A 300-foot tall rocky promontory at the southwestern edge of Trinidad town, Trinidad Head shelters Trinidad Bay and has served as the site for a lighthouse since 1871. A 30-minute trail from a parking lot shared with Trinidad State Beach leads up and around the Head, offering picturesque views of Trinidad Bay and the fishermen's pier. A short spur trail halfway around on the west side leads to a rocky outcrop with panoramic vistas north and south. At the top of the Head, one can glimpse the lighthouse from a small platform. Nearby stands a concrete replica of a cross first planted in 1775 by Spanish naval explorers claiming Trinidad for the Spanish Crown. On December 31, 1913, a rogue wave in a fierce storm broke over the Trinidad Lighthouse perched 196 feet above sea level, one of the highest waves on record. But the intrepid lighthouse keeper had the beacon back in operation in half an hour.
Indian (Old Home) Beach
From the Trinidad Memorial Lighthouse (a replica of the original that still operates on Trinidad Head) at the corner of Trinity and Edwards Streets, a trail of some 230 steps leads down to Indian Beach. Known to the local Yurok tribe as Old Home Beach, this secluded stretch offers intimate views of Trinidad Bay and its dramatic offshore seastacks. This beach is especially lovely on mornings when the rising mists and sun gradually reveal its glory. The Yurok tribe lived on the hillside above Old Home Beach for hundreds of years prior to the founding of Trinidad in a village known as Tsurai. Living in redwood long houses like those at Sumeg Village in Patrick's Point State Park (see under Patrick's Point), the village was occupied until the early twentieth century and tribal members still live in and around the Trinidad Rancheria.
College Cove and Elk Head
About a mile north of the town of Trinidad on Stagecoach Road, a gravel entrance on the west side of the road leads to a parking lot. The trail winds through conifer forests till it reaches a path to the left leading down to College Cove. The beach, much of which is accessible only at low tide, features lovely views of Trinidad Head, Pewetole Island and Flatiron Rock, home to large colonies of Common Murres. Back on the main trail heading west, several south-facing overlooks offer the best perspective from which to watch a giant blowhole on the west side of Pewetole Island. When the surf is up, plumes of spray shoot skyward well above the height of the island, then evaporate into mist before another plume replaces them. It's a spectacle that rivals Yellowstone's Old Faithful.
Back on the trail west- and northward, the path leads to a giant flat rock projecting into the turbulent waters below and providing sweeping views of the western escarpment of Trinidad Head and the bluffs to the north leading to Patrick's Point.
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Patrick's Point State Park
Five miles north of Trinidad on Patrick's Point Drive, Patrick's Point State Park is a jewel of the California park system. Two giant rocks, Patrick's Point and Wedding Rock, project into the sea and offer stunning views north and south. Extensive campgrounds offer overnight camping for tents and RV's and a small visitor's center at the entrance to the park. Ceremonial Rock, inland from the water, provides another perspective on the wild meadows that grace the park's interior.
This two-mile trail follows an old Yurok native path along the cliffs overlooking the Pacific between Palmer's Point and Agate Beach. Affording spectacular views north and south, it winds among salmonberries, salal, Sitka spruce, Douglas fir and red alder. Wild iris and other wildflowers abound in the spring. Spur trails head west to Palmer's Point, Patrick's Point, Wedding Rock, Abalone Point, and other rocky outcrops.
Midpoint of the Rim Trail, Wedding Rock includes stone steps and ledges to facilitate climbing its rough-hewn face. The rock offers a stunning setting for weddings. A hundred years ago the park's first caretaker and his bride took their vows atop Wedding Rock and dozens of couples a year since that time have tied the knot with friends and passing whales as their witnesses. For wedding reservations, call 707-677-3110.
At the southern boundary of the park Palmer's Point opens up into a wide treeless expanse with long views north and south. Barking seals and sea lions punctuate the sounds of surf and soaring gulls.
Sumeg Yurok Village
To the right of the visitor center a short trail leads through the woods past a dugout canoe to a reconstructed replica of a traditional Yurok village on the site of a former native fishing camp. The village was constructed largely from split redwood planks by Yurok tribal members using modern tools and traditional materials. It includes family houses with small round entrances, a sweat lodge, and a dance house. A Yurok native plant nursery sits adjacent to the village.
From the parking lot of the campground at the north end of the Rim Trail a switchback path leads down to Agate Beach, a two-mile stretch of sloping beach studded with agates, jade, jasper and other semi-precious stones. These stones are most easily found at low tides. Beachcombers must be especially alert to hazardous rogue waves, which have taken the lives of children and others when the surf surges beyond its usual reach. The undertow is fierce along this steeply sloped stretch of beach. At the north end of Agate Beach lies Big Lagoon County Park.
