Big Ed Tree Trail
in Sierra National Forest
Seeing the big trees doesn’t mean you have to go on a big hike. Big Ed Tree Trail is quick an easy, reaching its namesake giant sequoia after a tenth of a mile. Big Ed Tree stands within the Nelder Grove in Sierra National Forest, in the mountains south of Yosemite National Park. If this 0.2-mile round trip hike with 25 feet of elevation change leaves you wanting more, check out the adjacent exhibits about the area’s logging history.
Big Ed Tree Trail begins from Forest Road 5S19, the dirt road to Nelder Grove Campground. Start from an information board by the road and walk toward a pair of cabins and a giant stump. These historical Biledo Cabins were moved to Nelder Grove from nearby Biledo Meadow for better preservation and were constructed by pioneers near the end of the 19th century. Between the cabins, walk through a sheltered archway to find a sign pointing toward Big Ed Tree.
The dirt single track gets underway by heading away from the cabins along a gradual slope. Pass other stumps that provide proof of the logging that transpired at Nelder Grove. Sugar pines, gooseberry, and wild roses prosper along the trail.
Spot Big Ed Tree after a hundred yards. The trail leads straight to it, but you may need to hop across a seasonal stream to reach the broad base of Big Ed Tree. According to Friends of Nelder Grove, Big Ed Tree is named after Ed Zerlang, a foreman from Soquel Mill who favored this tree:
Employees from Soquel knew this was his favorite tree and every time they passed this tree they would wave hello to “Big Ed.” Eventually the name stuck.
On the far side of Big Ed Tree, the trail comes to an abrupt end, sloping down to California Creek. Since there’s no way to press on, simply return the way you came – after you’ve taken an appropriate amount of time to stare up at Big Ed Tree, of course.
Across the road from the trailhead, you’ll find a few outdoor exhibits that are part of the interpretive center for Nelder Grove Historic Area. Learn about the equipment used during the logging area from the panels and replicas.
Three methods for transporting logs to mills are on display. Panels provided by Sierra National Forest describe the cross-log chute, two-pole chute, and lumber tram:
Cross-Log Chute – This replica of a cross-log chute was constructed in 1981 on the site of one of the original chutes used from 1880 to 1884 by the Madera Flume and Trading Company. Oxen were used to drag peeled logs from the woods to the sawmill along the chutes, several of which were over a mile long. The saddles in the cross logs were greased to reduce friction.
Two-Pole Chute – This is a replica of a two-pole log chute which was built near the site of an original chute. This type of chute was used by Madera Flume and Trading Company while logging in Nelder Grove from 1888 to 1892. The logs were peeled before rolling into the chute and the chute was oiled to make it easier for the animals to drag logs to the mill. In later years, two-pole chutes were used throughout the region with steam “donkey” engine pulling the logs.
Lumber Tram – This model is a section of the tramway that transported lumber two miles from the mill in Nelder Grove to the flume in California Meadow. Gravity was the only power for the loaded cars; empties were hauled back up by horses. A simple solution to a big transportation problem!
Walk around Nelder Grove and you’ll discover several stumps in this partially-logged grove as well as fully grown giant sequoias that remain standing. The seasonal bloom of dogwood trees charms the grove as well. Little wonders like snow plant can add flashes of red to the forest floor. For a slightly longer hike to a giant sequoia, check out nearby Bull Buck Tree Trail or see multiple giant sequoias on Shadow of the Giants Trail.
Dogs are welcome on this hike. Nelder Grove may be difficult to access during winter conditions from December to April. The dirt roads leading to the grove can be rough and require high clearance vehicles. Otherwise, no permit is required to hike Big Ed Tree Trail and no fee is charged to access Sierra National Forest, so get out and enjoy!
To get to the trailhead: From Oakhurst, take Highway 41 north for 4 miles and bear right on Road 632 (signs for Sierra Sky Ranch). Proceed up this road, which winds into the mountains for 6.6 miles, becoming Forest Road 6S10. Come to a T-intersection and turn left onto Road 6S47Y, following signs for Nelder Grove. Drive 1.2 miles to a fork and stay to the right on Road 6S90. Drive 0.3 miles and make the first left onto 5S19, at a sign for Nelder Grove Campground. Proceed another 0.3 miles up to the trailhead for Big Ed Tree Trail, which is on the right.
From Yosemite National Park, exit through the south gate on Route 41 near Mariposa Grove and drive another 11.7 miles to Road 632. Make a sharp left onto Road 632 and follow the directions above.
Trailhead address: Forest Road 5S19, Oakhurst, CA 93644
Trailhead coordinates: 37.4296, -119.58614 (37° 25′ 46.6″N 119° 35′ 10.1″W)
You may also view a regional map of surrounding Sierra Nevada trails and campgrounds.
|Bull Buck Tree Trail |
This 0.8-mile loop leaves from Nelder Grove Campground and leads to a single giant sequoia with an incredibly broad base.
|Shadow of the Giants Trail |
This 1.1-mile nature trail visits giants sequoias and imparts wisdom about the great trees and their surroundings.
|Lewis Creek Trail to Corlieu Falls |
This 0.8-mile round trip hike travels down along a rushing creek to a viewing platform in front of an enthusiastic, cascading waterfall.
|Way of the Mono Trail |
This 0.6-mile interpretive trail rises to a granite perch with grand views over Bass Lake and the surrounding Sierra.
|Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias |
This 1.6-mile hike (or longer) visits the biggest trees in Yosemite.
|Wawona Meadow Loop Trail |
This gentle 3.9-mile loop passes through forest encircling a verdant, mostly-natural meadow near Wawona Hotel at the south end of Yosemite National Park.
|Wawona Swinging Bridge |
This 0.8 or 1.4-mile hike leads to a suspension bridge spanning a charming stretch of the South Fork Merced River in the Wawona Area of Yosemite National Park.
|Chilnualna Falls Trail |
This 8-mile round trip hike ascends 2,200 feet past a raucous string of cascades to the top of a waterfall alongside Wawona Dome.
|More trails in the Sierra Nevada Mountains |
Explore other destinations around Yosemite National Park and the rest of the range.
|North Grove - Big Trees Trail in Calaveras Big Trees State Park |
This easy 1.5-mile loop explores the first giant sequoias discovered by settlers in California.
|General Grant Tree Trail in Kings Canyon National Park |
This 0-8 mile loop in the Grant Grove passes through a Fallen Monarch to reach the General Grant Tree, one of the world's largest sequoias.
|Trail of 100 Giants in Giant Sequoia National Monument |
This paved 0.5 to 1.3-mile loop visits a grove of giant sequoias alongside Western Divide Highway.
|General Sherman Tree in Sequoia National Park |
This one-mile hike visits the world's biggest tree, a 275-foot tall Giant Sequoia that is 36.5 feet across at the base.
|Big Trees Trail in Sequoia National Park |
This 1.4-mile stroll explores giant sequoias around Round Meadow on a paved nature trail that is easy, educational, and beautiful.
|Crescent Meadow in Sequoia National Park |
This level 1.6-mile loop visits a Sequoia you can stand inside (Chimney Tree) and another that someone used to live in (Tharp's Log).
|Nelder Grove Campground |
This 7-site campground offers cozy nights in a partially logged grove of giant sequoias in Sierra National Forest.
The Big Ed trail has been slightly realigned, so that it no longer leads directly to the tree, but to an excellent top to bottom view of it from the slope to the south.