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Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park

Memorial, Baird Trails

1.5 miles round trip; longer hikes possible

One of the smallest of California’s coast redwoods state parks, Grizzly Creek is also farthest from the coast—nearly 30 miles. Its location far from Highway 101/Avenue of The Giants tourist route, means few visitors discover the park’s 300-foot redwoods or the six short trails that visit them.

The park is tucked in the Van Duzen River Valley, where Grizzly Creek meets the Van Duzen River. This locale may be remote, but filmmaker George Lucas found one of the park’s virgin redwood groves so appealing he used the location in his Star Wars sequel, Return of the Jedi.

The park is located on Highway 36, a remote byway that links such out-of-the-way places as Mad River, Forest Glen, Wildwood and Beegum as it winds through the forest from Highway 101 to Interstate 5. So remote is this road, that it’s difficult to believe that until 1918, before the completion of 101, this little road was the major route of travel between San Francisco and Eureka.

Worth a stop is Cheatham Grove, a stand of virgin redwoods located three miles west of the main part of the state park. A short loop trail explores the grove where six wonderful environmental campsites are located. (They are more tranquil than those at Grizzly Creek Campground.)

The park’s fern-lined trails meander among the old-growth and second-growth redwoods. A nature trail interprets local flora.

During summer, the low water level permits installation of a footbridge across the Van Duzen River. The bridge gives access to 1.25 mile long Memorial Trail which loops through the forest. From Devil’s Elbow, a bend in the river, hikers get a good view of the river and the park.

Directions to trailhead: From Highway 101 in Alton, exit on Highway 36 and drive 17 miles east to Grizzly Creek State Park. Turn right past the entrance station and park in the picnic area lot.

The hike:
Cross the Van Duzen River on the summer bridge and follow a dirt road for a short distance to Memorial Trail on your left.

Memorial Trail heads into the redwoods—a drier, less fern-filled forest than those found closer to the coast, and drier even than other groves in the park. After 0.25 mile, the path splits: Go right, meandering into a tanoak, maple and bay laurel woodland. At the eastern end of Memorial Trail, take the short Baird Trail looping through the old-growth redwood forest thriving on the banks of the Van Duzen River. After you’ve enjoyed the redwoods, finish Memorial Loop Trail, which returns you to the picnic area.

© 2012 The Trailmaster, Inc.
From John McKinney’s
Day Hiker’s Guide to California’s State Parks
Trail descriptions and maps have been reproduced with the permission of the author.  To learn more about The Trailmaster and other related publications please visit their website at www.thetrailmaster.com.