Unlike most of the other short trails that line the Avenue of the Giants, the Allens Trail does not loop around an alluvial flat. Instead, it climbs one steep mile into a surprising redwood-filled glen. Although the climb is long and can be a little dull, the sheltered glen with its magical redwood grove is worth the trip. This trail is also known as the Five Allens Trail and the Allens Grove Trail.
The trailhead is north of the Founders’ Grove and just south of the road to High Rock Conservation Camp. If you’re driving south, look for the Maria McKean Allen marker to your right in an downhill S-curve. There’s a small pullout where you can park, and a tiny “Allens Trail” sign marks the trailhead.
The trail starts off steep and continues to climb at an average 15% grade for nearly a mile. After the first few yards, the trail crosses Highway 101 in a pedestrian tunnel and emerges into a typical redwood upland, with medium-sized redwoods and Douglas-Fir growing amid a dense understory of huckleberry and tanoak. The roar of traffic fills the forest and gradually tapers off as you climb; on a still day you can just barely hear the traffic noise at the top of the trail. There are some good-sized redwoods, especially near the beginning of the trail, and there’s also a little waterfall, but the forest is not particularly interesting for most of the way.
After nearly a mile, the trail enters a sheltered fold. The best part of the little glen is a small flat, maybe 20 or 30 yards across, just to the right of the trail. The redwoods are no bigger than the ones you’ve been passing for the last mile, but the environment is much different. The dense, mixed-species forest is replaced with a nearly pure grove of small redwoods. The understory of huckleberry and tanoak disappear, and instead, the little flat is dusted with redwood sorrel, while on the margins a thick cover of ferns grows. In winter, a burbling creek flows through the glen, covering up any residual freeway sounds. The grove is still pretty dense and it doesn’t have the cathedral-like appearance of the lowland groves, but it’s a lovely spot nonetheless, and all the more so for the way it contrasts with the previous mile of forest.
The trail splits here. The first several yards of both forks can get overgrown with ferns and may be hard to find. Straight ahead is a short spur leading to the Five Allens sign. To the left is a longer and harder-to-find trail that leads out of the valley and around a hill to a redwood-covered hillside and a memorial plaque. The hillside is a rather attractive redwood upland, covered with a pure stand of small redwoods as far as you can see.
This is a nice look at a different side of Humboldt Redwoods. To see more old-growth uplands, try the new Johnson Camp trail. This trail is not as steep and doesn’t get any freeway noise, and it has some nice groves, but none that are as lush as the Allens Grove.
© 2007, 2014 David Baselt