The Allens Trail is unique among the Avenue of the Giants trails: instead of looping around a lowland redwood grove, it climbs one steep mile into a surprising glen filled with small upland redwoods. Although the climb is long and can be a little dull, the sheltered glen with its magical old-growth grove is worth the trip. It’s a nice look at a different side of Humboldt Redwoods.
This trail is also known as the Five Allens Trail and the Allens Grove Trail.
The trail is little-used, and I’ve never seen anyone on it, but it’s usually in good condition.
The trailhead is north of the Founders’ Grove and just south of the road to High Rock Conservation Camp. If you’re driving south, look for the Maria McKean Allen marker to your right in an downhill S-curve. There’s a small pullout where you can park, and a tiny “Allens Trail” sign marks the trailhead.
The trail starts off steep and continues to climb at an average 15% grade for nearly a mile. After the first few yards, the trail crosses Highway 101 in a pedestrian tunnel and emerges into a typical redwood upland, with medium-sized redwoods and Douglas-Fir growing amid a dense understory of huckleberry and tanoak. The roar of traffic fills the forest and gradually tapers off as you climb. The forest isn’t especially interesting, but there are some good-sized redwoods and a little waterfall near the beginning of the trail.
After nearly a mile, the trail enters a sheltered fold. The best part of the little glen is a small flat, maybe 20 or 30 yards across, just to the right of the trail. Although the redwoods aren’t any bigger here than they were along the rest of the trail, the environment is much different. The dense, mixed-species forest is replaced with a nearly pure grove of small redwoods. The understory of huckleberry and tanoak disappear, and instead, the little flat is dusted with redwood sorrel, while on the margins a thick cover of ferns grows. In summer the faint hum of traffic can be heard, but in winter, a burbling creek flows through the glen and covers up the residual freeway sounds. The grove is still pretty dense and it doesn’t have the cathedral-like appearance of the lowland groves, but it’s a lovely spot nonetheless, and all the more so for the way it contrasts with the previous mile of forest.
The trail splits here. The first several yards of both forks can get overgrown with ferns and may be hard to find. Straight ahead is a short spur leading to the Five Allens sign. To the left is a longer and harder-to-find trail that leads out of the valley and around a hill to the Elizabeth Achelis grove. The trail ends at a dedication plaque with a view of a hillside covered with a pure, dense stand of small, but clearly old-growth, redwoods as far as you can see.
To see more old-growth uplands, try the Johnson Camp Trail, which has a larger but less lush grove.
© 2007, 2014, 2021 David Baselt