A Spectacular 12-Mile Loop at Prairie Creek State Park

✍️ 🕑 • Series: Califorests & Shoregon • Tags: redwoodsfernsbeachesstate parkshiking in the dark • Places: Prairie Creek State Park

After a disappointing and dull overnight hike, I had no choice but to treat myself to a ridiculously scenic, gorgeous, entertaining, and lovely hike.

Well, after I stopped in Eureka for a fine cup of drip coffee, I mean...

The location? Prairie Creek State Park. Here's the prairie, shot from steps away from the park's (closed) visitor's center
The location? Prairie Creek State Park. Here's the prairie, shot from steps away from the park's (closed) visitor's center open_in_full   info

The 12-mile loop at Prairie Creek State Park was my favorite hike that I did on this trip. It traverses forests, canyons, rushing water, and beaches, and is full of natural, gorgeous beauty at all angles.


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I started on the James Irvine Trail, connecting with the Miner's Ridge Trail via fern canyon and the beach.

Trail Information
Name James Irvine & Miner's Ridge Loop
Type loop
Location Prairie Creek State Park
State CA
Country USA
Miles 12
Check out the trails index for information on more trails!
Take a picture of me, begs the sign. I did. And I did the purple, 12-mile loop.
Take a picture of me, begs the sign. I did. And I did the purple, 12-mile loop. open_in_full   info

I absolutely loved this hike.


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What I didn't love was that I had already done five miles or so of walking before I got to the trailhead, and that I got there fairly late in the day. I really would have loved having more time to take in the views and take my time, and to have felt a bit more fresh while doing it.


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But, I figured I was well-equipped to head off anyway. The trails were popular and well-marked, and the bottom end of the trail, i.e. where I expected to be around sunset was a beach with a nearby road.

If things were too late and too treacherous, I could try thumbing a lift, or proceeding back via roadways. I mean there were lots of people around.


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Take for example this "fern canyon" area, popular with the Instagram set, and quite popular when I was walking through near the end of the day.

This was a good place to wash my muddy feet, and an area that would have been nice to explore more, just so I could suss whether I was right in calling it "overrated." 😉


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This 'ere is the #1 place to pose for a picture in the park.
This 'ere is the #1 place to pose for a picture in the park. open_in_full   info

Alas, I moved towards the parking lot, and onto the beach, which I hoped would be passable.


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I had hoped for some nice beach sunset time, but alas, I couldn't even see the sun through the fog. Just footprints of those who came before me...


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I navigated around most of the large pools of water, left behind from high tides, and stuck relatively closely to the shoulder so that I could hopefully tell when the time would come to exit the beach and connect with the Miner's Ridge Trail.

Fortunately, the campground was easy to spot, and I meandered through, took a bathroom break, and considered my options.

Night was falling, but the moon was bright and I felt energetic and ready to continue.

Not long before this hike, I had done a hike long past dusk somewhere around Issaquah with a friend, and found it to be... actually not unpleasant.

On that date, the moonlight was enough to do most of the work of illuminating the trail. However, once I entered the forest, it was clear to me that I was under the cover of pitch black darkness.

But, it was also clear to me that I had done well to upgrade my headlamp to a brighter one. (Poor illumination in lava caves will convince ya to do that!)

My headlamp was roughly equivalent to a 180 watt incandescent lightbulb, and it lit the way forward beautifully and reliably for the rest of my hike back.

I reduced it to the lowest setting that still gave me a good view of rocks, roots, and mud.

And I figured, why not try and snap a couple of lousy pictures while I was at it. Headlamp illumination FTW?!


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As I got towards the end of the trail, I could hear some hikers in the distance behind me. Somehow, I wasn't the last one to finish.

But, I was finished.

Moonlight through clouds at the edge of the forest.
Moonlight through clouds at the edge of the forest. open_in_full   info

At the nearby Elk Prairie Campground, I pitched my tent, crawled inside, and promptly fell asleep.