The Lookout Point Trail
Length 2.4 mi · Climbing 340 ft
Setting aside the 0.1-mile loop through the main grove, which doesn't really qualify as a hike, the Lookout Point loop is the best hike in Richardson Grove. It starts in the park's impressive main grove, then climbs to a fine old-growth upland grove. In terms of sheer size, the upland redwoods don't even begin to compare to the lowland redwoods, but the old-growth uplands still have a certain spare beauty not found in any second-growth forest. It's interesting to compare the two environments and appreciate the environmental context in which the lowland redwood groves existed.
Click here to see the trailhead location in Google Maps.
From the parking lot in front of the visitor center, head north through the main grove. Reaching the entrance road, turn left, cross under Highway 101, and immediately turn left again. The trail follows the highway, cars and trucks roaring by just a few yards away.
Passing through the impressive lowland redwoods, you come upon an interesting exhibit, a 1200-year-old fallen tree that's been sectioned and the tree rings labeled with dates. Such exhibits are found in almost every redwood park, but most of them are sections of trees imported from elsewhere. I find this one more interesting because the tree grew right here.
The trail begins to clim and soon crosses the campground road. There isn't a distinct trail once you enter the campground, but turn left or right, walk along the road for a few yards, and then head for the bathroom building. You should see the "Lookout Point" trailhead across the road from the bathroom building. Take this trail.
After just a few yards, turn left onto the Lookout Point Trail. This is the least interesting part of the loop, climbing through mostly non-redwood forest. Lookout Point is now obscured with trees and doesn't offer much of a view, although you can get a glimpse of the river and the open, grassy flatlands of the French's Camp area.
The trail continues to climb, eventually reaching an intersection with a trail to your right marked "Campground." This will be the trail that you'll take on the return leg. For now, however, continue straight ahead. The trail enters an attractive old-growth upland redwood grove that consists mostly of mid-sized redwoods with tanoak and other species mixed in. A trail to your left leads to the "Hartsook Giant" and the now-closed Hartsook Inn. The Hartsook Giant isn't really worth the trip, so ignore this side trail and continue a few yards further along the main trail, which curves through the redwood grove. The trail soon begins to climb steeply; at this point you can turn back.
When you reach the "Campground" sign again, turn left. The trail ascends and then descends through upland redwood forest. After returning to the campground, retrace your path back to the main grove. To finish the hike, take the loops through the main grove, both north and south of the Visitor Center.
© 2008 David Baselt