Redwood Creek to Tall Trees Grove: Backpacking Redwood National Park

Dispersed campsite along Redwood Creek shortly after Elam Horse Camp
 The Redwood Coast of northern California has always been a special place to me, I still remember my first trip there with my parents when I was 11 years old. In the last 2 years I have made the pilgrimage many times and checked out great trails in Jedediah Smith State Park, Prairie Creek State Park and Redwood National Park. Nearly all of my adventures in the Redwoods have been in the dead of Winter, both to avoid crowds and because it happened to be when I could make it there. Backpacking to the Tall Trees Grove via the Redwood Creek trail has been on my list for a long time, but because I was always here in winter it wasn't possible. This year I was able to make it down here and to top it off there wasn't even a cloud in the sky for two days.

This bridge is the start of the Redwood Creek Trail

After loading the car up we set out for the five and half hour drive to Redwood National Park. We arrived from Eugene at the visitors center along Highway 199 around 3:00 pm. After some confusion by the volunteer working she gave me my no cost permit to camp along Redwood Creek. Back on the road again we headed south on 199 to 101. The drive through Del Norte State Park is one of my favorites on the Pacific Coast. The town of Orick has a small store that you can pick up last minute items at. Though it's the gateway to a major National Park the town is seemingly dead. As we drove down Bald Hills Road I was expecting the parking lot to be full or close to it, but I was wrong there was only two other cars! We set out on the trail at around 4:00 pm.
Massive Sitka Spruces line the trail along with some Redwoods
The trail until the first crossing of Redwood Creek is nearly flat and appears to have been a road at sometime. Once you cross on a seasonal bridge, which oddly enough isn't needed when it's there, the water was only about knee keep, the trail is much smaller. 

View of Redwood Creek from the seasonal bridge
Shortly after the first crossing of Redwood Cree
Our original plan for the night was to camp at Elam Horse Camp, but after coming to the cutoff trail we decided to walk a little bit further and camp on the gravel bar. There were many side trails, most likely from game that lead down to Redwood Creek, but we waited until we found an area that was still covered in the warm afternoon sun and then cut down a steep game trail to the gravel bar. My girlfriend wanted to camp right along the Redwood Creek so we started gathering some dry driftwood that was on the gravel bar and set up camp. The spot was about perfect, we had easy access to both water and wood, it was interesting to see how massive the Coast Redwoods were in comparison to the other tall stream side trees. 

Our packs near Redwood Creek

Sunrise on Redwood Creek

 The depth of Redwood Creek where we camped was about waist deep, so swimming would be out of the question here. After sitting around the fire enjoying sunrise we packed up knowing we would have a fairly long, but easy and incredible day of hiking ahead of us. We set out from camp around 9:00 am.

Acer Macrophyllum AKA Big Leaf Maple along Redwood Creek

Me under a massive nurse log across the trail
Because this trail was build much later than other trails in the various Redwood State Parks, it stays close to Redwood Creek ,where few Redwoods grow. Conventional wisdom is that any increase in traffic through old growth stands is bad for them and the environment that they live in. Though there are still some pretty large trees that you will walk by and nearly always just up hill from you will be some old growth Redwoods. Also there are a few areas just before the second crossing of Redwood Creek that were logged. These areas are thick with young Redwoods. 

Young Redwoods in a previously logged area

Missing part of a bridge, others felt pretty loose
Once you reach the junction with the trail that heads to Camp 44 you will be only .4 miles from the Tall Trees Grove, this is where you will descend back to Redwood Creek and cross on another seasonal bridge.

Crossing Redwood Creek on a seasonal bridge near Tall Trees Grove
Close to Tall Trees Grove we came across about 10 other hikers and one National Park Service Ranger. I was definitely excepting way more people around this famous grove, I guess the fact that you need a code to get passed the locked gate deters some people. The Ranger we talked with was great, she had good information, we ended up talking with her for nearly 30 minutes. The walk around the Tall Trees Grove is similar to the Stout Grove, there is a loop through a grove of amazing trees. It was once believed that the tallest tree in the world grew here, but since then they have found others that are taller. Though the Libbey Tree is the only one of the trees once thought to be the tallest in the world that you can find without research and bush-whacking.
Nearly straight massive Coast Redwood in the Tall Trees Grove

Along the trail in the Tall Trees Grove

The loop hike through the Tall Trees Grove is a great turn around point for an overnight trip, though you could walk up Redwood Creek to find better swimming.

Junction with the trail to the Tall Trees Grove parking lot

Sunshine on giant Coast Redwoods in the Tall Trees Grove

After this hike I only wanted to explore the area more. Somewhere in the valley that Redwood Creek flows through is the World's tallest tree, Hyperion. It's location is kept secret. Backpacking in the Redwoods is definitely much better than staying at the popular campgrounds. Be sure to check with the park office for any changes to where you can camp.

Directions from Crescent City: Follow Highway 101 for 40.5 miles turn left onto Bald Hills Road, Follow Bald Hills Road for .4 miles, turn right follow until end. There are signs indicating the trailhead. 

Hike Distance: Approximately 16.4 miles including the Tall Trees Loop

Hike Type: Out and Back

Elevation Gain: 500

Usage: Heavy

Difficulty:2 out of 5

Redwood Creek Trail at EveryTrail
EveryTrail - Find the best Hiking in Redwood National and State Parks
A few giants in the Tall Trees Grove

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