The part of the Mill Creek Trail north of the Grove of Titans is closed until 2022 for trail construction work.
The Mill Creek Trail is best known for being the location of the Grove of Titans. See the Grove of Titans page for information on the short hike to that grove.
The Mill Creek Trail meanders for several miles through sunny, moss-encrusted woodlands above the Mill Creek. The middle part of the trail isn’t especially impressive, but at the end of the trail, just across Mill Creek from Stout Grove, is a superb redwood grove that makes the trek worthwhile.
The trailhead is on Howland Hill Road just south of the big auto bridge over Mill Creek. There are a few small pullouts on the opposite side of the road. The trailhead is marked with a sign warning Grove of Titans visitors to stay on the trail.
The trail starts in the lowlands and climbs into a dense grove of relatively small redwoods before starting to descend.
The trail descends into a wide, shallow glen, winds past a large fallen redwood, then passes through the Grove of Titans on a metal walkway.
The Mill Creek Trail, which up to this point has been heavily-used, suddenly becomes lightly-used after the Grove of Titans. Over the next few miles it crosses several creeks; at each one the trail dives into a redwood grove, some of which have pretty good-sized trees. Between creeks the trail runs through mundane streamside vegetation with few redwoods; these parts can get overgrown. The wide, gravel-lined Mill Creek can sometimes be seen below. Across Mill Creek, you may occasionally hear cars grinding along Howland Hill Road.
Approaching the wide Smith River, the trail descends into an exceptional alluvial-flat grove. The remarkably scenic grove is unusually bright and open with tall, straight trees and perfectly flat ground carpeted with ferns and sorrel. It’s a little like Stout Grove, but with its own unique character, mainly because a large opening in the middle of the grove admits a lot of light and an understory of small maple trees softens the look of the grove. Stout Grove can be seen just across Mill Creek as a huge, dark wall of giant trees, but almost none of Stout Grove’s visitors make it over here, making this smaller grove feel like a quiet, hidden refuge.
In the summer it’s possible to continue on to Stout Grove; since the grove’s parking lot is often full, hiking there on the Mill Creek Trail is a nice alternative. Otherwise, turn around and return the way you came to Howland Hill Road.
© 2007, 2012, 2017 David Baselt