only good redwoods are at the beginning and end of the loop, and throughout the first half there can be a lot of traffic noise from the parkway.

If you’re starting this hike from the campground, go in the opposite direction (that is, go counter-clockwise around the prairie); that way the scenery gradually improves throughout the hike.

The entire trail is surfaced with compacted gravel and is wheelchair-accessible.

Start from the Prairie Creek Visitor Center. There’s actually a faint trail from the Visitor Center to Drury Parkway, but usually I just just walk the few yards on the road. Cross Drury Parkway and take the trail down the grassy slope on the other side into the woods. There aren’t any redwoods to be seen at first; Boyes Creek, which you cross after only a few yards, is surrounded by a wide band of lush, attractive mixed woodland, but no redwoods grow near the creek.

The hike starts near Boyes Creek

The trail passes by a few immense redwoods standing at the edge of Elk Prairie, then dives back into the redwood-free zone alongside the creek. Turn right onto the Elk Prairie trail.

Redwoods by the edge of Elk Prairie

After crossing Boyes Creek again, the trail climbs slightly into some very attractive redwood forest. The scenery only lasts for about a quarter-mile, though, after which the trail gets closer to the edge of the forest where there are a lot of smaller trees and brush. Drury Parkway is visible below, and it can produce a lot of traffic noise.

The north end of the Elk Prairie Trail has some pretty nice redwoods

The north end of the Elk Prairie Trail

The trail emerges from the woods and descends to Drury Parkway. Cross the parkway and take the trail on the other side, passing through the open meadow where elk may be grazing. Turn right at the T intersection.

Look for a trail to your left, marked “Elk Prairie Trail”, that heads into the dense thicket of small trees alongside Prairie Creek. Just like Boyes Creek, the redwoods don’t grow here alongside Prairie Creek.

The trail unceremoniously dumps you into the campground, with no signs to indicate where to go. Go left on the campground road. There aren’t any big redwoods here, but the campground nontheless has a very attractive setting in an old-growth spruce grove alongside Prairie Creek, with some campsites right next to the crystal-clear rushing creek.

Turn onto the first trail that’s marked with a sign to your left. The trail passes by a few redwoods before entering the streamside vegetation zone again. Just north of the campground, there’s a side trail to a nice picnic area set among some immense redwoods near the campground access road.

A picnic area between the Elk Prairie Campground and the campfire center

The main trail passes the campfire center, then meets the Revelation Trail, where it enters an old-growth allivial flat with a maze of trails. With monster redwoods set in lush, attractive woodland, this area has some of the park&squo;s most impressive scenery. It’s surprisingly little-visited, especially given that it’s right behind the visitor center.

Follow the Revelation Trail back to the Visitor Center.


© 2011, 2017, 2018, 2022 David Baselt