Tag Archives: redwoods

End of Summer Redwoods Trip

A couple months ago (mid September 2023) I took a few days to visit the redwood parks and forests in Santa Cruz, Mendocino, and Humboldt counties in California.  I also caught up with a few redwood colleagues, it was nice visiting and doing some walking and hiking. 

Day One – Big Hendy and Little Hendy Groves in Hendy Redwoods State Park near Philo

Big Hendy redwood grove has well maintained relatively flat trails that wind throughout the old growth area.  There are tall trees here, with twenty or so from 330-350 feet in height.   There is also a nice prairie area adjacent to the river and good picnic facilities.

Little Hendy redwood grove is a smaller though just as nice grove closer to the visitor center and is pretty much right above the banks of the Navarro River.   The primary trail is a single narrow oval loop with small elevation changes.  There are some large and unusual redwoods in Little Hendy Grove right along the loop.

Day Two – Humboldt Redwoods State Park Bull Creek Groves

I met John (the Eagles fan John) in the Tall – Giant tree area off Mattole Road.  We did some hiking in the flats on both sides of Bull Creek.  There were a few downed trees, especially on the north side of Bull Creek.  The Giant Tree dropped a big limb or two recently, smashing through the deck surrounding it and destroying the sign beside the deck.  There is also a big deep hole in the ground on the west side of the Giant Tree, obviously involving the Giant Tree’s roots.  It is worrisome. 

The drive along Mattole Road took me though the area where there was a big landslide last Spring.  About a quarter mile of the road is now gravel track, and there are many downed redwoods on the downhill side of Mattole Road through this area.

Day Three – Redwoods National Park Tall Trees Grove

I really enjoy the drive and hike to Tall Trees Grove, and the grove itself is great.  In the summer walking out onto the gravel bars of Redwood Creek from the Tall Trees trail is a must to see the giants in profile.  These redwoods are huge living things.

There was a lot of tree fall along upper Tall Trees grove trail last winter and many well executed repairs are visible on the upper part of the trail.  Down in the grove itself all the giants seem to be standing tall.  I spent a lot of time on the gravel bars taking in the views, both immediate and long distant.  The hike back up the steep hill is a good leg and lung stretcher and I enjoyed respites on a couple of well positioned benches.

Day Four – Humboldt Redwoods Pepperwood Area, Smithe River State Natural Reserve, and Chamberlain Creek Waterfall Trail in Jackson State Forest Mendocino County

On day four I met Steve (the Cal Poly Humboldt Steve) and we did some hiking and work in the Pepperwood Area of Humboldt Redwoods State Park.   Most of the time we were in French Bell Grove, but we also went over to the north end of the Avenue to check out a few trees close to 101. 

Later that day I finally stopped at Smithe Redwoods State Natural Reserve along 101 north of Leggett.  Care needs to be taken exiting and entering 101 from the adjacent parking area as this is a high-speed curvy area of the highway.  Smithe Redwoods are on a nice flat above the Eel River and there is some impressive old growth there. A couple trees top out at 330 feet.

After this it was off to Chamberlain Creek Waterfall Trail between Willits and Fort Bragg in Jackson State Demonstration Forest in Mendocino County.  This area is a little remote and has gravel roads on the approach and it is good to have well researched written directions when driving there.  The trail is great, it starts from a road and moves sharply downhill into a creek valley filled with tall old growth redwoods.  The waterfall was flowing, and the wide cascade drops straight down a twelve foot or so wall of rock.  The waterfall and redwoods are in the same immediate area, so the vista is scenic and tranquil.

Big trunk and crown of large redwood in Grieg-French-Bell grove

Day Five – Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park and Aptos Creek in Santa Cruz County

The drive on day five was very interesting, taking expressways through the South Bay area and then the winding roads to the Felton – Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park – Roaring Camp area.  Henry Cowell Redwoods are beautiful, on a flat right above the San Lorenzo River.  There are many really big redwoods along the primary old growth trail.  This park has really nice facilities and a big parking lot near the trail entrance to handle a good number of visitors.

Later that afternoon I drove over to the Aptos Creek area to visit Ed (the Redwood Ed) and we took a nice walk and saw some big redwoods along Aptos Creek, very close to the Pacific Ocean.

I enjoyed my time in the redwood areas and meeting up with some good people. Thanks for reading.

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.

