All posts by MarkGWP

Humboldt Redwoods State Park – 1,000 100 Meter Redwoods

1      100 Meter Redwoods


What sets coast redwoods apart from other tree species is their great height.   It is the only species with extant trees over 100 meters in height, and there are 3,000 – 5,000 such redwood trees.  And around 1,000 of these trees are in Humboldt Redwoods State Park (HRSP).

The 100 meter redwoods in HRSP are of course concentrated along Bull Creek and nearby Eel River groves.  But surprisingly there are 100 meter redwoods in many areas of Humboldt, from the very northernmost area to the very southernmost area.

A 2014 Eel River LiDAR survey generated point cloud data which can be used to determine tree height by subtracting ground heights from first return heights.  There is existing software with built in functions to do the heavy lifting.  The point cloud data was recently put on the Open Topography Portal.  I went ahead and downloaded twenty of so subsections of this point cloud data and reviewed tree height in the groves along the Eel River and Eel River south fork.

As part of the review derivative maps were created which profile the canopy by height.  For example, this is the road going into Founders Grove from the Avenue of the Giants.  The purple indicates 100-105 meters in height.  You can see there is a 100 + meter tree at the entrance, then another taller one on the right side of the road right where the parking lot starts.  So this level of specificity can be reviewed throughout the park.

Founders Grove entrance canopy map


This table is a tall tree recap of the areas of Humboldt Redwoods included in the 2014 LiDAR survey.  Most have 100 meter trees, some quite a few.  I also included a column for the number of trees between 90 and 100 meters.  To do this work I just counted  crowns by height band on the derivative height maps I created.  The counts are approximately right but I am sure could be off by a little bit (but not by much).

Eel River Corridor HRSP Tall Tree Summary


Rather than showing the derivative maps I made four overview maps of Humboldt Redwoods.  I hope you enjoy them, they provide a good general overview of where the tall trees are.

2      North End – Pepperwood Area


The Pepperwood area has a few 100 meter trees, including one that is quite tall.

HRSP North Areas with Tall Trees


3      Core Area


Most of the tall trees in Humboldt are along Bull Creek or in the river groves near the Bull Creek outflow.  Although Bull Creek was not included in the 2014 LiDAR survey, there are other sources for that area with partial information.   So the counts for Bull Creek are estimates.  There are also quite a few tall trees along the river south of Bull Creek.  Then Founders Grove, Rockefeller Loop, and Federation Grove have many tall trees.

HRSP Core Areas with Tall Trees



4     Burlington to Canoe Creek to Great Peninsula


Here there is a large cluster of tall trees along the Canoe Creek bend and along Canoe Creek itself

HRSP South Areas with Tall Trees


5      Phillipsville Area


Here way at the south end of the Avenue there are still a few tall trees.   Also not shown is the Redway area, where there is one 100 meter plus tree.

HRSP Phillipsville Area Tall Trees



Doing these maps has me interested in visiting some areas of Humboldt I have not been to.  One trail in particular is the River Trail from Bull Creek south to the Garden Club Grove.  It is supposed to be very scenic.

Thanks for reading.

Revealing the Locations of the Largest and Tallest Redwoods

1      Secret Redwoods Locations


I made my first visit to the coast redwoods parks in 2014.   I was always interested in the tall redwoods but really didn’t feel an urge to visit the parks until the point in time the tallest redwood tree was named but its location was kept secret.  The treasure hunt, if you will, intrigued me.

The book The Wild Trees, with its descriptions of the known and secret redwood trees and groves, certainly added interest as did the web sites and forums hinting about the location of Hyperion and the Atlas Grove and the Grove of Titans.

To be honest if the location of Hyperion was on a web site in 2014, I would not have traveled to the redwood parks.  Maybe I would have made it to the redwoods at some point in time in the same way I still want to visit Yosemite or the Giant Sequoia Groves or Yellowstone or the Little Big Horn area but maybe not.  It was the secrecy, the puzzle, and the treasure hunt that got me there.

