If the Big Hendy loop isn't enough of a walk, try this loop from Big Hendy to Little Hendy grove. It's an enjoyable, if not exactly spectacular, way to see more of the park. Most of the route passes through mundane-looking mixed-species uplands dominated by tanoak and huckleberry, with occasional small redwoods. The highlight of the loop is Little Hendy, an old-growth grove that's not nearly as impressive as Big Hendy although it still has some large trees.
Starting at the Day Use Area, take the All Access Trail into Big Hendy. Cross two footbridges and then immediately turn left at a sign pointing the way to the Hermit Huts.
The trail climbs up a slight rise and then plateaus. Although it's only a 10 or 20 foot climb, that's high enough above the water table that the big redwoods disappear, and the scenery abruptly changes from a classic dark redwood lowland to a mundane forest of small redwoods with dense growths of huckleberry and tanoak. Although there's some evidence of logging, by and large the grove boundary seems to be natural.
The huckleberry is so thick that in places the trail looks like a corridor carved out of green shrubs. Continue past the two Hermit Huts (which are really just piles of sticks) and the Water Tank road, and descend on the Azalea Trail. The trail is covered with a thick layer of leaf litter and gets harder and harder to follow.
The trail crosses a large footbridge. To your right, an obvious shortcut leads a short distance to the main park road. The Azalea Trail is the barely-visible track to your left immediately after the footbridge. The trail winds through the woods and emerges near the RV dump station. Cross the paved side road and the main park road to re-enter the woods on the Azalea Trail.
The huckleberry disappears as the trail descends a fern-covered slope to Little Hendy. Skip the first trail to your right and continue straight to enter the redwood grove.
Little Hendy does have quite a few large trees; seen from Highway 128 near Gowan's, it actually looks more impressive than Big Hendy. Unfortunately, its dense understory and lack of groundcover means that isn't nearly as attractive. The understory mostly consists of small bay laurel trees, which is a little unusual for a redwood grove; however, from a distance the bay laurels don't look much different from the more common tanoak understory. There's no ground cover except for an occasional fern and in some years a light, rather dried-out-looking sprinkling of redwood sorrel. The trail is a wide depression that looks like it used to be a road; often its coating of redwood needles is washed away and it becomes kind of dusty. An open apple orchard is visible just to the left, and traffic noise from Highway 128 drifts into the grove.
The trail climbs out of Little Hendy, returning to uplands thick with huckleberry. Follow the signs to the Day Use Area. After passing the first spur to the campground, look for an unmarked trail to your left that descends a short distance to a small meadow. Turn left onto this trail.
The scenery gradually improves as larger and larger redwoods begin to appear along the trail, but you don't really enter the full-blown lowland grove until after crossing the main park road.
© 2006, 2013, 2016 David Baselt