This epic out-and-back hike starts at the Visitor Center and climbs through redwood uplands, then through spruce and fir woods, and finally through grassy meadows to the top of an isolated peak, the highest in the park. There’s some traffic noise for the first few miles, but after that it’s mostly silent and feels very remote. You’re rewarded with some expansive views at the top; most of the trail, though, is wooded, so there aren’t any views to speak of until the very end.
Even though it seems like it should be one of the iconic hikes of Humboldt Redwoods, the Grasshopper Trail is so little-used that I’ve never seen anyone else on it. The north side trails — Johnson Camp and Squaw Creek Ridge — are less interesting but get more visitors. Maybe it’s because most people who hike up Grasshopper Peak are backpackers, and the north side routes offer water and better campsites.
The Grasshopper Trail can only be hiked in the summer and fall, when the Eel River can be crossed. A seasonal bridge is in place from roughly June through October, and you might be able to wade across the river into November if it doesn’t rain too much. Although most of the trail is a dirt road, bicycles and horses are not allowed on it.
Here’s the trailhead location in Google Maps.
This hike starts from the visitor center, next to Burlington Campground. However, it’s also possible to start from the Garden Club of America Grove parking lot a few miles to the south; this alternate route is about 0.7 miles shorter, but adds an extra 400 feet of climbing (including an annoying 200 foot climb right at the end) and is somewhat less scenic.
From the visitor center parking lot, follow the Nature Trail through big lowland redwoods to the “River Access” trail, then descend to the Eel River. The trail passes through a strip of streamside maples before emerging from the woods onto the wide gravelly river bank. Take a close look at where you exit from the brush, since the trail is sometimes hidden in the brush and can be hard to find on the return trip.
Cross the river on the seasonal footbridge. Continue straight ahead, climbing up the steep sandy bank on a set of plank steps strung together by ropes. The trail enters a small, heavily-logged flat with some pretty good-sized stumps.
The access trail ends at a T intersection with the River Trail. Turn left. The little flat soon ends and with it all signs of logging, giving way to an old-growth upland forest of small redwoods among a dense understory of huckleberry shrubs. The trail, which used to have a lot of up-and-down, has thankfully been rerouted and now climbs steadily, gradually rising high above the river. There are a few glimpses of the river below.
Turn right at the next intersection; the trail switchbacks up a hill, then plateaus and then comes to a T intersection with an old dirt road. This is the Grasshopper Trail. Because it’s only used by hikers, it actually looks more like a wide trail.
Turn right onto this trail, which climbs gently through a ridgetop old-growth redwood grove. The trees are unusually large and light-colored for an upland environment, and the woods are relatively open and bright. This is a mixed-species grove, with firs and tanoaks growing among the redwoods. A dense understory of huckleberry bushes lines the trail. Traffic noise from Highway 101 can be heard here and throughout the first 3 miles of the hike,.
The trail enters a logged redwood grove, dense with tiny trees, then eventually emerges into a another old-growth grove. Though less impressive than the previous grove, it’s more open and very attractive, with some nice views of the tall, straight redwoods. The old-growth grove has a distinctive bright green hue that contrasts with the much darker browns and greys of the second growth. After leaving the redwoods there’s one section of trail that’s somewhat steep, but otherwise it climbs at a reasonable grade.
The trail briefly levels out and then passes through a final stretch of old-growth redwoods. Shortly afterward the forest transitions to spruce and fir. The higher-elevation forests make a nice contast with the redwoods, with a much different, more arid look. Patches of dead and blackened trees from the Canoe Fire can be seen. The traffic noise fades out and the forest becomes strikingly still and quiet.
The woods open up and the trail climbs through grassy meadows surrounded by oak trees before reaching Grasshopper Trail Camp at an intersection with a dirt road. There’s not much at the camp, just an outhouse and a bear locker under the trees to your right.
After crossing the Grieg Multi-Use Trail, the trail turns from a dirt road into a somewhat rough singletrack trail. The trail is little-used in the winter and spring and sometimes becomes heavily overgrown and hard to follow, but it's usually maintained and in good condition in the summer.
The trail finally reaches the summit, which is essentially a parking lot for a fire lookout. There are sweeping views of the surrounding hills. The most unobstructed views are of the upper Bull Creek basin to the west. The view to the east is partly obscured by trees, but it’s more expansive and interesting, stretching all the way to the Trinity Mountains. The summit is almost eerily quiet, except on a still day, if you listen carefully, you can sometimes barely hear the air brakes of trucks on Highway 101.
© 2010, 2015, 2020 David Baselt