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Coastal redwoods are a world apart

The hike begins in the hush of a redwood cathedral and ends in the crashing surf. From dripping ferns, singing streams and frolicking elk to barking sea lions, clouds of pelicans and, if you're lucky, spouting whales and prancing porpoise pods.

It's easy to see why Stephen Spielberg chose this neck of the woods as his location for "Jurassic Park 2: The Lost World," because Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park feels like another planet.

But it's not. It's only a half-tank of gas from the July swelter of the Rogue Valley. With 75 miles of trails to choose from, the hardest part of a hiking trip to this coastal wonderland 25 miles south of Crescent City will be deciding which trailhead to enter.

If you want to spend most of your time beneath the canopy, admiring the dense understory nurtured by coastal fog and a forest of redwoods, Western hemlock, Douglas fir, Sitka spruce and red alder, you might choose the five-mile Fern Canyon trail or the 11-mile Miners' Ridge and James Irvine loop.

If you want to spend a greater portion of your time walking the coastal trail, you might zip 2.6 miles down the Ossagon Trail, which leaves you with miles and miles of beach to comb. We walked this trail on a recent trip, eating salmon berries and raspberries along the way, admiring a profusion of azaleas and rhododendrons, marveling at five kinds of ferns. We reached Carruther's Cove in time to watch migrating gray whales and a pod of porpoises.

To reach Prairie Creek, drive Highway 199 west out of Grants Pass and hang a left on Highway 101. Head south out of Crescent City, and four miles past the town of Klamath watch for the sign that leads to the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway.

The parkway itself is a worthy destination, a 10-mile drive through old-growth redwood forest that offers access to numerous trailheads. It's common to see herds of Roosevelt elk along the parkway, and you'll find easy access to several interpretive displays to help you make sense of the staggering biological diversity.

If you're a mountain biker you won't be left out, because several of the trails are open to bikes. And if you want to camp, you'll have a choice of both developed sites and hike-in spots.

For details, call the park office at 1-707-465-7347 or go to www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=415.

Reach Mail Tribune features editor David Smigelski at 776-8784 or dsmigelski@mailtribune.com.

Coastal redwoods are a world apart