The Dry Creek Horse Trail
Length 3.0 mi · Climbing 750 ft
Also called the Dry Creek Trail, this short trail just outside of Miranda connects the Stephens and Jenson/Pioneer groves. The trail mainly passes through old-growth redwood uplands, so although much of the forest is old growth, it's mostly made up of small to mid-sized redwoods with a dense understory.
Oddly enough, the south end of the trail doesn't quite connect with the Stephens Grove Loop. To reach the Loop you'd have to walk on the Avenue of the Giants for about 100 yards. The Avenue is a two-lane road with little or no shoulder in places and about a car per minute passing by, some so fast that they seem barely able to stay on the road, so walking on it isn't really a good idea. Some hikers brave the traffic anyway, crossing the Avenue and continuing via the Stephens Grove Loop into the town of Miranda, making a 5-mile round-trip hike.
The trail is little-used but in good condition. It's not clear what makes this a horse trail since it seems too short to make a decent ride and there's no sign if it ever being used by horses.
Click here to see the trailhead location in Google Maps.
The trail starts in the Jensen and Pioneer grove which, though not as big as the other major groves, is still one of the more impressive groves on the Avenue of the Giants. Within the dark, stately grove, huge trees rise up on both sides of the Avenue to create a canyon of redwoods.
Park in the large pullout on the east side of the Avenue. The trail begins as a dirt road blocked by a metal gate. Walk around the gate and follow the road, which leaves the Eel River's alluvial flat behind and gently climbs through a narrow ravine alongside a burbling creek. The alluvial flat is quite narrow in this area, so the really big redwoods are almost immediately replaced by much less dramatic medium-sized redwoods. The ravine is still old-growth, though, and it's quite scenic.
A trail to your left leads to private property. Turn right onto the next trail, which has a footbridge across the creek. The trail begins to climb up the side of the ravine, offering views of the impressively dense redwood foliage that fills the ravine.
Leaving the ravine, the trees become even smaller. The next, relatively flat, section of trail proceeds through rather dull uplands clogged with huckleberry bushes. A hum of traffic drifts over from Highway 101, across the river.
The trail descends and the scenery improves again, with mid-sized upland redwoods and, in winter, a few small trickling brooks. A loop trail to your left climbs into additional, moderately scenic old-growth uplands; the loop involves a surprising amount of climbing given that doesn't really go anywhere. After rejoining the main trail, the route passes a redwood-filled flat or "bench" on the hillside before descending to the Avenue of the Giants.
Stephens Grove is 100 yards to your left. In contrast to the Jenson/Pioneer grove, this impressive lowland grove can't really be seen from the Avenue of the Giants, but it has a great trail; see the Stephens Grove Loop Trail page.
© 2011, 2016 David Baselt