Damnation Creek Trail

Damnation Creek Trail

Redwood National Park

Type: Out and back hike
Distance: 4.2 miles (6.8 km)
Cumulative Elevation Gain/Loss: 1694 feet (516 m)
Date Visited: July 22, 2017
Damnation Creek Trail Map (KTNP)

After checking out of Jedediah Smith Campground, we drove along route 101 to a trail with an awkward name. Damnation Creek Trail is in Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, part of Redwood National & State Parks. It’s a well-known hike, and considered one of the best in the park. The trail descends 2.1 miles through redwood trees, and across Damnation Creek, to a coastal rocky beach. It’s both a diverse and difficult hike.

Descending Damnation Creek Trail

When we arrived at the small parking area along route 101 around 1pm, there were only a few spots available. As we started on the trail, we saw a sign that warned that the trail dropped 1000 feet. After an initial ascent of about 100 feet, we began a steady descent. And since this trail is an out-and-back, we would have to hike back up.

Redwood: Damnation Creek Trailhead Sign
Damnation Creek Trailhead Sign. The notice about the landslide doesn’t affect this section of trail.
Redwood: Damnation Creek Trees
Damnation Creek Trail weaves through large coastal redwoods
Redwood: Hugging a Tree on Damnation Creek Trail
Travis hugs one of the many coastal redwoods along Damnation Creek Trail

Soon Damnation Creek Trail intersected with the Coastal Trail, and we started descending more steeply. A sign near the intersection read “bridge failure,” and referred to a bridge near the end of the trail. We had spoken to a NPS intern, who told us that hikers had been crossing the bridge, even though the NPS didn’t recommend it.

We hit some switchbacks and descended into fog. The redwoods become more sparse as we headed toward the coast, and we could see the ocean peeking through the trees. The trail is very narrow, steep, and wet in spots – so some sections of the trail are eroded.

Redwood: Damnation Creek Trail & Coastal Trail Intersection
Intersection with the Coastal Trail
Redwood: Eroded Damnation Creek Trail
Parts of the trail are badly eroded
Redwood: Foggy Descent on Damnation Creek Trail
Looking out at the fog as we descend
Redwood: Damnation Creek Trail Bridge
We crossed this narrow bridge along the way. This isn’t the one that was closed…as far as we know.

The Coast

As we neared the coast, we arrived at a wooden bridge with orange plastic webbing. Was this the bridge that was closed? We weren’t sure, since it didn’t appear to be blocked off. I thought about turning around and going back the way we came, but we decided to cross one at a time instead. The creek was just a few feet below…but this may have been a bad life decision. The trail led through tall grass and wildflowers to a view of the ocean, where we took photos of the coast shrouded in heavy fog.

Redwood: Damnation Creek Bridge
Bad life decision?
Redwood: Coastline Damnation Creek
Almost to the coast…
Redwood: Viewpoint Above Coast Damnation Creek
The coast from a narrow viewpoint
Redwood: Bluff Lettuce on Damnation Creek Trail
Flowering Bluff Lettuce (Dudleya farinosa), a type of succulent, growing on the cliffside

Precariously steep steps carved into the side of the hill led to a stream, and finally a rocky beach. We explored and took photos, particularly of the rocks in the ocean, which reminded us of Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach, Oregon. Under the viewpoint we had come from, there was a small passageway that led to the south side of the beach.

It was time for a late lunch, so we found a spot with a great view. The other groups of beach-goers slowly disappeared, and we eventually had some solitude to relax and enjoy the beach. As we ate, the fog lifted and the weather became hot and sunny.

Redwood: Stairs Down to the Coast on Damnation Creek Trail
Stone steps down to the coast
Redwood: Hole Under Viewpoint
A passage under the viewpoint allows beach access on the northern and southern sides
Redwood: Damnation Creek Coastline Left Side
After the fog lifted, we had a gorgeous view of the coastline
Redwood: Flowers Growing on Cliff at Damnation Creek Coast
Colorful flowers, including bluff lettuce, growing on cliffs near the coast
Redwood: Damnation Creek Coastline Right View
A view of the beach to the north

Ascending Damnation Creek Trail

You might be saying the name of the trail as you ascend the steep incline. The return hike was difficult for us at first, but once we got past the eroded, narrow part of the trail, it was just a moderate uphill hike. As we hiked up, we passed a sign saying we were leaving a tsunami zone…good to know!

We had hoped to hike some other trails in the park, but were pretty tired. Our consolation prize was heading back into Crescent City for dinner. On the way, we discussed how much we had enjoyed the varied terrain and plant life along Damnation Creek Trail. It turned out to be one of our favorites – despite its elevation gain and quirky name.

Redwood: Leaving Tsunami Zone Damnation Creek
As we ascended, we left the tsunami zone. Yay!
Redwood: Re-entering Redwood Forest on Damnation Creek Trail
Re-entering the redwood forest
Redwood: Damnation Creek Trail Switchback
Switchbacks…the second time around

Damnation Creek Trail

Damnation Creek Trail Map (1:9,000)

Date: July 22, 2017
Out and back hike
Total Distance:
4.2 miles (6.8 km) round trip
Cumulative Elevation Gain/Loss:
1694 feet (516 m)
Time: 4 hours, which includes lunch and photo breaks
Trail Markings: Trail signs at intersections
Difficulty: Strenuous
Crowds: Moderate
Water: Beach access, and some streams near the coast
Highlights: Ocean, rocky beach, streams, large trees, wildlife
Note: Please check with NPS before you hike this route regarding the bridge closure
Directions to Damnation Creek Trailhead: Google Maps Directions

Trail Directions

  • Mile 0.0 – From the parking lot, take Damnation Creek Trail. The trail will ascend briefly before descending.
  • Mile 0.5 – At the intersection with the Coastal Trail, keep right on Damnation Creek Trail.
  • Mile 0.6 – Damnation Creek Trail intersects with the Coastal Trail again. Follow the sign for Damnation Creek Trail.
  • Mile 2.1 – Hopefully you made it to the coast! Enjoy, then head back the way you came.
  • Mile 4.2 – Back at the parking lot.



Elevation Graph

Interactive Map

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