by Mario Vaden
Damnation Creek trailhead is located along Hy. 101 about 8 miles south of the Crescent City's Crescent Beach, or, near mile marker 16. Usually there has been a trail sign when I have gone there, but even when there is one, it's set back a little from the highway. Look for sizeable turnout on the west side, big enough for a dozen vehicles.
It really has some beauty. But whevever I think of this hiking trail, the distinct stereotypes of "hikers" and "photographers" comes to mind.
Photo: Redwoods at the uphill end of Damnation Creek trail
Damnation Creek trail is about 4 miles long. If you do the entire hike to the ocean and back, that's over 1000 ft. in elevation down, and the same 1000 ft. back up again. It's a partially vigorous hike through redwood forest with an eventual destination of the Pacific ocean after passing through some spruce. About 1/2 way down, the trail crosses a coastal trail, which is the historic coast highway abandoned in 1935. The trail ends right about where Damnation Creek empties at the ocean, and close to where explorer Jedediah Smith and his party camped, June 1828.
Apparently, settlers in the 1800s had a brutal time getting through the area, and that's a version of how Damnation Creek got it's name.
Photo: May - June, Rhododendrons may be ready for photography near Damnation Creek trail
Although James Irvine trail in Prairie Creek offers more distance of coast redwoods, Damnation Creek trail shares a little bit of the panoramic views.
But if I visit Damnation Creek trail, it's generally because the variations of fog, mist and sunlight are really good for photography. You never quite know what you are going to get, even with a weather forecast. But Hy. 101 and this trail see a lot of fog and rays of light, both morning, afternoon and evening, through most of the year.
If Rhododendron blossoms are what you are after, some years are sparse and others are abundant. You need to call the parks in advance to ask, if that's your primary desire. If fog and mist among the forest is what you want for photography, feel free to check the weather, but repetive visits and hit or miss hiking seems to be what it takes.
Provided you are not pressed for time, and want some awesome grove or panoramic redwood stands photos, consider James Irvine or Brown Creek trails in Prairie Creek, or Stout Grove and Howland Hill Rd. in Jedediah Smith redwoods. Or even Cal-Barrel Rd., i Prairie Creek, which you can hike even if the gate is locked, as it often is.
If you are stoked for some exercise, redwoods and ocean bundled together ... here you go.