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Hiking the Tall Trees Trail at Redwood National Park is one of the best ways to experience the redwoods and forest of the Coast Range. Tucked deep into the mountains, this trail requires a little extra effort. You have to obtain a free permit and drive way down a dirt road to find the trailhead, but the payoff is big.
The Tall Trees Trail is a 4-mile lollipop loop and has an elevation gain of about 750 feet. It can be steep and strenuous in areas. Unlike most trails, the hard and steep part is on the return trip, when you are tired. For my research on this trail, I used the guidebook Hike the Parks: Redwood National & State Parks: Best Day Hikes, Walks, and Sights and the National Geographic topographical map of the area.
Tall Trees Trail permit
A free permit is required; however, they can be obtained online up to four weeks in advance. But you cannot apply for a permit within 48 hours of your desired day. So keep that in mind. Once I applied for the permit, I received an email with instructions saying my permit had been approved. The park then sent me another email the day before my scheduled hike with the code to unlock the gate to get to the trailhead.
Finding the Trailhead
The Tall Trees Trail is off the beaten path – well the paved road at least. And your permit is required to access the dirt road that takes you to the trailhead. When I was there, I had to park, unlock the gate with the given code, drive through, then shut and re-lock the gate.
The park highly advises against using your GPS to find the trailhead. To find the trailhead from the town of Orick, you’ll want to drive 1.3 miles north on Highway 101 and then turn right onto Bald Hills Road. You then drive seven miles south on Bald Hills Road, and you come to a dirt road with the previously mentioned gate across it. Use the code given by the park to access the road. Then drive six miles until the road ends.
I used these GPS coordinates – 41.207990, -123.992920 – and didn’t have a problem finding them. Redwood National Park advises against using GPS, so I would only use this as a backup.
Trailhead to Tall Trees Grove
The Tall Trees Trail is one of those trails that begins by going down into a valley. This means the steeper, harder part of the hike is saved for the return trip. The trail begins to descend into the Redwood Creek Valley as it snakes around the hillside.
Right around mile 0.5, the trail passes under a fallen redwood tree. Because these trees are so massive, the trail builders simply cut an archway through the tree. From there, the trail continues to descend. And one thing I really liked about this part of the hike is that the tallest trees in the world seem even taller when you are looking up to the base on the side of a hill.
Around mile 1.3 the trail levels out and begins to ease into the valley.
Tall Trees Grove
At mile 1.6 the trail splits for the lollipop section. It doesn’t matter if you go to the right or the left. Either way, and you are going to end right back at this spot. I chose to go to the right. The loop part of this lollipop loop takes you through the Tall Trees Grove. This loop is just under a mile and showcases some of the tallest redwoods.
Also among the Tall Trees Grove is the Libby Tree, which held the title of “Tallest Tree in the World” until 1994 before the top died back.
This portion of the Tall Trees Trail is flat and makes you feel small as you walk among these giants. Right around mile 2, there is an intersection with the Redwood Creek Trail (Hike 4). Here you want to go to the left to stay on the Tall Trees Trail. From this intersection, the trail heads toward Redwood Creek shortly before turning again and running parallel to the creek.
The Tall Trees Grove is different from the slope where you hiked in because there are a lot more ferns and moss covering the understory. It’s almost something out of a fairy tale.
Back to the trailhead
At mile 2.5, you come back to the intersection and the “stick” part of the lollipop loop. From here you retrace your steps back up the mountain. Remember all that hiking down you did? Yup, now it’s time to go back up. Keep in mind it will take you longer to hike uphill than downhill.
Hiking the Tall Trees Trail
The Tall Trees Trail is a great way to experience Redwood National Park. The Tall Trees Grove is one of the best groves to see in the park. The fact that you have to obtain a permit, drive way down a dirt road and tackle a slightly strenuous hike makes it a great trail to beat the crowds. It also makes it a little more exclusive and special.
- 4 miles lollipop loop
- Elevation gain and loss 743 feet
- Dogs not allowed
- Backcountry campsites near, but not on this particular trail