Emerald Ridge and Tall Trees
Length 5.5 mi · Climbing 700 ft
Due to federal budget cuts, the six-mile-long access road to the Tall Trees trailhead has been closed. (June 2013)
This hike is similar to the Tall Trees Grove hike, but adds a pleasant detour along wide, sunny Redwood Creek. Since you'll have to wade through the creek several times this route should only be attempted in summer, when the creek is about 6–12 inches deep and easily forded. The stroll along the creek makes a nice change from hiking through the woods and provides a fresh perspective on the redwoods. Overall this is a much more enjoyable and memorable hike than the usual out-and-back to the Tall Trees Grove.
The wide, shallow creekbed of Redwood Creek, so typical of Humboldt County, is the result of logging. Erosion and floods have reshaped the stream, which probably used to run in a little channel shaded by maple trees, much like Prairie Creek.
Click here to see the trailhead location in Google Maps.
To get to the trailhead you first have to get a free Tall Trees Grove permit from Kuchel Information Center, just south of Orick. The permit includes a parking pass and a gate combination. A limited number of permits are available each day, but it's unusual for them to run out.
From the parking lot, take the Tall Trees access trail downhill. After a few yards you'll come to an intersection; take the Emerald Ridge Trail. Almost immediately the trail enters an old-growth redwood forest, although at first there are few redwoods. Instead the trail descends through a green tunnel of rhododendron, huckleberry, and tanoak. The mundane-looking uplands are attractive but nothing special, with no really big redwoods to be seen. From time to time, however, there are glimpses of surprisingly tall and narrow redwood trunks rising straight as an arrow through the foliage.
The Dolason Prairie Trail branches off to the left, after which the woods become darker, with smaller trees. A half-mile further downhill the Emerald Ridge Trail breaks out of the woods at Redwood Creek. Turn right and follow the wide, sunny creek downstream (if you have some extra time you can turn left and explore upstream a ways before heading downstream). It's slow going over the gravelly streambed, which is mostly made of smooth rocks about 4 inches in diameter. In places, tufts of invasive french broom or other plants grow from the gravel. Old-growth redwoods rise dramatically along the banks of the stream, becoming larger as you approach the Tall Trees grove. You'll have to wade across the wide creek three or four times, which in summer is easy since the creek is only ankle-high.
Look for a short trail marked with a triangular orange sign that leads to the Tall Trees Grove loop trail. In the summer, you'll know if you pass the grove since you'll come to a seasonal bridge across Redwood Creek. Hike the loop trail around the quiet grove; if you go counter-clockwise you'll pass a nice collection of big redwoods, then break out of the redwoods and into a grove of streamside maples. Finally, you'll have to make the long climb up the access trail back to the parking lot.
© 2007 David Baselt