The High Rock Trail
Length 3.0 mi · Climbing 280 ft
The High Rock trail runs through a long, narrow alluvial-flat redwood grove on the banks of the Eel River. Although it's quite spectacular, it's also one of the least-visited old-growth groves on the Avenue of the Giants; in fact, I've never seen anyone else on the trail. There are a lot of large trees in this area and the forest is attractive, with a groundcover of ferns and a light sprinkling of redwood sorrel. There's also an interesting transition to an upland redwood environment as the trail climbs over High Rock.
The main drawback of this trail is that it's never far from the Avenue of the Giants. Highway 101 is also nearby, and even if the Avenue is deserted there's always the constant whoosing sound of cars going by on the highway. Also, the really old trees grow in a band that's only about 50 yards wide, so the forest, although very scenic, doesn't have the expansive feel that Bull Creek Flats or Founders' Grove does. The narrowness of this band is natural: the river on one side and the hills on the other limit the redwoods' range.
The trail is unmarked but is apparently official, since some bridges were destroyed and replaced within the last few years.
Click here to see the trailhead location in Google Maps.
From the south, head north on the Avenue of the Giants. The Avenue climbs a small hill, crests at an intersection with the road to High Rock Conservation Camp, then descends. Continue until the road bottoms out, then look for a small paved road to your right. The road isn't marked but it's the first right after High Rock Conservation Camp. Take that road and in just a hundred yards or so you'll reach the trailhead and a dirt parking area.
The trail gets off to a great start in a grove of monster redwoods, the biggest trees of the hike. The alluvial flat is also at its widest here. The really big redwoods end and the alluvial flat starts to narrow after just a few yards, but the trail continues through very nice old-growth lowlands with good-sized redwoods. After crossing a bridge the trail starts to climb. Although the total elevation gain is small, there's a clear transition to a redwood upland environment as the redwoods become a lot smaller and other kinds of trees (mostly tanoak) appear.
A trail to the right leads up to a parking area on the Avenue. Soon after, a trail to the left leads down to the river.
The trail crests at a small ridge. To your left is a trail that climbs a little ways to High Rock itself, where there's a fenced-in viewpoint that overlooks the Eel River.
After High Rock the main trail might get a little faint, but can still be followed easily. It descends through upland forest, soon entering a second, very scenic grove of big lowland redwoods. The trail bends left and then right, then crosses two footbridges within the most attractive grove of the hike. The redwoods are especially dense here.
Toward the end of the trail, the forest becomes less scenic and clogged with small understory trees. The redwoods take on a lighter and somewhat drab appearance, but they're still big. The trail abruptly turns to the right and ends at the Avenue of the Giants.
© 2009 David Baselt