In this way the web site that posts locations of some of the tallest and largest redwoods may be suppressing tourism to the redwood parks, at least for some distant visitors.  That is my opinion, based on my experience.


2      Finger Pointing


Since the owner of the famous redwoods web site prefers to remain anonymous, for whatever reason, there has been a lot of finger pointing and speculation as to the people who are creating or contributing to the famousredwoods web site.

I am not involved with or associated with or contribute to the famousredwoods web site in any way.  For a while I shook off the various accusations to the contrary as necessary fishing trips.  But when the accusations continued, despite my denials, I felt it necessary to publish a couple statements on the issue, one a sworn statement and the second regarding defamation of character.

Thanks for reading.

Statement Regarding Defamation of Character

1      Statement Regarding Defamation of Character


I, Mark Edward Graham, have published on February 14, 2018,  a sworn statement on that I have no current or past association or affiliation with the web site

From this point forward, anyone who has read that sworn statement and then either shares verbal or written speculation that I have an association or affiliation with the web site is defaming my character.

Sworn Statement

1      Sworn Statement


This is a sworn statement by Mark Edward Graham, as made on February 14, 2018.

I, Mark Edward Graham, have no current or past association or affiliation with the owners and contributors to the web site, and I have not knowingly provided any tree locations, photography, or data to the owners and contributors to the web site

I, Mark Edward Graham, certify under penalty of perjury in any state of the United States, including Illinois and California, that the information provided herein is true and correct to the best of my knowledge.

Coast Redwood – The 100 Meter Tree

1      100 Meter Trees

For trees, a 100 meter height is very unusual.  In the recent past the coast redwood, Douglas fir, Austral eucalyps, and possibly some tropical hardwoods had extant trees over 100 meters.   However in the present day all documented living trees over 100 meters in height are coast redwoods.

For coast redwoods, a 100 meter height is uncommon but not rare.  Humboldt Redwoods State Park contains the greatest number of very tall trees, concentrated along the Eel River south fork and Bull Creek.  There is good public information on the height of individual tree crowns in this area, originating in LiDAR point cloud data.   In HRSP there are about 300 hectares with demonstrated 100 meter redwoods, with an average density of about four 100 meter trees per hectare.  So that results in about 1,200 redwood trees in HRSP above 100 meters in height.

Then each of the other redwood parks with many tall trees (Redwood National Park, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park) likely have a similar number of 100 meter redwood trees, but there isn’t enough public data to develop definitive counts.

So among the four large parks, then adding in trees from Montgomery Woods and a few other locations, there are likely around 5,000 coast redwood trees with heights above 100 meters, and 0 trees that are not coast redwoods with heights above 100 meters.



2      Tallest Coast Redwoods


Based on extensive measurement and point cloud analysis it was determined a nice round number to differentiate the tallest redwoods is 350 feet (106.7 meters), with about 225 trees above this height cutoff.   That’s a pretty big drop from the 5,000 or more redwood trees over 100 meters in height.

Although there are many 100 meter trees in Prairie Creek and Jedediah Smith, the 350 foot (106.7 meter) redwood trees are concentrated in Humboldt Redwoods and Redwood National Park (from Michael Taylor 2013 list):


Humboldt Redwood State Park:  160 trees 350+

Redwood National Park:  36 trees 350+

Montgomery Redwoods State Reserve:  17 trees 350+

Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park:  9 trees 350+

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park:  3 trees 350+

Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park:  1 tree 350+

The redwoods above 350 feet continue to be measured for height changes.  Some are measured annually versus others might be measured every ten years.

There are a few new 350 foot trees found each year, as the “349 footers” grow into 350 feet or a new LiDAR flyover identifies some trees that were missed previously.


3      350 Foot Trees – Height Changes and Group Substitution Rate


There is a published Tall Trees list from 2000, and then these same trees can be compared to the 2013 list, to see the 13 year growth rates among the trees.   All the trees on the 2000 list are also on the 2013 list, though three of these trees have fallen since 2013.

