The High Rock Trail runs through a long, narrow alluvial-flat redwood grove on the banks of the Eel River. Although it’s quite spectacular, because it's not visible from the road it’s also one of the least-visited old-growth groves on the Avenue of the Giants.
There are a lot of large trees in this area and the forest is attractive, with a groundcover of ferns and a light sprinkling of redwood sorrel. There’s also an interesting transition to an upland redwood environment as the trail climbs over High Rock.
The main drawback of this trail is that it’s never far from the Avenue of the Giants. Highway 101 is also nearby, and even if the Avenue is deserted there’s always the constant whooshing sound of cars going by on the highway. Also, the river on one side and the hills on the other naturally limit the biggest trees to a band that’s only about 50 yards wide, so the forest, although very scenic, doesn’t have the expansive look of Bull Creek Flats or Founders’ Grove.
There’s sometimes a lot of poison oak along this trail. Although it can be avoided, it makes it hard to look at the scenery and walk at the same time.
The trail is unmarked but is apparently official.
Here’s the trailhead location in Google Maps.
If you’re heading north on the Avenue of the Giants, the Avenue climbs a small hill, passes an intersection with the road to High Rock Conservation Camp, then descends. Continue until the road bottoms out, then look for a small paved road to your right. The road isn’t marked, but it’s the first right after High Rock Conservation Camp. Take that road and in just a hundred yards or so you’ll reach the trailhead and a dirt parking area. Locals often park here to hang out by the river.
By far the best part of this trail is the beginning. The alluvial flat is at its widest here, and the trail, which is covered with a soft layer of redwood needles, runs through a lush, attractive grove of monster redwoods. The ground is spotted with ferns and dusted with redwood sorrel.
The biggest redwoods end and the alluvial flat starts to narrow after the first 100 yards, but the trail continues through very nice old-growth lowlands with good-sized redwoods. After crossing a bridge the trail starts a slight, gentle climb. Although the total elevation gain is small, there’s a rapid and dramatic transition to a redwood upland environment as the redwoods become a lot smaller and other kinds of trees (mostly tanoak) appear.
A trail to the left leads down to the river, then a trail to the right leads up to a parking area on the Avenue.
The trail crests at a small ridge. An unmarked trail to the left climbs a little ways to High Rock itself, where there’s a viewpoint that overlooks the Eel River.
After High Rock the main trail might get a little faint and overgrown with poison oak, but can still be followed easily. After descending through upland forest, it curves into a second alluvial flat with a very scenic grove of lowland redwoods. Both the alluvial flat and the redwoods are smaller than the ones at the trailhead, but it’s still very scenic. The redwoods are especially dense here.
Within this grove, the trail crosses two footbridges over deep gulches. The first bridge has been out for several years, but there’s a large fallen log with a flat top that I’ve used to cross the gulch.
The trail continues through scenic redwoods. At one point the trail passes through an open strip of forest; it looks like the trail used to be a much wider road. Toward the end of the trail, the forest becomes less scenic and clogged with small understory trees. The redwoods take on a lighter and somewhat drab appearance, but they’re still big. As it approaches a logged area, the trail abruptly turns to the right and ends at a small pullout on the Avenue of the Giants.
© 2008, 2011, 2013, 2017, 2021 David Baselt