This is the best of Richardson Grove’s upland hikes. It starts in the park’s impressive lowland grove and climbs to a small old-growth upland grove, then returns and makes a loop of the lowland trails. It’s interesting to compare the two different environments; although the upland redwoods don’t even begin to compare to the lowland redwoods, the old-growth uplands still have a certain spare beauty not found in any second-growth forest. Seeing the different environments also gives you more of an appreciation for the lowland redwoods.
If you’re only interested in seeing the biggest redwoods, stick to the half-mile or so of lowland trails just north and south of the visitor center.
Here’s the trailhead location in Google Maps.
From the parking lot in front of the visitor center, head north through the main grove. This is by far the most impressive section of redwoods in the park, and if you can ignore the roar of cars and trucks just a few yards away, it’s really a superb patch of old growth. The grove is pure redwood and very open, allowing views of the treetops. Reaching the entrance road, turn left, cross under Highway 101, and immediately turn left again. The trail follows the highway.
The redwood lowlands on this side of the freeway aren’t quite as impressive but are still pretty scenic. There are a few huge sections of a 1200-year-old fallen tree. The tree rings used to be labeled with dates but the labels have been removed.
The trail begins to climb and soon crosses the campground road. There isn’t a distinct trail once you enter the campground, but turn left or right, walk along the road for a few yards, and then head for the bathroom building. You should see the "Lookout Point" trailhead across the road from the bathroom building. Take this trail.
After just a few yards, turn left onto the Lookout Point Trail. This is the least interesting part of the loop, climbing through mostly non-redwood forest. The woods are a dense mass of foliage and the trail is lined with huckleberry shrubs. Lookout Point is now obscured with trees and doesn’t offer much of a view, although you can get a glimpse of the river and the open, grassy flatlands of the French’s Camp area.
The trail continues to climb, eventually reaching an intersection with a trail that descends to your right. This will be the trail that you’ll take on the return leg. For now, however, continue straight ahead. The trail enters a flat with an attractive old-growth upland redwood grove consisting mostly of mid-sized redwoods with tanoak and other species mixed in.
A trail to your left leads to the “Hartsook Giant” and the now-closed Hartsook Inn. The Hartsook Giant isn’t really worth the trip, so ignore this side trail and continue a few yards further along the main trail, which curves through the redwood grove. The trail soon begins to climb steeply; at this point you can turn back.
Turn left at the next intersection. The trail ascends and then descends through upland redwood forest with a few mid-sized redwoods. After returning to the campground, retrace your path back to the main grove.
Back at the visitor center, continue on the trail between the visitor center and the highway to reach a short trail loop through southern half of the lowland grove. The redwoods are noticably smaller on this side of the visitor center; they get even smaller and then disappear completely before the trail loops back into the old growth.
© 2008, 2015, 2017, 2020 David Baselt