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Avenue of the Giants Scenic Drive, Part V
Exploring Humboldt Redwoods State Park
This page explores the central and northern portions of the Avenue of the Giants scenic drive in Humboldt Redwoods State Park, including various easy trails.
You’ll drive north from the Humboldt Redwoods State Park Visitor Center, where we left you in the Avenue of the Giants Scenic Drive (Part 4).
Trails in Humboldt State Park
Humboldt Redwoods State Park features a variety of easy trails that can be hiked in an hour or less, including an exceptionally gorgeous one called Drury-Chaney Trail, which is wheelchair accessible.
You need not hike to enjoy the Avenue of the Giants through the park, but we hope that you'll at least try the Drury-Chaney Trail described below.
My favorite trails that take an hour or less and are near the Avenue of the Giants are:
- Founders Grove Loop Trail
- Rockefeller Loop Trail
- Tall Tree Trail at Big Trees
- Giant Tree at Big Trees
- Fallen Giant Flatiron Tree Trail at Big Trees, and
- Drury-Chaney Trail
If you want to hike on longer and more difficult trails, the Humboldt Redwoods State Park website or volunteer rangers at the visitor center can direct you. Humboldt State Park has true wilderness areas in rugged terrain away from the Avenue of the Giants.
Founders Grove Nature Trail
A sometimes crowded, but nevertheless very enjoyable trail, is in Founders Grove, an area with particularly large trees, including Founders Tree.
The nearly flat Founders Grove loop trail, also called the Founders Grove nature trail, can easily be walked in less than 30 minutes.
The coastal redwoods, such as those in Founder's Grove, grow larger at lower elevations along rivers and creeks, in this case, the South Fork of the Eel River. Redwoods flourish in places like Founder's Grove away from the salty spray off waves, where they can still bask in damp air flowing in off the ocean.
Coast redwoods don’t like dry air and high temperatures. For that reason, the redwoods along the northern portion of the Avenue of the Giants grow a little taller than those to the south.
Directions to Founders Grove Nature Trail
Drive north from the Humboldt Redwoods State Park visitor center along the Avenue of the Giants. Continue past Burlington Campground.
After the Avenue of the Giants crosses the U.S.101 freeway, turn right onto Dyersville Loop Road. In a moment, you'll see parking for Founders Grove on your left. The short loop trail begins across the road. It is wheelchair accessible.
Follow Mattole Road for more trails
From Founders Grove, go back to the Avenue of the Giants and turn right. Drive north on the Avenue of the Giants.
Quickly, you’ll reach Mattole Road. Turn left onto Mattole Road and drive under the freeway.
Mattole Road, which also goes to Albee Creek Campground and to isolated Cape Mendocino (the westernmost point in California), takes you to the Big Trees area, to the Rockefeller Loop Trail, and to the most easily accessible areas of the park that are less visited.
Rockefeller Loop Trail
A mile west of the Avenue, the Rockefeller Loop Trail, which takes some 30 minutes, provides a fine walk with no steep grades.
We'll walk the trail, but first a bit of background on how this trail got its name.
Development of California's redwood parks
The state was slow—and the federal government even slower—to protect these wonderful trees.
For years the park system developed mostly through gifts from families, garden and other clubs, and small preservation groups, not through government acquisitions. Trees were preserved one grove at a time.
The forest in the Rockefeller Loop Trail area, the largest grove in Humboldt Redwoods State Park, was named after John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who donated to preserve 10,000 acres of redwood trees at this site.
This is just one example of how this family's philanthropy created and expanded nature preserves in the U.S., including Grand Teton, Virgin Islands, Great Smoky Mountain, and Yosemite national parks.
Hiking Rockefeller Loop Trail
You won’t always find the Rockefeller Loop Trail well marked, but if you keep going in a loop, you will be fine. Stay on the heaviest traveled paths.
