by Mario Vaden
Bull Creek Flats is in Humboldt Redwoods State Park, mostly off to the side of Bull Creek Flats (Mattole) Rd., near Avenue of the Giants. Upstream from where Bull Creek meets the Eel River. Contact the Humboldt Redwoods State Park visitor center or search online for maps, such as redwood hikes.com ... the full loop consists of 2 trails, Bull Creek Flats trail and Big Tree trail. Seasonal bridges allow hiking the full loop Summer and Autumn. But since Bull Creek is not always high-water, stowing water shoes or sandals in your pack should enable the full 10 mile loop 75% of the year. If current is slow and knee high, it's worth carrying an extra pound of footwear.
Whereas redwoodhikes.com rated 3 stars out of 5 stars, I will stick my neck out and give Bull Creek Flats loop a top rating ..... 5 Stars .... 10 / 10 ... etc. ... particularly because there's some great stands of redwoods, and you have 1, 2, 3, 4 or more ways to fine-tune a route suited to your liking. Adding a Homestead Trail, maybe Bull Creek Flats Rd., and halving Bull Creek Falts and Big Tree trails, there's several loop options. Even a couple of double-loops where you can zig-zag the map and sample 3 trails, or 3 trails and the road. Get yourself to a map of the area, and put together a plan. It's well worth the experience.
There's nothing quite like the best parts of Bull Creek Flats.
Bull Creek Flats loop is not 100% giant old growth redwoods from end to end, but there's still an abundance of old growth redwood stands along the route. One area has the tallest average canonpy height on Earth. And you can do the entire loop or hike a selected portion of it. The hike also connects to Rockefeller Loop.
The area is more open than Prairie Creek, Jedediah Smith or Redwood National parks. Giving Bull Creek Flats a unique feel, look and photographic quality. The Bull Creek Flats trail on the south side is favored by some, but there's plenty on the north side. Seems the lion's share of my photos have been taken on the north side where Big Tree trail runs. Autumn to early spring when traffic mellows, one may consider using Bull Creek Flat Rd. to form a loop and keep an ear open. But the road has some awesome tree scenery too.
For first-timers to the Coast Redwoods, with 1 or 2 days only, I say put Bull Creek Flats on the back burner for another trip if you are coming from the north like Oregon, Washington or B.C.. But if driving from, say, San Francisco, or flying into Arcata / Eureka, then Bull Creek Flats can be a priority.
In summer, when numbers of visitors are heavy near Founders Grove and the Dyerville Giant, I find the Bull Creek Flats area a more relaxing alternative.
Photo: Not all Bull Creek Flats looks like this ... but many places along the way are similar, with open expanses of Coast Redwood trunks towering over 300 feet ... some over 350 feet