The Redwood Grove Loop Trail features some of the park's biggest trees, an easy trail and interpretive signs.
The Coastal Redwoods at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park sit relatively close to the town of Santa Cruz, which lies just downstream of the San Lorenzo River. It's a bit surprising then that the enormous specimens of the tree found here avoided the ax of lumberjacks in the 1800's. Luckily for visitors today, these giants can be enjoyed while getting in miles of hiking.
Joseph Welch purchased 350 acres in 1867 and used the large trees found here as a tourist draw rather than a source of building supplies. A hotel and resort drew such dignitaries as Andrew Carnegie and Presidents Benjamin Harrison and Theodore Roosevelt.
In the center of Cathedral Redwoods, which we had all to ourselves for most of our visit.
The park's easy access to Santa Cruz and being right next door to the Roaring Camp and Big Trees Railroad
mean that the park is a natural draw for tourists, particularly those with children. For easy trails such as the Redwood Grove Loop Trail that can mean crowds.
Don't avoid the loop trail though, because you'll miss a number of the park's signature features. An interpretive trail guide describes at a number of stations different aspects of Redwoods and other flora and fauna that might be found in the park. You will likely learn something new about Redwoods in the process no matter how long you've lived in California.
Coppertone crosses a small bridge on the way back to the park visitor center.
Two of the park's named trees are on the loop trail. The first, aptly named Giant, is one of the largest Redwoods you'll likely see. The second, named for General Fremont, goes with a story claiming that General Fremont slept in the hollowed out core of the tree with Kit Carson in 1846. Years later, when asked about the story, Fremont was said to have replied, "It's a good story; let it stand". Whether he meant the tree or the story is not known. Both ended up living on.
South of the Redwood Grove Loop the park boundaries expand and a series of trails shoot in many directions. Fire roads provide relatively easy access with wide trails throughout. Smaller trails have a mixture of trail use exclusions, though all support hikers. These smaller trails will sometimes be rougher and are more likely to be a bit overgrown with poison oak, but are typically more scenic and more peaceful.
The park is composed of two unattached pieces of land. The nearby Fall Creek Unit lies a short distance to the northwest of the main park entrance station. Though it sees far fewer visitors it consists of far more acreage. Look there for more solitude.