On the south side of Little River, this county park is known for tasty giant razor clams, which hunters scoop up at negative tides. Otherwise, regular folks like to tent or RV camp on this sandy stretch between the ocean and Highway 101.
Clam Beach Dr & Hammond Trail, McKinleyville, CA 95519 (707) 445-7651
A popular hiking and cycling trail just north of Arcata showcases the varied landscapes of the Redwood Coast. Taking hikers and bikers across open fields, lush woodlands and a stunning beach, the Hammond Trail is simply amazing. The 5.5-mile segment of the California Coastal Trail is a multi-use trail that’s open for hiking, biking and horseback riding. It stretches north from the Arcata Bottoms up to Clam Beach County Park in McKinleyville. It starts at the Mad River pedestrian bridge, originally the site of a wooden covered bridge built in 1905. It was later replaced with steel and used as a railroad bridge until 1961. The southern stretch of the trail provides panoramas of the ocean and Mad River. Keep an eye out for seals, sea otters, herons, ducks, cormorants and Aleutian geese.
After reaching the town of McKinleyville, the trail meanders through neighborhoods and Hiller Park. Beyond the park, the trail zips through a conifer forest and spectacular bluffs. There are picnic tables and benches situated along the path so you can rest and take in the view. Continuing north, you’ll descend onto a short, paved section that crosses Strawberry Creek. The trail ends with a nice walk in the sand at Clam Beach County Park.
Headed north on the 101, the town of Mckinleyville sits perched atop a hill overlooking a vast stretch of beach. Less eccentric perhaps than the college town to the south, McKinleyville is a rural suburb with all the conveniences necessary for day-to-day life on the North Coast. Still, the locals know how to have a good time. Visit the beautiful Azalea State Natural Reserve, sample local brews at the new Bigfoot Taproom, or stay for dinner and drinks at Six Rivers Brewery, a women-owned brewery and one of the county’s most notable. Don’t miss the annual Clam Beach Run in January or the Pony Express Days festival in late May.