Explore the Trinidad Coast
The California Coastal National Monument is a part of the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) National Landscape Conservation System (National Conservation Lands).
For more information, contact these Trinidad Gateway partners, who are working together to help protect and provide for public enjoyment of this unique part of the California coastline:
Bureau of Land Management Arcata Field Office
California Coastal National Monument
California Department of Fish and Game
California State Parks
North Coast Redwoods District
Trinidad Museum Society
400 Main Street
Trinidad, CA 95570
Cher-Ae Heights Indian Community of the Trinidad Rancheria
Tsurai Ancestral Society
P. O. Box 62
Trinidad, CA 95570
City of Trinidad
HSU Marine Lab
570 Ewing Street
Trinidad, CA 95570
Photos © by Bob Wick; Illustrations © by Gary Bloomfield; Design by Chris Lohoefener of the Natural Resources Services Division of Redwood Community Action Agency, with assistance from the Trinidad Museum Society, City of Trinidad, California Department of Fish and Game, Yurok Tribe and the Cher-Ae Heights Trinidad Rancheria.
Welcome to Trinidad's lovely, lonely coast. Here, dark spruce and redwood-cloaked ridges tumble onto coastal cliffs and hidden coves as Pacific waves explode against the offshore rocks and headlands. Trinidad's majestic sea stacks are part of the California Coastal National Monument, a string of more than 20,000 rocks and small islands off the state's 1,100 mile-long coastline. The National Monument was designated to protect the offshore rocks’ significant scenic and ecological values, and is managed by the Bureau of Land Management and its partners.
The Trinidad area is one of the most spectacular and pristine segments of the California coast, and has been established as a California Coastal National Monument Gateway – an area that offers the best shore-based opportunities to discover and view offshore rocks and islands and their inhabitants. As you begin your coastal discovery, please extremely fragile environment – tread lightly, view wildlife from a distance, and always respect your surroundings.
At very low tides, one can walk between Houda Point and Moonstone Beach. There is a walk-in sea cave, a waterfall that tumbles into the surf, numerous marine birds and rocky pools full of sea life.
TSURAI YUROK TRIBE'S COASTAL VILLAGE
FROM CONTACT TO COMMERCE
The canoe is a symbol of life and is important to the Yurok people for travel, food gathering, and religious ceremonies.
A large part of the Yurok culture is centered along the water's edge, and ancestral villages are concentrated along the coast and Klamath River. Tsurai, meaning mountain, is the southernmost permanent village within Yurok territory. The village domain extends north from Trinidad Head (Tsurewa) to Beach Creek (O prmrg wroi) several miles up the coast, and south to Little River (Me'tsko or Srepor). Just as in the past, the Tsurai Village, Tsurewa, and the offshore rocks continue to be components of the Yurok cultural landscape embedded with deep cultural, historical, and spiritual significance to the Tsurais of the Yurok people.
The Yurok inhabitants of Tsurai first made contact with Europeans when explorers Hezeta and Bodega anchored in the bay and claimed the harbor for Spain on Trinity (Trinidad) Sunday in 1775. Over the next 75 years, British, Russian, and Spanish ships landed here for refuge, exploration, and sea otter hunting
American settlement began in 1850, when Trinidad became a port of entry to the Trinity River gold diggings. Since then, Trinidad harbor has hosted lumber and fishing fleets, and even served as a whaling port during the 1920s, processing up to 300 humpback whales a year.
Today the harbor facilities are owned and operated by the Cher-Ae Heights Indian Community of the Trinidad Rancheria, and support a modest commercial and recreational fishing fleet, focusing mainly on salmon and dungeness crab. If you take a stroll down the Trinidad Pier, you might see some of these fishermen bringing in their catch.
AN EVER-CHANGING LANDSCAPE
It's easy to imagine the pounding ocean waves and rushing coastal streams wearing away the area's bluffs and beaches, but hidden far under the surface, even more powerful forces are at work as active faults squeeze, fracture, and uplift the same landscape. These natural processes continually reshape rugged coastal landforms.
Coastal bluffs - made of soft materials such as shale and clay - have been fractured and eroded away, forming sandy beaches such as College Cove and Old Home Beach. The harder, more resistant rocks - such as basalt and greenstone - withstand the erosive forces and create cliff-ringed headlands such as Trinidad Head and Elk Head, as well as the numerous offshore rocks and islands.
The scale of offshore rocks can be hard to appreciate – some reach several acres in size and are taller than a 10-story building!
