TRIP REPORT: Big Tree Loop (Cathedral Trail) – Redwood National and State Parks, CA September 2017
Hiking stats at a glance:
Total Mileage = ~3.5 miles
Elevation Gain = ~200 feet
Trailhead = Big Tree Wayside
These posts are beginning to get more and more delayed on account of real life busyness but I am determined to make sure they all get out into the world! After heading inland to check out Crater Lake amidst the wild fire smoke we made our way back to the coast for our drive into Northern California and ultimately San Francisco. We initially arrived late at night so on the drive in we didn’t get to see too much besides the shadowy outline of the trees but on the following day we were greeted with incredible views that were truly otherworldly. After packing up our things we hit the road and drove directly into Redwood National and State Parks.
As soon as we pulled off the 101 and onto the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway I was immediately struck by the dramatic height of the trees all around us. There were towering red woods all around us and it was hard to concentrate on driving and not just gawking up at the sky. As we had to drive down to San Francisco the same day we didn’t have a ton of time to spend in the park but we wanted to get at least one hike done through the old growth forests. So we settled on doing the Big Tree Loop on the cathedral trail. We started our hike from the Big Tree Wayside parking lot near the Prairie Creek Visitor Center.
The trail generally was very flat and easy to follow with a very obvious path through the massive trees and underbrush. I wont bother recapping the hike play by play as it is pretty straight forward to follow the signs, but suffice to say it is truly incredible despite how easy it was!
After finishing our morning hike on the Big Tree Loop we headed over to the Kuchel Visitor Center which overlooked the ocean just outside of the park proper. I had seen the pacific ocean plenty of times and been to the beaches outside LA but this was my first beach experience so much further north on the west coast. I have to say it did not disappoint! What a truly breath taking environment with towering trees overlooking the ocean and the sand with the scattered drift wood made for a very scenic environment.
After leaving the Kuchel Visitor Center on the coast we headed back inland for a quick peak at the Lady Bird Johnson Grove. This stop was high on people list of must see locations but honestly it was more of an easy path through a city park than anything more wild. It was of course still beautiful but in terms of dramatic scenery the Big Tree Loop was significantly more impressive.
All in all our short stay in Redwoods National and State Parks was pretty fun and certainly very unique. I would love to also come back and explore deeper into the old growth forests. I can only imagine how amazing this park will look again in 100 years after the trees have had more time to regrow from all of the earlier clear cutting. After leaving the LBJ Grove we got back on the 101 highway and continued on our way south towards San Francisco and other parts beyond!