Although it may be hard to believe, California has a number of remote spots that are full of nothing but wilderness and little to no people. Part of the reason for this is because much of the wilderness traffic to California visits the most popular and well known destinations; and part of the reason for this is that the remote spots are relatively unknown, and require a bit of time to visit. One of the best examples of a remote spot with pristine wilderness and relatively few people is Patricks’s Point State Park. The park is located twenty five miles to the North of Eureka, California; and fifty-six miles to the South of Crescent City. Even though both of these cities are the major metropolitan areas for Humboldt County, neither of them will ever be considered large cities. The largest city near Patrick’s Point is San Francisco – some three hundred miles to the South.
In addition to being in a remote location along the far Northern California Coast, Patrick’s Point is part of California’s Coastal Redwood Country. Geographically speaking, the park is situated on a rocky promontory of land that extends into the ocean. Because of its location, and because of the dense coastal redwood forest present in the park, the park is often foggy year round. Even though the park has over ten miles of hiking trails that wind through the forest and along the cliffs, the best trails are the Agate Beach Trail and the Ceremonial Rock Trail; as they provide any visitor with solitude, as well as great views of the stunning natural features of the park.
The Agate Beach Trail departs from the Agate Beach section of the park campground, and heads down a series of switchbacks through a portion of the coastal redwood forest that extends through the park. This section of trail is notable for two reasons: first, its natural beauty – even at midday, the light angles through the fog and trees differently; and second for allowing visitors to potentially see wildlife. When I hiked this section of trail before sunset, I saw a number of banana slugs on the lush foliage that surrounds the trail; and I also saw a number of deer passing through the forest to unknown destinations for the evening. At the mile mark, the trail emerges from the forest, and heads down to Agate Beach, the park’s only beach.
Agate Beach is a great beach to explore; complete with jutting rocks at its southernmost end; endless sandy stretches; and opportunities to see wildlife as well, including pelicans, sea lions, and starfish. Agate Beach is also well known for well, the agates that are present along the shore. In terms of full disclosure, I must admit that I did not find any of note – or any, really, during my visit, it is something fun to search for along the shoreline. I will note that visitors should be careful near the ocean along Agate Beach, as the area does have high and large regular waves, as well as rogue waves as well. The Park Service also recommends that people not enter the water to swim because of numerous hidden holes in the water, as well as dangerous currents present along the entirety of the beach. Agate Beach is two miles in length, so to explore the entirety of the beach and all of the trail would be a moderate – and picturesque six mile hike.
In contrast to the Agate Beach trail, which provides sweeping views of the Northern California coast for the majority of the hike, the Ceremonial Rock Trail reserves its views for the very last moment. Like the Agate Beach Trail, the Ceremonial Rock Trail departs from the park’s campground. From the beginning, the trail winds through the lush and verdant coastal redwood forest of the park; and I was struck with the absolute and utter silence that the trail had within five feet of the trailhead. From the trailhead, it is a half mile hike through mostly level forest to the base of the Ceremonial Rock. The actual Ceremonial Rock is an item of cultural and geologic significance. In terms of geology, Ceremonial Rock is a sea stack which was exposed when the Pacific Ocean receded. And, in terms of cultural history, Ceremonial Rock was a sacred spot to the Yurok Tribe, who were the original Native American inhabitants of the region.
From the base of Ceremonial Rock, it is obvious why the Yurok people utilized the area for their ceremonies. The surrounding forest is beyond quiet; and the terrain has an otherworldly, surreal feeling to it. From the base, follow the trail up a series of wooden and rock steps, and you will find yourself as I did, at 287 feet above sea level, with amazing (assuming there is no fog) views of the surrounding forest, Agate Beach, and the Northern California coast. The combination of empty trails, cultural and geologic history, and adventure make Patrick’s Point a must visit destination in California for when someone is off the beaten path.