For trees on 2000 list, height change to 2013:

Gained height – 110 trees, average height increase 3.0 inches per year

Lost Height – 12 trees, average height loss 1.3 inches per year

In the past year three trees from the 2000 list fell (all in Humboldt).

Looking at the LiDAR data for Humboldt redwoods, there are about 42 trees in 2013 that were between 347 and 350 feet in height.  Based on the 2000 – 2013 results 4 or so of these trees will lose height over the next decade, versus 38 or so will increase height, at a rate of 3 inches per year.  That allows a calculation for the new 350 foot “grow in” trees for Humboldt each year:

  • 38 trees above 347 feet growing to 350 feet
  • Assuming heights are uniformly distributed, this results in 12.7 height bands (38 trees, 3 inches per year per tree).
  • Then taking the 38 trees divided by the 12.7 height bands that results in 3 new 350 foot trees in Humboldt each year based on height growth.
  • Then based on the ratio of tall trees between parks there would be one additional 350 foot tree each year in another redwood park, likely in Redwood National Park.

The 350 foot list grow in rate appears to be above the loss rate  from height reduction and tree fall but time will tell.    For sure there likely will be three to four new 350 foot trees each year.

This redwood , Big Log on Harper Flat, added seven feet in height between 2000 and 2013. It was among the fastest growing in height during that  time period.


Federation Grove point cloud data,  arranged to show all tree crowns over 100 meters (purple dots).  There are around 250 such redwood crowns in this grove!


Thanks for reading.

The Race to 400 Feet

1      July 1 2006

July 1 2006 did not dawn clear along California’s far northern coast, contrary to what you may have read about Helios’ discovery.   In the summer, it is never sunny in the morning in Eureka, Arcata, Orick, Klamath, and Crescent City.  Instead a marine layer of fog settles in, as the interior of California is very hot in the summer, and that temperature contrast versus the Alaska current induced cool Pacific Ocean creates convective forces that lead to fog development.

In fact, you can go onto Weather Underground and check the hourly observations at Crescent City’s McNamara Airport for that particular date, there was only a peep of sun in the later afternoon when the fog dissipated.  I am sure it was the same in Orick, forty miles to the south.

However, just a little inland, over the first hills or mountains adjacent to the Pacific Ocean, it was assuredly sunny by midday.   Redwood Creek flows into the Pacific in the south part of Orick area, and upstream winds its way south between the first ridge adjacent to the Pacific Ocean and the next ridge to the east which Bald Hills Road and the Tall Trees Grove road run along.   This positioning allows fog to enter Redwood Creek valley in the evening all summer long, but then since there is some distance and a ridge between the valley and the Pacific Ocean the fog retreats downstream along Redwood Creek by late morning, until it meets up with the persistent marine layer on the bend north of McArthur Creek.

So the trees growing along Redwood Creek and the many creeks that flow into Redwood creek receive a decent dose of fog drip all summer long to support the leaves in their upper canopies.   However they also get a lot of sunshine as well since that fog retreats for most of the day.

Redwood Creek and its tributaries have many bends and in some places flow in an orientation that protects trees from the highest winter winds, which are usually from the south.  If the tree grows along a creek with an east west orientation, such as the bend in Redwood Creek at Tall Trees Grove or along Tom McDonald Creek, and if the tree has hillside protection, that strong southern wind from the winter “Pineapple Express” storms can whistle along mostly above the tops of the tallest redwoods.

For these reasons – summer fog and sun, wind protection, and also soil condition, the redwood trees along Redwood Creek and its tributaries can get very tall.  And not just right along the creeks, but on the terraced steppes above the creeks, on steep hillsides.

Redwood Creek overlook looking downstream

2      The Discovery of Helios and Hyperion


Helios and Hyperion were discovered on July 1 and August 25, 2006, respectively.  Both trees were found growing on steep hillsides above tributaries of Redwood Creek.    Both were found by Chris Atkins and Michael Taylor using a newer technology which involved a hand held laser beam with some internal machine ware that returned distance and angle to reflective target.  Using this information geometry can be used to find tree height, as the opposite angle (angle to reflective target) and hypotenuse (distance to reflective target) are used to determine target height (using sine table).   Typically the machine ware will also do this calculation.

