Length: 1.8 miles
Total ascent: 200 feet
Elevations: 400 – 475 feet
Type: 100% loop
Land management: Humboldt Redwoods State Park
Access constraints: none
Horses: not on the total loop (yes only on the Homestead Trail and the Hamilton Barn access road)
Restrooms: Hamilton Barn Environmental Camp parking lot
Description: In 1964, Ruby Hamilton sold to the Humboldt Redwoods State Park the ranch that she and her husband, Hugh, had worked for more than five decades. Vestiges of their homestead exist throughout this short walk from the aging apple orchards to remnant concrete steps. By walking one direction on the Environmental Camp access road and the other on the Homestead Trail, the route forms an easy and pleasant loop.
Getting there: Drive south on US 101 for just over 42.5 miles taking Exit 663 (South Fork/Honeydew/CA Route 254). Turn right onto to Bull Creek Flats Road and proceed west for 6.5 miles. On the right is the access road to the Hamilton Barn Environmental Camp (HBEC). Limited parking is available at the trailhead on the left side of the Mattole Road (this trail goes to Baxter Environmental Camp and Baxter Trail via a ford of Bull Creek in 0.3 mile) and at the entrance to Hamilton Barn Environmental Camp. When the entrance gate to HBEC is closed, these may be the best options. When open, there is an established parking area for the Environmental Camp with toilet facilities in 0.6 mile. Approximate driving time, 1 hour.
The route: The route will be described from the entrance and proceeding clockwise. As you walk north on the Hamilton Barn Environmental Camp access road you will climb past the entrance gate and in about 100 yards veer left on a spur road. In another 100 yards, the road intersects with the Homestead Trail. Turn right on the Homestead Trail. This route parallels the road often staying above the road as it drops toward Mill Creek. The Homestead Trail fords Mill Creek (0.7) although the pedestrian bridge is just downstream and provides an easy alternative if the crossing is difficult. The Homestead Trail passes through the Environmental Camp above the campsites and eventually turns toward Bull Creek and the ford (1.0). The return route begins just above the ford and below Homestead Trail and proceeds back west through the campsites to the bridge over Mill Creek (1.2) and follows the road back to the entrance (1.8).
It was near these crossings of Mill Creek that Hershell Wheeler, who had relocated from Mississippi, set up a logging mill in 1953. For nine years, which included the disastrous flood of 1955, he continued to operate until his mill burned and he, like Ruby Hamilton, sold to the park.