The Freeman Creek Grove
Length 7.4 mi · Climbing 1390 ft
This peaceful trail descends a long hillside thtrough the pristine, unlogged Freeman Creek Grove. Over the first three miles the sequoias are widely scattered, with just a few of the big trees growing here and there along the trail. As the trail reaches the bottom of the hill it enters the core of the grove, where the sequoias are more common. However, they're still somewhat sparse in this area, with only a dozen or so alongside the trail. Nonetheless a few of the trees are quite impressive. The largest tree has been named the George Bush Tree, and there's a quarter-mile-long wheelchair-accessible loop around it.
It's possible to skip the hike and drive to the George Bush Tree, but if you're coming from the north it's an extra hour and a half of driving each way.
The trail is peaceful and little-used. It's mainly used by, and seems to be designed for, mountain bikers: the trail is wide, well-maintained, and smooth. It's much less technical than the Camp Nelson Trail and doesn't have any obstacles like creeks, steps, or excessively steep gradients, although there may be fallen trees across the trail.
In 2012, a major wildfire (named the "George Fire") began near the George Bush Tree. However, the fire spread to the north and didn't affect the sequoias, and there aren't any signs of fire along the trail.
Click here to see the trailhead location in Google Maps.
To reach the trailhead, take road 190 and turn left onto 21S50 just north of the Quaking Aspen campground. Turn right onto the first dirt road and then immediately turn left. Continue to the end of the bumpy road and park in the large pullout.
The trail begins with a gentle descent into attractive pine woods, with dense foliage and a rich green color, especially on cloudy days. The area is quiet and the well-maintained trail makes a pleasant hike. There's a cluster of sequoias near the beginning, then during the descent there are two more clusters where the trail crosses shallow ravines. In addition the trail passes some lone outlier sequoias, some of which are big. The distinctive tops of more sequoias can be seen in the distance, along a creek that runs parallel to the trail. There are also glimpses of conifer-covered hillsides and of the Castle Rock formation, but mostly the views are obscured by trees.
More sequoias start to appear near the bottom of the hill. As it levels out, the trail enters a shady grove of large but widely scattered sequoias. The grove is dominated by a dense understory of very small fir trees with a lot of branches near ground level. Perhaps due to its location on an east-facing slope, the grove doesn't have the leafy lushness that's normal for low-elevation groves; there's almost no groundcover.
A short side trail leads to the George Bush Tree. The little fir trees have been cleared away in front of the tree to allow a good view. The loop trail starts here. There are only three sequoias (plus one dead sequoia) on the loop trail.
Most people turn around at the George Bush Tree. The sequoias end at this point and the woods open up, transitioning to sparse pine woods. The trail, which is narrower but still clear, continues along a flat plain that looks a little like the valley floor of Kings Canyon. This area can get quite hot in summer.
© 2013 David Baselt