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Humboldt Lagoons State Park

Big Lagoon Beach Trail

Along sandspit is 6 miles round trip; to Big Lagoon County Park is 8.5 miles round trip;
to Patrick’s Point State Park is 10 miles round trip

Big, Big Lagoon is 3.5 miles long, walled off from the power of the Pacific by a 600 to 700-foot-wide strip of sand. The lagoon’s marshy habitat is an important rest stop for migratory birds on the Pacific flyway.

Long, sandy Big Lagoon Beach, along with Dry Lagoon and portions of Stone Lagoon, comprise Humboldt Lagoons State Park. The park appeals to hikers and fishermen, who enjoy the lonely beauty of the sandspits and wetlands.

The park is much more than marshlands. Sitka spruce thrive on the north and southwest shores, and even some wind-blown old-growth redwoods cling tenaciously to life on the east shore.

Gold-seekers swarmed into the area in 1849 when discoveries were made along the Klamath and Trinity rivers. Prospectors attempted to mine the sandspits along Big and Stone lagoons, but managed to extract very little gold despite considerable effort.

Dry Lagoon State Park was established in 1931. The park expanded over the next half-century to more than 1,000 acres, added a couple more lagoons, and in 1981 its name was changed to Humboldt Lagoons State Park. Land acquisitions by the Save-the-Redwoods League further enlarged the park.

Walking Big Lagoon Beach means paying attention to the tides. Several times each winter, Big Lagoon’s barrier beach is breached by waves; the beach at these times is impassable. During other seasons, best hiking is at lower tides. Consult a local tide table.

(More about the local lagoons: Dry Lagoon offers a mile-long beach hike north of the lagoon, plus a one mile loop trail around the environmental campsites. You can take a two- to three mile hike along the barrier beach fronting Stone Lagoon.)

Directions to trailhead: From Highway 101, some seven miles south of Orick, turn west onto the signed state park road and travel a mile to road’s end at a beach parking lot.

The hike: From the parking lot, follow the beach south. Atop the nearby wooded bluffs are some excellent environmental campsites. About a half mile along, the mixed black-and-white sand beach broadens. You’ll reach the north end of Big Lagoon about 0.75 mile from the trailhead.

Now you’ll walk the crest of the barrier beach, dotted with sea rocket, dune tansy and sand verbena. Two miles out, you’ll notice a couple of low spots in the sandspit. During very high tides, waves crest the sandspit, spilling into the lagoon.

Three miles along, you’ll get a good view of Big Lagoon at its widest— more than a mile across. On the east side grows a forest of Sitka spruce and some wind-sculpted redwoods.

Rest awhile on the driftwood logs scattered on the beach. Down-coast is a nice view of Agate Beach and the dramatic, wooded bluffs of Patrick’s Point State Park; it’s another two mile walk, if you’re in the mood.

Return the same way, or, if you want to extend your walk a bit more, curve around the lagoon to the south shore where you’ll find Big Lagoon County Park.

© 2012 The Trailmaster, Inc.
From John McKinney’s
Day Hiker’s Guide to California’s State Parks
Trail descriptions and maps have been reproduced with the permission of the author.  To learn more about The Trailmaster and other related publications please visit their website at