Photo by Lauren Biehl | Arcata Community Forest bridge connecting campus to trails
Photo by Lauren Biehl | Arcata Community Forest bridge connecting campus to trails

Take a Hike, why dontcha: A guide to the best hiking spots near Cal Poly Humboldt

Hikes in Humboldt

by Alina Ferguson

Cal Poly Humboldt is famous for its forest and hiking. Arcata is centrally located between hills, forests and beaches, so there are a lot of options for anyone looking to backpack, camp or simply take a hike. 

Maired Sardina, program coordinator for the Center Activities Recreation and Wellness Center on the CPH campus, has some tips and trips for aspiring hikers.

The Arcata Community Forest is right here on campus. It is easily accessible for those without cars or any other mode of transportation. This hike is relatively low intensity, so it is not required to be a seasoned or skilled hiker. 

This hike is also safest for beginners or anyone new to the area, as it is connected not only to campus, but to the town as well, so it is difficult to get lost. “There are so many options to get back into town” said Sardina.

According to returning senior, seasoned hiker and R.A. Alexis Quiroz, the Community Forest is best for beginners because there are resources available close by.

“If you get lost or injured and you dial 911, it connects you to the UPD instead of the Arcata Police because the forest is within the school boundary,” said Quiroz. 

Last semester, Olivia Greenwood, an education major here at Cal Poly, said she spent practically every day in the Arcata Community Forest. 

“I was hiking like everyday last semester, I would hit the trail at like 4pm and I went pretty deep into the forest,” claimed Greenwood, “Hiking during covid was pretty isolating but kind of nice, to be alone with nature.” 

A hidden gem that is really only ever traveled by locals, a part two to this hike, is called Beith Creek Loop. While not on the campus itself, it is a short distance away, within the Arcata main town. 

A 10 minute drive away from the CPH campus, the Ma-Le’l Dunes are a historically significant hiking spot. These dunes lead to the waterfront. This route is the site of many historical events, which mostly occurred during the late 1990s and early 2000s, as protesters lived in trees. To find more information, the Humboldt Nature center has hikes available. 

The Coastal Nature Center has a visitor center with plaques listing facts about the dunes and the nature around the dunes. 

“That’s one of my favorite areas” said Sardina, “It’s gorgeous there” 

Headwaters Forest Reserve is a progressive hike. The first mile is all paved, so it is most popular for casual strolls, skateboarding or dog walking. However, the next four miles are all trail, so the intensity picks up. 

“You get to choose your own adventure,” said Sardina. “You can choose, I want to go a mile on the pavement, I want to go a mile on the trail, or you can choose to do all ten miles, 5 miles in and 5 miles out” 

Fern Canyon is one of the busiest and most famous hiking spots in Humboldt. So much so that a permit is now required to get in until October 1st. The canyon itself is a flat hike, with fallen trees and trails partially submerged underwater. Hikers can park directly next to the canyon or hike in from the Prairie Creek Visitor Center, about a 11 mile round trip according to the National Park Service.  

This hike is much further from campus, about a 40 minute drive. However, the hike leads to a beach called Gold Bluff, where camping out for the night is an option. 

Prairie Creek Redwood National Park is home to the tallest trees in the world. To see these giants, it takes 45 minutes from campus, if not by car, then by bus as all Cal Poly Students can use their student IDs for free transport.  This is the spot for anyone looking to camp, or go backpacking for a day. Backcountry campsites are very common to find, a couple of the biggest being 44th Camp and Elon Camp. 

“I couldn’t recommend it more,” Sardina said.

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