Imagine a hike through trees shrouded in coastal fog to find a grove of some of the tallest trees in the world. Is your imagination captured? Then Tall Trees Trail may be for you! Nestled inside Redwood National Park on California’s north coast, Tall Trees Trail is a moderately challenging half-day hike. The hike does require a permit and uphill hiking. Read on to decide if Tall Trees is right for you.
Should you hike Tall Trees Trail?
The National Park Service classifies Tall Trees Trail as a moderate to strenuous hike. Personally, I think strenuous is going too far. But know your own limits. The hike is 4.5 miles roundtrip with an 800-foot elevation change. Almost all that elevation drop is in the first 1.5 miles…or uphill the last 1.5 miles.
The real kicker is that the trailhead is a one-hour drive from the park entrance. That means you are going to spend about 4 hours driving-hiking-driving. If you only have one day in Redwood National & State Parks, you may want to save this hike for another visit. Check out our favorite 10 things to do in Redwood National & State Parks for ideas. In particular, we love Stout Memorial Grove if you want to see lots of tall trees in a short time.
How do you get a Tall Trees Trail permit?
Tall Trees Trail permits are free! The process is straightforward, but takes a little advance planning. 2 days advance planning, at least. Unlike so many popular National Parks trails, it’s unusual for permits to run out.
First step, pick your preferred hiking dates – up to three choices. You can request a permit four weeks in advance, but no later than 9:00 AM PST two days before your hike. If you want to hike on August 6, that means you need to apply no later than 9:00 AM on August 4.
Once you know your preferred hiking dates, check permit availability. Unfortunately, the list is only somewhat accurate. If you see a low number of permits available, you can still apply, but your chances will be much lower since people could have applied between the last update and when you send your request.
Finally, complete the online application. You will hear back in 24-48 hours. Make sure to fill out the application carefully. If you need to change anything about your request (date, vehicle, group size, etc.), then you have to submit a NEW permit request.
TIP! Take a screenshot of your permit. You may need to show it to a ranger. Internet access in the park is iffy.
You can stay up to date with any changes to the permitting process on the NPS website.
What is Tall Trees Trail like?
After driving seven miles along Bald Hill Road, you will reach the Tall Trees Trail access road. The access road is well marked. Your permit lists the gate combination. Make sure to lock the gate behind you.
Another 6 miles of windy dirt road takes you to the trailhead. The road has some potholes, but nothing too crazy that would require high clearance or 4WD.
The trailhead has a primitive toilet and shelter. Make sure to bring your own water. In late November the weather was cool and comfortable. We’ve heard mosquitoes abound in summer!
The Tall Trees Trail descends through forest burgeoning with ferns, huckleberry bushes, fallen trees, and plenty of bird song.
At the bottom is the actual Tall Trees Grove. A 1-mile loop nestled along Redwood Creek. We looped right, but you can choose either direction. Here is where you will see the towering trees amassed. Many of these trees are over 320 feet. Honestly, I found it difficult to tell how tall they were because all together their height doesn’t stand out.
Closer to Redwood Creek, twisted vine maples join the mix. In November, most of the leaves had fallen, but a few still had blazing leaves adding a flare of color to the grove.
Tall Trees Grove is also where you’ll find the Libbey Tree, which used to be considered the world’s tallest. Look for a tree with the “Tall Tree” sign. Sadly, Libbey Tree lost its crown (literally) and no longer holds the crown (figuratively). The location of the current tallest trees is kept secret to protect them.
Have a snack and reenergize for the steep switchbacks on the hike out. The NPS has kindly scattered several benches along the trail if you need a rest.
We hope you enjoy your Tall Trees Trail hike! If you’re looking for more ways to enjoy Redwood National & State Parks, we put together our favorite 10 activities.