Trinidad Head Light is a historic lighthouse built in 1871 on a prominent headland that protects Trinidad Bay, California. The bay is one of the few sheltered harbors on the coast and has a long history of use. Before 1700 AD, the Yurok people inhabited the village of Tsurai on bluffs overlooking the bay. The first Europeans to visit were Bruno de Heceta and Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra of the Spanish Navy. Their ships anchored in Trinidad Bay on June 9, 1775. On 11 June, which was Trinity Sunday, a wooden cross was erected and the area was named “la Santisima Trinidad”.
The community of Trinidad was founded in 1850 during the California Gold Rush and is the oldest town on the northern coast. The protected harbor and town provided a vital landing for miners traveling to the Klamath, Trinity, Salmon River, and Gold Bluff mines. As the gold rush slowed, Trinidad supported multiple sawmills and a whaling station, and ships used the harbor to load passengers and cargo. In 1871, a lighthouse was built consisting of a white square brick tower, only 20 feet (6.1 m) above ground, but at an elevation of 196 feet (60 m) above the sea. Despite the great height above the sea, on December 28, 1914, the light was temporarily extinguished by the highest wave ever recorded on this coast.