One of the best hikes in the redwoods is this serene, quiet loop in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. The Prairie Creek – Foothill Trail Loop is a great hike to do if you want to stretch your legs on a road trip along California’s coast, and it’s an easy trail perfect for anyone!
This guide will tell you everything you need to hike the Prairie Creek – Foothill Trail Loop, including what to bring, how to prepare, and more!
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About the Prairie Creek – Foothill Loop Trail
Here’s what you need to know before you hit the trail!
Prairie Creek – Foothill Loop Hike Stats
Distance: 2.4 miles (loop)
Elevation Gain: 95 feet
Leave No Trace on the Prairie Creek – Foothill Loop Trail
Anytime you’re outdoors, whether you’re a beginner hiker or an experienced adventurer, it’s essential that you practice Leave No Trace (LNT). LNT is a set of seven principles that help us understand our impact on the outdoors – because while we usually have good intentions, the environment is more fragile than we think, and one snap-second decision can cause damage to the environment that will take the earth years, even decades to repair.
This trail is fairly popular – and while I firmly believe everyone deserves to enjoy these amazing spots, do your part to make sure it stays clean and beautiful!
Leave No Trace means enjoying the outdoors without disrupting nature, as much as it’s possible to do so. Here are the 7 principles of LNT, and how they apply when you hike the Prairie Creek – Foothill Loop Trail!
- Plan ahead and prepare – read this guide, make sure you know have the right gear, and be prepared for mud and rain.
- Travel and camp on durable surfaces – stay on the trail to avoid trampling grasses and plants! Sections of it can be muddy, but walk through the mud, not around it to preserve the plant life.
- Dispose of waste properly – don’t leave trash, or anything else, behind. Pack it out!
- Leave what you find – I know it can be tempting to take a cool rock or leaf, but leave these things where they belong! Animals often use these, and if everyone takes one, the trail won’t be as pretty.
- Minimize campfire impacts – no campfires are allowed on the trail.
- Respect wildlife – avoid feeding or approaching birds or any other animals you might see.
- Be considerate of other visitors – yield to other hikers, and be respectful – no speakers or loud music.
The Best Time to Hike the Prairie Creek – Foothill Loop Trail
The most popular time to hike this trail is in the summer, but I think the best time to hike it is spring, or fall! The Prairie Creek -Foothill Loop Trail is somewhat popular, but in the off season, there will be fewer people around, so while you’ll definitely need to be prepared for rain and it might be a little chillier, having the views to yourself is worth it! Be aware that this hike gets muddy during the rainy season.
For more information about the best time to hike the trail in the redwoods, be sure to check out this guide to Redwood National and State Parks!
What to Bring to Hike the Prairie Creek – Foothill Loop Trail
When you hike the Prairie Creek – Foothill Loop, here’s what you’ll need to bring!
This hike is pretty easy and not very technical, so you don’t need hardcore hiking boots for it. But, the trail does get pretty muddy during the rainy season, so boots can be helpful!
Rain boots are another great option for muddy or wet conditions, and are definitely the easiest to clean.
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PNW weather is known for being unpredictable, and it’s always best to wear layers when hiking. It rains often in the redwoods, so be prepared!
The Marmot Minimalist Jacket is a great lightweight, waterproof option. The RVCA Meyer Packable Anorack Jacket is a cute windbreaker , and folds up nice and small! For added warmth and layering, a Patagonia fleece is always a good addition.
When I’m bringing my camera gear, my favorite backpack is the Alex Strohl Mountain Light. It’s definitely the best camera bag out there for hiking with photo gear. If you don’t need storage for camera stuff, I recommend an Osprey Hikelite. If you aren’t bringing very much and just want a day bag, I love my Topo Designs Y-Pack for carrying everyday essentials!
Especially when you’re hiking or exploring outdoors, it’s important to stay hydrated! Single use water bottles are, of course, terrible for the environment, so avoid that and bring a reusable one!
For hiking, the CamelBak water reservoirs are convenient and easy – they can fit in your hiking backpack for water on the go. Nalgene water bottles are great for day to day, and if you want an insulated water bottle to keep your water cold and refreshing, Hydro Flasks are the best!
Prairie Creek – Foothill Loop Trailhead
The Prairie Creek – Foothill Loop trailhead is located at the Prairie Creek Visitor Center. The big parking lot is easy to find, and there are bathrooms at the visitor center! You’ll see a big sign that signifies the trailhead, with several different hikes on it. You’ll go to the right of the sign, where you’ll see a wooden bridge that begins the Prairie Creek – Foothill Loop.
This will take you clockwise on the loop – you can definitely do it the other way, but to go counterclockwise you’d need to walk across the road, so the trail is a bit harder to find.
Prairie Creek – Foothill Loop Trailhead Coordinates: 41.36406,-124.02287
Hiking the Prairie Creek – Foothill Loop Trail
Once you’re ready to start hiking, here’s what you can expect on the trail!
There isn’t much elevation gain on the hike – it’s an easy, flat trail that is perfect for just enjoying the forest. The trail is pretty easy to follow, but there are some spots where it splits off into different hikes, so a map is helpful!
Wander through the trees and enjoy the serene forest, and when you get to a sign for the Karl Knapp trail, follow the arrow that points you to “Big Tree.”
This part of the trail is the best – super quiet, and I only saw a few people while I hiked! There are a few spots where you’ll walk under fallen redwoods that have been carved out.
Keep walking, and once you’re nearly at the top of the loop (the point where you turn to cross the parkway), there will be another sign – again, follow the one that says “Big Tree.” You can also turn around here – the rest of the loop was more popular and in my opinion, less scenic, so feel free to do this as an out and back trail instead! However, continuing the loop will take you to said Big Tree.
You’ll walk across the Newton B. Drury Parkway, and see the Big Tree – which has a sign and a platform around it to let you know it’s the one! This is where you’ll see the most people.
After the Big Tree, continue on the trail until you cross the parkway again, and you’ll be back at the visitor’s center!
Where to Stay Near The Prairie Creek – Foothill Loop Trail
You can turn your hike into a little getaway, and stay somewhere close by! Here are my favorite options for places to stay close to this hike.
Glamping, Cabins, & Yurts
You can even get $10 off your first booking here!
A Camper van
With a camper van, you get a vehicle and a place to sleep, all in one! This is my favorite way to travel, and you can rent a fully decked out van with Escape Campervans. Another option is to use Outdoorsy, which is more like Airbnb – you can rent vans, RVs, and trailers from people who live nearby!
Find a Campsite
Whether you car camp, tent camp, or rent a tiny home on wheels, The Dyrt is the best way to find campsites! There are some options for campsites close by. Just a short drive from the Prairie Creek – Foothills Loop trailhead, you’ll find national forest land – which means you can camp for free!
An Oceanfront Home
While you’re exploring the redwoods, the towns nearby where you can find places to stay are Crescent City, Klamath, and Orick. Here are some options for places to stay close to the Prairie Creek – Foothills Loop Trail!
For more places to stay near the hike, look around this map:
More Adventures Near The Prairie Creek – Foothill Loop Trail
There are plenty more hikes in Redwood National & State Parks! The Damnation Creek Trail is my absolute favorite, but check out this guide for a complete list. Once you’re done exploring the redwoods, you can continue south on a road trip of the California Coast to see some amazing beaches! The remote Lost Coast is a must see if you want to explore some undeveloped coastline.
If you’re heading north to the Oregon Coast, Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor is close to the border of California, and some of the best hikes include the trail to Secret Beach and the iconic Natural Bridges!
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