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Top 3 Rainy Season Hikes: Mill Creek, CA

Rains summon salmon and slugs.
KMcNeal_Redwoods_445.jpgSunlight pours through the mist near Mill Creek. (Kevin McNeal)

In any season, the 300-foot-tall redwoods lining Mill Creek in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park would be reason enough to hike this 5.4-mile (round-trip) trail—but autumn rains conjure a bonus. As precipitation plumps up Mill Creek, steelhead, coho, and chinook salmon take advantage of the deeper waters to swim upstream and spawn. Rain-lubricated leaves also create smooth sliding surfaces for neon-yellow banana slugs. Spot them among understory vines and maple leaves glowing brilliant red and yellow from October through December. Start at the western trailhead on Howland Hill Road and follow Mill Creek Trail as it bobs among the ferns on the stream’s west side. At 2.5 miles, you’ll hike right through a grove of fat, wrinkled old-growth redwoods before arriving at Stout Grove parking lot, your turnaround point. nps.gov/redw

Recharge
Gulp down fish and chips at Crescent City’s Chart Room. (707) 464-5993; chartroomcrescentcity.com

The Way
From Crescent City, take US 101 one mile south, then turn left on Elk Valley Rd. In one mile, turn right on Howland Hill Rd. and go 2.5 miles to the trailhead.

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