Undulating along the Northern California coastline, the 5.5-mile Hammond Trail provides adventure, history and beautiful vistas. Constructed along a portion of the abandoned Little River and Hammond Railroad properties, the railroad line once extended from Humboldt Bay to the town of Crannell. Today it represents a beautiful, well-used segment of the California Coastal Trail.
Start at the southern trailhead, close to the Mad River Bridge, where the excitement of the historic Hammond Trail begins. You cross the river on a 1942 steel truss bridge, which replaced a wooden covered bridge built by Dolbeer and Carson Lumber Co. in 1905. The current bridge was brought in from Coos Bay. Its crest provides a magnificent overlook of the Mad River, where you are likely to see marine wildlife, such as seals and sea otters. Many bird species, including cormorants, grebes, herons, ducks and Aleutian geese, endangered until recently, also frequent the area.
Directly beyond the river you enter an interesting habitat partially protected by the coastal dune lands to the west. You ascend a short but steep hill into the western fringe of McKinleyville, an unincorporated town of 13,000. Stop by the local market for a cool drink and some fresh, locally picked mushrooms before heading to Hiller Park for some extra hiking and a restroom break.
Beyond the park the trail tunnels through a beautiful thick overgrowth of flora before opening up to spectacular bluff-side views of the Pacific Ocean. Take a seat on a bench or continue on to the trail, a paved section fusing the once separated northern and southern sections into one dream ride. This road-side section shares traffic with Murray Road for about 0.25 mile before turning toward Widow White Creek and a beautiful dune loop foot path.
The Hammond Trail north of Widow White Creek boasts more spectacular bluff overlooks before you descend a steep gravel grade to sea level. Lesser advanced riders typically walk this section, which allows plenty of room for passing. A short, smooth section crosses Strawberry Creek just before the trail end at Clam Beach County Park. Turn around and ride back to the bridge or arrange to be picked up. The trail can be ridden every day of the year, although the area often experiences rain in the winter.
Parking and Trail Access
To reach the southern trailhead, take US 101 to the State Route 200/Central Avenue/Turner Road exit in McKinleyville. Make a slight left after exiting onto SR 200/Central Avenue. Continue for 1.1 miles and turn left (west) onto School Road. After 1 mile, turn left on Fischer Road and follow signs to Mad River Beach for 0.2 mile. Parking lot is on the left.
To reach the northern trailhead, take US 101 to the North Central Avenue exit north of McKinleyville. Continue for 0.2 mile and turn left onto Central Avenue. Continue for about 200 feet on Clam Beach Drive. A parking lot is at the end of the road.