We had been reading a lot of different trail ratings for the north coast area in order to plan our time. But I don’t always agree with the available ratings. Sometimes a trail can be rated high, and might be beautiful, but not really be a good hike. And likewise, a trail can be rated low for the general public, but turn out to be a really great trail. I have hiked countless trails all over California that provided me with what I consider to be fantastic hikes that were either rated low, or even totally neglected, without even being rated at all. Actually, I like the fact that some of my favorite local trails around the bay area are all but ignored by the public. From my experience, if you want to find the best hikes, sometimes you have to be willing to explore and draw your own conclusions. Once in a while I like to play hunches. The Lost Man Creek Trail was one these hunchs that I wanted to explore on our first day. It’s rated low, but studying the map, I could see that it climbed up to a high ridge within the old growth territory, which may have provided a good view point. I was also interested because of the history of the trail. In 1982, Redwood National Park was dedicated as an internationally recognized World Heritage Site . The dedication ceremony took place along this trail. Speakers at the 1982 ceremony dedicated Redwood National Park as a World Heritage legacy site “whose deterioration or disappearance is a harmful impoverishment to the heritage of all nations of the world”. The trail was once a logging road, and as we found out, it still is, even though the areas within the park boundaries are now protected and officially revered the world over.
The trailhead begins at the parking area for Lost Man Creek picnic area near the north end of Redwood National Park. There is a signed turnoff from highway 101 about 1 mile south of the Newton B. Drury Parkway. The unpaved entrance road is in good repair, and did not present a problem for our non off-road car. The picnic area is very picturesque and peaceful, thickly wooded, with Lost Man Creek flowing right past. Not much water flowing this late in the season, but still nice enough to have a soothing babbling quality. The creek is lined with moss covered maple and alders, with a bed of ferns underneath. The maple leaves are just beginning to turn. We started up the trail and began seeing some very impressive old growth redwoods while the trail climbed gently, following closely to Lost Man Creek with the trickling water, and bird sounds as a backdrop. The trail is wide, with strong wide bridges, and shows obvious signs of maintenance, we assumed as a fire road. This would make an excellent biking route. The under growth is rich and green, mostly huckleberry and ferns typical of this area. We spotted at least 5 different varieties of ferns including five-fingered, lady ferns, bracken, and sword ferns. About 2.5 miles in, the trail becomes steeper, and there are a few switchbacks. The forest begins changing, showing more sitka spruce as you climb higher. If the whole trail was as good as the first 3 miles, I would rate this trail as a 4 out of 5, knocking off only because it’s not a single track, and doesn’t have any views. But after that, you begin to find development indicating that the road is still used as a logging road. You eventually climb up above all the old growth, and the character of the trial changes to that of a well used dirt logging road. You could hike this trail 11 miles eventually connecting with Bald Hills Road in the national park. But from what we could see, we decided not to go further. The trail had lost it’s qualities as a pristine nature trail, and changed into a legacy of logging. We decided to turn around and head back enjoying the lower section before moving on. So in the final analysis, I agree with the original ratings we read which rated the trail low. But the first 3 miles are worth exploring. I’ll leave the rest to the cyclists, and we headed off to see the Lady Bird Johnson Grove.