Location: Sequoia National Park, Redwood Canyon
Trail: Redwood Mountain Loop (combination of Hart Tree & Sugar Bowl Trails)
Distance: 10 miles
Hiked By: Darwin & Snuggles
Written By: Snuggles
Before You Go:
If planning for an overnight hike, permits may be required prior to toeing the trailhead during certain seasons. Darwin and I only had to complete a self-service permit the day of leaving for the trail with no fee during our November 2017 trip (off-season) but we recommend checking the NPS Backcountry Camping Page for updated permit information along with other updated rules and regulations.
During our visit:
- Self-service permit required (without advance notice)
- Maximum group size was ten hikers
- Maximum stay of two nights
- Camping not permitted within a mile of the trailhead
- Campfires were not permitted
- Food required to be stored in a bear-proof canister or hung using “counter-balance” system.
Starting from within Sequoia National Park (coming from West entrance) take Generals Highway heading south towards the Giant Forest. Once you see a sign for Quail Flat take a right towards Redwood Saddle Trailhead (sign will be posted for both). Head down a narrow dirt road about two miles. Be careful! This road has lots of sharp turns, along with rocks and potholes). The dirt road will fork; take a left to the Redwood Canyon Parking Lot (sign will be posted at fork). Click here to see further detailed directions and maps.
Darwin and I hiked this 10-mile loop in November of 2017 and found the trail to be free of snow and ice. The Redwood Canyon Loop is a combination of the Hart Tree Loop and Sugar Bowl Loop. We left the parking lot heading down the Hart Tree Trail and were greeted with easy, soft trail to an informational posting concerning controlled burns. From this point, the trail stays soft and clear occasionally crossing a few small streams and creeks. Gradually the trail terrain changes, becoming moderately rocky. This pattern of soft to rocky and back again continues throughout the entire loop. The trail does have a few gradual climbs and descents but nothing drastic until the final climb into Sugar Bowl Grove. This loop features an old logging cabin from the 1800’s, a tunnel tree, waterfall, and numerous groves, vistas and of course lots of Sequoias. Various campsites are present along the entire loop. Darwin and I choose to camp towards the end of loop next to a young sequoia. Although we had been aware of previous bear sightings in this area, we encountered none. The only wildlife we had the joy of seeing was the occasional squirrel but we encourage all hikers to follow all Leave No Trace Principles and food storage regulations.
Starting from the parking lot make sure to stop and read the information board “Redwood Canyon Trailhead.” If facing the board take the trail marked “Hart Tree” to your left. From the first step on trail, you will find yourself in awe of the many young Sequoias that surround you. Not too long down this trail, you will be greeted with another information board discussing controlled burns and their effects on Sequoias. Throughout this hike, you will notice various burned sections so understanding this process will only add to your experience. Continue to your left when leaving this informational board.
After your first crossing of Redwood Creek, you will come across Barton’s Post Camp, which will be labeled with a hard to miss sign. This cabin is made from a fallen sequoia and inside you will find the remains of a stone fireplace. This hollowed out Sequoia is the only remaining sign of an old logging site dated back to the 1800’s.
As you continue from the Barton’s you around mile two you will experience a few rocky climbs but will be rewarded with some amazing views of Redwood Canyon. Along your way you will notice many young Sequoias, small pines, ferns and pass through a meadow. Not too long after passing through Hart Meadow, you will arrive at Tunnel Tree, another hollowed out giant sequoia that you are able to walk through.
At around mile three you will come to a sign labeling the trail’s namesake, Hart Tree. The Hart tree is the largest tree in this grove. To actually see the tree you will need to hike up a small trail. Darwin and I simply viewed the tree from the main trail and decided to pass up a personal visit. Not far from the Hart Tree you arrive a small waterfall. This is a great spot to stop and enjoy and fill up with water if needed. Per the map and directions provided by Sequoia National Park’s website around mile five, you will come across Fallen Goliath. Darwin and I unknowingly somehow passed by this goliath never even seeing a sign for it.
Descending further into the canyon you reach your final creek crossing via a downed tree. We chose to walk across the downed tree, however, there are options to rock hop across the creek if preferred. Just a few hundred feet from the creek crossing you will come to a trail junction. Here you can choose to return to the parking area, hike to Big Spring or continue on the Sugar Bowl Trail. Follow the Sugar Bowl Trail and you will start immediately ascending Redwood Mountain leaving behind the soft trail of the Canyon floor for the more rocky terrain. This section of the trail does have several switchbacks, which help break up the ascent. As you climb you will be surrounded by various trees such as Firs, Oak, and Pines leaving behind the Sequoias for the time. You will also have several views of Big Baldy to your left.
The trail will finally top the mountain and you will immediately notice the reappearance of Sequoias. You have arrived at Sugar Bowl Grove a very dense grove of young Sequoias. Slowly you will start your descent for about two miles arriving back into the parking area.
Overall this hike gave us all that we wanted. We experienced time alone with Giant Sequoias without the tourist crowds, a little history, an abundance of natural beauty, a sense of quiet, and a moderately challenging hike with plenty of camping options. Darwin and I always research our hikes before heading out and would recommend spending some time at Giant Forest Museum before you set out on your trip to learn about the giants you will be walking among. If you’re wanting a little more than the paved paths the main park provides, this would be a good trail to choose.