Length 1.3 mi · Climbing 20 ft
The Founders' Grove, conveniently located just off the Avenue of the Giants, is the most-visited grove in Humboldt Redwoods and is a major North Coast redwood attraction. Located on a large alluvial flat at the intersection of two rivers and shielded from storms by 3000-foot-tall mountains to the west, the grove provides an ideal environment for redwoods. For the sheer size of its trees and its remarkably large area, the Founders' Grove is one of the most impressive in existence. It has has an open and expansive feel, with huge trees growing side-by-side with much smaller trees. It is, for me, the quintessential redwood grove, against which all other lowland redwood groves should be compared.
Putting its impressive scale aside, though, nearby groves like upper Bull Creek Flats are actually a lot more rewarding to visit. Mostly this is because a major four-lane highway runs right next to the Founders' Grove, so a constant roar of high-speed traffic fills the forest. What's more, the Avenue of the Giants goes through the middle of the grove and adds its own traffic noise. Visit before about 8:00 am, when the traffic is more subdued, to really appreciate the remarkable beauty of this place.
The grove is a lot more attractive in winter than in summer. At its best, the grove grows out of an attractive and unusually dense layer of redwood sorrel that looks a lot like a plush carpet, which is in turn covered with a sparse layer of ferns. Summers, however, are unusually hot and dry for a north coast redwood forest, and by late summer, the grove can become somewhat dry and dull-looking. Contributing to the dull appearance are two year-round factors: most of the tree trunks have a drab brown color, and little late-afternoon sunlight reaches the forest floor.
There seem to be an unusually large number of really big fallen redwoods here, most notably the immense Dyerville Giant.
Click here to see the trailhead location in Google Maps.
Three loop trails run through the Founders' Grove. Closest to the parking lot is the Founders' Grove loop, a half-mile-long trail with the Founders' Tree at the near end and the fallen Dyerville Giant at the far end.
A connecting trail leads from the Founders' Loop to the less-visited but equally impressive Mahan Loop. The Mahan Plaque itself marks the location where several exceptionally large trees were cut in a logging operation that would have destroyed the entire grove, had Laura and James Mahan not seen the damage and immediately taken decisive action to preserve the grove. A short stretch of the Mahan Loop runs along the base of a hill that defines the edge of the alluvial flat, and the redwoods are noticably smaller here.
A lot of side trails have been worn into the groundcover, so finding your way around the Mahan Loop can be tricky. The southernmost side trail begins at a short triangular post and connects the Founders' Grove to the rest of Humboldt Redwoods' trail network. The redwoods end almost immediately on this unexceptional side trail as it climbs to a cut above Highway 101. Two other trails lead to the Avenue of the Giants.
The third loop trail is across the Avenue of the Giants from the Founders' and Mahan Loops. Although it has no trailhead marker to indicate its name, it is an official trail and is called the Goosepen Loop on the official park map. Although the forest looks much the same as on the Founders' Loop, Highway 101 runs immediately adjacent to the trail on a high berm. In the shadow of the barren berm, the forest seems rather dark and depressing, so this loop is not included in the recommended hike.
© 2007-12 David Baselt