Grieg-French-Bell Trail provides access to lovely grove of coast redwoods in Humboldt Redwoods State Park. The ground in this area is covered by a carpet of redwood sorrel that is incredibly beautiful to walk through. Within French Grove, you’ll find the Girdled Tree, which had its bark removed to 1901 so that it could be displayed in San Francisco. Use Grieg-French-Bell Trail for a half-mile loop with 25 feet of elevation change or stroll even longer on a collection of footpaths that wander through the sorrel.
Your walk through the redwoods begins from a turnout along Avenue of the Giants near the small town of Pepperwood at the north end of Humboldt Redwoods State Park. The Eel River lies just beyond the east side of the road and the trail is on the opposite site. A sign just of the road reads, “Access Trail to Thomas A Grieg, Enoch Percy French, Wilfred Brown Bell.” Park and begin up the trail to the left of the sign, entering an amphitheater of giant redwood, Grieg Grove. You will immediately reach a marker for the start of the loop trail.
To you right, a path ventures off into the redwoods to the north where the ground is covered in wood sorrel and fallen redwoods. This end of the loop trail quickly splinters into several paths that wander through an enchanting forest. Heading off in this direction, you might never find the Girdled Tree. To make sure you see it, save the more improvisational side of the loop for second half of your hike.
Take the trail to the left of the marker and make your way west toward the Girdled Tree. This trail is well established with only one section where the path splits and reunites. The trail weaves over gently rolling terrain, cutting a path through ground cover of redwood sorrel and ferns. Much of the forest along this loop is new growth redwoods that are significantly thinner than their forebears and allow added sunlight to touch the forest floor. The younger redwoods also provide great contrast to the giants along the trail.
After about 0.15 miles of hiking, you will pass a sign for the Enoch “Percy” French Grove. Make your way into this grove of giants and walk up to the Girdled Tree. This tree is easy to identify because about twenty feet of bark is missing around the bottom of the redwood. Step up to the Girdled Tree to get a rare glimpse at what redwoods look like underneath the one-foot thick bark that protects them from wildfires.
A sign explains how the Gilded Tree came to be:
This still living tree shows bark peeling which was done in 1901 by J. H. French and his young sons, one of whom was Enoch “Percy” French, first Redwood District Superintendent of the Division of Beaches and Parks from 1931 to 1953 (Now California Department of Parks and Recreation). For over 50 years he was a leading timber cruiser in the Redwood Region.
The tree measured 54 feet in circumference at the base and was located on land owned by the Pacific Lumber Company who prepared the bark for shipment to San Francesco where the bark was reassembled to reproduce the base of the giant tree and used for an information booth for the Epworth League convention.
Despite being stripped at ground level, the Girdled Tree still stands. The Girdled Tree is both a reminder of mankind’s missteps in caring for these trees and an optimistic pillar of the endurance of coast redwoods.
Walk past the Girdled Tree to a bench dedicated to Viola and Enoch Percy French. Pause here to admire the Girdled Tree from a short distance. To the left, a trail extends deeper into the redwoods to Bell Grove, offering a chance for further exploration.
To begin making your way back to Avenue of the Giants, take the trail turning to the right in front of the bench.
The second half of the loop takes you through forest mounds covered in sorrel and ferns. Fallen redwoods cross the forest floor, providing obstacles for the trail to weave around. As you leave the French Grove, look over your shoulder toward the Girdled Tree, which stands out because of its missing bark.
In the middle of the forest, you should pass another panel describing the new growth along the trail:
The coast redwood is one of the few cone-bearing trees that will grow from both seeds and sprouts. Seeds fall on the forest floor annually but they will not grow well except on fine exposed mineral soil. The coast redwood produces primarily from root sprouts.
The trail that you are on will splinter into paths that delve into different pockets of the grove. These paths go through alluring patches of sorrel and may inspire you to linger and explore. To efficiently return to the trailhead, favor making right turns at each split.
Make your way through downed redwoods and upturned roots to get back to the trees along Avenue of the Giants. Close the loop and walk back to your vehicle, completing a roughly half-mile long loop with 25 feet of elevation change.
Bikes and dogs are not allowed on Grieg-French-Bell Trail. For another hike in the area, travel a quarter mile north on Avenue of the Giants to Drury-Chaney Loop Trail. Farther to the south in Humboldt Redwoods State Park, you will find Founders Grove and Gould Grove, which are worth visiting. No permit is necessary for Grieg-French-Bell Trail and no fee is required to park along Avenue of the Giants, so get out and enjoy!
To get to the trailhead: From the north, drive 34 miles south of Eureka on Highway 101 to exit 671. At the bottom of the ramp, make a left, cross under the 101 and make the next left onto Avenue of the Giants (a scenic drive that parallels Highway 101 through Humboldt Redwoods State Park). Drive a quarter up Avenue of the Giants to the trailhead and park along either side of the road. The trail begins from the west side of the road next to a sign and picnic table.
From the south, drive 51 miles north of Leggett on Highway 101 to exit 667 in Redcrest. Turn right at the bottom of the offramp and make an immediate left up Avenue of the Giants. Drive 4 miles north to the trailhead.
Note: the line shown on the trail map is only an approximation of Grieg-French-Bell Trail.
Trailhead address: 30750 Avenue of the Giants, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, Pepperwood, CA 95565
Trailhead coordinates: 40.4403, -123.9855 (40° 26′ 25.08″N 123° 59′ 07.8″W)
You may also view a regional map of surrounding Northern California trails and campgrounds.
|Drury-Chaney Loop Trail|
This 2.4-mile lollipop loop provides an easy and enchanting hike through redwood trees at the north end of Humboldt Redwoods State Park.
|Founders Grove Nature Trail|
This 0.5 mile loop explores an ancient grove honoring the founders of the Save-the-Redwoods League in Humboldt Redwoods State Park.
|Gould Grove Trail|
This half mile loop explores an old growth redwood forest across from the visitor center in Humboldt Redwoods State Park.
This 1.25-mile loop explores patches of redwoods surrounded by a shaded oak forest in Richardson Grove Redwoods State Park.
|Durphy Creek Trail – Tan Oak Springs Trail – Lookout Point Loop|
This 3.75-mile loop climbs 1,000 feet to a forest ridge before descending to Lookout Point, where you can enjoy an unimpressive view to the south.
|Fern Canyon Trail|
This one-mile hike explores an incredibly ferny canyon in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park.
|Yurok Loop and Hidden Beach|
This 2.25-mile hike explores a rugged and beautiful area of California’s north coast, combining Yurok Loop Trail and the Hidden Beach Section of Coastal Trail to visit beaches, forests, and ocean vistas.
|More hikes in Northern California|
Explore other trails in Northern California, including hikes in coastal parks and around Mount Shasta.
|Stout Memorial Grove|
This 0.55-mile hike explores an old growth grove of coastal redwoods in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park.