Back To The Redwoods

After a three year break, I got back to the redwoods in late July 2022.  I am thankful for the gifts of health, time, and family that allowed me to make this trip. 

Day One – Richardson Grove State Park and FK Lane Grove in Humboldt Redwoods State Park

My early morning flight to San Francisco was on time and that, along with the still long summer daylight in late July, gave me a good amount of time to do some short redwood hikes on my way up to Arcata. 

First stop was Richardson Grove State Park, and I told the person collecting daily fees at the entrance booth I was very glad to get out of the car and do a little bit of hiking.  This State Park has about 25 acres of old growth redwoods with heights up to 345 feet and is very well trailed.  US Route 101 runs right through the old growth as a two lane, heavily trafficked, relatively low speed limit road.  Some of the park roads go under 101 to allow full access to all areas of the park.

I did a little bit of walking in the area adjoining the South Fork Eel River and was surprised to see a rattlesnake awareness sign in an open rocky area.  I didn’t note any of the snakes that afternoon.  The swimming holes on the river were being well utilized on the 95 degree afternoon.

I went over to the original visitor center with its relatively well known “deck” and “outhouse” trees which were incorporated into the building’s footprint.   I measured the “deck” tree at 103 meters, I likely didn’t get the tippy top.  From the visitor center area there are well maintained paths lined with short fences that go through the old growth areas.   They really want you to stay on the trails here, as the old growth area is concentrated and decently trailed.  I did wander off just a little bit to get a picture of one of the tallest trees in the park, which sits right beside the highway.

After this stop it was back on 101 North to the Avenue of the Giants and the FK Lane Grove, just north of Phillipsville.   This grove sits on the east side of the Avenue of Giants and is about 35 acres.  It has one main trail and a well tracked unofficial trail.  There are big redwood trees in this grove, and some are also over 350 feet tall.   These are the first 350 foot trees found north of Montgomery Woods SNR.  The hike through the grove was nice but hot in the late afternoon, with the air being very still.   I could hear people swimming in the Eel River South Fork even though it is about 600 yards to the west.

After this hike it was on to the very nice Miranda Market for some gas, food, and drinks, and then on to Arcata.

Day Two – Redwood National Park

For this hiking day I met up with John H, Marie, and Steve to do the hike from Emerald Ridge Trail to Tall Trees Grove to 44 Creek, returning to the parking area via Tall Trees Grove Trail.  This was close to an all day hike and involved a lot of creek wading.  Switching to hard soled water shoes for the wet parts makes travel a lot easier.  Hiking in Redwood Creek is only possible during the dry season – the creek is too fast and deep to hike most of the year.

The Emerald Ridge trail descent to Redwood Creek included a side trip to the scenic bridge crossing over Emerald Creek on the Dolason Prairie Trail.  One downer was to see so many browned Tan Oaks, SOD (Sudden Oak Death) has really moved into the area.

A lot of the forest between the Emerald Ridge trail endpoint and Tall Trees Grove has been cut, but there is a nice grove on what is called Emerald Flat, including a 360 foot tall tree.  We went a short way into Emerald Flat to see this tall tree and a few others.  There is a lot of bear sign on the flat, and they have chewed the cambium layer off some of the younger trees.  Some of the trees near the creek also have flood marks, showing Redwood Creek enters the flat when the water gets very high.

Redwood Creek is warm in late July, and other than a few ripples it was not too difficult moving through the dry season two foot deep water.  This route is definitely a no go most of the year. The creek bottom is cobblestone lined so you need to let your steps kind of slide into gaps to maintain good traction over the slippery stones.  At one point in the hike, we were near the mouth of Tom McDonald Creek and that creek’s outflow was much, much cooler.  We didn’t hike in Tom McDonald creek.

Coming up to Tall Trees Grove from the south is spectacular.  This flat has is aptly named, with six or so trees over 350 feet tall.  There are about three dozen over 328 feet tall (100 meters).  We moved over to the Redwood Creek Trail and hiked up to the 44 Creek Bridge area.   After that back to Tall Trees Grove and the loop trail there, then up the steep hill to the parking lot.  There were two noticeable changes in Tall Trees Grove since I was there in 2018 – a tree named the Deadwood Giant fell and the large multi branched big leaf maple along the loop fractured into many pieces.  Also, there are new signs up showing the Hyperion Tree closure area.  It includes a lot of Tom McDonald creek and the hillside between Tall Trees Grove and Hyperion.  Too many visitors to that tree.

Day Three – Cheatham Grove and Humboldt Redwoods State Park

On the morning of day three I drove over to the Cheatham Grove at the west end of Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park along the Van Duzen River.  This is a really pretty grove and the trail is well laid out, with some benches at the best spots to soak in the atmosphere.  The grove covers about 100 acres and has about a half dozen trees 340-350 feet in height.  Taking the trail to the right from the parking lot will shortly lead you to the Cheatham Giant on the left side of the trail.  This is a really spectacular tree.  In addition to the redwoods there’s also a beautiful big leaf maple that forms a large circular green domed canopy.  You can also walk out to the scenic Van Duzen River from the trail to get expansive views of the tall redwoods.

After this hike I drove to the north end of the Avenue of the Giants and hiked along a long abandoned section of the old Redwoods Highway. This is the area of tall redwoods seen from the US 101 scenic point overlook north of Humboldt Redwoods State Park.   There are about 15 trees over 330 feet tall in this 75 acre area also known as Elinor, with heights topping out at 355 feet.