However it is almost never quite that easy as the top and bottom cannot usually be captured in the same measurement, so a series of incremental measurements are made.  Throw in a forest and rough terrain and this becomes pretty tough and exacting work.

Then one other issue is where ground level is on wide hillside trees, where the upslope side of the trunk can be twelve feet higher than the downslope side of the trunk.  So the height is calculated as the average of downslope and upslope height.

Helios’ height was measured at 374.3 feet, which was about four feet taller than the previous tallest measured tree, Stratosphere Giant in Humboldt Redwoods, and about three feet taller than Icarus, another tall tree in the Helios area also discovered on July 1, 2006.

Then Hyperion was discovered in August and measured at 379.1 feet in September.   That was almost five feet taller than Helios.

Since Hyperion and Helios stood so much further ahead than other trees in height, especially Hyperion, and since so many tributaries of Redwood Creek were logged before being incorporated into Redwood National Park in 1964 and 1978, it is probably true there were other tall trees of similar height that were cut down in the 1960’s and 1970’s.   Looking at the winding creeks and Redwood Creek itself, incorporating altitude, soil conditions, distance above creek, and wind protection there were maybe a half dozen redwoods in the area above 375 feet tall in 1960.   Hyperion at the time was probably around 370 feet tall.  How tall the tallest one was, it will never be known, but it could have been 390-400 feet tall.   Maybe it was along Forty Four creek.

3      The Race to Number One


Helios’ height is increasing faster than Hyperion’s. This is probably due to the fact Helios is growing back toward its maximum height.  About a hundred years ago the top broke off of Helios and it went from a 400 foot redwood to a 350 redwood in a couple seconds.   So Helios’ height growth is based on branch reiterations.  Hyperion’s crown does not include reiterated branches, its crown height has to increase as a general push upward of the intertwined canonical canopy.  So Hyperion is presently at its historical maximum height.

Another very tall tree in Humboldt, the Stratosphere Giant, is growing in the Rockefeller Forest just a little ways from Bull Creek in a general area that has supported trees that were possibly 400 foot redwoods before their tops broke off (Giant Tree and Bull Creek Giant).    The Humboldt locations are on flats versus on hillsides, with summer nightly fog flowing up the Eel River and into Bull Creek and with good protection from high winds due to Grasshopper Mountain as well as an east-west valley orientation.

Here are some recent actual heights for the tallest redwoods, along with growth rates.  As is apparent, barring a wind event or substantial change in relative growth rates, Hyperion will remain the tallest tree on earth for some time.

Tree Hyperion Helios Strat Giant
Height 2000 unknown unknown 368.60
Height 2006 379.10 374.30 unknown
Height 2013 379.65 376.54 372.30
Height 2015 379.84 377.01 373.49
Height 2017 380.33 unknown unknown


Growth inches/year Hyperion Helios Strat Giant
2000-2013 3.42
2000-2015 3.91
2006-2013 0.94 3.84
2006-2015 0.99 3.61
2006-2017 1.34
2013-2015 1.14 2.82 7.14
2013-2017 2.04
2015-2017 2.94




Scenario One Hyperion Helios Strat Giant
Growth Rate Inch/Year 2.0 3.5 4.5
Act/Est Height 2017 380.3 377.6 374.2
Est Height 2020 380.8 378.5 375.4
Est Height 2025 381.7 379.9 377.2
Est Height 2030 382.5 381.4 379.1
Est Height 2035 383.3 382.8 381.0
Est Height 2040 384.2 384.3 382.9
Est Height 2050 385.8 387.2 386.6
Est Height 2075 390.0 394.5 396.0
Est Height 2100 392.5 398.9 401.6



Scenario Two Hyperion Helios Strat Giant
Growth Rate Inch/Year 3.0 3.0 6.0
Act/Est Height 2017 380.3 377.5 374.5
Est Height 2020 381.1 378.3 376.0
Est Height 2025 382.3 379.5 378.5
Est Height 2030 383.6 380.8 381.0
Est Height 2035 384.8 382.0 383.5
Est Height 2040 386.1 383.3 386.0
Est Height 2050 388.6 385.8 391.0
Est Height 2075 394.8 392.0 403.5
Est Height 2100 398.6 395.8 411.0


It would be exciting to see a 400 foot redwood, and it will probably happen.  But it will take another 50 years for a tree to get there.  I would guess that tree will either be Helios or Stratosphere Giant.

