by Mario Vaden
Lady Bird Johnson Grove was dedicated in August 1969, by President Richard Nixon. Lady Bird Johnson was First Lady, wife of President L. B. Johnson.
The trail and loop is about 1.4 miles long. Take Hy. 101 and about 1 mile north of Orick, California, turn east on Bald Hills Rd.. Go about 2 miles around curves up the hill until you see the parking area and foot bridge. In that last 5 minutes of driving, you will go from 40 feet elevation to nearly 1300 elevation. It's not somewhere comfortable to take a trailer or RV and return back down the hill and curves again.
This grove and trail is inviting to me for really just 2 things:
1. Photography with fog or mist, including with sun rays shining
2. Photography and Rhododendron blossoms around late May and June
The 1st is dependent on the weather, and the 2nd on time of year, and whether a particular year even provided ample blossoms.
If there is no fog or mist, and no Rhododendrons flowering, I feel Prairie Creek redwoods a few minutes north offers much more and is easier to get to. Lady Bird Johnson Grove means going up and down the hill on a curving road, and Prairie Creek is a mostly level drive. And from the visitor center south of Orick, for example, there's barely a few minutes difference for time.
When there are not Rhododendron blossoms or fog, I've found this to be one of the more difficult groves to get good photos from, unless going for individual redwoods, or Clintonia, an interesting wildflower with blossoms or berries. There are a few Clintonia up there. But if photography is no big deal and just gazing, that's pretty good experientially.
If you decide on Lady Bird Johnson Grove, there are plenty of nice coast redwoods up there. If it's May or June, and a good year for flowers, there's some very nice patches of Rhododendrons up there. Those are a west coast shrub that can grow from a few feet tall to as much as 10 ft., 20 ft., or possibly taller.
There's a lot of "if" involved with this grove and trail giving you it's best.
If redwoods soaring through fog is your aim, or sun rays through fog, you may get a clue from highway 101 before driving up. It will be obvious many times whether fog or some form of vapor is shrouding the hill or not. Then you can decide whether to try another trail, or just see Lady Bird Johnson Grove anyway. Whatever time of year you visit this grove, there's enough to provide an aesthetic experience.