A CLOSE-UP VIEW OF FAR-OFF ROCKS
At first glance, the offshore rocks may look grey and barren, but a closer inspection reveals they are covered with life. Numerous plants have adapted to survive in the harsh coastal environment, and grow in pockets protected from winter waves and drying salt-spray. Marine mammals and birds are the most visible occupants, as the rocks provide them refuge from land-based predators such as foxes, raccoons, and humans, and also provide an easy escape from marine predators such as great white sharks.
Marine birds nest on the tops and sides of these rocks, and each bird species is partial to choosing just the right site.
Pigeon guillemots build nests in rocky crevasses, while storm-petrels dig small burrows on rocks that have patches of soil. Common murres are actually "pelagic" - they spend most of their lives on the open ocean and only come to the rocks to nest and lay their eggs right on top of the rocks!
Below the water's surface, barnacles, sea stars, anemones, and a wealth of other intertidal life cement themselves to every inch of available space, taking advantage of one of the few stable places in this ever-changing environment.
Binoculars will allow you to view one of California's largest colonies of Common murres – up to 60,000 birds nest on Green and Flatiron Rocks each spring and summer.
TRINIDAD'S COASTAL TREKS
- Axel Lindgren Memorial Trail – Access to Old Home Beach from Memorial Lighthouse. Good family beach walking, protected from the wind with generally small waves. Great views of Camel rock, oyster-catchers, pelicans and harbor seals.
- Trinidad Head – 350-foot elevation gain, best overall views of coastline and nearby rocks, great views of Flatiron rock and Pewetole Island, and great seasonal whale watching opportunities.
- Parker Creek Trail – Beautiful forested walk to Old Home Beach. Access to tidepools and close-up views of sea lions, marine birds and offshore rocks.
- Elk Head – Yurok named me’wil-e’’g:rn meaning “elk stand - always”. Level hike through spruce forest to coastal headland. Spectacular views of Pewetole Island, Trinidad Head, Green Rock and the coast north towards Patrick's Point. Look for harbor seals in cove north of point.
Trinidad Sate Beach – Walk the beach northward from the neck of Trinidad Head. Great spot to view geology close up and to get a taste of tidepool life. More ambitious hikers can follow bluff-top trails to College Cove and Elk Head.
Remember: Dogs on Leash!
Don't forget to visit the Trinidad Museum! Check out the local artifacts and historic photos that tell the story of Trinidad, past and present.
THE INTERTIDAL ZONE: NATURE'S AQUARIUM
Imagine spending part of each day underwater, part exposed to sun and drying winds, and the rest of the day being pounded by crashing waves. This is the daily life of inter-tidal plants and animals.
Low tide is a magical time when you can walk on the bottom of the ocean to view some of these fascinating life forms. Trinidad's best viewing of inter-tidal life is on the rocks along the north end of Trinidad State Beach and on parts of Old Home Beach. The most commonly seen creatures are barnacles, sea anemones, sea stars and a variety of kelp. Remember, they are extremely sensitive! Watch your step and avoid lifting or disturbing them.
WILDLIFE VIEWING TIPS
- Watch quietly and avoid sudden movements
- Bring binoculars to get a better view from a distance
- If an animal notices your presence, back away
- Do not attempt to rescue wildlife. If you think an animal is sick or injured, call the Northcoast Marine Mammal Center at (707) 465-6265
The HSU Marine Lab offers public displays on marine ecosystems and several aquariums with local marine life.
The Memorial Lighthouse offers breathtaking views of the Trinidad Coast and is a great viewpoint for whalewatching and spotting your favorite birds. On winter mornings, crab fishermen often gather here to watch the winter storm waves. They use certain offshore rocks to gauge wave-height, and call this spot “Chicken Point” as this is where they debate whether it is safe or smart to go out to sea that day!
Can fly as far as 100 miles to find food for their chicks and can dive up to 300 feet.
Nest on rocky headlands and offshore islands and are often seen diving for fish.
With bright-red beaks, they pry limpets, mussels and other shellfish from the rocks.
Giant Green Anemone
Can live up to 50 years and like to eat small crabs, sea urchins and fish which they stun with stinging cells in their tentacles.
California Sea Lion
Can weigh up to 1,000 pounds and dive 500 feet deep.
Ochre Sea Star
Sea stars are voracious predators and use their tube feet to easily open clams and mussels to eat them.
HIGH TIDE WARNING
Check tide tables before walking on beaches. Rising water can trap you against a cliff with no escape routes.
NEVER TURN YOUR BACK ON THE OCEAN
The pounding surf, ice cold water and rip currents can be treacherous.