Redwood National and State Park Visitors Can Now Access Some of the World’s Tallest and Oldest Trees Thanks to Completed Grove of Titans Trail

by Jon D. B.

For the first time, Redwood National and State Parks visitors have official, low-impact access to this famed grove of giant redwoods.

With the conclusion of a massive, multi-million-dollar effort spanning several years, the Grove of Titans Trail is now officially open to the public. Located in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park (part of Redwood National and State Parks, RNSP), Grove of Titans and Mill Creek Trail provides year-round access to a brand new 1,300-foot-long boardwalk through the Grove of Titans.

The California parks would work with multiple agencies to realign the original Mill Creek Trail for the project. In doing so, the area gains significant protection from off-trail usage. “Social media and unofficial promotion of the grove’s off-trail location led to a dramatic increase in visitation over the last 20 years,” RNSP cites. “With no official trails or visitor infrastructure, the influx of people threatened the health of the grove.”

“The Grove of Titans is a premier example of an extraordinary old-growth redwood forest that was experiencing significant damage from visitors walking ‘off trail’ to access this area,” offers Erin Gates, deputy superintendent, RNSP and North Coast Redwoods District, California State Parks. “This project is really a story about legacy. Being mindful of the role we all play in helping to keep our parks thriving.”

Redwood National and State Parks Offer New Visitor Experience with Grove of Titans Trail

The new Grove of Titans boardwalk also features interpretive signage and exhibits. Within, visitors will walk upward into the forest, spotting redwood forest illustrations and hands-on features along the way. This interpretation was developed in consultation with the Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation to illuminate the Indigenous history of the area. Present-day relationships with Tolowa people remains paramount, as they have shepherded these lands for generations.

“Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation is also pleased to have collaborated on the Grove of Titans Trail Project. Tolowa Dee-ni’ maintain our responsibility as the original stewards of the Grove of Titans through a government-to-government relationship with the Redwood National and State Parks,” the Nation announces alongside the parks. “With the completion of this project, we are grateful park visitors will be able to more responsibly visit our ancestral territory and magnificent redwood relatives.”

All in all, it took over 23,000 hours to realign Mill Creek Trail’s 3-mile length, then build the new elevated walkway. Traditional construction was not an option, either. Crews would carry close to 128-tons of construction materials to their work sites by hand. This minimized impact on sensitive habitat was paramount.

Crews also removed unofficial, old “social trails” created by unregulated usage of park lands. Afterwards, the ecosystems’ restoration began with the planting of ferns and other understory plants.

‘Balance is key when planning and building a trail in such a rare and beautiful ecosystem’

“Balance is key when planning and building a trail in such a rare and beautiful ecosystem,” offers Jessica Carter. Carter is director of parks and public engagement for Save the Redwoods League. “With the realigned trail, new boardwalk and signage, we’re respecting the natural grandeur of this special place… While also welcoming all visitors to experience and enjoy Grove of Titans for generations to come,” she adds.

To help accomplish this, Redwood National and State Parks is actively recruiting volunteers to monitor the trails. Volunteers will also interact with park visitors to support the long-term care of the Grove of Titans and nearby trails.

“The Grove of Titans project shows how we can—and must—work together to accomplish great things,” says Scott Larson, executive director of Redwood Parks Conservancy. “It starts with generous giving through organizations like Redwood Parks Conservancy. But the work is not done. We need to teach existing visitors and do a better job reaching out to include new communities. To understand WHY this project happened. And how they can help by treading on places like this more gently to truly ‘leave no trace’.”