Big Ed Tree Trail Nelder Grove Giant Sequoia Hike Sierra National Forest Oakhurst California

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.

Biledo Cabins Nelder Grove
Big Ed Tree Trail leaves the Biledo Cabins

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.

Big Ed Tree Giant Sequoia
Big Ed Tree

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!

cross-log chute Nelder Grove
The replica of a cross-log chute

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)

Trail Map
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Elevation Profile
Click or hover over any spot on this elevation profile to see the distance from the start and elevation above sea level at that location, which will be highlighted on the map.

You may also view a regional map of surrounding Sierra Nevada trails and campgrounds.


Big Ed Tree TrailBiledo Cabins Nelder GroveBiledo Cabins Nelder GroveBiledo Cabins Nelder GroveBig Ed Tree TrailBig Ed Tree TrailBig Ed Tree TrailBig Ed Tree TrailBig Ed Tree TrailBig Ed Tree Giant SequoiaBig Ed Tree Giant SequoiaBig Ed Tree Giant SequoiaBig Ed Tree Giant SequoiaBig Ed Tree Giant SequoiaBig Ed Tree Giant SequoiaBig Ed Tree Giant SequoiaBig Ed Tree Giant SequoiaBig Ed Tree Giant SequoiaBig Ed Tree Giant SequoiaNelder Grove California CreekNelder Grove California CreekNelder GroveNelder Grove Log ChuteNelder Grove Log ChuteNelder Grove Lumber TramNelder Grove Lumber TramSnow PlantSnow PlantNelder Grove Campground

These photos were taken in May of 2017. Click to enlarge.
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Nearby Camping
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Tagged with · Free Trails · Nelder Grove · Oakhurst · Sequoia Groves
Distance: 0.2 miles · Elevation change: 25 feet

One Comment on Big Ed Tree Trail in Sierra National Forest

  1. Dick Estel wrote:

    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.

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