A Brief History
Long before Humboldt Redwoods was a state park, the Sinkyone-Lolangkok lived in the area. Europeans began to arrive in 1850; this is when things began to go awry for the Redwoods. 1914 brought a railroad and 1922 brought the Redwood Highway to the area; with new transportation came heavy logging.
Luckily, in 1917 visitors with great foresight also arrived. Concerned for the magnificent trees, these concerned citizens formed the Save-the-Redwood League in 1918 and acquired the first tract of lands in 1921. Since then, more than 100 groves have been added to the park thanks to the League. The park currently totals 53,000 acres.
1930 brought a large, $2 million gift from J.D. Rockefeller, enabling the purchase of what is now Rockefeller Forest from Pacific Lumber Company.
Rockefeller Forest is one of the largest, uncut old-growth forest in the world. Sitting in this forest makes one feel small, young, and inferior. It reminds us that we are just passing through. True beauty and strength lies with these 2,000 year old trees.
Most of our backpacking trip took us through heavily logged areas. Large stumps represented but a fading memory of giants that once towered over everything. Despite the gloom of the arbocide, the sumps foster hope. Humans may have indiscriminately mowed them down like a suburban lawn, but they continue to fight back and sprout clones, providing shelter to countless other lifeforms. Hopefully, through the actions of nature lovers everywhere, these new trees will one day reign supreme over the forest.
Most of the trail network consists of old logging roads which were poorly built and have led to erosion. In an attempt to correct erosion, the park service is converting old roads to trails or dismantling them. There are many miles of Multi-Use Trails (M.U.T.) in the park.
There are 5 trail camps in the park; a water spout (untreated and not guaranteed to run) and an outhouse are at each site. Permits can be obtained at any open camp kiosk for $5/person/night.
Book frontcountry campsites early as they are frequently filled, especially during the summer months. For more information visit the CA State Parks website or the Humboldt Redwoods Interpretive Association.
Climbing Grasshopper Peak – 7 miles, moderate
Our hike started at the gate on Grasshopper Road (park just downhill of the gate). The cilmb up Grasshopper Road provides ample shade until the last .25 mile when the fire-lookout comes into view. The lookout is still active and there were fire-fighters manning the station when we were there. Reserve some time to take in the 360-degree view from the peak.
Just below the peak, Grasshopper Trail Camp is available for backpackers. Johnson Trail Camp is located .4 mile off Grasshopper M.U.T. about 3.4 miles from the trailhead; this camp has old cabins.
Grasshopper Peak to Bull Creek Trail Camp 7 miles, easy
On the West side of the lookout, the Grasshopper Trail descends to Grieg M.U.T. You can take this trail all the way to Bull Creek Trail Camp and Quigley Barn (the barn recently succumbed to an earthquake). Alternatively, you can take the South Prairie trail which would add 2 miles to your day; we opted to do this section on the 2nd day.
The park service advises taking 2 days to reach this camp, we
Bull Creek Trail Camp to TH – 14.5 miles, moderate
The 2nd day involves some climbing and, like the 1st day, is very well shaded. Head down Grieg M.U.T. to South Prairie Trail. South Prairie Trail is an old road that is slowly being reclaimed by nature. Though it will add distance to your trip, we strongly recommend taking it as the narrow trail provides a much more intimate experience than the fire roads. Meet up with Grieg M.U.T and take it to Squaw Creek Ridge M.U.T. Hansen Ridge Trail Camp is accessed from this trail and provides views into the valley.
The real gem is just down trail. Whiskey Flat Trail Camp lies along the edge of Rockefeller Forest and, for us, is the most impressive camp. Sleep among the giants and revel in their surreal beauty. From here, it is only 3 easy miles to the car.