Distance: 4.5 miles (7.2 km)
Cumulative Elevation Gain/Loss: 880 feet (268 m)
Date Visited: July 17, 2017
Lyons Ranch Trail Map (KTNP)
Towering redwood trees. That’s what you think of when you come to Redwood National & State Parks. Our first hike in the park though? It would feature no redwoods. Lyons Ranch, a National Historic Site, has an easy 4.5 mile loop trail and features wide open prairies, dramatic views, and historic structures. You can see more than just trees at Redwood N&SP.
Lyons Ranch Trail is in a remote section of the park called Bald Hills, near the park’s southeast border. It takes time to get there, but it’s worth it. Native American tribes like the Chilula, Hupa, and Yurok originally lived in the area. These tribes deliberately set fire to the surrounding oak woodlands to enhance the growth of acorns, berries, and grasses. The resulting wide-open prairies eventually welcomed settlers and their sheep ranches.
Jonathan Lyons was one of the first European-American settlers in the Bald Hills area. He and his wife, Amelia, who was of Hupa descent, started sheep ranching here in 1873. The land was ranched for three generations, until the 1960s when it was sold for its timber. Today, the area is still largely untouched with various historical buildings and structures remaining.
Crescent City, California
The day before we arrived in Redwood N&SP, we drove down the Pacific coast from Portland, Oregon to Crescent City, California. We could write a whole post about how awesome the Oregon coast was – but this is a blog about National Parks. So, we recommend you check it out yourself.
Once we entered Redwood N&SP, our first stop was Hiouchi Visitor Center, near Jedediah Smith Campground. Here, we signed up for a free kayaking trip that the park runs. Next, we drove south on highway 101, which traverses the northern half of the park. Construction backup and eerie fog slowed our trip down a bit. However, a few scenic overlooks with spectacular coastal views made the drive much more interesting.
Bald Hills Road
To get to the trailhead, we continued driving south on highway 101 and then turned onto Bald Hills Road. The road is a 2WD accessible road that runs on the east side of the federally managed Redwood National Park section of Redwood N&SP. Various trailheads like Tall Trees Grove and Dolason Prairie can also be accessed from Bald Hills Road. 17 miles from the start is the trailhead for Lyons Ranch.
After 6.7 miles, we stopped at an overlook of Redwood Creek. The overlook is a wide scenic view of Redwood Creek, where we backpacked later in our trip. It was cool to see it from higher up as we knew we’d be down there soon. We got back on the road, which turns from pavement to gravel. With the change comes gorgeous views of open prairies as the road winds its way through them.
The road is dusty and bumpy, but easy to drive on. As we drove we suddenly heard a loud roar and saw a giant logging truck coming toward us. We pulled over to the side as far as we could, as the truck raced past us. It’s dangerous, we really had to be careful and pull over as far as we could to let the truck go by. Be very cautious while driving this road!
Lyons Ranch Trailhead
We finally reached the trailhead after a long drive. It takes awhile to get here, so plan accordingly. Somewhat surprisingly – there weren’t any other cars in the parking lot. As we were gathering our gear, another car drove up and parked. Two people got out, snapped some photos of the views, and then hopped back in their car and left. Those were the only people that we’d see on the hike.
When deciding on which route to hike at Lyons Ranch, there are a few options. The main trail is Lyons Ranch Trail which is an out-and-back to the old Lyons barn and some other buildings. The Lyons Ranch area also has a series of intersecting old gravel roads. There’s a gate that prevents cars from getting on the road. We’d be making a reverse lollipop loop out of the trail and gravel roads.
To start, we went straight out of the gate, past the trailhead sign onto Lyons Ranch Trail. We were immediately greeted with dramatic vistas over prairies. In the distance are views of the rolling hills which makes for a nice dichotomy. It was sunny, warm, and clear – a great day for a hike.
Much of the trail is exposed to the sun, but after about 15 minutes we entered an area with oak woodland surrounding us. It’s a nice change, but soon we were back out on the prairie. A few simple signs that say “TRAIL” with an arrow guide us as we go, but the way is clear even without them. Growing alongside the trail are some pretty purple and pink wildflowers. If we were here in the spring or earlier in the summer, the area would be bursting with wildflowers!
