Lady Bird Johnson Grove in Summer

Redwoods SM12-25

If you’re in redwood country on the northcoast of California and you want to go gape at some redwoods, where’s the very best place to go? Why, that’s simple: Lady Bird Johnson Grove in Redwood National Park. It’s easy to find. Just north of Orick, take a right on Bald Hills Grove and drive to the Lady Bird Johnson parking lot at the fourth hair-pin turn:

The parking lot is not that large and can fill by afternoon on a summer weekend. If you come early (say, 7 am) you might have the grove all to yourself, at least for a little bit. By eleven in the morning on a summer weekend, the parking lot might look like this:

At the end of the parking lot is the trail, which takes you on a bridge over Bald Hills Road straight into the grove:

The grove is on a ridge, about 1,200 feet above sea level. This height often means that when its overcast (as it often is on the northcoast in the summer), Lady Bird Johnson Grove winds up sitting right in the midst in the clouds, with the trees rising into misty fog. For photography, that tends to be ideal. When the sun is out, you get harsh, contrasty speckled light, which simply will not yield nice images. When the clouds rise well above the trees, the sky is merely bright white: again, hardly ideal. But with the fog, it adds a layer of mystery to the trees, and provides a better background for images:

What makes the grove special is the size of many of the trees and the lushness of the forest floor, covered, as it generally is, with verdurous ferns and leafy rhododendrons:

The ferns can be quite large, as can be noted in this photo of two tourists passing along them:

Trilliums bloom in the grove in May; the rhododendrons bloom in June and early July. In mid-July there were still a few rhododendrons blooming, though they were not at their best or most profuse and they were ten feet or more off the ground:

When Lady Bird Johnson Grove is shrouded in fog, eventually it will burn off, usually by mid-morning. As the sun begins to poke into the fog, the light can be quite interesting, provided there’s still enough fog to soften the light:

When the fog entirely burns away, it is time to put away the camera and enjoy the trees. The trail through the grove is less than a mile long, and mostly level.