But it is amazing enough there is a 380 foot redwood growing in Redwood National Park right now, Hyperion.

The tallest tree

Redwood Hiking Summer 2017 – Redwood National Park

1      Helios Redwood, Redwood Creek Tributary

The tall trees lists have described the location of a number of tall trees in Redwood National Park as “Redwood Creek tributary”, including Helios.  There are a good number of Helios clues, and they all have some degree of helpfulness.  But to me, none made a specific location probable for Helios.  And on top of that there are no full views of Helios’ trunk on the internet.  Just bits and pieces, such as a small area of trunk burn marks and a small section of one side of the trunk.   And no canopy photos that show much.

But over the course of three years, with four visits to Redwood National Park searching for the tallest trees and quite a bit of time reading through research papers, viewing photos, and moving around Google Earth and Blue Marble I felt I had a good chance of finding Helios.


2      Hiking to Helios


I did not want to do the Helios hike alone.  So I planned the hike with two guys from the U.K, Carl and Phil, who I trust and are excellent redwoods researchers and hikers.

On a Sunday in August 2017 we took on this hike.  And it was quite an undertaking, ten hours of hiking in all.  And we were successful.

The approach to Helios is just what you would think for a tributary of Redwood Creek.  There is a creek and there are steep hillsides.  And both are filled with giant logs, some recent falls and many worrisome rotting logs from treefall one or two hundred years ago.  So over logs, around logs, under logs, along logs.  Logs, logs, logs.  Then throw in big ferns and nettles.  And rocks, big ones.  I fell three times, once off a rotten log, winding up on my back under some brush.  I had to wiggle my way uphill while on my back to get out of the thicket.  Carl and Phil took some spills as well.  One of us had a serious wardrobe malfunction to contend with on the hike back out.

Do not do this hike on your own!   Do not do this hike if you cannot tolerate extreme physical exertion!

Here are a couple views of typical redwoods and other trees and plants in the Helios area.  Lots of ferns and rhododendrons.  Also quite a bit of western hemlock, sitka spruce,  and bay laurel.   But the majority of the biomass is definitely redwoods.

Large redwoods above Helios’ creek


View looking down toward Helios’ creek


3      Finding Helios


The three of us had climbed up a hill and were spread out.  We noted a strong candidate, Phil got to the tree first and yelled “I think you will be very pleased with this tree” in the typical understated British way.  Then Carl had a good pic of the burn marks on his tablet and what we saw lined up exactly in every detail.   This was Helios, definitely.  And we got it confirmed the next day.

Here are two views of Helios similar to what has been on the internet.  The first is a section of the burn marks.   The triangle on the left is the official shark tooth.   Then the second is me in front of the trunk.

I cannot show any full trunk or crown views of Helios.

Helios shark tooth (on left).


Standing at the trunk of Helios.


4      Helios Height


We did put rangefinders on the top of Helios and got a ballpark height.   But we didn’t have prisms and tripods to get a definite height, and also didn’t find a ground level tag on the tree.

But Helios is immensely tall, perhaps as tall as Hyperion.   And Helios has a lot of character, lots of interesting and unique features.  That is what you would expect from a 2,000 year old tree.

Redwoods Hiking Summer 2017 – Crescent City Forest

1      Crescent City Forest

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park can certainly be described as Crescent City’s forest.  When viewed in Google Earth the start of the park is very abrupt, with farm land, commercial land, and housing immediately to the west of the park’s border.   As an example the Boy Scout Tree redwood is less than three miles from the Crescent City Walmart.

