Northern California's Redwood Coast Area is home to many hiking trails, national forests and parks, and the Smith River National Recreation Area is a popular destination for locals and visitors alike. Anchored by the Smith River, with Myrtle Creek flowing north from it, the Myrtle Creek Trail is a pawrfect short, pleasant diversion from travel along Highway 199 with your pooch. The trailhead sits off the highway with parking just south of the Myrtle Creek Bridge. You will need to cross the highway to get to the start.
Stretching only a mile, the trail nevertheless gives you a sense of being in the wilderness, with its thick canopy of redwood trees mixed with cedars, oak and pine as you venture further from the road. Heavily wooded and merging into estuarial wetland, the botanical diversity here is impressive with its carpet of ferns, rhododendron, wild lilies and carnivorous pitcher plants. Deer can often be spotted, and the forest floor is alive with small mammals foraging for their winter's supply of acorns and seeds. Many species of birds, butterflies and bees take advantage of the rich flora for nesting and collecting. Built along an abandoned water diversion ditch left over from the area's late 19th Century hydraulic mining days, its history is told in detail by interpretive signs along the path describing the geological, botanical and cultural history of the area.
Small waterfalls and the gray-green water flowing between the rocky banks of the creek accompany you and your pup with their babbling and provide ample opportunities for your pooch to splash. Small wooden suspension bridges cross the smaller creek offshoots and small beaches pop up at the Middle and South Fork Smith River.
This trail is a gentle, mostly flat path with just a minor climb in the beginning and is composed of forest floor soil and leaf debris. Be sure to bring water and clean up bags, as there are none available along the way. This is one of the few paths in northern California with very little poison oak to watch out for, and the quiet and serenity will make for a relaxed stroll with Fido that you'll both remember.
Watch for protruding roots on the trail.