It’s hard to live in Oregon and not develop real affection for trees. We plant them all over our cities, camp in their shade after long hikes, and cherish the color, texture, and lushness they bring the whole state. And although redwoods are more famous in California, we have our share of woody giants on our side of the border. One simply has to wander southwards to take in these trees in all their glory.
A wonderful, short, hike to head down if you’re hoping to see redwoods in Oregon is the appropriately named Oregon Redwood Trail, located southwest of Brookings. This spot is home to the tallest redwoods outside of California, and the trees here are the northern-most part of an ancient grove of redwoods. The trail is also boasts a wheelchair-accessible ridgetop portion, maintained pathways, and a mixture of beautiful woodland plants.
The hike starts off from a trailhead right next to a parking lot. You’ll plunge straight into the woods, breathing in that refreshing scent of salty ocean air, spicy tree pitch, and earthy trail mulch as you head down the shady path. The trail splits, and you’re best off veering the left-hand path. Gentle switchback lay ahead, taking you down a hill covered with small redwoods (as in, only 4-5 feet in diameter) and a rich groundcover of sorrel, sword fern, huckleberries, and rhododendron.
Right around the dip that brings the trail around to the other half of the loop, look up. Go ahead – feel your heart skip a beat as you stare up at the cathedral of redwoods, reaching over 300 feet into the sky. These trees have lifespans up to 2,000 years, and have already stood in this grove for centuries.
The trail next climbs back up the ridge, through another patch of redwoods mixed with Douglas fir. The understory is thinner here, and the trees more prominent. This changes with the elevation, and in the final stretch up to the ridge, the foliage brightens, and rhododendron pop back up to steal the scene. There’s a little loop at the ridgetop, with some of the largest redwoods on the trail growing here.
It’s a great place to pause and enjoy the forest ambiance before heading back on the ridge to the trailhead.