Hiking: Richardson Grove : Hugged a Redwood Lately?

You can't miss viewing the redwoods in Richardson Grove State Park; the highway lobby had California 101 built right through the heart of the park.

But if you really want to experience the magic and majesty of "The Grove," you must get off the highway and hit the trail.

Richardson Grove has some fine footpaths that visit quiet redwood groves and Eel River beaches.

The park, acquired in the 1920s, is named for California's 25th governor, Friend William Richardson, though it's any park lover's guess why; the ultra-conservative Richardson was completely unsympathetic to the state park system, then in its infancy, and vetoed all expenditure bills.

Start your visit to Richardson Grove with a look at the natural history exhibits and history displays at the visitor center. Check out the arboreal curiosities: a walk-through tree, and a dawn redwood, the coastal redwood's Chinese cousin, located in the group camp. The park features a full schedule of interpretive programs during the summer.

This loop trip offers an enjoyable jaunt above the South Fork of the Eel River.

Directions to trail head: From California 101, eight miles south of Garberville, take the Richardson Grove State Park exit.

Once inside the park, getting to either of the trail heads is a bit tricky, unless you happened to have reserved a site in Madrone Campground. If you're not camping, the best bet is to park at the picnic ground near the visitor center, follow the short path to the California 101 underpass, emerge on the other side and pick up the path leading to and through Madrone Campground.

The hike: From the signed trail head in Madrone Campground, begin your climb to Lookout Point Trail, which almost immediately forks. Stay left and begin ascending thorough redwoods and Douglas fir to Lookout Point. The so-so vista is of the Eel River Canyon and California 101.

From the lookout, the path steepens. You briefly join the trail to Hartsook Inn before meeting up with Tan Oak Springs Trail and switchbacking up a forested ridge.

After cresting the ridge, about 1 1/2 miles from the trail head, the path descends a short distance to Tan Oak Springs. The cattail--and tule--surrounding the spring isn't much to behold, but it's a nice place to take a breather.

Past the spring, the trail continues descending to the south bank of Durphy Creek, then levels off to follow the creek eastward. The trail ends at the park road, where you'll turn left to return.

Lookout Point, Tan Oak Springs, Durphy Creek Trails

WHERE: Richardson Grove State Park, Northern California redwoods.

DISTANCE: 4 miles round trip.

TERRAIN: Cool, shady redwood groves.

HIGHLIGHTS: Redwoods, tranquil Durphy Creek.


PRECAUTIONS: High-altitude hiking and short visitor season (mid-to late summer).

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Richardson Grove State Park, 1600 U.S. Highway 101, 8, Garberville, Calif. 95542; tel. (707) 247-3318.

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