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Road Trip Day Eight: Tall Trees and an Early End

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It was another great night of sleep, thanks to being next to Redwood Creek.

Fog had settled in the valley and I had already explored as much of this section of the river as I could. I packed up camp fairly early and hiked back up the Emerald Ridge Trail to drop my pack off at my car and continue down the other trail to the Tall Trees Grove. If you recall from yesterday, I was hoping to make a loop of these trails but the river had cut me off.

Hiking to the Tall Trees Grove

This profile from Gaia GPS depicts the 1.1-mile hike out of Redwood Creek on the Emerald Creek Trail to the Tall Trees Trailhead, hiking the 1.5 miles down to the Tall Trees Grove…pictures…and then hiking back to the parking lot. Total distance five miles, 1350′ ascent and 750′ descent. This does not include the loop trail at Tall Trees, which would add another half-mile.

Accessing the Tall Trees Grove is by permit only. They’re available for free from the visitor centers; I obtained mine from the Kuchel Visitor Center near Orick, south of the park. I didn’t catch how many daily permits are issued, but there is a limit, so it’s best to get them as early as you can in peak summer months and weekends. If you think you can access the grove without a permit – the road leading into the trailhead has a locked gate six miles away from the trailhead. The ranger will write the rotating gate code on your permit.

Even though the trail is only 3 miles round-trip, visiting this grove can take over half a day due to its remote location. But the remoteness – and visitor restrictions – definitely add to the experience. It is a small grove, so hopefully you’re not disappointed by the time and effort taken to get there.

The hike down to the grove is a pleasant downhill through a lot of old growth, which is surprising considering the Emerald Ridge Trail right next to it is mostly new growth. It’s a very green trail, surrounded by ferns, redwood sorrel, and western trillium. There’s one small seasonal creek crossing in the beginning. The trail starts to flatten out once you get closer to Redwood Creek, and you’re at the Tall Trees Grove. There’s a small network of trails to walk around the small grove, with one trail exiting the grove to the north along Redwood Creek.

tall trees trail

tall trees trail

redwood creek

This grove is right next to Redwood Creek, and the creek is easily accessible via a trail that cuts through the grass. Walk out to the gravel and look back at the grove to get a good idea of how tall these trees really are. Even the firs mixed in appear to be giant. The maples along the edge of the grove close to the river provide some good scale. Overall it’s just a very serene setting, with the entire area covered in low ferns and the massive trees providing shade.

ERROR: Going into it I knew this trail included a loop around the grove. But when I arrived and started walking around and taking photos, I ignored the loop, becoming too enamored in my photos and where I was going next. Had I done the small loop I would have seen more, including the Libbey Tree. This tree held the title of world’s tallest tree for thirty years until the crown died. If you’ve come all this way, do the little loop!

tall trees grove

tall trees grove

tall trees grove

What’s next…home?

My next move had been on my mind for a few days.

The original plan was to proceed to Crater Lake after Redwood, then on home through Lassen. Actually, that was my secondary plan, my primary plan was to do this trip in the reverse order but snow removal crews were still working Lassen and Crater Lake when I started.

I checked the park conditions yesterday and Crater Lake was still only open to the lodge. It sounded like everything else was covered in snow, and I didn’t bring skis or snowshoes. Lassen had opened a few miles on the north side of the park, but the road was still closed throughout the rest. Crater Lake was also forecasting low clouds and snow for the next couple of days.

So should I drive up to Crater Lake anyways just to have a look? It was hard to justify. Despite the right side of my brain slowly taking over during the past few days, the left side of my brain was still saying, “no, go there when you can actually enjoy all of it.”

And that was that.

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park was an option, a short drive north. Rain was moving in and only forecast to get worse.

I had accomplished what I set out to do – unwind after living in a boatyard for over a month and working my ass off with boat repairs. Find some photography inspiration. See some new places and go camping. I can still call it a success. Let’s just go home. I still need to unpack from the Caribbean and have a lot to catch up on.

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