This one-hour loop hike passes through streamside forest and the Blooms Creek campground before climbing up a hillside and descending through redwood-filled ravines on the East Ridge Trail. The hike winds up with some big redwoods on the Skyline-Hinh Hammond Connector Trail.
The beginning and end of this hike features some very scenic and very big lowland redwoods. The middle, upland part of the hike dosn't have any really noteworthy redwoods. Nonetheless, it's still old growth and it's about nice as the more popular Creeping Forest Trail, but not quite as hilly.
If you're mainly interested in seeing big trees, it's possible to hike this loop without the East Ridge Trail. The result is one of the better short walks in the park.
The loop is relatively little-used, and I've never seen anyone else on the East Ridge Trail.
Start from park headquarters and walk south on the Redwood Loop. The loop passes a meadow that offers nice views of the large redwoods on the other side. At the Mother of the Forest tree, take the roadside trail that branches off to the left; this trail passes some more good-size redwoods. Turn right into the Blooms Creek Campground, which is the most scenic campground in the park, with many large redwoods scattered among the campsites. This end of the campground is one of the very few places where you can camp among big old-growth redwoods. Parts of the campground are a little crowded, though.
After passing through the campground, there's a large footbridge on the left that crosses Blooms Creek. At this point you can shorten the hike by continuing straight on the paved road, crossing the auto bridge, and turning right onto the Skyline-Hinh Hammond Connector. This is not a bad option if you're just out for a short stroll, since the shortened 1.6-mile loop includes all the best redwoods and none of the hill climbing of the longer 2.8-mile hike.
To take the full hike, cross the footbridge and turn left onto the Blooms Creek Trail. The redwoods are much smaller on this side of the creek, where the land begins to rise up from Big Basin's alluvial flat. The trail follows the creek for a while, offering views of some big redwoods around the creek. It climbs through dense tanoak before ending at a paved road that's part of the campground. Turn left onto the road.
Just before the road crosses a small bridge, there's a side road to the right. Take this road, which turns into a dirt road. Look for the East Ridge Trail on the right; the last time I was there it wasn't marked and was a little hard to see.
At first the trail climbs through somewhat dull, redwood-free woods, but then it curves around and climbs steeply through a ravine dotted with redwoods. The trail crosses the ravine and then reaches a ridge. The redwoods become more common and the woods get a lot more interesting after the ridge, as the trail contours around several ravines filled with medium-sized redwoods. The forest has an exceptionally dense understory of huckleberry and tanoak that screens any really good views of the redwoods; however, there's no groundcover, and despite all the vegetation, in summer the woods seem a little dry-looking.
The East Ridge Trail ends at a road intersection where two auto bridges cross Opal Creek. Turn right and then left to cross both bridges; immediately after the second bridge, turn right onto the Skyline-Hinh Hammond Connector Trail.
The lowland forest along this trail is much more scenic than the highlands of the past few miles, with less tanoak, huge redwoods, and the cool, quiet atmosphere typical of pure redwood forests. The redwoods get progressively larger and soon the trail winds among massive black-barked trees dusted with copper-colored lichen. This is one of the most impressive redwood groves in the park. Across the creek, some of the tall and remarkably straight redwoods along the Redwood Nature Trail are also visible.
Turn onto the Skyline-to-the-Sea trail; look for the exceptionally large (and unmarked) Santa Clara Tree to your right as you approach the footbridge that crosses Opal Creek.
© 2005, 2008, 2014, 2017 David Baselt