Just north of the Patrick's Point exit off U.S. 101, a poorly marked turn to the left (west) leads to another turn (better marked) to the right and on to the Big Lagoon parking lot and campgrounds. From here one can hike north along a spit for several miles with the placid lagoon on one's right and thunderous surf on one's left. Driftwood, agate and jade abound. Swimming in the lagoon is ideal during summer months except for late summer, when toxic algae blooms sometimes force closure to swimming (signs are posted to this effect). A great place to kayak and stand-up paddleboard. Kayaks and paddleboards can be rented at Big Lagoon from KayakZak (http://www.kayakzak.com/services.php) during the summer months. Here too one must be alert to rogue waves on the steeply sloping beach. The county maintains an overnight campground along the eastern shore of Big Lagoon.
Across from a red schoolhouse along U.S. 101, a road to the left heading north leads through woods and meadows to Dry Lagoon. Roosevelt Elk, which graze in open meadows near the highway, are sometimes found in numbers on the right side of the road to Dry Lagoon (see photos below). A rare treat, they must be viewed from a respectful distance. Don't try to find the lagoon in Dry Lagoon. It has long since dried up, but the beach is still lovely.
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Seven miles north of Big Lagoon on U.S. 101, Stone Lagoon is a smaller but equally lovely jewel. The main entrance is by the highway but there is another entrance on the left a little ways north that offers better access to the spit dividing the lagoon from the open ocean. KayakZak maintains a year-round kayak rental operation at the highway entrance to Stone Lagoon. There is an overnight campsite accessible only by boat on the far side of the lagoon from the highway. Kayaks, stand-up paddleboards and other equipment can be rented year-round from KayakZak and launched both from the highway main entrance and the spit entrance.
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Redwood National Park
Nineteen miles north of Trinidad, Redwood National Park extends all the way to the Oregon border and encompasses three state parks -- Prairie Creek Redwoods, Jedediah Smith, and Del Norte Coastal, as well as extensive prairies and oak woodlands.
Prairie Creek Redwoods
Easy hikes: Tall Trees (1 mile loop), Lady Bird Johnson (1.4 mile loop).
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Heading north on U.S. 101, take a left on Davison Road. Elk are often found grazing near the turnoff. Eight miles of winding dirt road through redwoods and north along Gold Bluffs Beach take you to a parking lot just short of Fern Canyon. Several creek crossings bring you to vertical walls graced with delicate ferns, including maidenhair and five-finger, that tremble in the breeze and sparkle in the misty atmosphere. A primeval setting, Fern Canyon and other sites in Prairie Creek served as backdrops for Stephen Spielberg's Jurassic Park II: The Lost Worlds.
Jedediah Smith State Park
Highlight of Jedediah Smith is access to the Smith River, a brilliant blue and fast-running river with a rock bottom that gives it a translucent glow. Too cold for all but wading, it is the last remaining "wild" (undammed) river in California.
The most popular (and smallest) beach in the Trinidad area, defined by long views south down Clam Beach and bisected by the mouth of Little River, the southernmost reach of Sitka spruce that stretch all the way to Alaska.
A small, lovely beach along Scenic Drive between Moonstone and Trinidad that features dramatic views of seastacks both on- and offshore. Just south is a parking lot and separate entrance to a narrow trail extending along a rocky outcrop to high views south to Camel Rock and north towards Trinidad.
A small, secluded, clothing-optional beach just north of Luffenholtz on Scenic Drive.
Camel Rock/Houda Point
A favorite surfing point just north of Moonstone Beach and accessible from there at low tides. Camel Rock is a dramatic double-humped outcropping that is reachable for just a few hours a few times a year at very low tides and is occupied by a variety of highly territorial seabirds. A companion rock nearer to shore features a dramatic 80-foot deep cave on the ocean side that too is only accessible during very low tides. Exercise caution in entering to be sure seas are low and calm enough not to flood the cave. Acoustics inside the high-celinged amphitheater at the front of the cave are ideal for singing and chanting. The perspective form inside the cave perfectly frames Camel Rock and the open seas beyond.
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A miles-long stretch of broad open beach south of Moonstone about 11 miles north of Arcata and 3 miles south of Trinidad. Great for horseback-riding and clam-digging during very low tides. Long vistas north and south, including Trinidad Head and the town of Trinidad.
Trinidad State Beach
Just to the north of Trinidad Head, Trinidad State Beach is also just across from the pier, bay and harbor. Great views of tree-topped Pewetole Island and a small arch at the north end with views of College Cove. Grandmother Rock seen from the south gazes benignly out to sea.
Trinidad Bay and Pier
A jewel in Trinidad's crown and a functioning fishing harbor sheltered by Trinidad Head. A newly reconstructed pier serves fishers and crabbers year-round and the Seascape Restaurant serves hardy, traditional fare, including its signature clam chowder, at the pier entrance. Kayakers launch from a pocket beach adjacent to a mechanized boat launch and paddle around the Head and north past Trinidad State Beach. The bay is studded with dramatic seastacks and flat rocks populated by sea lions, seals and a variety of seabirds, including friendly pelicans. Dolphins, known locally as harbor porpoises, are sometimes sighted, as are river otters. In spring grey whales are sometimes found within or at the outer edges of the bay, a particular treat for kayakers.