Hidden away on what's effectively a dead-end trail on top of Peavine Ridge is an exceptionally attractive old-growth grove, mostly of Douglas Fir but with some redwoods mixed in. One of the least-visited areas of the park, the remote grove can only be reached by a 1600-foot climb to Peavine Ridge followed by an 800-foot descent, then a return along the same route.
The grove is definitely off the beaten track. The spur road that descends to the grove is well-maintained but obviously little-used even compared to the rest of Peavine Ridge Road. No guidebooks describe the spur and it's easy to see why; the relatively popular Look Prairie - Peavine Ridge - Thornton loop, which is adjacent to the spur, has similar old growth and also offers the greater satisfaction of a loop hike. But the Peavine Ridge spur is more scenic.
Here's the trailhead location in Google Maps.
Park at the bottom of Look Prairie Road, in the dirt pullout by the gate. The road immediatly begins a moderate (11% grade) ascent and leaves behind the big old-growth redwoods of Upper Bull Creek Flat. The trail then skirts the confusingly-named Look Prairie and Luke Prairie, passing small fire-blackened redwoods and finally cutting across the grassy area before entering second-growth forest. There isn't really much of a view from the prairie; you can see some of the spectacularly tall redwoods at the bottom of the prairie, but the view up and down the Bull Creek valley is mostly blocked.
The trail climbs through logged redwood forest for some time before entering the considerably more attractive old growth. Except for a few short sections of trail, the rest of the hike out will be in old growth. The old growth on Look Prairie Road , however, isn't anything special; a dense understory of huckleberry and tanoak gives the area a somewhat dull look and clogs the views. Still, it's a pleasant climb and it beats second-growth. There are a few pretty good-sized trees here, including a small flat tucked into a bend in the road where a collection of redwoods grows.
At one point it looks like the trail has almost reached the ridge, but it hasn't and continues to climb.
Finally, the trail reaches Peavine Ridge Road. Turn right and begin descending. The trail breaks out of the old growth and descends through logged forest for a stretch, then re-enters the old growth. There's a noticable difference in the woods; the dense understory is gone so the grove is more open, and the trees are mostly moss-covered Douglas-Fir, with redwoods sprinkled among them. The grove is strikingly light in color, with light-green foliage and light-grey trunks, and is suffused in sunlight. The grove is remarkably silent and still.
The trail continues its winding descent through the grove; then, the descent ends in a long straight section of road. As the road levels out it also leaves the old growth, emerging into Horse Prairie. Just ahead is a large wooden boundary sign. The land ahead belongs to the Humboldt Redwood Company and is, presumably, off-limits, but there's no gate or "no trespassing" sign, so it's probably OK to continue perhaps 100 yards further to get the full vista of the Bull Creek valley to your right.
Turn around and return the way you came.
© 2010 David Baselt