One of Del Norte County's overlooked hiking gems, the Damnation Creek Trail offers visitors solitude among magnificent virgin coast redwoods and a scenic pathway to a nearly inaccessible stretch of rugged coastline. Located in Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park 8 miles south of Crescent City, the trail meanders through massive old-growth redwoods before plunging 1,000 feet to open up on Damnation Cove and the Pacific Ocean.
The Damnation Creek Trail begins on the ocean side of Highway 101 at a pullout located at mile marker 16. Towering over the upper section of the trail, giant old-growth redwoods comprise the majority of this flatter section of forest. These trees are comparable in size to the larger trees seen throughout Redwood State and National Parks. Around the half mile mark, the Damnation Creek Trail crosses the Coastal Trail, and the redwoods, lacking stable terrain on the steep slope, become smaller and give way to Douglas fir and Sitka spruce as the trail drops down to the coast. The hillside trail eventually crosses Damnation Creek before emerging on a small bluff that overlooks Damnation Cove and the Pacific Ocean. A short trail continues down onto the rocky beach, but beware of high tide and large ocean swells if you are venturing down to the cove.
Damnation Creek seems to attract fewer visitors than the better known redwood hikes in Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park, a few miles to the north. This is likely a result of its slightly hidden trailhead location and the notoriously steep descent and return ascent. The hike is well worth the effort, however, and despite the change in elevation, the trail is not as strenuous as one might think. Switchbacks make for relatively easy hiking, and the majority of the elevation drop is spread over a manageable 1.5-mile slope above Damnation Creek.