The region in which Standish-Hickey State Recreation Area is located is colloquially known as the “gateway to the tall trees country.” This is a fitting name for Standish-Hickey’s Big Tree Trail, which explores some of the few virgin coast redwood groves remaining in the area and the largest and oldest tree in the SRA.
A loop trail, the Big Tree Trail starts and ends at Redwood Campground and the adjacent day use area. The 2-mile loop trail parallels the South Fork of the Eel River for much of it’s track and crosses it twice, once via a seasonal footbridge and the other by either fording the river in it’s shallows at summer low flow and/or creatively linking together a makeshift bridge of stone. On hot summer days hikers will may be tempted to take dip in one of the enticing swimming holes located along the river section of trail.
Veering away from the river, the trail heads into redwood, Douglas fir and oak forest en route to the Miles Standish Tree, a 1,200-year-old coast redwood 225 feet tall and 13 feet in diameter. The ancient tree was named after one of the pilgrims who landed at Plymouth Rock and whose descendants at one point owned and then donated the land on which the SRA is now located. A short connector trail that is well signed and leads between the Big Tree Trail and the Mill Creek Loop accesses the Standish Tree a couple hundred yards off the Big Tree Trail proper.
Returning to the Big Tree Trail, the loop continues back toward the campground offerings some elevated views of the river. Note that due to the river crossings, the Big Tree Trail is primarily a summer/fall hike, since most of the trail is located across the river from Standish-Hickey’s entrance road.