Set in the gorgeous rolling ranchland of Sonoma County, a few miles west of the attractive tourist town of Occidental, is the Grove of Old Trees, a small redwood grove owned by a Sonoma County land conservancy. The grove is on a broad, flat ridgetop that provides a quiet and serene location, with only an occasional car passing by on the single-lane residential road.
A small network of trails, perhaps coincidentally in the shape of a peace sign, extends through and around the grove. There are no signs but the trails are well-defined and easy to follow. There’s a picnic table at the west end of the grove, but no other facilities.
The grove is also known as “Grove of the Old Trees”.
The grove has been mostly logged and numerous stumps can be seen, especially around the edges of the grove. Although it looks like the biggest trees were cut, a few decent-sized trees remain, especially near the trailhead. Most of the trees, however, are small, which is typical for an upland location like this. Streaks of blue paint on some of the trunks suggest that the grove was slated for additional logging before it was preserved. Nonetheless, despite the presence of some old-growth trees, this is mainly a second-growth grove.
The grove is filled with dense vegetation, with a tanoak understory combined with redwood foliage extending to near the ground. There’s a healthy groundcover of sword ferns and other species, but no redwood sorrel. Despite all this vegetation, the grove has a somewhat dry look. The bark of the redwood trees has a shaggy, knotted appearance, rather than the elegantly fluted appearance more commonly found on old-growth redwoods. The shaggy bark seems to appear on redwoods found in dry areas like Big Sur.
The grove is well-hidden, with no roadsigns to guide you. The grove is near 17500 Fitzpatrick Lane in Occidental. From Occidental’s town center, take Coleman Valley Road west. Pass Willow Creek Road and continue straight onto Joy Road. Turn right onto Fitzpatrick Lane. Look for a small turnout to your right with a wooden archway leading into the grove. The grove is open daily from sunrise to sunset and is free.
Since 2020 the grove has become fairly popular, and if the parking lot fills up, which it usually does on weekends, there’s no other place to park.
From the parking lot, enter the grove under the wooden archway. After just a few steps, head up the trail to your left. This trail leads through the center of the grove and the grove’s best scenery. At the next fork (marked “Anne’s Circle”), stay to the left again to reach a picnic table. Just past the picnic benches, the woods end at a fence with a vineyard on the other side. Turn right and follow the trail as it skirts the grove, passing through an attractive and relatively open section of redwoods. Ignore an unofficial path to your left and turn left at the next clearly-visible intersection. The trail appears to follow the path of an old dirt road as it descends gently toward Fitzpatrick Lane. This part of the grove is less attractive, with denser vegetation and fewer redwoods. Look for a path to your right and turn onto it. The path is narrow but passes through a wide clearing that might be an old alignment of Fitzpatrick Lane. It then re-enters the grove. Continue straight to return to the parking lot.
(About 0.1 miles back down Fitzpatrick Lane, toward Occidental, an immense, reiterated redwood stands on the right side of the road. A few yards after that is a small redwood grove with a short path leading to a wooden Budda statue. All of this is on a neighbor’s property and is not part of the Grove of Old Trees.)
© 2007, 2012, 2022 David Baselt