Length 4.1 mi · Climbing 560 ft
Sheltered in a little glen on the banks of Canoe Creek is a grove that ranks among Humboldt Redwoods' most magnificent old growth. Unfortunately the Canoe Creek Trail, which used to pass through the grove, has been closed since a major fire in 2003. The official map and the trail signs seem to indicate that the entire Canoe Creek loop is accessible, but as of 2010 there's only a short trail that descends from the Grasshopper Peak Trail and dead-ends as soon as it enters the grove. A faint and apparently unofficial trail proceeds through the increasingly spectacular grove for about 200 yards before petering out.
Maybe it's because there's no official trail through the grove, but Canoe Creek somehow seems more wild than most other groves in Humboldt Redwoods. In contrast to the open, expansive groves around Bull Creek, Canoe Creek is unusually dense and is also much smaller. There's a lush carpeting of redwood sorrel. On one side of the trail, Canoe Creek is just out of sight but fills the grove with a pleasant burbling sound. There's a break in the canopy above the creek and you can see more tall trees rising up on the opposite bank of the creek. On the other side of the trail, the hillside rises steeply, marking the edge of the grove.
The grove is sometimes referred to as the Garden Club of America Grove (although the area dedicated to the Garden Club is actually much larger than the Canoe Creek grove). Off the Avenue of the Giants is a parking lot prominently signed for the Garden Club of America Grove, but the grove can no longer be reached from this point and there aren't any signs to indicate that fact.
This hike can only be done in the summer. At other times of year, the Eel River is too deep to cross.
Click here to see the trailhead location in Google Maps.
Park in the Visitor Center parking lot next to Burlington Campground. Cross the Avenue of the Giants and start hiking along the Nature Trail. As a nice bonus, this hike includes the entire Nature Trail, which in itself is a pretty nice old-growth hike.
Reaching the northern end of the Nature Trail, turn left onto a trail signed "River Access". The trail emerges from the woods and onto the gravelly banks of the Eel River. The scrub growing at the forest's edge hides the trail; look around carefully so that you'll be able to find the trail on the way back.
Cross the Eel River on a seasonal footbridge. The trail climbs up a sandy bank on some removable steps that look kind of like a rope ladder and then enters a rather dismal second-growth forest. At the T intersection with the River Trail, turn left.
The trail parallels the river and climbs as it goes, straying further from the river. There are a few glimpses of the river through the trees. The forest soon improves as you enter old-growth uplands; the trees are small but, unlike the logged area, the woods are lush and healthy-looking. Dense huckleberry bushes line the trail.
You come to an intersection where the trail has apparently been re-routed. Straight ahead is a faint remnant of a trail that is now closed. The new trail makes a sharp turn to the right and begins climbing a steeper grade than before. The trail ends at a dirt road.
Turn left onto the dirt road, which descends to the big redwoods of the Canoe Greek grove. From this point on, although the official park signage is still present, the trail does not appear to be maintained. As it leaves the small upland trees behind and enters the much more impressive lowlands, the road deteriorates and you'll have to scramble over a bit of fallen debris. The road turns into a faint singletrack before intersecting another faint track, which is the old Canoe Creek Loop.
To the left, a faint unofficial trail proceeds for just a few yards before encountering a fallen tree and disappearing. Instead, turn right and walk into the grove as far as you can. As the trees get larger and denser, the trail gets progressively fainter and eventually becomes impossible to follow. A small patch of poison oak grows over the trail at this point. It's advisable to turn back here since if you push through the poison oak, you'll just encounter a massive jumble of fallen trees that blocks the way ahead.
Return the way you came, but for a little variety try taking the other branch of the Nature Trail on your way back.
© 2010 David Baselt