Beautiful Hike in Redwoods
This is a great trail to venture upon to get up close and personal with the world's largest trees while learning a thing or two after reading the nature plaques interspersed along the way.
The Prairie Creek Nature Trail begins behind the Prairie Creek Visitor Center building. You will soon notice a sign that offers a myriad of trail choices. Go right and follow the one that points the way to Elk Prairie Campground. You will cross a little bridge and then see the sign for the Nature Trail, showing you to go left. From here on out, just follow the Nature Trail sign. You will be presented with MANY other trail options along the way, but just stay on track with the Nature Trail for this journey. You can check out the other trails on the way back.
I recommend the Nature Trail simply by its shear beauty. The forest on this route is absolutely stunning. There is a lightness to the forest on this trail with patches of sun filtering through the trees, making the journey magical. The trail climbs high up a cliff, providing a bird's eye view down to gurgling Prairie Creek. Speaking of birds, you are likely to hear many different birds chirping away, but the trees are so very tall that the likelihood of actually seeing any of the audible birds is minuscule. Congratulate yourself if you actually see a feathered friend in this forest of vastness.
Along the trail, you may choose to read the informative plaques that dot the way. One of the plaques tells you to stop where your standing and pick up a leaf and smell it. Okay, I did. Ahh....bay leaf! Made me want to cook some spaghetti right then and there.
Right as you get really into this trail, things get a little weird. It sort of just putters out, right in the middle of the forest. The trail ends at a bridge that just isn't there. Apparently the bridge has been out for some time and this part of the trail is just abandoned. I turned around and hiked back. I've since looked online to see what is up with this trail, and this is what the forest website describes:
The Nature Trail originally followed Prairie Creek from the Visitor Center to the south end of the campground, effectively a southern extension of the Prairie Creek Trail. With the destruction of the a bridge across Prairie Creek, the southern two-thirds of the trail has long been abandoned and is now overgrown. The northern third of the loop remains and can be hiked in summertime, using a seasonal bridge to cross the creek.
The trail briefly emerges from the forest and passes through streamside vegetation for a few steps, then plunges back into impressive redwoods and begins a climb that's surprisingly steep for a nature trail. High above the creek, the trees are noticably smaller. Soon the trail descends back into the big trees, leveling out at a trail intersection. To your right is the abandoned southern portion of the Nature Trail, which climbs another steep hillside and descends back to the creek through some impressive redwoods, then disappears in a jumble of fallen trees and overgrown vegetation. Skip this trail and continue straight, following a sign that says "Summer Trail / Campfire Center / (Summer only)".
The trail crosses the creek on a footbridge that's installed when the water is low. The creek at this point is about three feet deep during the summer and deeper in the winter.
Once across the footbridge, go left toward the Revelation Trail. Stay left at each of the next two intersections as well. You'll walk a short section of the Revelation Trail, a short loop with a trailside cable to guide visually-impaired visitors. The second left will put you on the Redwood Access Trail. There are some large trees on this side of the creek but, perhaps due to heavy trail use, the forest in this area is a bit of a disappointment, lacking the lush, stately, and ancient look that it has across the creek.
The trail emerges next to the visitor center.
So, in essence this can be a loop trail, summer only.
This hike is listed as One-Way.
When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.