photo of Donner Lake

Placer Big Trees

Giant Sequoia Grove

Placer Big Trees Grove is the most northerly stand of naturally occurring Giant Sequoias. The grove is located 23 miles east of Foresthill overlooking the Middle Fork American River. The area has been designated as a Botanical Special Interest Area by the Forest Service. The trees have been a popular tourist attraction since the 1800s and each bears the name of a prominent individual from presidents to generals to local politicians. A nature trail and picnic area offer visitors a nice lunch or rest stop.

Discovery of the Trees

The grove of Giant Sequoia were first revealed to the Gold Rush pioneers when prospector Joseph Matlock happened upon them in 1855. Joseph came west in the mid-1850s with his wife Betsey Ann and two young daughters Minna and Henrietta. They lived in Michigan Bluff and later Foresthill.

Protection of the Trees

In the 1890s concern was raised that the trees might be cut down to use as shoring in local mines. By 1892 the trees had been placed under protection. Nearly a century later the grove was designated as a Botanical Area by the Forest Service.

Visiting the Placer Big Trees Grove

Driving Directions

The sequoia grove is about 45 miles from Auburn. Drive out Foresthill Road 17 miles to the town of Foresthill. There turn right onto Mosquito Road and follow it for another 28 miles to Jarvis Road and turn right. Follow the road for 0.7 miles to the parking area.

Parking and Picnic Area

A parking area, 3 picnic tables, pedestal grills, piped water, and restrooms with flush toilets are located at the trailhead. The trail through the Giant Sequoia Grove has been designated a National Recreation Trail by the Forest Service. A free trail guide is available at Forest Service offices.

Walking the Big Trees Trail

Walking the half-mile-long trail at a leisurely pace takes about 25 minutes. most of the trees are named after distinguished people. On the Larder tree you will see damage to the bark caused by bears a century ago. A few of the giants have fallen. those standing are estimated to be 500 to 700 years old, mere teenagers in the lives of Giant Sequoias.

The tallest tree in the grove is the Joffre tree, standing over 250 feet tall. Marshal Joseph Jacques Cesaire Joffre was a French general during World War I.

The largest tree when measured by volume is the Pershing tree, standing 225 feet tall and 12 feet in diameter at breast height.

Forest View Trail

Leading out from the parking lot is another trail, the Forest View Trail. This trail makes a larger, 1.6-mile loop of the forest area, circling and connecting again with the Big Trees Trail.

Placer Big Trees map, Tahoe National Forest, CA