by Mario Vaden
Damnation Creek trailhead is located along Hy. 101 about 8 miles south of Crescent City's Crescent Beach, near mile marker 16. Usually there has been a trail sign, but 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. For hiking in general, the trail can be a lot of fun. For photography, there it doesn't lend much to composition aside from seasonal Rhododendrons (if they bloom) and sun passing through fog.
The beginning of the hike has a few big coast redwoods, but nothing huge. I wouldn't call any stretch of this hike spectacular for sizeable redwoods. There are a good number of Douglas fir, and although the coast redwoods have larger girth, I think the Doug firs may be as old or older. The first part of the hike has enough traffic sound that it could be described as traffic noise, especially from the large trucks. A lot of this place reminds me of new or second growth. There is an above average number of burned-out stumps and trunks as the hike begins.
Image: One of the few big redwoods at the uphill end of Damnation Creek trail
Damnation Creek trail is about 4 miles long. The entire hike to the ocean and back is over 1000 ft. drop down in elevation. It's a partially vigorous hike with an eventual destination of the Pacific ocean, with more spruce toward the end. Part way down, the trail crosses a coastal trail which is the historic coast highway abandoned 1935. The trail ends where Damnation Creek empties at the ocean, 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 one version how Damnation Creek got the name.
Image: May - June, Rhododendrons may be ready for photography
Although James Irvine trail in Prairie Creek offers much more for coast redwoods, Damnation Creek trail shares the ocean destination. But if I visit Damnation Creek trail, it's generally because the variations of fog and sunlight are often good for photography. Highway 101 and this trail see a lot of fog and rays throughout the year. But you never know what you will get even with a weather forecast. And the good photos I see from this area are generally aimed upward.
If Rhododendron blossoms are what you seek, some years are sparse and others abundant. You need to call the parks in advance to ask. If fog and mist among the forest is what you want, check the weather. but repetative visits may be what that shot takes. Provided you are not pressed for time and want awesome redwood photos, consider James Irvine or Brown Creek trails in Prairie Creek, or Stout Grove and Howland Hill Rd. in Jedediah Smith park.
Honestly, I find myself going to Damnation Creek trail less and less as time passes, realizing other trails and groves provide so much more for my hiking and photography preference.
If you are stoked for some exercise, redwoods and ocean bundled together, Damnation Creek trail puts them all together.