But don’t be fooled, there is a lot of remoteness for much of JSRSP.   There is an especially big patch of redwoods south of Highway 199 and north of the Boy Scout Tree trail that is pretty much free of trails and roads.  On a Saturday in August Mario and I did some exploration in this forest.  Not to any known giant trees, but just to look around.   This area has a wrinkled landscape and receives a lot of rain.  Therefore there are many creeks, generally flowing either north toward Smith River or south toward Jordan Creek and the Pacific ocean.    In one valley the water may flow north, then crossing to the next valley, at the same latitude, the water may flow south.

We took our time, looking over a small portion of the area, and found some really interesting “stuff”.

2      Big and Small Redwoods


We found this big whopper redwood with one of the nicest crowns you’ll ever want to see.

Large redwood with huge crown, a boiling cloud of green.


Then this is a classic nursery log, with a line of ten or so young redwoods growing out of the log.  That’s Mario along the log.

Nursery log supporting ten young redwoods


Here’s a nice cluster of big redwoods, maybe they can be called the Crescent City Towers.  Occupants are flying squirrels and marbled murrelets.  Mario’s in lower right for scale.

Crescent City Towers


3      The Elk Herd


Just above one creek sits this redwood grouping.  We gave it the name Elk Herd as there are elk sign in this area, lots of hoof prints and nibbled off vegetation from earlier in the summer.  It would be quite a picture to get a herd of elk surrounding this herd of redwood trees.

Mario has a good picture of this grouping on his website where you can discern the impressive size more clearly.  But let me just say, at 4.5 feet above the ground, there is 35 feet of pure redwood diameter, no spacing.  The big one in the middle is over 20 feet diameter.

The Elk Herd

4      Chill Down


That evening Mario organized a FB meetup at a brew pub in Crescent City.  He got a good turnout, both people interested in redwood photography and redwood hiking.  About 25 in all, everyone had a good time.

Redwoods Hiking Spring 2017 – Harper Flat

1      Harper Flat

Harper Flat contains about 30 redwoods over 350 feet in height in an area no larger than 400 yards X 300 yards.  That’s quite a tight grouping of tall trees.  It sits on the south side of Bull Creek a little bit east of Giant Tree.  The Bull Creek south side trail goes right through a section of Harper Flat.

Over the last few years I’ve been through Harper Flat a few times, and have seen every tall tree in that area.  But I didn’t know which was which.   The trees themselves are on some published lists with heights and diameters.  But height is difficult to determine in the forest and there are many similar diameters and fusions in the area.

Recently I collaborated with an expert tree seeker, combining some clues we had with some new technology, and we were able to come up with a pretty good layout associating specific crowns with specific trees in Harper Flat (any in many other areas).


2      Harper Flat Transect


In May it was time to put the technical findings in action and do a transect of Harper Flat.  We had GPS, range finders, D-Tapes, and some custom created maps to assist in the effort.

Working generally southwest to northeast we identified with high probability all the tallest trees in Harper Flat, including the notable trees Valentine, Apex, Alice Rhodes, Mother and Daughter, Pyramid Giant, and Randy Stoltmann (the order listed here is random).

There are many large fallen logs in Harper Flat which makes getting from point A to point B circuitous.  Then also some of the notable trees are tucked in areas with the logs and brush, so care must be taken.  There was also quite a bit of bear poop in Harper Flat, a bear or maybe a bear and cub must be accessing Bull Creek through this area.

To be honest the most scenic and impressive trees I saw in Harper Flat were none of the trees noted above, but instead a couple named Big Log (Brutus) and Bushy Toe.  Both are over 350 feet and have large diameters.

Big Log is right by a big log

Big log 361 feet tall, 15.5 foot diameter.


Bushy Toe Redwood, one of the largest trees in HRSP

Bushy Toe 351 feet, 17 foot diameter.   This tree is just north of the Bull Creek south side trail.

Then also it should be mentioned there are two spectacular signed trees nearby.  On the south side of Bull Creek is Giant Tree, 354 feet, 17 foot diameter, while nearby on the north side of Bull Creek stands the stately Rockefeller Redwood, 366 feet, 15 foot diameter.

