The Grasshopper Peak Trail
Length 15.5 mi · Climbing 3170 ft
This 15-mile out-and-back hike starts at the Visitor Center and climbs through redwood uplands, then through fir woods, and finally through grassy meadows to the top of Grasshopper Mountain. There aren't any views to speak of until you reach the top.
This hike can only be done in the summer, when the Eel River can be crossed. The hike could potentially be shortened by two miles if there were a way to cross the Eel at Williams Grove instead of Burlington. The problem isn't the river itself, which is only a few inches deep in summer, but the fact that the trail is high up on a steep hillside and can't be reached.
Although most of the trail is a dirt road, bicycles and horses are not allowed on it.
Click here to see the trailhead location in Google Maps.
This hike can be started from either the Garden Club of America Grove parking lot or from the main visitor center. The Garden Club route is about 0.7 miles shorter, but has more climbing, so for this description we'll start at the visitor center parking lot next to Burlington Campground. Follow the Nature Trail through big lowland redwoods to the "River Access" trail, then descend to the Eel River.
The trail emerges from the woods and into the wide gravelly river basin. Take a close look at where you exit from the brush, since the trail is hidden in the brush and can be hard to find on the return trip.
Cross the river on the seasonal footbridge and continue straight ahead, climbing up the steep sandy bank on the seasonal steps. The trail enters a small, heavily-logged flat with some pretty good-sized stumps.
The access trail ends at a T intersection with the River Trail. Turn left. The little flat soon ends and with it all signs of logging, giving way to an old-growth upland forest consisting of small redwoods among a dense understory of huckleberry shrubs. The trail undulates up and down a surprising amount. There are a few glimpses of the river, but the trail mostly runs well up the hillside, away from the river.
Turn right at the next intersection; the trail switchbacks up a hill, then plateaus and then comes to a T intersection with an old dirt road. This is the Grasshopper Peak Trail. Because it's only used by hikers, it actually looks more like a wide trail. Turn right onto this trail, which climbs gently through a ridgetop old-growth grove. Unlike the River Trail, this grove has some pretty good-sized trees. A dense understory of huckleberry bushes lines the trail. Traffic noise from Highway 101 can be heard throughout the first 3 miles of the hike.
The trail enters a logged redwood grove, dense with tiny trees, then eventually emerges into a another old-growth grove. Though less impressive than the previous grove, it's still nice to see redwoods. After leaving the redwoods there's one section of trail that's somewhat steep, but otherwise it climbs at a reasonable grade.
The forest transitions to fir. The bases of all the trees have been blackened by the Canoe fire and the lower limbs burnt off. Dead and blackened trees are a common sight for much of the rest of the hike.
The trail climbs through some grassy meadows and eventually reaches Grasshopper Trail Camp and an intersection with a dirt road. There's not much at the camp, just an outhouse and a bear locker under the trees to your right.
After crossing the Grieg Multi-Use Trail, the trail turns from a dirt road into a singletrack trail. The trail is little-used in the winter and spring and may become heavily overgrown and hard to follow, but it should be maintained and in good condition in the summer.
On the way back it's worthwhile to take a quarter-mile detour to the Garden Club of America grove, which is reached by a short extension at the bottom of the Grasshopper Peak Trail. This very impressive lowland grove burned in the Canoe Creek fire and the trails that used to pass through it haven't been restored, but it's still possible to take a short stroll among the big redwoods, making a nice ending to the hike.
© 2010, 2015 David Baselt