Humboldt Redwoods State Park Bull Creek Groves


The Bull Creek groves in Humboldt Redwoods State Park run six kilometers east to west, starting at the confluence of Bull Creek and the South Fork Eel River and extending west to a short distance past the Mattole Road Bridge over Bull Creek. All the tall redwoods (those over 100 meters in height) in the Bull Creek groves are within 225 meters of Bull Creek itself.   Therefore, the area with very tall redwoods encompasses about 2.7 million square meters / 270 hectares / 670 acres.   The tall redwoods are more or less uniformly distributed throughout this area, which is known as the “Bull Creek Flats”.

Despite what a sign says, the Bull Creek Flats have NOT been a wilderness for thousands of years.  This area was long used by Native Americans, especially in the winter when salmon were in the creek.  In the present day Mattole Road runs through the entirety of the Bull Creek groves, and the area is well trailed, on both the north and south sides of Bull Creek.  You can virtually drive Mattole Road through the Bull Creek Flats using Bing Maps (this area is not available on Google Earth Street View).

John D. Rockefeller Jr. donated $2 million in the late 1920’s to purchase the Bull Creek groves and a portion of the surrounding hillsides from the Pacific Lumber Company.  That sum was matched by state of California taxpayers to complete the $4 million purchase of approximately 9,400 acres encompassing the Bull Creek Flats, Dyerville Flats, and some of the surrounding hillsides in 1931.   This is why the area in the present day is called Rockefeller Forest, though John D. Rockefeller Jr. preferred the name Bull Creek – Dyerville Forest.

Coast Redwoods are the dominant canopy species in Bull Creek groves.  The coast redwood is the only living tree species with more than a handful of individual trees over 100 meters in height.  There are approximately 2,000 coast redwoods over 100 meters in height.  Of these 2,000, about 800 are in the Bull Creek groves. About 25 of the approximately 45 trees in the world over 110 meters in height (all coast redwoods) are in Bull Creek groves.

Notable trees marked on older maps for this area include the Rockefeller Redwood (Tall Tree), Giant Tree, Flat Iron Tree (now fallen), and the Giant Braid.

Lower, Middle and Upper Bull Creek Flats

Although the Bull Creek groves (Bull Creek Flats) are continuous, sometimes the area is subdivided into the lower, middle, and upper Bull Creek Flats.  Using 2018 LiDAR data, I have created three derivative maps detailing the crowns in each area color shaded by ten meter height increments, stopping at 100 meters.  The crowns with white shading on top are over 100 meters, and there are about 800 such crowns along Bull Creek.   The tallest tree in the Bull Creek groves is Stratosphere Giant, which is about 114 meters tall.   Its specific location can be found through a standard web search.

Lower Bull Creek Flats colored height map shaded by ten meter increments. Ends in white (over 100 meters)
Middle Bull Creek Flats color height map shaded in ten meter height increments. Ends at white (over 100 meters).
Upper Bull Creek Flats color height map shaded by ten meter height increments. Ends at white (over 100 meters).

A Photo Tour of the Bull Creek Groves

Below are photos I took from 2014 though 2019 of locations in the Bull Creek groves.  They give a good overall idea of what can be found on the Bull Creek Flats, and some specific additional facts are included in the photo captions.  

I have also created a three minute You Tube / Power Point on the Bull Creek groves.  There is some background music, please forgive the middling skill of the piano player (me).

Views of Lower Bull Creek Flats

Winter morning at south end of Rockefeller Loop in Lower Bull Creek Flats
Tall redwood inside the Rockefeller Loop in Lower Bull Creek Flats
Sorrel covered forest floor in Lower Bull Creek Flats.
Fallen redwood on north trail exiting Rockefeller Loop in Lower Bull Creek Flats
Adjacent tall redwoods in the Lower Bull Creek Flats area

Views of Middle Bull Creek Flats

Nice redwood growing on the south side of Bull Creek in Middle Bull Creek Flats.
Large redwood in Middle Bull Creek Flats south of Bull Creek
Middle Bull Creek Flats south of Bull Creek
Tall redwood crowns in Middle Bull Creek Flats south of Bull Creek
Open area on Calf Flat north of Bull Creek in Middle Bull Creek Flats
Middle Bull Creek Flats north side trail view. Fallen redwoods are generally cut through and moved a little to keep the trails open.

Views of Upper Bull Creek Flats

View looking south across Bull Creek to Harper Flat in Upper Bull Creek Flats
Big redwood on Harper Flat on the south side of Bull Creek in Upper Bull Creek Flats
Looking toward the crown of a tall redwood on Harper Flat south of Bull Creek in Upper Bull Creek Flats
Giant Tree just south of Bull Creek in Upper Bull Creek Flats.
Tall Tree aka Rockefeller Redwood. On the north side of Upper Bull Creek Flats.
Nice ravine tree in upper Bull Creek Flats on the north side trail.

Thanks for viewing and reading.