The Stephens Grove Loop Trail
Length 0.7 mi · Climbing 30 ft
This unmarked but apparently official trail winds through an impressive, cathedral-like old-growth grove next to the Avenue of the Giants. The final third of the loop, which runs near the edge of the woods, is the most impressive and has some large trees in an open area with a striking absence of groundcover. The rest of the loop has somewhat smaller trees but is more lush, with a groundcover of ferns and sorrel. This short walk is best in the late afternoon, when the sunlight slants through the break in the canopy over the Eel River and illuminates the grove with brilliant yellow light.
Highway 101 is across the Eel River from Stephens Grove and on a still day the constant hum of traffic fills the grove. The grove also adjoins the Avenue of the Giants, which runs on an embankment above a portion of the loop trail.
Click here to see the trailhead location in Google Maps.
If you're headed north, the grove is just past the town of Miranda. Immediately after passing though the town, the road descends slightly. Just as it bottoms out, look for a small pullout to the left. There's a hard-to-notice "Stephens Grove" sign on the Avenue of the Giants a hundred yards before you reach the trailhead. There aren't any trail markers here, although the good condition of the trail and a few footbridges suggest the loop is officially maintained.
The trail begins in a fairly impressive redwood grove. From the trailhead, which is elevated a few feet above the grove, there's a good view of the big trees around the pullout. Other than a few sprays of redwood sorrel there's little or no groundcover, a look remniscent of Richardson Grove.
Just a few yards from the trailhead is a Y intersection. Oddly, two redwoods, one huge and one small, have been cut down and left lying on the forest floor; the trail passes through breaks sawed into the fallen trees Turn left at the Y intersection. The trail passes through fairly lush and attractive redwood forest with some good-sized trees and the typical groundcover of ferns and sorrel. There are some big fallen trees to duck under and some creeks to cross over on small footbridges. Cars whiz by on the Avenue, just a few yards up the embankment to your left.
At the apex of the trail you briefly pass through a logged area, where the big trees are replaced with stumps. To your left, a dirt road climbs an embankment into the tiny town of Miranda. After the trail crosses a dry gully, it begins to approach the edge of the forest and the wide gravel bed of the Eel River. Perhaps because this part of the grove gets more light, the trees get a lot bigger here, the woods open up, and the groundcover disappears. There seems to be an unusual amount of fallen branches and other debris on the ground.
© 2007-11 David Baselt