Giant Tree. About nine feet shorter than the sign says.


Rockefeller Redwood


3      An Encounter Along the Trail

We saw quite a few people in the area on this day, even off trail.  Almost all had a friendly hello and we chatted for a bit about hiking and redwoods.  However when we were rounding a bend in the trail we met two guys going in the other direction who ducked down and started tying their shoes.  It was clearly avoidance behavior, not wanting to be seen.  They had nice cameras and tripods.   Anyhow we said a brief cursory hello and moved on.

I suppose this all sounds strange to some, but there is intrigue in the redwoods, some people have gone rogue and put out GPS, hiking directions and very nice photos for a bunch of specific trees, even some way off trail.   Now this is contrary to the current status quo, very contrary.   And the people doing this have chosen to remain anonymous.

I think these people would be more effective in their endeavors if they took credit for what they have built and made their case for the site content.

I agree for some trees right by trails it is pretty silly to keep them a “secret”.  But then for others, way off trail, it is pretty risky to send people over hill and dale to get to the trees.  Then there is a lot of ground in between.

Maybe some common ground can be found.

Redwoods Hiking Spring 2017 – Boy Scout Tree Trail

1      Boy Scout Tree Trail

The Boy Scout Tree Trail is a great hike through the heart of Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, starting from a big grove along Howland Hill road then winding all the way northwest to Fern Falls which is very near the western border of the park.  The trail goes up and down a 400 foot hill and a smaller hill and makes its way along slopes, uplands, and creek bottoms.   It goes by many large redwoods right by the trail, and most of the trail provides expansive views of the redwood forest.  Then at the end Fern Falls is very beautiful.  This is an out and back trail, with the start and finish at Howland Hill road.

To prepare for this hike I referred to three sources, all of them excellent:

  • GF Beranek has published a new book covering Jedediah Smith and Del Norte Redwoods State Parks. This is an excellent resource, with beautiful photos not just of redwoods but also photos and descriptions of their forest habitat including companion tree species, plants, mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and insectivores.   Every section and trail in the park is covered in detail, including twenty pages dedicated to the Boy Scout Tree Trail.   This is a companion book to earlier publications on Humboldt Redwoods, Prairie Creek Redwoods, and Tree of Dreams and Fortune, all very good.   You can find these books in some of the visitor centers and almost all the gift shops around the redwood parks.  It should definitely be a fixture in the Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park visitor center.
  • Dave Baselt has a web site which covers all the trails in all the redwood parks, with topographic maps, elevation profiles, hike descriptions, and photos. In addition his waterproof large foldout park maps can be ordered online or purchased in the park visitor centers.  I always bring and use his related map when I visit a park and hike a particular trail.
  • Mario Vaden has built quite a redwoods web site, which can be launched off his commercial landscaping website Lots of photos, essays, and trail descriptions, including the Boy Scout Tree Trail.  Some of his photos are for sale, including his famous epic sunset view of the Geisha Redwood.

The trail head for Boy Scout Tree Trail is on Howland Hill road about two miles north of the southern park entrance.  Howland Hill road is a great drive among big redwoods.  It is more or less a 10 mph road, given the bumps, blind corners, some tight squeezes between trees, and lots of pebbles which can work their way into your wheel cover or brakes.  Plus driving slower keeps the dust down.

I arrived on a sunny weekend day about 9 AM.  There were a few cars parked at the trail head.  When I finished this hike about four hours later there were  about 25 cars at the trail head and in side slip spaces nearby on Howland Hill road.  Maybe I met 75 people on the trail going out and back, which means running across a person or group every five to ten minutes or so, so lots of solitude as well.

Grove at Howland Hill road Boy Scout Tree Trail parking area
Boy Scout Tree Trail trail head sign



2      The Climb to Upland Redwoods


The first part of the trail is flat, then starting at the scenic bridge shown below it starts to climb at a moderate pace for about a mile or so, passing some big redwoods by the trail with expansive views to the north.  There is a under duct under one old log that kind of looks like a giant crocodile.

