Elk Head Trail

Trinidad State Beach

Humboldt, California

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Elk Head Trail


  • The parking lot at College Cove.- Elk Head Trail
  • The beginning of the College Cove Trail.- Elk Head Trail
  • View of the Pacific from College Cove Trail.- Elk Head Trail
  • College Cove Trail.- Elk Head Trail
  • View from the end of the College Cove Trail.- Elk Head Trail
  • College Cove Trail.- Elk Head Trail
  • Natural arch on the south end of College Cove Beach.- Elk Head Trail
  • Near the end of the College Cove Trail.- Elk Head Trail
Overview + Weather
Great views. Easy access. Whale watching.
Crowds. Cliffs can be dangerous.
Humboldt, CA
Pets allowed: 
Net Elevation Gain: 
59.00 ft (17.98 m)
Parking Pass: 
Not Required
Preferable Season(s):
Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
Total Distance: 
1.00 mi (1.61 km)
Trail type: 
Trailhead Elevation: 
153.00 ft (46.63 m)
Current Local Weather:
Hike Description

Hike Description


This trail is an easy there-and-back that provides great views and access to College Cove Beach. The trail is easy to follow and clearly marked, and the first portion of the trail provides some great viewing points for looking down on the beach. The coastal spruce forest has a lush understory of ferns, moss, wild flowers; as you approach the open areas, watch for a variety of birds such as common murres, brown pelicans and gray jays. The beach is a local favorite, and the cove provides shelter for safe swimming and surfing in the warmer months. You can see that the beach is actually separated in the middle (access between the two is possible during low tide only), and on the southern end there is a rock formation with a visible natural arch.

As you approach the Pacific Ocean the trail turns north and hugs the coast line. Steep cliffs and large seastacks sticking out of the Pacific are reminders that ocean is constantly working to erode the headland. From these vantage points you may spot gray whales as they migrate between Alaska and Baja California. Dolphins, seals, sea lions, sperm and blue whales may also be within view. As you near the end of the trail you will enter a naturally formed tunnel created by the dense forest and cross under a small wooden structure. An "entering tsunami warning zone" sign is clearly visible as you reach the last viewing area and descend to the last section of trail. If you look north from the viewpoint you will notice a small cove where sea lions and seals often lounge on the rocks and bob in the waves. Though it is possible to walk near the edge section of the bluffs here, make sure it is safe and feasible. Also, bring your camera on this hike as it provides some of the best viewpoints on the North Coast.


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Field Guide + Trail Map

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Nearby Camping + Lodging

(1 within a 30 mile radius)

Nearby Adventures

(33 within a 30 mile radius)

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