The largest of the trio of north coast state redwood parks, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park is best known for its large herd of endangered Roosevelt elk, which you can usually see grazing in the meadows along US-101 at the center of the park, next to the main ranger station (707/465-7347 or visitor center 707/488-2039). A modern freeway carries US-101 traffic around, rather than through, the Prairie Creek redwoods. To reach the best sights, detour along the well-signed Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway, which follows Prairie Creek along the old US-101 alignment through the heart of the park.

Another elk herd can be spotted among the coastal dunes at Gold Bluffs Beach, which stretches for 11 miles through untouched wilderness; there are trails leading from US-101, or you can follow Davison Road northwest from US-101, three miles south of the ranger station. Apart from the elk, Prairie Creek offers a basic campground in a beautiful setting: the usual mix of old-growth redwood trees, which, more than in the other parks, mingle with dense growths of Sitka spruce and Douglas firs to form a near rainforest of greenery.

Map of Pacific Coast through Northern California.
Map of Pacific Coast through Northern California.
Map of Pacific Coast through Redwood National Park.
Map of Pacific Coast through Redwood National Park.