The Drury-Chaney Loop and the adjacent Grieg-French-Bell Trail are most notable for the extraordinarily plush layer of redwood sorrel that usually covers the ground under the old-growth redwoods. Fallen logs, leaf litter, pretty much everything is covered with sorrel, creating the impression of a plush, wrinkled green carpet thrown over the forest floor. An occasional fern sticks out of the sorrel. The Drury-Chaney loop isn’t quite as striking as the Grieg-French-Bell Trail, but it makes a much better hike since it’s a lot longer and better maintained. It also has fewer signs of logging, with only one visible stump.
The trail is surfaced with gravel (now completely hidden under a thick mat of redwood needles) to make it wheelchair-accessible, which is a big improvement because the low-lying trail used to get very muddy in the winter. The trail is level, clearly-defined, and easy to follow.
This is one of the most popular Avenue of the Giants trails, maybe because it’s clearly visible and it’s the first trailhead on the southbound side of the Avenue of the Giants. However, the number of people on the trail drops off as you get further into the grove, especially after the dirt road crossing.
Directions: The Drury-Chaney Trail is the northernmost trail in Humboldt Redwoods State Park. It’s about two and a half miles from the northern end of the Avenue of the Giants, just past the sparse collection of houses known as Pepperwood. The trailhead, which is in a clearing on the west side of the Avenue of the Giants, is well marked. Parking is available in pullouts on both sides of the road.
Here’s the trailhead location in Google Maps.
The trail starts in a clearing alongside the Avenue of the Giants. It immediately enters a dense, jungle-like stand of redwoods, but stays near the edge of the clearing for the first few hundred yards. This part of the hike has the best redwood sorrel, with lots of fallen trees and little bumps that are completely covered with redwood sorrel. There are some big redwoods as well. Unusually for a lowland in Humboldt Redwoods, this area also has quite a bit of bay laurel mixed in with the redwoods. There’s a faint hum of traffic from Highway 101.
The remarkable lushness of the forest decreases as the trail gets further from the Avenue of the Giants, and the little hillocks dispppear, leaving a more typical alluvial flat. It’s still very attractive; it’s just a little more like the rest of Humboldt Redwoods, lacking the hyper-lushness of the first quarter-mile or so.
After about two-thirds of a mile, the trail crosses a dirt road. Over the past few years, the road has become overgrown to the point that it now looks more like a trail. To your right, the road passes through a band of very impressive redwoods, the largest of the entire grove. The size of the redwoods falls off noticably on either side of the road. The road eventually reaches the Avenue of the Giants.
After crossing the dirt road, the woods open up into a more expansive alluvial flat. The whoosh of traffic noise from Highway 101 becomes louder and more intrusive in this area. Soon you’ll reach a T intersection marked with a sign that simply says "Loop". Turn left and cross a long footbridge across a channel that’s dry in summer. The first half of the loop isn’t particularly remarkable; the forest is definitely old growth but may have been affected by nearby logging activity. After the trail reaches the northernmost point of the loop and curves around to parallel the dirt road, the redwoods, set among a lush carpet of ferns and sorrel, become a lot larger.
The trail passes a large stump festooned with springboard holes. The logged redwood appears to have been the largest tree in the grove. Back at the T intersection, turn left to return to the Avenue of the Giants.
© 2007, 2011, 2017, 2020 David Baselt