Durphy Creek, Tan Oak Springs, and Lookout Point Trails Loop in Richardson Grove Redwoods State Park
Richardson Grove Redwoods State Park protects approximately 2,000 acres of woodlands in Humboldt County on the North Coast of California. Outside the main redwood grove near the park visitor center, the park is less impressive than its sister parks to the north. Instead of a rainforest of redwoods and ferns, most of Richardson Grove Redwoods State Park consists of oak-dominated forest with coast redwoods scattered throughout. While the park is not unpleasant, if you only see one redwoods state park this year, you may prefer to skip Richardson Grove.
If you have the time, Richardson Grove Redwoods State Park has several trails to explore. For a short hike, consider the 1.25-mile Woodland Trail, and if you really want to grind it out, set of on the 3.75-mile Durphy Creek Trail – Tan Oak Springs Trail Loop, which climbs 1,000 feet to the top of a forest ridge, then drops to Lookout Point for an uninspiring view before returning to the campground at the trailhead. You will find plenty of shade and seclusion along this unexceptional trail. Note that if your chief goal is to hike amongst the redwoods, you will only pass about a dozen on this trail. The Grove Trail near the park visitor center is a better option for redwood-seeking hikers.
The hike starts out pleasant enough, following the left bank of Durphy Creek from a trailhead just below Mandrone Campground. Hiking west from the northeast corner of this box-shaped loop, you will reach a small picnic area set beneath a strand of tall oaks after 0.4 miles. This is a great place to take a break, and you might actually want to turn around here because after another half mile, the trail suddenly launches launches into a mile-long are-we-there-yet my-legs-are-tired string of seemingly endless switchbacks. The grueling ascent eventually brings you all the way to the top of to ridge. Why the 850-foot climb? It’s not entirely clear, as there are no grand views to motivate the effort. Upon reaching the spine of the ridge, the trail makes a sharp turn to the left, changing its name to Tan Oak Springs Trail. The spacious grove along the ridge includes a few redwoods rising above the oaks. This is the most charming forest along the loop, made even better because you are finally hiking downhill, and eastward toward Mandrone Campground.
After dropping 700 feet over 1.25 miles. You will come to a junction with Lookout Point. Turn right and hike a tenth of a mile to the overlook on the right. Finally some views, you say. Well, not really. You will find just a small tree-framed window looking southward over Highway 101 as it crosses a woodland field in a valley carved by the South Fork of the Eel River. When you are done taking in the view, which won’t take long, there are two routes to close out the hike. Option one is to return to Tan Oak Springs Trail. Turn right and take that trail for half a mile down to Mandrone Campground. Option two is to continue down Lookout Point Trail, which reunites with Tan Oak Springs Trail on the edge of the campground after a quarter mile.
If you parked near the Durphy Creek Trailhead, walk through the campground to return to your vehicle. If you are camping at Mandrone, just return to your site. There is an $8 fee to enter Richardson Grove Redwoods State Park, but no permit is required to hike Durphy Creek Trail – Tan Oak Springs Trail Loop. Dogs and bikes are not allowed on hiking trails within the park. There is a fee of $35 per night to stay at Mandrone Campground, which offers coin-operated showers, flush toilets, picnic tables, and fire rings, along with marginal freeway noise. There are 39 sites in Mandrone Campground, and up to 169 sites within the park.
To get to the trailhead: From Highway 101, 15 miles north of Leggett, and approximately 30 miles south of Humboldt Redwoods State Park, turn west into the main entrance for Richardson Grove Redwoods State Park. The road curls immediately to the south to the park entrance station. Continue straight past the Huckleberry Campground entrance, pass through a horseshoe curve, and turn right toward Mandrone Campground (if you pass under the 101, you have gone too far). Durphy Creek Trail begins on the outside of the next horseshoe bend. There is parking on the road below the trailhead for day hikers, and parking at the sites in the campground for those staying overnight.
Trailhead address: 1600 Highway 101, Richardson Grove Redwoods State Park, Garberville, CA 95542
Trailhead coordinates: 40.01989, -123.79399 (40° 01′ 11.6″N 123° 47′ 38.36″W)
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This 1.25-mile loop explores patches of redwoods surrounded by a shaded oak forest in Richardson Grove Redwoods State Park.
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