The Trillium Falls Trail loops through a remnant strip of old-growth redwoods next to a sawmill site. The grove was apparently left as a sort of ornament for the mill; there’s a similar but smaller patch of old growth next to the sawmill site in the Mill Creek Watershed of Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park.
The trail features a small waterfall near the beginning and a very attractive stand of big redwoods at about the midway point. The forest here doesn’t have the unusually light foliage, bark, and groundcover of nearby Prairie Creek or even the Berry Glen Trail just across the valley; the redwoods are darker and more varied, giving the woods a pleasing and more conventional appearance. There are quite a few good-sized trees and no stumps. Throughout the hike there’s the constant whoosh of cars from Highway 101.
Because it's well-marked and just off Highway 101, the hike is more popular than you might expect; a lot of people driving through see the Trillium Falls sign and stop for a walk. On a nice summer weekend, you might see a group of hikers every 2’3 minutes.
The hike starts just off Highway 101, in a clearing that was once the site of an Arcata Redwood Company sawmill. The sawmill has been removed and the clearing restored to a grass-covered field where elk occasionally browse. The site is prominently signed “Elk Meadow” on the highway and has a large parking area. The parking area gets pretty busy even when there aren't any elk to be seen, but it doesn’t usually fill up.
Start in the parking lot, descend on one of the paved access trails, and turn right onto the paved Davison Trail. After just a few yards, the Trillium Falls Trail branches off to the right, punching through some blackberry brambles and then diving into the redwoods. The first little bit of old growth is especially spectacular, with some huge trees and a very open, attractive appearance. As the trail switchbacks uphill, the redwoods become a little more mundane.
The trail then descends slightly to a long metal footbridge that provides a view of Trillium Falls, a little boulder-strewn cascade, surrounded by maples and ferns, at the head of a large, open ravine.
After the waterfall, the redwoods get a lot smaller and the woods become choked with small spruce trees. Dense thickets of young trees seem to be common at the fringes of old-growth groves where the neighboring land has been logged. There are also a lot of huckleberry shrubs lining the trail, so although there are still redwoods around, you can’t see much from this part of the trail.
Just after the trail descends and crosses a dirt logging road, the woods open up and the trees get a lot bigger. The best scenery and most impressive redwoods of the hike are here, around the southern tip of the trail loop.
The trail turns north and, near its end, approaches the edge of the forest. This part of the grove is much less attractive, with a dense understory and mostly small trees. However, it still has a few good-sized trees.
The trail unceremoniously dumps you onto a dirt road, at which point the redwoods abruptly end. The last one-third mile on the dirt road is still very pleasant, though, with attractive alders leaning over the road. The lack of redwoods in this area appears to be natural and not due to logging.
© 2006, 2007, 2009, 2014, 2018, 2021 David Baselt