After the walk on the old highway, I drove southeast on the Avenue of the Giants to the Holmes Flat area, which is a 50 acre old growth area just west of the Ancient Redwoods RV Park Gift Shop.  There aren’t any official trails and care must be taken if walking near or along the Avenue.  There are a half dozen trees over 330 feet in the Edmonson and Haas groves on Holmes Flat, with the tallest topping out at 350 feet.

From Holmes Flat, I drove south on the Avenue to the High Rock area and hiked the north and central portions of the High Rock trail.  The High Rock old growth area comprises 75 acres above the Eel River and below the Avenue of the Giants.   There are 30 trees over 328 feet tall, with maximum height around 350 feet.  Just north of High Rock itself the trail dips down to the Eel River to an area that has public vehicle access and river swimming.  Some of the trees closest to the riverbank show flood deposits on their trunks even though they are 30 feet above the normal river elevation.  This shows the extent of the big flood in December 1964.

A last, but not small, stop in the late afternoon was Founders Grove.  It was pretty busy at the Dyerville Loop Road intersection with the Avenue of the Giants.   A large tour bus was trying to park along Dyerville Loop road where it goes through Founders Grove while at the same time a convoy of three logging trucks, loaded with tree trunks, was using Dyerville Loop Road to access US 101 just west of the Avenue of the Giants and was traveling through Founders Grove at the same time.   It took about fifteen minutes for things to get sorted out. 

I wound up parking along Dyerville Loop Road at the northeast edge of Founders Grove, and then did some walking through the roadside groves.  After this walk I drove over to the Avenue of the Giants and went south a short distance, then parked on the west edge of Founders Grove.  I then did some walking on trails on both sides of the Avenue, admiring the big and tall trees in this area of Founders Grove. 

Founders Grove covers about 260 acres, with 220 trees over 328 feet (100 meters) tall.  About 40 of these trees are between 350 and 363 feet tall.  All the trails are on the west side of Founders Grove, and the east side of Founders Grove is one of the largest roadless, untrailed tall old growth redwood areas, about 100 acres.

Day Four – Humboldt Redwoods State Park and Eureka

Today was for some focused activity near Mattole Road in Humboldt Redwoods State Park.  Working with a couple researchers, several mapping products and measuring methods were informally tested against new data sources created by instruments orbiting the Earth.  An interesting blend of traditional and new technology was tested.

Later in the day I went over to the Sequoia Park Zoo and did their redwood canopy walk, it’s very nice. 

Day Five – Humboldt Redwoods State Park

This was a day to hike through some more areas in Humboldt Redwoods State Park.  I first hiked the trails south of the Founders Grove parking lot.  It was still foggy when I started out but by mid-morning the sun was out, lighting up the trunks and canopies.   The fallen Dyerville Giant is impressive. At the time it fell in 1991, at 372 feet tall it was likely one of the three tallest redwood trees (Hyperion was likely 377 feet tall in 1991).

At one time the Founders Tree was thought to be the tallest known redwood.  It has lost about 30 feet in height over the last 60 years, and now at 335 feet is about #135 in height in Founders Grove and about #1,320 in height among all redwoods.

After Founders Grove, I headed over to the lower Bull Creek area.   I hiked the Rockefeller Loop and followed the Bull Creek north side trail west for a bit.   The Rockefeller Loop itself is 80 acres of old growth redwood, with about 120 trees over 328 feet (100 meters), Of these, 15 are over 350 feet tall, with a maximum height of 370 or so feet.

Continuing on the Bull Creek north trail there are some nice groves, even before reaching Calf Flat. Notably there is a tall, brilliant cluster of redwoods on the first flat west, then a scenic grouping of redwoods surrounding a clearing which was a staging area for some Bull Creek rehabilitation work in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

Next stop was the Tall Tree area toward the western end of the Bull Creek old growth.  I hiked the Bull Creek trail east a ways, and the Big Trees Trail west a ways.  There are many large trail side redwood trees.  This area was relatively crowded, with people enjoying both the redwood trails and wading in Bull Creek. 

That afternoon I also went over to the very west end of the Bull Creek old growth near Mattole Road bridge.  There is a tall tree in that area named Lone Fern I’ve been trying to find without success.  Anyhow this time I went down through the berry bushes at the bridge and tried to find a tall top with a range finder, but with no success.   Anyhow, it’s in a nice grove right on the trail near the west end parking lot.

Day Six – US 101 and the Friendly Skies

The last day of this trip was a travel day.

Old Growth Canopy Maps and Hiking Trails For Areas Described in This Post

These are canopy height maps with trails shown for the areas I hiked in. These maps are all about 1.15 kilometers top to bottom, with North up unless the compass is shown on the map. Here light green is canopy over 60 meters and dark green is canopy over 80 meters. This does not include Redwood National Park, for which there is no public LiDAR other than some areas near the coast.

3 thoughts on “Back To The Redwoods”

  1. Very nice story of your trip, Mark. I miss teeming with you, as we did in the past. I recognized many of the places you described, as being where you and I, or me alone, have explored.

    1. Hi Ed, yes, it is always great hiking the trails and exploring for the big trees with you. I remember us finding some nice ones.

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