Opened in October 2010, this is one of the newer trails in Redwood National Park. It mostly runs through a remnant strip of old-growth redwood forest, connecting the easily-accessible Elk Meadow parking lot with the popular Lady Bird Johnson Grove. The trail is very scenic and interesting, climbing through a bright, open redwood grove with lots of variation in the colors of the trees and the overall appearance of the forest. Although this is an upland hike, there are still a few clusters of good-sized redwoods. There aren’t, however, any panoramic views.
Given how scenic and easy to reach it is, the Berry Glen Trail is relatively little-used; you might see a group of hikers every 30–60 minutes on a nice weekend. The Lady Bird Johnson Trail is much more popular, with a group every 2–3 minutes.
The wide smooth trail contrasts sharply with the decades-old trails of Prairie Creek, which with their narrow, root-covered surfaces and constant meandering, seem to fit organically into the forest and exude a sense of age.
Start from the Elk Meadow Day Use Area, which is on Davison Road just north of Orick. Driving either direction on Highway 101, look for a sign that says “Elk Meadow / Gold Bluffs Beach / Fern Canyon”. In the winter, the paved road that leads to the day use area (Davison Road) may be flooded with a few inches of water. When this happens it’s tempting to park in the large pullout on the side of Highway 101 just south of Davison Road, but it and the nearby red house are actually private property.
Starting at the Elk Meadow Day Use Area, walk downhill on one of the two paved trails toward the meadow. Turn right onto a paved road that soon becomes dirt. Leaving the meadow behind, the road passes under an attractive steamside stand of red alder trees that lean out over the road. Cross a large wooden footbridge over Prairie Creek.
Cross Highway 101. On the other side, continue for just a few yards before turning right onto another old road, clearly marked as the Berry Glen Trail. The road passes under a small stand of alders. Look for a trail that breaks off to the left and begins to climb the hillside. As you climb, the whoosh of cars emanates through the forest from Highway 101 below.
The trail initially climbs through a dark, lush, but somewhat mundane mixed-species forest, consisting of redwoods interspersed with tanoaks and other kinds of trees. With a few exceptions, the redwoods are mostly small. The trail switchbacks steeply up the hill, soon entering a disheveled-looking logged area, dense with huckleberry. The old growth then resumes for a stretch. As the trail climbs along a ridge, there’s old-growth to the right and an old clearcut, filled with small trees, to the left.
The trail crests and leaves the ridge to descend slightly into a wide, shallow hollow. At this point the woods abruptly change to a much more attractive pure redwood grove with clusters of pretty impressive trees, and it remains that way for the rest of the climb. The traffic noise also gets a lot quieter, on some days giving way to the sound of the distant surf. There’s a groundcover of huckleberry and 6 foot tall ferns.
There’s an interesting, very open grove of small and very light-colored redwoods, then the bigger, darker redwoods resume. The trail also passes a few small openings in the woods that resemble meadows but with ferns instead of grass. Similar openings can be seen on the Orick Horse Trail.
The trail joins the route of an old road. From this point on the climb is less engaging; although the old road has become so overgrown that it’s no longer visible, the large gap that it cut through the forest is still apparent. The trail, running through that gap, seems to be distanced from the forest, less interesting and more predictable. Nonetheless, there are a lot of big trees here.
The trail reaches the Lady Bird Johnson Grove Nature Trail just a few yards below the dedication plaque. The Nature Trail is bright, open, and relatively level, but the trees are mostly smaller and the scenery isn’t as interesting as the Berry Glen Trail. Continue around the Nature Trail and then return the way you came.
© 2010, 2013, 2017, 2021 David Baselt