Headwaters Forest Reserve

The newest redwood park
California > Humboldt Redwoods and Vicinity

Wrecked vehicle on the Elk River Trail (now removed)

Acquired in 1999, Headwaters Forest Reserve is the newest and probably the last-ever large tract of old-growth redwoods to be acquired for preservation. Purchased by three federal and state agencies in 1999 after a long and sometimes violent conflict between environmentalists and logging interests, the reserve has about five square miles of old growth, making it the sixth-largest redwood park or reserve by old-growth area.

Headwaters doesn’t allow the public any access at all to its main old-growth groves; any trails through these areas would, by today’s environmental standards, result in unacceptable damage to the forest ecosystem.

Headwaters only has two trails, both on the edges of the property. No more trails are planned, and some have even argued that no visitors should be allowed into the Headwaters Reserve at all.

Old-growth hikes


Salmon Pass Trail

Length 2.8 mi · Climbing 530 ft

Can only be accessed by a guided tour. Climbs to a small patch of old-growth on a hillside above the town of Fortuna.

Second-growth hikes

Elk River Trail

Length 2.8 mi · Climbing 530 ft

A pleasant if unexciting trail that starts as an old logging road alongside the Elk River, then becomes a singletrack trail that ascends through second-growth redwoods to reach a small but scenic patch of old growth.

The one small patch of old growth at the end of the Elk River Trail

More information

The Salmon Pass Trail



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