Elk Prairie Campground Review


We went on a camping trip to Elk Prairie campground in Orick, CA. Elk Prairie campground is part of the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park which is one of the Redwood National and State Parks. It is both a National Park and a California State Park. We stayed at site 33.

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The Campsite

Our 20 foot trailer fit into site 33 with no problems. Site 33 is a pull-through site so it was as simple as it gets. The pull-through had a nice lush green area with trees, bushes, and ferns between the parking pad and the road. You could still see the road but it was away and blocked enough that it still felt private inside the trailer.

We were blown away by this campground and the campsite. There was green everywhere. Between the ferns, trees, and moss everywhere you looked was beautiful. We were extremely happy to find that our campsite was right on the creek. It not only added a nice sound for us to listen to around the campfire, but we were able to jump down and play in the creek.

The kids were so happy to get to hang out in the creek area. Many of the sites are situated at a slightly higher elevation than the creek so not all of the sites near the creek can access it. Our site happened to have several logs to act as steps. Once we were down at the creek level it felt like we had found a private hideaway. Our daughter decided it was a mermaid lagoon. The kids would splash around in that creek, inspect every rock, find every banana slug, and admire every fern and tree for as long as we would let them. There was no one down there and we couldn’t see other sites. I know they were there but you couldn’t see them through the vegetation.

The site didn’t have much space for the kids to run around and play but it wasn’t an issue. It had enough and there was no complaining about it.

Everything about this campsite and campground felt special. As soon as we pulled in you could tell the plants and scenery there are amazing. There are, however, several small campsites that would be difficult to park a trailer in. We were happy to find that our site was very simple to park in and then, for it to have access to the creek as well was just the icing on the cake.

This is a dry campground. There were no hook-ups and there was no dump station. And we had no cell signal through Verizon.

The Best Campsites

  • Site 33
    • This site was amazing. It was a pull-through site with a little bit of greenery blocking the road. It was right on the creek and though you had to step down a few logs you could access the creek from camp.
  • Site 40
    • This is another pull-through site. It didn’t look to have creek access. Site 33 would be our preferred site out of the two but since there aren’t many sites that would be easy for a trailer we thought it was worth including.
  • Site 55
    • This was a beautiful spot. It was right on the water and had extremely easy access. It’s on the same level as the water so you don’t need to climb down any logs to get there. It doesn’t seem as private as some of the other sites but it would be worth it for such a beautiful site.
  • Site 57
    • This site didn’t appear to have creek access but it looked like it would be very private.
  • Site 62
    • This site is away from the creek. It is not only a pull-through site, so parking a trailer would be easy, but it is a massive pull-through site. It is a very long spot. It almost seems big enough to be two pull-through sites but it isn’t. So even after you park you should still have plenty of space to run around.
  • Site 65
    • This was a nice private site. It’s on the opposite side from the creek but it is still pretty. It has an area towards the back that would be a good area for the kids to explore.

The Weather

We were here in June and we had beautiful weather. It was warm but there was enough shade that it wasn’t a problem, it just felt comfortable. There were a few mosquitos but it wasn’t too bad especially considering we were right on a creek.

The Activities

There were so many different activities to do around here we kept very busy and could have easily stayed an extra day. Of course, most of the activities required driving but not too far. Here’s what we did.

Fern Canyon & Gold Bluffs Beach

Fern Canyon was one of the main reasons we wanted to visit this area. To go to Fern Canyon or Gold Bluffs Beach we first needed to get a permit. We made sure we had the permit before we left on the trip.

The road to get there is a little crazy. It was absolutely beautiful, but it was a one-way gravel road up a mountain. There were lots of people who clearly didn’t feel very comfortable on the road and would just stop in the middle when they saw another car instead of getting to the side. We had no problems with it but we also went on a weekday. I imagine this road feels pretty chaotic on a busy day. At the top after you go through the permit entrance station there were at the time three creek crossings we had to drive through. Only one of them was large enough that it seemed questionable but it was no problem, especially considering we were in a truck. People were driving small cars through those creeks, I’m not sure that I would have done that but it seemed to work out for them. There were also a ton of elk just hanging out all along a large stretch of the road. It was really cool and weird to see.

