The Federation Grove is a superb grove of large redwoods on the Avenue of the Giants. Few visitors come here, though, maybe because it’s overshadowed by two even more spectacular groves — the Rockefeller Grove right across the Eel River, and the Founders’ Grove, just a quarter-mile up the Avenue. So despite its convenient location, most visitors are here not to see the trees but to swim in the Eel River.
The grove is on an alluvial flat, but a gentle slope confines the big redwoods to the lowest part of the flat, a relatively narrow strip along its edge. The access road to the grove’s parking lot runs right through the best redwoods. There aren’t any really worthwhile trails in the grove, although the Big Cut Trail does run through the big redwoods for a few yards. However, in winter the road is closed and makes a nice short walk; few people visit the grove at this time of year.
The Big Cut Trail connects the grove to the Founders’ Grove to the north, but it runs along a cut-away hillside above Highway 101 that isn’t especially scenic. Also, the north end of the trail has a lot of poison oak.
If it’s installed, a summer-only footbridge across the Eel River can allow an easy and scenic walk to Rockefeller Grove. Unfortunately the footbridge hasn’t been installed in recent years. Although the river is only a few inches deep and can be easily forded, it can also be contaminated with toxic algae during late summer when the river is especially low.
Although there aren’t any real hiking opportunities here, it’s possible to take a short walk along the parking lot access road, which runs through the best part of the grove. The walk is especially enjoyable in the winter and spring, when the road is closed. Start in the parking lot or, if the road is closed, start on the Avenue of the Giants just outside the gate.
The grove has one of Humboldt Redwoods’ few albino redwoods, a redwood with white needles. Starting at entrance gate on the Avenue of the Giants, walk down the access road a few yards and look for a wide unofficial trail to your right. If you lose sight of the gate, you’ve gone too far. Take the unofficial trail for a few yards, bear left at a small fallen log, and you'll see a large redwood with the small, bushy albino redwood hiding just behind it in a gully. To get a better view, follow the trail to the right of the large redwood, down into the gully and up the other side.
The grove has a nice picnic area. The Four Fireplaces memorial, officially known as the Federation Hearthstone, was built in 1933 to commemorate the Federation’s role in saving the park’s old-growth redwoods.
© 2015, 2021 David Baselt