The Sequoia Trail
Loop hike with the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail
Length 4.5 miles Climbing 420 ft
This is one of Big Basin's more enjoyable short redwood hikes. The route, which is almost entirely under old-growth redwoods, includes a stop at tiny Sempervirens Falls, a scramble up Slippery Rock, and a visit to the Maddock Cabin site. Although the hike isn't all that hilly, the last mile of the Sequoia Trail features an interesting descent into a scenic redwood-filled ravine.
Starting at park headquarters, walk south on the sidewalk past the parking spaces until you see the Sequoia Trail to your left. The hike gets off to a great start as the trail climbs briefly through an impressive group of redwoods just behind park headquarters, then curves through one of Big Basin's most scenic old-growth groves. The large, stately trees have a great variety of textures and colors. The grove is open, allowing sunlight to stream in and providing glimpses of a group of magnificent redwoods about a hundred yards away, rising arrow-straight toward the sky.
This top-notch redwood scenery goes on for about a quarter mile. After you pass a spur trail to Jay Camp, the redwoods abruptly get smaller and the forest gets darker and denser, with a thick understory of huckleberry and tanoak. The trail then curves around to run next to and just above Lodge Road. Much of this hike parallels paved roads, making it difficult to really appreciate the natural setting. Fortunately Lodge Road usually doesn't get a lot of traffic and there are a few nice groups of redwoods along this stretch of trail.
You'll see a lot of redwood stumps as the trail enters Wastahi Campground. Redwood parks often put their campgrounds in logged groves, probably to save wear and tear on the old growth. The result, unfortunately, is somewhat dismal-looking campgrounds. The trail briefly joins the Wastahi Campground parking lot, then enters the much nicer northern half of the campground, which seems to be unlogged and includes some choice campsites among large redwoods. Just after leaving the campground you enter a second partially-logged grove that's been burned recently and lacks the usual tanoak or huckleberry understory.
The sound of rushing water announces that you're approaching Sempervirens Falls. A spur trail to your right heads downhill, crosses Lodge Road, and descends a few yards to a viewing platform. Next to the platform, Sempervirens Creek pours over a 10-foot-high ledge and into a deep pool that must have once made a great swimming hole.
Back on the Sequoia Trail, continue a few more steps to reach a large clearing where an exposed rock face cascades down a hill. This is Slippery Rock. Turn left and make your way up the hill. There isn't really a trail here, so just follow the exposed strip of rock, which really is slippery: during the rainy season a little water flows down it and encourages the growth of slimy algae.
After reaching the top of Slippery Rock, the trail reaches a ridge, crosses Big Basin Road, and starts to descend. The forest has a different look on this side of the ridge. Gone are the flat valley floors of the last few miles; the trail is now cut into a steep hillside. The huckleberry understory is gone, replaced with a tanoak understory that's initially sparse but, as you descend, gets denser and taller. There are also more big redwoods on this side of the ridge.
The trail descends into a small ravine that shelters an attractive redwood forest. This is one of the most scenic parts of the hike. A lot of good-sized redwoods grow in the ravine, and there's one monster redwood just off the trail to your right. Soon the trail curves to the right and leaves the ravine, ending up high above a much larger canyon with the burbling of Opal Creek far below. The redwoods disappear for a stretch but then reappear as you approach the creek.
The Sequoia Trail ends at North Escape Road. Following the instructions on a little sign, turn right and cross an auto bridge over cloudy Opal Creek, then immediately turn left onto the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail.
The next mile isn't all that interesting. The trail climbs a little, then descends to the Maddock Cabin site. The cabin was razed in the 1950s so there really isn't anything to see here except for an interpretive sign about the cabin. Although there aren't any obvious signs of logging, there aren't any big or even medium redwoods for the next half-mile. Further from the cabin site, the redwoods gradually re-appear and get larger, but don't reach their full size until after the Gazos Creek Road crossing.
The hike ends with a stroll among the big redwoods of the park headquarters area. Follow Opal Creek to the second footbridge, then turn left and walk past the redwood nature loop to return to the parking lot.
© 2007 David Baselt