Once we got to the end of the road we were at the main parking lot. From that parking lot you can access the Fern Canyon trail and you can also access Gold Bluffs Beach. Now, we had our dog with us and we knew from the beginning that he wouldn’t be able to go on the Fern Canyon trail. He was allowed at the beach and in the parking lot. So what we did was we took turns. My husband took the kids on the trail while I stayed with the dog, then they came back and we swapped.

The trail from the parking lot to the main Fern Canyon viewpoint is only .1 miles. So it is not a long hike even for the kids. They were very happy to be able to do it twice. Now, the Fern Canyon trail in total is much longer. You can actually hike it from the Elk Prairie campground we were staying at all the way to the parking lot we drove to. There are also other starting points you can take for a shorter hike. Because we had the dog we chose the easiest hike which was just from the parking lot.

Fern Canyon did not disappoint. It is exactly how the name suggests. You are walking through a canyon with water streaming through the middle and ferns lining the canyon walls from top to bottom. It feels magical. And there were wooden planks to help navigate over the water that the kids absolutely loved hopping on. This area was used to film a scene and Jurassic Park 2 and it’s easy to see why. It definitely feels like a dinosaur could be living around there.

After Fern Canyon we wanted to check out Gold Bluffs Beach. We decided to bring a picnic lunch and there just happened to be a handful of picnic tables on the sand heading towards the beach. So we ate our lunch and then walked out there. It was a beautiful California beach. We took in the scenery, the kids ran in the sand, and then we headed back to camp.

Trees of Mystery

While we were staying at Elk Prairie campground we also visited the Trees of Mystery. The Trees of Mystery is just north of the campground in Klamath, CA. If you’ve ever driven up north on highway 101 towards Oregon you’ve probably seen this place. It has the giant Paul Bunyon and Babe the Blue Ox out front. We have driven past a few times, and our kids always see it and excitedly ask if we can go. We decided this would be the trip to take them.

This was a pricey activity. For a family of four it cost us $76. But, after going through the experience I would say that was worth it. The kids loved every minute of this place. They basically skipped through it with excitement. And the entire place was extremely dog-friendly.

The Trees of Mystery takes you on a tour and highlights numerous interesting trees. They all have cute names and many include facts about them. There was also a canopy trail that allowed you to walk on rope bridges way up high in the redwood trees. This was the one part the dog couldn’t do, which was totally reasonable. I went up there with my 8-year-old and 4-year-old. The 8-year-old and I probably could have lived without going, we were pretty nervous up there. But the 5-year-old we had to convince not to run through it, she loved every second of it and begged to go again and again.

At the very top of the main trail it leads you to the Skywalk Gondola. This was a gondola that you can ride to get to the top of the mountain to take in the views. And believe-it-or-not but the dog was actually allowed to ride in the gondola. So we all went up there, looked around and came back down. You could hike back down but there were several warnings that it was for advanced hikers only. And our kids are pretty decent hikers but just getting to the base of the gondola area was a lot on them. So we rode it back down.

We continued the trail down back to the parking lot. Most of that was the trail of tall tales where they went through the story of Paul Bunyon. And then at the very end we landed in the gift shop.

The kids had so much fun at the Trees of Mystery. And I appreciated how well laid out it was, it was easy to follow the trail and hit all the spots. And it was awesome that we were able to go with our dog. This is definitely worth doing at least once.

Crescent City

The last stop we made while we were camping at Elk Prairie campground was visiting Crescent City. Now, we enjoyed ourselves but this part really could have been skipped. It was ridiculously windy here. I checked my phone and the winds were around 30mph, but I would have guessed more. It was so windy it was miserable outside.

When we got there we decided to walk down the B Street Pier. Of course this is a terrible idea in extreme wind but this was our first stop so that’s how we figured out it was windy. It was still cool to walk out on the pier and there was a beautiful lighthouse we got to see. But because of the wind we walked out there and then walked straight back.

