Big Trees Grove northernmost collection of Sequoias

Visitors can walk among six of the giant trees
By: Leah Rosasco Auburn Journal Correspondent
-A +A

Whether in search of solace or science, a little-known grove of very big trees in Placer County may just be the ticket.

Located approximately 45 miles east of Auburn, by way of Foresthill, the Placer Big Trees Grove offers visitors the opportunity to walk and relax amongst a grove of Giant Sequoias, Sequoiadendron giganteum, that are thought to be between 1,000 and 2,000 years old.
The grove of Giant Sequoias was discovered in 1855 by Joe Matlock, a prospector in the Sierra Nevada. Amid concerns that the trees could be felled as mine timbers, protections were put in place in 1892 to prohibit the cutting of the trees. Since that time the U.S. Forest Service has further protected the Grove by establishing it as a Botanical Area and designating the trail through the area as a National Recreation Trail.
According to Mary Sullivan, district recreation officer with the Tahoe National Forest’s American River Ranger District, many scientists and naturalists have long been stumped by the existence of this isolated grove of trees, which consists of six Giant Sequoias.
“This is the northernmost grove of Giant Sequoias,” Sullivan said. “It’s so unique to find such a small isolated grove like this one.”
The Big Trees Grove includes a half-mile, self-guided interpretive trail as well as the longer Forest View Trail, both of which begin at the parking area. The Grove is also developed with restrooms and day-use picnic area, and although overnight camping is prohibited, there are several campgrounds within a 30-minute drive, including French Meadows Reservoir campground and Robinson Flat campground.
“We get a lot of repeat visitors who remember walking on the trail when they were in school and want to visit again as an adult,” Sullivan said. “It’s just a really nice walk and a great way to learn about the trees and the other vegetation in the vicinity.”
Although Sullivan referred to the Big Trees Grove as “a hidden gem” it did not escape the attention of Ben Krause and Enit Scholtens, and their three children, Bo, 14, Daan, 12, and Ava, 9,who are visiting northern California from the Netherlands.
“We wanted to get out of the heat so we came up here to see the trees,” Scholtens said.
Scholtens, who works in environmental conservation on the island of Texel in the Netherlands, said she was impressed by the size of the trees, the tallest of which measures 250 feet, and the biological diversity in the area.
“It’s really a nice walk through the trees, everything is so lush and green,” Scholtens said. “I’m also impressed that such a large area has been set aside for people to visit and walk through and learn about.”
For a different view of the Big Trees Grove, the Giant Sequoias can also be seen stretching above the forest canopy around them from the Duncan Peak Fire Lookout facility, which is located on Little Bald Mountain approximately seven miles to the north.
According to John Oliver, Duncan Fire Lookout, many visitors to the Lookout have ventured over from the Big Trees Peak Grove. Oliver, who said he enjoys visiting the Giant Sequoias whenever he can, is most amazed by the size of the trees and the amount of water they require. Whereas humans typically consume less than 100 gallons of water per day, Giant Sequoias can guzzle more than 1,000 gallons per day, Oliver said.
“If you’re very quiet, sometimes you can hear water running underground, and that’s where the trees get their water,” he said.
Sullivan encourages visitors to the Big Trees Grove to take as much time as they can to walk the trail and learn about the unique trees that make up the Grove.
“It really is a special place,” she said. “It’s definitely worth the drive up here.”


Placer Big Trees Grove
Always open, although overnight camping is not permitted, and access may be limited during winter months.
Driving directions: From Auburn, take Foresthill Road approximately 16.7 miles to Mosquito Ridge Road, turn right. Travel approximately 25 miles and make a right onto Forest Road 16 (Jarvis Road). The picnic area and trailhead are ½ mile from this turn.
Information: Visit or call the American River Ranger District at (530) 367-2224.
Duncan Peak Fire Lookout
Daily, 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m., during summer months.
Driving Directions: From the Big Trees Grove turn right onto Mosquito Ridge Road and travel east approximately 3.5 miles to Forest Route 43, which is an unpaved road on the left. At approximately 4.5 miles look for Duncan Peak Lookout on right side of road. Travelers should contact the Forest Service to verify the condition of the road.
Information: Visit or call the American River Ranger District at (530) 367-2224.