Permits required to access trailhead! Be aware that there are several river crossings and navigating in the river, making access difficult or impossible for some.
Access to the Emerald Ridge - Redwood Creek loop requires a backcountry day pass. The pass is free and can be obtained at any of the visitor centers. It is at the end of the Tall Trees Access Road off Bald Hills Road. It is a dirt road that give access to the trailhead for Tall Trees Grove
and Emerald Ridge Trail
and Loop. The road is gated and requires a permit to enter. With your permit, the ranger will give you the combination to the lock on the gate. I didn't have any problem entering the gate with the combination. Once past the gate, you have to close and lock it again.
From the dirt parking lot, it is a few steps until the Emerald Ridge Trail
starts at a sharp left turn. Be careful you don't miss the trail sign. The trail straight ahead takes you to the Tall Trees Loop.The Emerald Ridge Trail
really has no views and you only pass by a few old growth redwoods. The trail is about 1.5 miles and ends at Redwood Creek.
The Redwood Creek is a beautiful, shallow river. It is rocky and popular with area fishermen. Technically it is not a trail however the park service has put signage on the Emerald Ridge Trail
and they also tell you this at the visitor center that this loop exists. The park service map even shows an unmaintained trail along the river bank. This is misleading because to complete the loop, you must cross Redwood Creek more than a few times. I did this in mid-June and I had to cross this 6 times.
When you enter the river bed, you work your way along the river on dry portions of the gravel river bank. Eventually you run out of real estate and have to cross the river to get to the next dry gravel bench. You'll get wet! Several of the crossings the water was up to my knees. Keep this in mind because your shoes/boots will need several days to dry out. There are too many crossings to waste time taking off and putting on the your boots.
Be sure to check with the park rangers before taking on this hike. This loop should only be done when water levels are low. I also recommend tackling the loop in a clockwise direction, entering from Emerald Ridge Trail
. Once on the river bank you'll travel down stream (turn right) and continue for 1.7 miles.
Here is the difficult part. Where to exit the river. This was hard to determine. A map is essential! There is a small stream entering the river from the left called Tom McDonald Creek. Just after this stream there is a large gravel shore area. Work your way toward the tree line and look for some small orange ribbons tied to tree branches. These were faded when I was here and it took about 10 minutes to find the right place. This exits you onto the Tall Trees Loop Trail. This was one of the best trails I did in Redwood N.P. I was wet, uncomfortable but the scenery was amazing and I loved every minute of it!