Emerald Ridge and Tall Trees Grove

Emerald Ridge and Tall Trees Grove

Location: Redwood National Park, California
Round Trip: 5,5 miles loop
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation Gain: 700 feet
GPS Coordinates: N 41 12.488 W 123 59.586
Visitor’s Information Open: only in summer during low water period

Free permit is required for the gate

The Tall Trees Grove is one of the most popular places among the visitors in the Redwood National and State Parks, even in spite of the fact that among all the attractions of the parks this one is the hardest to reach.

For the grove protection from numerous visitors, especially during the busiest summer months, the park rangers issue a limited number of free permits, which limits to 50 permits for vehicles per day. Thus while going to visit The Tall Trees Grove your first stop should be at Kuchel Visitor Center, where you will obtain a permit as well as the gate-lock combination (to open the gate, leading to the Tall Trees Grove Trailhead). Then about 30-45 minutes drive to the Tall Trees Access Road awaits you with the following passing the gates, and driving 6 more miles along the dusty logging road to the parking lot and the trailhead. It may look too complicated for some people, but we believe that it adds some mystique and significance to the place, making it quite isolated from the outer world with its noise and hustle.

There are several possibilities of hiking in this area, but to our opinion the best one is the Emerald Ridge Loop (a combination of Emerald Ridge Trail and Tall Trees Grove Trail). Especially if it’s not your first time in Redwoods, and you had seen enough of majestic shady woods, here you will have a chance to appreciate the grandeur of fascinating ancient redwood forest from a new angle. This 5,5 miles moderate hike will provide you with plenty of new impressions.

From the trailhead the path goes steeply downhill lined up with redwood trees and Douglas firs, in several yards you will reach a junction of the Tall Trees Grove Trail and Emerald Ridge Trail. Here you should turn left to the Emerald Ridge Trail. The trail meanders descending through the forest of redwoods trees, though at the beginning the redwoods are few, the dense, luxuriant understory of which includes rhododendrons, tanoaks, huckleberry and ferns. In about 0.9 mile you’ll pass an intersection with the Dolason Prairie Trail. At this point follow the right-hand path (though the signs will not allow you to get lost, just take care not to miss them). After about 0.5 mile more of going down the hill you will get to the Redwood Creek.

Here again you have 3 options. If you don’t like the idea of fording the creek (and you’ll have to do this several times if you proceed the hike this way), you may turn back and return the same way you came here. You may also turn left and make a detour upstream the creek. There you’ll find some swimming holes in the narrow creek and will be able to enjoy the complete seclusion and serenity of the place.

But the usual route follows the trail downstream the Redwood Creek along the wide streambed. The streambed is gravel and this can slow down your walk. Moreover you will have to ford the creek several times that is why this trail is recommended for hiking only during the hot summer months, when the water level is low.

Strolling along the sunny creek you will have a chance to admire the sweeping views of ancient redwoods, covering the hills along the creek. The divine serenity of the place will take your breath away.
After about 1,5 miles look for an orange marker, indicating a short side path leading to the Tall Trees Grove Loop. At the junction with the loop go counter clockwise, to admire the great collection of ancient giants, which will further along the trail give way to big old maple trees, covered with moss.

Following further this trail you will pass one more attraction of this area – the Libbey Tree. It was named for Howard Libbey, the former owner of this land. This tree, with the height of 368 feet, in 1963 was discovered by an expedition conducted by National Geographic , and got a status of the tallest tree on earth. But its popularity cost too much to the tree. Numerous visitors willing to see it caused the compaction of the soil around the Libbey Tree, which resulted in insufficient water absorbing by its roots, and later its upper branches (about 10 feet) died.

Today the Libbey Tree is not the tallest one anymore, as new giants were discovered, and the name of the up-to-day highest tree is Hyperion, whose height is 379,3 feet. But the Libbey Tree is still the highest tree the visitors can see, as the administration of the Redwoods National and State Parks do not disclose the location of other highest trees, which have been discovered to protect them from the same fate as the Libbey Tree had.

Following further the Tall Trees Grove Trail you will pass an intersection with the Redwood Creek Trail and will start the ascending the shadowy forest in the direction of the trailhead and the parking lot.

We also want to emphasize that one of the greatest things about this area is that you may backpack and camp here (and probably, this is the only place within the Redwood National and State Park system, where camping is available). You may camp with a permit anywhere along the banks of the creek with the only requirement – not closer than a quarter of mile to the grove.

Photo: Roman Khomlyak
Photo Editing: Juliana Voitsikhovska
Information: Svetlana Baranova

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