There are two trails in the Headwaters Forest Reserve: the Elk River Trail and the Salmon Pass Trail. The Elk River Trail is open to the public, while the Salmon Pass Trail is only open for guided hikes during the summer. Doggos and their human companions will want to head for the Elk River Trail, which allows well-behaved dogs to hike leash-free as long as they can be kept under voice control.
To get to the Elk River Trail, simply exit Highway 101 onto Elk River Road and follow the road to where it ends and the trail begins. There are limited amenities at the trailhead, including trash cans, a vault toilet, and trail information. Note that dogs are only allowed on the first three miles of the 5.5-mile out-and-back trail. These first three miles offer a relatively level, easygoing hike through a beautiful forest landscape. The first mile is paved and wheelchair accessible.
The Headwaters Forest Reserve was created in 1999 to protect the world's last intact old-growth redwood forest ecosystem. While the old-growth redwood groves are off limits to the public, and while the first few miles of the Elk River Trail used to be a logging road, individual old-growth trees can still be seen along the trail. Rare and unique wildlife species live in and around them, including spotted owls and marbled murrelets.
A host of coniferous and deciduous trees also grow in these rich forests, including hemlock, spruce, cedar, and apple trees. Moss, salal, and five-fingered and sword ferns grow in the filtered light underneath the canopy. In addition to the sound of rustling branches and birdsong, you'll hear the sounds of the Elk River throughout your hike. The Elk River Trail passes through a river canyon carved by its rushing waters over many millennia.
As you and your dog take in the peaceful experience of hiking here, you'll be glad people were able to protect this magical place and feel grateful you were able to experience it.