The Grieg-French-Bell grove has some nice redwoods, but it's most remarkable for its incredibly thick and dense groundcover of redwood sorrel. The unusually lush groundcover, which is almost pure sorrel, might result from the grove's location at the fog-prone northern edge of the park. The sorrel completely covers a forest floor that, unusually, consists of little rolling mounds, and also covers fallen logs.
Because it's both visually striking and conveniently located right next to a major road, the grove is often used for movies and TV commercials.
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An unnamed trail cuts through the grove. From the pulloff on the Avenue of the Giants, the most prominent trail leads straight into the woods, first passing through the cathedral-like Grieg grove, an impressive stand of large trees surrounding a large area that's been cleared of all groundcover by foot traffic. The trail then curves off to the right, passing the French Grove with its ghastly but still-living Girdled Tree. The bark of this huge tree was mostly removed in 1901 so that San Franciscans could marvel at the magnificence of the redwoods. From this point a spur trail leads off to the Bell Grove, skirting a gloomy second-growth forest along the way. With old growth on one side of the trail and second growth on the other, you can see just how dramatic a difference logging makes to the appearance of a forest. The trail soon re-enters the old growth and then dissolves into a network of overgrown unofficial trails that spread out over the scenic alluvial flat before gradually petering out.
The best part of the grove, though, is the network of unofficial trails that starts at the Avenue of the Giants to the right of the main trail. Most maps show an official trail in this area, but the trail is now indistinguishable from the many other paths worn into the sorrel. The narrow, overgrown paths lead off in all directions through the most attractive and densely-carpeted part of the grove, encouraging aimless wandering. Look out for the occasional sprig of poison oak hiding among the sorrel.
Although the main loop trail can be hiked in about 10 minutes, if you don't mind the overgrown trails it's easy to spend over an hour walking around this grove. It's also possible to get lost since the grove is surprisingly large and has few landmarks.
© 2007, 2017 David Baselt