Copyright 2010 - 2014 by Mario Vaden
June 3rd, 2013, the 7 mile road down to this grove and trail was closed for a long time .... but it's open again. You can always check Redwood National Park web pages for updates.
Redwood National Park's trail down to the grove of tall redwoods is one where I differ from redwoodhikes.com which rated it average ... or 3 stars out of 5 possible.
For me, this is better than average, based on the entire hike and a extra things experienced.
September 2014, I hiked down to explore with one, John Montague, from Arcata, and we discussed this area in terms of rating value. We both concluded its worthy of a 5 star rating out of 5 stars possible.
Compared to many other redwood hikes, this one has more of a Wilderness feel to it than most others.
The grove has the 5th tallest known redwood (2014) and there are other special redwoods among the grove and on the perimeter that I will not be naming. Not Hyperion ... but take my word, you can admire some special redwoods down there.
If you expand your hike onto the river bank of Redwood Creek and even over the seasonal bridge and Redwood Creek trail, the visit becomes even better yet.
There is a rich mix of species along the trail from top to bottom. Tanoak, Douglas fir, Chinquapin, Rhododendron, Coast Redwood and more. This variety adds a lot of recreational value and interest to the hike.
The mixed species of broadleaf evergreens make for a different hike in the rain ... leaves intercept the drops and sounds like an audience of tiny clapping hands applauding.
One highlight will include the grove of large redwoods in the bottom flat along Redwood Creek. Those are the biggest as a grove that you will see, but there are a lot of nice size coast redwoods on the way down. One of my other favorite spots is the grove of giant bigleaf maples. The maples are laden with mosses and provide a lovely canopy. These are in the 70 to 120 foot height range with huge limbs extending sideways.
Its surprising how few people visit this redwood grove. I'm not sure if its because of the slightly strenuous return, the bit of extra driving, or just that it's under-rated by other websites, books or articles.
Only 50 permits or so are issued for the hike each day. I did a mid-November autumn hike once on a partially rainy day, and apparently was the only hiker there. Had that whole section of national park to myself.
It takes some extra driving. For example, I had my permit from the visitor center at Orick, by 1:45 pm, drove to the trailhead, did the entire hike, and returned to my vehicle by 5:00 pm. With a little photography squeezed in too. All things considered, wouldn't you agree that 3.5 to 4 hrs. is reasonable?
New section of trail
In 2009, ground was broken for a new section of trail near the top. It eventually merges with the original trail about half way down. 2010, I got a glimpse of the new trail before it opened. The overall grade is more mellow, providing a more gradual descent and return for the upper half. It passes through a few areas with more clearing providing a more of panoramic viewing.
There is a tunnel cut from one log, and a path through another large fallen Douglas fir.
Hikers who revisit the modified trail should find the new section an interesting addition. As far as scenery goes, it's seems a little better because there's more variety.
Additional Information | Directions
You can get permits at several redwood park visitor centers ... not just the one near Orick. Once you have the permit from a park visitor center, drive down Highway 101, turn east on Bald Hills Road (north side of Orick) and drive about 7 miles on pavement to the gate.
Take care of the lock, , shut the gate behind you, and drive down the gravel road for about 6 miles to the trailhead.
Also, there is an overlook on Bald Hills Road, about 2000 feet from the gate and access road. It's well-worth a stop any time of day that you can see
Note ... since you will be parking 6 miles behind a locked gate, when the park's office has the license plate number and name of everyone getting a permit, this is not a risky place for a vehicle break-in.
The entire hike both ways plus the loop at the bottom is just under 4 miles round trip.
It's only 1.5 miles to reach the bottom, and going downhill you could really cruise if you want, but why rush down in 20 minutes. The return back up is more vigourous. For that reason, in summer, I prefer arriving early morning when weather is cooler.
The grove is home to the Libbey Redwood, which was discovered in the 1960's as the tallest known redwood back then. It has been surpassed by new discoveries but remains a notable redwood and landmark.
Overnight camping is permitted. You can get those permits where you got the gate code.
If you have good water shoes or sandals, I suggest packing them with you to add an extra mile or two from late Spring into Autumn.
Down along the river, we have seen heron, ducks, otters and other wildlife from time to time, exploring.
Whether before or after the hike, it can be rewarding to drive farther SE past the gate a few miles because there are some small prairie areas with extensive views overlooking the coast redwood forest below. You may even see some Roosevelt Elk.
The grove side of the gate for this trail was also the first time I saw Mountain Lions in Redwood National and State Parks: one adult and two cubs. I spot deer about every other time I go hiking here. Seen Black Bear on the drive to and fro, more than once.