Grasshopper Summit and Johnson Camp
Length 16.2 mi · Climbing 3200 ft
The Grasshopper Multi-Use Trail, sometimes called Grasshopper Road, is the shortest route to the top of Grasshopper Mountain. Although there are a few interesting stretches of old growth, this road, like all the routes up Grasshopper Mountain, mostly passes through rather dull second-growth redwood uplands. Since the route is almost entirely wooded, there aren't any views until you get to the top. On the positive side, given that it's a 3000 foot climb to the top, it's surprisingly easy since for the most part the roads aren't too steep.
The suggested route returns by the Johnson Camp Trail, which is a lot more scenic than Grasshopper MUT and includes a one-mile stretch of especially attractive old-growth redwood uplands. This detour adds 2.3 miles to the hike but is the best part of the loop.
The Grasshopper Multi Use Trail is open to hikers, bike riders, and equestrians, but the Johnson Camp Trail is not open to bike riders.
Click here to see the trailhead location in Google Maps.
Take Mattole Road west from Highway 101 all the way through Bull Creek Flats. Just as the redwoods come to an end, the road crosses a bridge over Bull Creek; just a few yards later, turn left onto an unmarked dirt road. This is Grasshopper Road. A few yards in, opposite the unmarked Bull Creek Flats trailhead, two small pullouts provide a place to park.
Begin the hike by walking uphill on the Grasshopper Multi Use Trail. The dirt road climbs somewhat steeply through old-growth redwood uplands that are pleasant if unspectacular. A dense understory of huckleberry shrubs and tanoak grows among the redwoods.
After the road reaches the intersection with the Squaw Creek Ridge Multi Use Trail it levels out, continuing through mundane uplands with some redwoods. Occasionally there are a few good-sized trees. The road crosses Squaw Creek on a bridge and then begins to climb again at an average grade of 12%. Fortunately, it's not a constant grade; the road levels out every now and then, which helps to make the climb easier.
When you come to an intersection with an unnamed trail to Johnson Trail Camp, turn right. The road climbs through logged redwoods, switchbacking a few times, before entering a remarkable partially-logged grove. Most of the stumps appear in the lower half of the grove; the upper half seems relatively untouched. There are still some pretty decent-sized trees in this grove, especially considering that its elevation is 2500 feet — about the highest that redwoods naturally grow.
As the road exits the redwood grove, the groundcover disappears and the redwoods give way to an arid-looking tanoak forest. There's a small break in the woods where you get the first real view of the hike. Approaching the summit, the fire lookout comes into view.
At the top are views over the Eel River valley to the east and the Bull Creek valley to the west. A small patch of ocean is visible in the distance. Given the height of Grasshopper Mountain, the views actually aren't all that spectacular — the mountains in this area are gently sloped, so the river valleys are a long ways away. The peak with its fire lookout is surrounded by dead trees.
From the peak, a poorly-maintained trail descends to the Grieg Multi Use Trail and a grassy clearing where Grasshopper Trail Camp is located. Turn left to return through dark woods to the Grasshopper Multi Use Trail. Descend until you reach the trail to Johnson Camp, and then turn right. The trail descends gently to the camp, where two dilapidated cabins are set in a gloomy hollow. One (which used to be the only usable one) has been smashed by a falling tree and the other is leaning precariously and has holes in its floor. Faint trails lead a few yards to two more cabins; one is lacking a roof and the other only has a floor. None of the cabins is really suitable for camping in.
Just past the camp, the road turns into a trail and enters some very nice old growth. At first the woods are similar to the old-growth uplands along the previous miles of dirt road, but they still seem more attractive, maybe because there's not as much huckleberry to screen the views.
Continuing its gentle descent, the trail abruptly enters a remarkable and exceptionally scenic old-growth redwood upland grove. Unusually for an upland grove, this grove is almost pure redwood, with no other large trees, and even though the redwoods grow at a much higher density here, the grove is much more open than the surrounding areas. The trees are a very light grey and are also unusually straight. With little groundcover, the grove has a spare look. It's unclear why this area is so much different than the rest of the mountain, but it's a highlight of the hike. However, it's at least five miles from any trailhead, so few visitors make it here.
The trail seems to have been routed to pass through this grove: it passes completely through the grove, then, just as it leaves the grove, makes a hairpin left and passes through a second time.
Exiting the grove, the trail descends through much more mundane redwood uplands clogged with huckleberry. The redwoods become very sparse as the trail descends, no longer dominating the woods. There are, however, a few brief stretches of more impressive redwoods where the trail crosses gullies. It might just be the effect of the setting sun, but the woods in this area seem to be an unusually brilliant green.
The average grade of the Johnson Camp Trail is a ridiculously shallow 6%, which makes it a lot longer than it needs to be. Otherwise, though, the trail is well-built and in excellent condition.
The trail finally descends to Bull Creek Flats, which makes a really nice ending to the hike. There are some great views of the spectacular big-tree lowlands as the trail nears the bottom. Turn left onto the Bull Creek Flats Trail and enjoy a stroll through the magnificent old-growth. As it leaves the Tall Trees Area the trail climbs briefly, entering redwood uplands, before descending to the flats again just before the end of the trail at Grasshopper Road.
© 2009, 2017 David Baselt