At 1.6 miles into the hike, we saw a large barn in the distance. The area around it is the “Home Place,” the former residence of the Lyons family. Other than the barn, only two small bunkhouses remain. We approached the barn and looked around. We weren’t aware and didn’t see any obvious entrances, so we didn’t go in, but we later found out that visitors can enter the barn.
Further past the barn are the bunkhouses, which we did go in and explore while being respectful of what was there. Mostly old tools, soda cans, clothing and other odds and ends. Further beyond the bunkhouses looked to be an old outhouse, but we weren’t sure. I’m glad these structures still exist for us to look at, as they gave us an idea of what life was like at the time.
After taking a short break at a nearby picnic table, we headed back the way we came. Around 15 minutes later, we saw a fork in the road. To the left, Lyons Ranch Trail returns to the parking lot. To make this a loop hike, we headed right onto Ranch Road. There’s no signage, we just went by our map. But both roads are obvious, they’re not hidden. It’s the first intersection we encountered after turning around at the barn.
Ranch Road is a pleasant hike and features more shade and fewer views than Lyons Ranch Trail. Taking the road added about a mile of distance and 200 feet of elevation gain to our return route. It’s worth it for the views and historical buildings we saw.
We came upon a downed tree across the road. As we hopped over it, I wondered how much maintenance this trail gets. Soon, we saw another barn down the road. Except, it’s not technically a barn, it’s Long Ridge Sheep Shed. In the winter, sheep would be fed inside this building.
Approaching the shed, we took a quick peek inside, imagining how it was used. After satisfying our curiosity, we immediately turned left onto Long Ridge Road which leads back to the trailhead. Still no signage, but the route was easy to follow on our map.
Long Ridge Road
Long Ridge Road ascends sharply uphill, and this is the most strenuous part of the hike. As we hiked, we looked back and were greeted with great views of the shed and scenic landscape. Before long we looked to our left and could see Lyons Ranch Trail in the distance. We could see that the trail would meet up with Long Ridge Road soon. When it did, we arrived back at the parking lot.
This hike was a wonderful introduction to Redwood N&SP, even if it lacks redwood trees. As you hike this gravel road, you’ll be serenaded by birds and enjoy seasonal wildflowers. It’s pleasant and scenic with gorgeous prairie and mountain views. We recommend this trail, particularly since it’s so different from the rest of the park. And the hardest part about this hike is getting there.
Lyons Ranch Trail
Date Visited: July 17, 2017
Type: Reverse Lollipop Loop
Total Distance: 4.5 miles (7.2 km) round trip
Cumulative Elevation Gain/Loss: 880 feet (268 m)
Time: 2.5 hours hiking which includes photography breaks
Trail Markings: None besides a few simple wooden signs that said “TRAIL” with an arrow, but it’s easy to follow
Highlights: Views, history, wildlife
Note: Watch out for logging trucks on Bald Hills Road!
Directions to Parking: Google Maps Directions
- Mile 0.0 – Head straight, past the gate onto the road/trail ahead onto Lyons Ranch Trail.
- Mile 1.7 – You’ve arrived at the “Home Place.” A barn and two bunkhouses remain. Explore, then head back the way you came.
- Mile 2.3 – The trail forks here. To the left is Lyons Ranch Trail, where you came from. Take the right fork towards Ranch Road.
- Mile 3.7 – At the intersection of Ranch Road and Long View Road is Long View Sheep Shed. Go left onto Long View Road; Ranch Road continues to the right.
- Mile 4.1 – There is a faint road to the right here called High Prairie Road, but continue straight on Long View Road.
- Mile 4.5 – You’ve arrived back at the parking lot.
- Lighthouse Inn | 681 Highway 101 South, Crescent City, CA 95531
- Hiouchi Visitor Center | 1600 US-199, Crescent City, CA 95531
- DeMartin Picnic Area | 41.6034896, -124.1011377
- Lagoon Creek Picnic Area | 41.5936743, -124.1009537
- Redwood Creek Overlook | 41.2580432, -123.9981322
- Lyons Ranch Parking Area | 41.1474986,-123.8963249
- Lyons Ranch Barn | 41.136546, -123.913175
- Long Ridge Sheep Shed | 41.138709, -123.889121
- Lyons Ranch Historical Place Article (NPS)
- Bald Hills Visitor Guide (NPS)
- Lyons Ranch Cultural Landscapes Inventory, 2004 (NPS)
- Del Norte Triplicate Article About Lyons Family