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, was closed following a major fire in 2003. A new trail was opened in 2015 but it goes around the grove, and only a few distant glimpses of huge trees hint at the grove's magnificence. There used to be an unofficial trail through the grove, but over the past few years it's almost completely disappeared; now it's only possible to reach the edge of the grove.
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. It's now easier to reach Canoe Creek from this parking lot; I'll eventually update this page with the new route.
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 can go either way at the next intersection; the trail straight ahead descends slightly and passes through a redwood-covered alluvial flat, while the shorter trail to the right climbs over a low ridge.
Turn left when you reach an intersection with a dirt road and descend to the River Trail crossing. After this point you can follow the old roadbed for another 50 yards as it leaves the small upland trees behind and enters the spectacular lowlands. The road turns into a faint singletrack and then vanishes completely as it levels out on the alluvial flat.
Return the way you came, but for a little variety try taking the other branch of the Nature Trail on your way back.
© 2010, 2015 David Baselt