Hendy Woods State Park
A rural redwood reserve
The rural Anderson Valley is known for its vineyards, sheep ranches, and apple orchards. Throughout the valley, as you drive southeast, the hills to your left are covered with oak-dotted grasslands, but the hills to your right are covered with a dense carpet of redwoods. As you're driving over the rolling golden hills of the valley, just as you're passing through the most scenic stretch you might notice a dark and remarkably tall stand of redwoods off in the distance, rising high over Gowan's apple orchards. This is Hendy Woods, a small park by the Navarro River. With its exceptionally nice alluvial-flat redwood grove and its scenic setting, Hendy Woods is a real pleasure to visit.
By far the best redwoods in Hendy Woods are in Big Hendy, an 80-acre redwood grove. Located on an alluvial flat created by a bend in the Navarro River, the grove is sheltered on one side by hills but is open to the wide Anderson Valley on the other. A network of three trails, the Discovery, Upper Grove, and Back Loops, winds through the old growth forest and without a map can get a little confusing. The Discovery Loop, which is nearest the parking lot, is the least impressive of the three trails, while the Upper Loop, in the center of the grove, is the most impressive. Overall the grove has a surprising amount of really impressive trail.
Big Hendy's appearance is halfway between the southern and northern redwood forests. There's a certain disheveled look like you'd normally see in the south, but there's also (at least on the Upper Loop) the cathedral-like appearance of the best northern groves. There's an understory of tanoak like in the southern woods, but it's not as dense, and underneath it is a remarkably plush groundcover of sorrel and trefoil to rival Humboldt Redwoods'.
The trails are unusually narrow for an old-growth grove, probably because the grove gets few visitors; most visitors head straight for the river. Depending on weather conditions, the grove may be quiet or some traffic noise may drift over from Highway 128. The grove seems to be perpetually breezy, especially the Discovery Loop and the day use area.
Hendy Woods' other old-growth grove, 40-acre Little Hendy, is much less attractive than Big Hendy. Like Big Hendy, Little Hendy is located on an alluvial flat at a bend in the river. Although there are some good-sized trees here, the grove is too narrow to have the cathedral-like appearance of Big Hendy, and the lush groundcover is almost completely absent. The Little Hendy loop trail has two halves: an old and indistinct dirt road that passes through the grove, and a trail that skirts the grove a little ways up a hillside.
Near Big Hendy is an attractive day-use area, which includes a few picnic benches shaded by an oak tree in a field with views of the oak-dotted hills across the valley. From the day use area you can also walk down to the river, which is actually more popular than the redwood grove. The park also has a large campground in an oak woodland.
A number of other trails run between Big and Little Hendy groves. The Hermit Hut and Azalea Creek trails make a nice 3-mile loop walk between the day use area and Little Hendy, although this hike is mostly through rather uninteresting hardwoods and is not nearly as nice as Big Hendy. The Azalea Creek Trail can be faint and hard to follow. The Hermit's Huts are underwhelming piles of sticks, but there's an interesting trailside exhibit about the man who occupied the huts for 18 years.
Hendy Woods has a very nice and popular campground. The campsites are not in the redwoods but are under the cover of a pleasant hardwood forest. There is also river access from the day-use area; in the summertime, the river is actually much more popular than the redwoods.
Old-growth redwood hikes
**** Big Hendy (1.4 miles)
* Hermit Huts and Little Hendy (3.0 miles)
Just south of Philo, this small park has a few old-growth redwoods and a short nature trail, and an unofficial trail that leads to the river. However, most of the park is taken up by ten campsites. The park has been selectively logged but some big trees remain. Unlike Hendy, you can actually camp in the redwoods here, but even so Indian Creek is not as well-maintained or attractive as Hendy.
© 2006, 2009 David Baselt