Mattole Road

A drive through Bull Creek Flats
California > Humboldt Redwoods and Vicinity > Humboldt Redwoods State Park

Mattole Road and Lower Bull Creek Flat

Mattole Road follows Bull Creek for five miles through the Rockefeller Forest, the largest contiguous stand of old-growth redwoods in the world and the best-preserved part of Humboldt Redwoods. The largest trees in the park are found here; of the world’s ten tallest trees, three are in the Rockefeller Forest.

The road predates the park and even the Redwood Highway, having been built in 1869. It doesn’t seem to have changed much since then; the narrow, tenuous road winds through the deep shade of the incredibly dense woods, massive trees coming right up to its edge, making it feel like it could be overwhelmed by and vanish into the woods at any minute. The road is often rough and heavily potholed, depending on how recently it’s been repaved.

Upper Bull Creek Flat from Mattole Road

The two main sights are the Rockefeller Loop, about a mile in, and the Big Trees Area, about four miles in, both of which are spectacular and have short loop trails.

This area also has the best long hikes in Humboldt Redwoods, including the Bull Creek Flats loop and the Homestead Loop.

The Albee Creek Campground is about five miles in. Although the campsites aren’t in the old growth, they’re within walking distance of some great old-growth hikes.

The old growth ends abruptly just after the road crosses a bridge over Bull Creek, entering a large meadow. The meadow itself appears to be natural, but the redwoods on the surrounding hillsides were clearcut in the 1950s.

Map of Mattole Road

Bull Creek Flats and the adjacent Founders’s Grove was one of the four areas targeted for acquisition by Fredrick Law Olmsted Jr.’s original 1927 master plan for California’s North Coast redwood parks. It was purchased soon afterward, in 1931, for $3.2 million, of which $2 million was donated by John D. Rockefeller Jr. In the 1930s and again in the 1960s some thought was given to turning it into a national park, but huge floods in 1955 and 1964, as well as the construction of the Highway 101 bypass, damaged the area to such an extent that it was eliminated from contention.

Mattole Road at the entrance to Albee Creek Campground


© 2006, 2022 David Baselt