The Redwood National Park in Humboldt can provide some of the most memorable hikes for visitors. There aren’t many places in the world where you can hike for miles with natural shade. The forest is full of great hiking trails, from easy to strenuous. Below are 13 hikes for all skill and conditioning levels.
The following are mostly on level ground on well-maintained trails.
Founder’s Grove Nature Loop
0.6 miles, 30 minutes, level
The self-guided Founders’ Grove Nature Loop features the Founders’ Tree, named in honor of the founders of the Save the Redwoods League, and the Dyerville Giant, a 362-foot redwood that fell in 1991 and now provides nutrients to the forest. Start at Founder’s Grove parking area, Avenue of the Giants mile marker 20.5, 4.1 miles north of park headquarters. Brochures are available at the trailhead.
For an interesting sidetrip that will more than double your mileage, take the turnoff to the Mahan Plaque Loop (about halfway around the Founder’s Grove Loop). If you’re observant, you might spot the alabaster leaves of a 50-foot albino redwood along the way. It’s a parasite that grows out of the root collar of an adjacent tree. The Founder’s Grove/Mahan Plaque hike is about a mile and a half away.
Gould Grove Nature Trail
0.6 miles, 30 minutes, level
The short Gould Grove Nature Trail features 300-foot trees, evidence of early logging, and easy access to the river. Is ADA accessible and has interpretive signs. Start directly across the road from the visitor center at Avenue of the Giants mile marker 16.5.
1.7 miles, 1.25 hours, level
Here at the north end of the park, cooler temperatures and more fog create a lush carpet of greenery under the lofty old-growth redwoods of the Drury-Chaney Loop. Start at Avenue of the Giants mile marker 43.9, just south of the town site of Pepperwood.
Stephen’s Grove Loop
0.7 miles, 30 minutes, level
Stephen’s Grove was one of the first groves protected by the park. It served as a campground before the floods of 1955 and 1964, but was buried under layers of silt. Look closely as you walk the Stephen’s Grove Loop—can you find traces of old roadways and picnic tables? The redwood forest reclaims its territory quickly!
Start at Avenue of the Giants mile marker 7.0, just north of the town of Miranda. 9.5 miles south of park headquarters.
0.7 miles, 30 minutes, elevation change 20 feet
Rockefeller Loop explores the majestic Rockefeller Forest near the confluence of Bull Creek and the South Fork of the Eel River. Trees soaring to immense heights combine with an open understory to create a fairy-tale forest! Start 1.1 miles west of the Avenue of the Giants on the Mattole Road, which breaks off at Avenue of the Giants mile marker 20.6, at Dyerville.
The following hikes are 2.2–7.5 miles long, with moderate elevation gains.
Bull Creek Trail North
3.7 miles or about 2 hours each way; elevation change, 200 feet
Bull Creek Trail North is accessible year-round and offers a walk through the forest primeval—the largest old-growth redwood forest remaining in the world! Start either at Lower Bull Creek Flats (1.1 miles west of Avenue of the Giants on Mattole Road) or Big Trees (4.1 miles west of the Avenue of the Giants on Mattole Road).
Bull Creek Trail, North and South Loop
7.5 mile loop, about 4 hours, elevation change 500 feet
When summer bridges are installed, you can get a great look at the magnificent Rockfeller Forest from by taking Bull Creek Trail North in one direction and Bull Creek Trail South in the other. Start at either Lower Bull Creek Flats (1.1 miles west of Avenue of the Giants on Mattole Road) or Big Trees (4.1 miles west of the Avenue of the Giants on Mattole Road).
River Trail, North Section
3.6 miles, about 2 hours one way, elevation change 300 feet
Following the west bank of the South Fork Eel River, the River Trail, North Section can be hiked out and back or as a one-way route with a shuttle. But it’s only accessible in the summer, when the bridges are installed. At the Garden Club of America Grove,River Trail South is closed due to bridges lost in the Canoe Creek fire of 2003. For River Trail North, start at either the Burlington summer bridge near park headquarters or at Lower Bull Creek Flats, 1.1 miles west of the Avenue of the Giants on Mattole Road.
Johnson Prairie Trail, aka Addie Johnson Trail
2.2 miles total, about 1.5 hours, elevation change 600 feet
The Johnson Prairie Trail (also know as the Addie Johnson Trail) is short, but gains elevation quickly. It takes you through the redwoods to Johnson Prairie, named for Addie and Tosaldo Johnson, who homesteaded here in the 1870s. Addie’s grave lies at the end of the trail. The prairie offers magnificent views of Grasshopper Peak. Start at an unmarked turnout 0.1 mile west of the Big Trees area, which is 4.2 miles west of the Avenue of the Giants on Mattole Road. Return the way you came.
These hikes are 10.5 to 13.6 miles long and have significant elevation gains. Hikers should be in good shape and inquire about conditions before going out.
10.5 miles roundtrip from Big Trees, 4 hours, elevation change 1,400 feet
12.9 miles from Grasshopper Multiuse Trail, 5 hours, elevation change 1,600 feet
The Johnson Camp Trail climbs through many interesting habitats, from an elevation of 200 feet in the redwood forest to 1,600 feet at Johnson Camp, where redwoods were made into railroad ties in the early 20th century. Several dilapidated cabins mark the site of this “tie-hackers” camp.
If the summer bridge is installed at Big Trees (4.1 miles west of the Avenue of the Giants on Mattole Road), cross and start at Bull Creek Trail South. If the bridge is not installed, go past Big Trees to mile 5.1 instead, and turn left toward Grasshopper Multiuse Trailhead. Head east on Bull Creek Trail South from there. The first option will save you 2.4 miles.
Johnson Trail Loop
10.7 miles, 5 hour, elevation change, 1,600 feet
Start Johnson Trail Loop at the Grasshopper Multiuse Trail (5.1 miles west of the Avenue of the Giants on Mattole Road), take Bull Creek Trail South to Johnson Camp Trail. Return on the Grasshopper Multiuse Trail.
Look Prairie Multi-use Trail to Peavine Ridge
7 miles roundtrip, 4.5 hours, elevation change 2,200 feet
Look Prairie Multi-use Trail Loop
13.6 miles, 8 hours, elevation change 2,400 feetFrom redwoods, 3.5-mile-long
Look Prairie Multi-use Trail climbs to a prairie with stunning views and into a beautiful old-growth redwood/Douglas-fir forest. For a 7-mile hike, you can turn around at Peavine Ridge. For an all-day hike with even more variety, turn left and walk 3.7 miles along the ridge on the Peavine Ridge Trail, then head downhill (south) on the Thornton Multi-use Trail. At Albee Creek Campground, head down the road and turn east on Homestead Trail, hiking 1.2 miles back to the start. For the longer hike, leave early and take plenty of water! For both, start at the base of the Look Prairie Multi-use Trail, 4 miles west of the Avenue of the Giants on Mattole Road.
13.4 miles, 8 hours, elevation change 3,100 feet
Grasshopper Peak is the toughest hike in the park. The reward for the effort is a 100-mile view in all directions (at elevation 3,379 feet). Leave early in the day and take plenty of water. Start at Grasshopper Multi-use Trail, 5.1 miles west of Avenue of the Giants on Mattole Road.
Enjoy your hike through this incredible park!
Northern California’s Outdoor Digital Newsmagazine