John B. Dewitt Redwoods
State Natural Reserve
Holbrook Grove and the Eel River, Dewitt Redwoods
Dewitt Redwoods is one of the more obscure redwood parks. Almost no guidebook chapters or web pages describe it; even its official web page is just a blank placeholder. This is partly because, until 2001, Dewitt Redwoods was part of Humboldt Redwoods State Park. Also, although it has some fine trees, the park's three small old-growth groves are overshadowed by much more spectacular groves just five minutes to the north (Humboldt Redwoods) and five minutes south (Richardson Grove). Finally, although a few really short walks are possible here, Dewitt Redwoods doesn't have any official trails.
The park has two unconnected sections. The northern section, containing the Holbrook grove, is just north of the small but busy town of Redway. This section has a short segment of old dirt road where you can stretch your legs. The larger southern section, which contains the Whittemore and O'Meara Groves, is just west of Redway. This section has more impressive trees and a few more short strolls. The Whittemore Grove is the park's main attraction; for such a small redwood grove it's surprisingly busy in the summer, with a car pulling into the little parking lot every five or ten minutes. Maybe that's because it's on a road to the coast or because of the nearby campgrounds.
In 2003, the south section more than doubled in size when the landslide-prone slopes above the Eel River were purchased from Pacific Lumber and added to the park.
Part of the Trail Map of Humboldt Redwoods State Park (Redwood Hikes Press, 2013)
Holbrook Grove is on a small flat along the banks of the Eel River. Maybe because the flat is elevated above the river and isn't actually flat (it slopes gently toward the river), the trees here aren't nearly as impressive as the true alluvial-flat groves to the north in Humboldt Redwoods or to the south in Richardson Grove.
From the parking area you can walk through the grove on a gated dirt road that's probably an old alignment of Redwood Road. The largest trees are found around the parking lot and just past the gate; the trees get smaller as you walk down the road. Redwood Drive is just a few yards away up an embankment, and every few seconds a car roars by. There's a lush groundcover of ferns and sorrel with lots of poison oak.
Holbrook Grove, Dewitt Redwoods
Near its end, the road is blocked by a fallen tree with a short path around it. A few yards later, the redwoods end and the road narrows to a path that abruptly turns right. The path pushes through some vegetation to emerge at the banks of the Eel River.
Directions to Holbrook Grove
Click here to see the trailhead location in Google Maps.
From Highway 101, take the Redwood Drive exit (exit 642), one exit north of Garberville and one south of the Avenue of the Giants (there's a helpful sign at the end of the off-ramp to direct all the people who confuse Redwood Drive with the Avenue of the Giants back onto the freeway). Drive south on Redwood Drive, past a road on your right that crosses the Eel River on a bridge that has a nice view of the old-growth redwoods lining the river. After another quarter-mile, look for an unmarked dirt road to your right that leads to a small parking area.
The Holbrook grove is the most impressive of Dewitt's three groves. It's just across the Eel River from the town of Redway, and a half-mile of busy Briceland Road runs through middle of the grove. The road actually provides the best look at the old growth, but there's also a little parking lot where you can get out of the car and walk through a small but attractive patch of pretty good-sized old-growth redwoods. Most of the groundcover in the middle of this grove has been worn away; this seems to be a popular stopping point and people are often walking around among the redwoods.
There aren't any official trails here, just a gated dirt road that cuts through the grove for about 300 yards. The road turns right and starts to climb a hill before the old growth gives way to redwood uplands with small redwoods or, in places, no redwoods. The road is actually a driveway for the nearby YMCA campgound, and depending on the time of year, campground guests (who have a key to the gate) may drive by on the road, making it somewhat unpleasant for a walk of more than a few minutes. In any case, the road isn't especially scenic after the old growth ends.
If there's enough groundcover, there may also be a short, faint unofficial trail through the grove.
The twisty two-lane Briceland Road gets a surprising amount of traffic, with lots of pickup trucks roaring along at ludicrously high speed. Following the road west from the parking lot, it continues to pass through pretty nice old-growth, including some big trees, before entering a logged region. Just after this point, look to your left for an unmarked dirt road. There's a gate just a few yards up, past the first bend. You can park at the bottom and walk up the road, which climbs a hillside through rather uninteresting second-growth redwoods, entering the property that was recently purchased from Pacific Lumber.
Directions to Whittemore grove
Click here to see the trailhead location in Google Maps.
From the south, take the Garberville exit off Highway 101 and drive through Garberville without turning. Cross the freeway and continue straight, heading north on Redwood Drive to Redway. From the north, take the Redwood Drive exit and drive south to Redway. From Redway, take Briceland Road west. The road winds through Redway and then crosses the Eel River. From the bridge there's a very scenic view of the redwoods lining the banks and the hillsides above. Just a few yards past the river is a parking area on your right.
Whittemore Grove, Dewitt Redwoods
The O'Meara Grove is just across the Eel River from the Whittemore grove. The most intruiging feature of this grove is the neighborhood of "Lower Redway", part of which is under the old-growth canopy. As far as I know it's the only residential neighborhood in an old-growth redwood forest. The dark-colored, rustic, cabin-style houses are a nice match for the deep shade of the redwoods.
House in the redwoods, Redway
Also within the O'Meara grove are a few unofficial trails that are mainly used to reach the Eel River. It's possible to park on Eel River Lane and walk a short loop on these trails. Most of the redwoods in this area are small.
O'Meara Grove, Dewitt Redwoods
© 2009, 2017 David Baselt