First bridge on flats near start of BSTT
Nice trail side redwood on climb up east slope
This log leaning over the trail on the way up looks a little like a crocodile

Upon reaching the summit I anticipated catching a bit of the cool ocean breeze as described by Jerry Beranek in his book.  And by golly, there it was, smack dab on top of the hill.  In addition to the northwest ocean breeze there is a hint of salt water in the wind.

This big trail side triple redwood is at the summit

The trail then circles around the hilltops, with nice redwoods growing among fern dominated ground cover.

Hill top redwoods in fern fields


3      Down to Jordan Creek


But what goes up must come down and eventually the trail starts to descend toward the Jordan Creek valley.  Here on the west side of the hill the terrain is more wrinkled and rugged, as is the trail.  There are lots of roots to negotiate, which can be your friend when braking going downhill or looking for steps going uphill but can be your enemy when catching a toe.  In fact it is so steep in places steps have been built into the trail for assistance.  These help a lot.

Helpful log stairs in trail going down to Jordan Creek

Jordan Creek itself is pretty small where the trail crosses near its headwaters.  But still it is a very dense setting, with lots of huckleberry and western hemlock mixed in with the redwoods.  There is a RCCI study plot in the back country on the west side of JSRSP, not particularly near this trail but having the same type of redwood habitat, which has the greatest measured biomass density of any area on the planet Earth.

This small bridge crosses Jordan Creek near its headwaters


4      Valley of the Giants


After crossing Jordan Creek there is a short climb to hill side terraces which follow the generally westward path of Jordan Creek.  The trail follows these steppes around some bends and pockets.  And along, below, and above these steppes and pockets, are sets of really large redwoods.  Ones Jerry Beranek calls Class AA and Dave Baselt describes as Giants.  Many are single stem, but there are others that started as adjacent single stem and then fused as their diameters expanded.

The two big redwoods shown below start the Valley of the Giants.  They are right across the trail from each other.  One has a spectacular up trunk burl holding a fern garden.

Large trail side redwood at eastern end of Valley of the Giants
Second large trail side redwood at eastern entrance of Valley of the Giants
A nice fern garden high on the trunk of big redwood at eastern end of Valley of the Giants

Some of the big redwoods can be seen in their full profile, while others are cloaked by the undergrowth or other trunks.   Here are some views along the trail.

Big redwood visible in full profile in Valley of the Giants
This single stem 20 foot diameter redwood grows right by the trail in the Valley of the Giants

5      Boy Scout Tree Area and Fern Falls


After leaving the Valley of the Giants there are still plenty of nice redwoods.    This past winter a large redwood fell across the trail in the section that descends to the Boy Scout Tree area.  There is still a pretty big crater in the trail where the trunk fell across it.   Then shortly after there is quite a large trail side redwood with a big reiteration, burl, and fern garden low on the trunk

Crater in trail on hill down to Boy Scout Tree, caused by redwood falling across the trail.
Big redwood on trail down to Boy Scout Tree with reiteration, burl, and fern garden low on the trunk.

As the trail enters the Boy Scout Tree area  there are still plenty of nice redwoods, and Sitka spruce start to make an appearance.

Nice redwood by trail in Boy Scout Tree area

Soon the spur trail on the right that leads up to the Boy Scout Tree is encountered.  The Boy Scout Tree is an impressive fused redwood.

Boy Scout redwood tree

From the Boy Scout Tree area the trail continues to descend and winds around a bend, where Fern Falls makes a sudden appearance.   The falls are quite spectacular, especially when the flow rate is high such as the day I encountered them.

Rounding this bend, Fern Falls comes into view
Fern Falls at western end of Boy Scout Tree trail

While at this end of the park there is a hint of Crescent City, with an occasional hum of truck tires or the harbor horn.  Just a whisper, nothing unpleasant and it adds to the hike.

The hike back was just as enjoyable though maybe a little more tiring going up the tall hill from the west side.  But not too strenuous and the downhill jaunt to the parking lot at Howland Hill road was fun.