Keep in mind, too, that the Eel River, Bull Creek, and Mattole Road confine the outer limits of the area. Knowing these parameters will help you stay on track.
Plan on less than 30 minutes walking in this beautiful area.
Big Trees trails
The Big Trees area, four miles from the Avenue of the Giants, offers three very short but interesting walks. If you are the type who likes to tick items off of a "to-do list" quickly, this is the stop for you.
At Big Trees, less than 30 minutes total takes you to the
- Tall Tree of the Rockefeller Forest—check,
- Giant Tree (With a 53 foot circumference, we’re not kidding)—check, and
- Fallen giant Flatiron Tree—check.
Note that there’s no access from the Big Trees parking lot from the time when winter rains begin around October to when the runoff subsides in late May or early June.
Drury-Chaney Trail – our favorite
From Mattole Road, return to the Avenue of the Giants, and drive north.
If you have time for just one trail in any of the redwood parks, hike the Drury-Chaney Trail.
This easy walk takes around 45 - 75 minutes without stops and has an all-weather surface.
The route is clearly defined, but please hold the hands of small children so you don't lose sight of them among these huge and densely packed trees.
The Drury-Chaney Trail has two sections, a regular trail from the Avenue of the Giants to the loop portion of the trail and then the loop trail. You can skip the loop trail to save time, but that would be a shame.
- From the parking area to a fire access road, you’ll walk in from and return to the parking lot on the same trail.
- However, soon after the fire road, Drury splits into the loop trail.
At the beginning of the loop, you can either go to your left or to your right to take the loop around to return to this spot.
Then, go back the way you came to the parking lot.
Directions to Drury-Chaney Trail
Drive north on the Avenue of the Giants in Humboldt Redwoods State Park.
Because the trail sign does not show up well from the road, watch for the following 4 indications:
- Milepost 43.9,
- Some 10 miles north of the Visitor Center,
- Just before Pepperwood village, and
- Immediately past a sign pointing right to Shively, parking for the Drury Trail should pop up on your left. If you enter Pepperwood village, you’ve driven too far.
Don't be misled by a sign adjacent to the parking area that discusses second-growth forests. With humongous trees like these, this isn’t a second growth forest. It is instead one of the most beautiful and majestic portions of virgin growth in Humboldt Redwoods State Park.
Unlike many redwood groves, where trees block the light that promotes lush ground cover, vigorous growth covers the floor of Drury, making the area especially beautiful.
The lush blanket probably results at least in part from the proximity of this portion of Humboldt State Park to the Pacific, which brings in more fog and dampness.
Several years ago, park rangers finished making the entire Drury-Chaney Trail wheelchair-accessible.
During the winter, heavy rains may create a few gullies and a branch or two may fall, but normally people with reasonably strong arms should be able to wheel themselves along this gentle trail without difficulty.
End of Avenue of the Giants
Continue north along the Avenue of the Giants through Pepperwood.
Humboldt State Park ends, and soon you’ll reach the U.S. 101 freeway.
Take the northbound onramp toward Eureka.
The Avenue of the Giants has a competitor: the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway in Redwood National Park, and we’re off to explore it next.
Go to Part 6: Scenic
drive from Avenue of the Giants to Arcata, and continue your
Part 1: Redwood and Mendocino scenic drive introduction,
Part 2: Directions from San Francisco to Mendocino,
Part 3: Mendocino scenic drive,
Part 4: Avenue of the Giants scenic drive,
Part 5: Avenue of the Giants scenic drive (continued),
Part 6: Scenic drive from Avenue of the Giants to Arcata,
Part 7: Arcata travel guide – what to do,
Part 8: Humboldt and Mendocino counties in depth,
Part 9: Scenic drive from Arcata to Redwood National Park,
Part 10: From Redwood National Park to San Francisco,
Part 11: Motels and hotels along your redwood scenic drive,
Part 12: Camping along your redwood scenic drive, and
Part 13: Mendocino and Redwood parks airport choices.