We then decided to drive down the road and let the kids get some energy out at a playground we had seen on our way to the pier. It was called Beachfront Park. And the wind didn’t seem to bother the kids as much here. They had a blast running around and playing on a new playground.

After that we decided to check out the brewery down the street. It was SeaQuake Brewing. But, because we had our dog we opted to sit outside. We were out there for less than two minutes before the wind blew the menus out of the kid’s hands and so fast that they were gone forever. It was so windy we couldn’t even read the menu because it was impossible to hold still. It did not take long for us to move inside. And luckily our dog was as irritated with the wind as we were so he was happy to sit in the truck for a few minutes while we got some food. We rarely do that so we checked on him often and every time he seemed to be very comfortable. So we had some beer and dinner. The beers were delicious, the food not so much. We bought extra beer to take back to camp. The food was fine, not terrible, just nothing special. 

Junior Ranger Program

The last activity we did here was the kids both participated in the Junior Ranger program. This was pretty cool since the campground is both a national and state park. This was the first Junior Ranger program our kids had done at a national park. They were very happy to do the activities, talk to the ranger, and receive their badge.

The Dog-Friendly Hiking

This campground had several hiking trails. Earlier we discussed that you could hike all the way to Fern Canyon. Every trail looked beautiful at camp, but every trail said no dogs were allowed.

There was one trail we got to explore a bit while half of the family, and the dog, decided to stay at the trailer. The majority of the trails we did not check out though.

To be fair, the dog was only part of the issue this trip. We honestly just ran out of time. We needed another day there to get in some hiking.

There was one trail nearby that the dog was allowed on. Well, technically it isn’t a trail, it’s a gravel road. But it doesn’t get much use as a road. It’s called Cal Barrel Road. To access it you have to go out near the campground entrance and it’s across the road. It is a busy road but doable. And it looked to be a beautiful trail. If we had found the time we definitely would have tried out this trail and I think we would have enjoyed it.

Even though the campground doesn’t technically have a dog-friendly trail it’s awesome that there is a trail you can take your dog on right across the street.

The Beer

We did talk about SeaQuake Brewing earlier but it’s worth discussing again here. Their beer was good and their artwork on the cans was awesome. The Redwood Highway Hazy IPA was my favorite. It was delicious and the can had bigfoot, Paul Bunyon, and redwood trees. We also enjoyed the Space Sailor IPA and the Fogline Hazy Pale Ale.

The Recap

Elk Prairie campground is worth a visit. The campground itself is beautiful and worth seeing even if you stay there the entire trip. But if you have the time, take advantage of being in the center of some incredible experiences such as Fern Canyon.

Campground Details:

Elk Prairie Campground
127011 Newton B. Drury Scenic Pkwy, Orick, CA 95555

Can reserve online at reservecalifornia.com. Reservations open 6 months ahead at 8am PST.


  1. Hi. We are going to Elk Prairie this fall and trying to pick a campsite. Will the sites you list as good fit a 22 ft trailer?

    • Yes, they should all work. Out of the sites I listed, site 55 is the smallest and might be trickier. Site 62 is a huge pull-through, probably the longest parking pad at the campground. And when we were there a trailer larger than ours (probably closer to 22 feet) was parked in site 65 with no problem.

      If you can get the same site we had, site 33, I think that is the very easiest site to park at in the campground. This is because of the campground roads, not the site itself. There is a narrow turn at the end of the campground. It is a road you would have to go down to get to most of those sites. Because of the trees the turn looks like it could be tricky in a trailer. Since site 33 is earlier in the campground loop, when we exited with our trailer we didn’t have to go down that turn at the end of the campground. There was a more direct road to exit that cuts through the middle. We did see other trailers make that turn with no issues, including the larger one that ended up parking in site 65, so it’s not impossible. But, being able to cut off that last section of the campground while towing does make site 33 extra simple.

      I hope you have a great time! It is an amazing campground and every site there really is beautiful.

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