The Rockefeller Grove stands on an alluvial floodplain at the confluence of Bull Creek and the Eel River. The grove is smaller and less impressive than the nearby Founders' Grove, but since it has a lot less traffic noise it's a much better place to appreciate the redwoods.
To reach the grove, drive west on Mattole Road from its start at the Avenue of the Giants, just north of the Founders' Grove. Keep a close watch for a small sign that says "Rockefeller Forest / Lower Bull Creek Flats" next to a single-lane paved road that descends the embankment to your left. Because the road descends so steeply into the dark forest it can be hard to see. Park on the loop at the end of the short road.
Click here to see the trailhead location in Google Maps.
Walking clockwise around the grove, the loop at first runs along the edge of the woods near the Eel River. Some traffic noise and, in summertime, the sounds of people playing in the river may drift up into the otherwise still, quiet grove. This first part of the trail doesn't have many big trees, and a tanoak understory makes it hard to see what trees there are. Soon the trail passes between the cut ends of a huge fallen tree and curves around to parallel Bull Creek, and then it enters a dense grove of cathedral-like redwoods.
Almost all the redwoods have the deep brown color typical of trees in Humboldt Redwoods. The color is a bit drab compared with the bleached trees near the coast and gives the grove a much darker look. The trees are so densely packed that at times it seems like all you can see are tree trunks. The grove has the classic groundcover of Bull Creek, redwood needles dusted with a sparse layer of redwood sorrel and dotted with an occasional fern. There's an understory of small redwood trees that makes the grove difficult to photograph.
Around the intersection with the trails to Burlington and the Tall Trees area, the woods open up and there's a magnificent view of a pure redwood stand, with nothing but big trees and redwood sorrel. As it heads back to the parking lot, the trail curves through the heart of the grove. A short spur trail branches off to a huge fallen tree just off the trail.
© 2007, 2011, 2016 David Baselt