Roy’s Redwoods - Nicasio Valley Road
George Lucas recognized what a magical place Roy’s Redwoods is and chose it
for filming scenes his 1984 “Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure.” It’s
easy to imagine Ewoks as you hike 1.3 miles
through a preserve with a grove of old growth redwoods, some almost as tall
as the ones in Muir Woods. Like many dead ends that get bypassed in favor of
loop trails, the David Hansen Trail is not heavily used.
Roy’s Redwoods is named for two brothers from Vermont, James and Thomas Roy.
Adolph Mailliard gave them 420 acres in 1877 to settle a $20,000 loan. They
built a house where the golf course is now. Marin County Open Space bought
306 acres in 1978 for $420,000.
From the gate on Nicasio Valley Road take the main path, through a meadow
that has now gotten quite overgrown. It will take you along the side of the
Council Tree, a circle of redwoods that is a special spot for many who love
the area, especially young children. The tree got its name in the 1960s when
a commune lived in what is now Roy’s Redwoods Open Space. I like to pause in
the redwood circle and take time to look up.
The path makes a sharp turn and crosses a dry creek. A sign saying “Public
Trail” assures you that you are indeed on the official trail. In
.4 miles turn right on Redwood Loop Trail.
The woods on your right are Douglas firs, coast live oaks, bays, and
madrones, while on your left is a grassy hillside with coyote brush. A large
buckeye has swollen leaf buds at the tips of the branches. Buckeye is the
first deciduous tree in Marin to leaf out, long before the official first
day of spring in March.
Look for wood ferns and California polypody as you cross a dry creek, and
then look on your right for wavy-leaf soaproot coming up. This plant is a
favorite snack for deer, which usually eat the tender tips of the leaves
rather than eating them down to the base. Miner’s lettuce is also coming up.
The Miwoks welcomed this early spring plant, and ate it long before the
arrival of the 49ers who gave it its current name.
In about .1 miles turn right on the
David Hansen trail. On older maps it is called the Nature Trail. David
Hansen was the open space planner who negotiated the purchase of Roy’s
In the damp woods, bay trees are wrapped in mossy green shawls, and
maidenhair and sword ferns join the wood ferns and California polypody. Some
logs are decorated with the orange fungus called witch’s butter, which feels
At the fork it doesn’t matter which way you go around the loop. The day I
hiked was misty and I remembered the story of Winnie the Pooh getting lost
at the top of the forest in the fog, and finding his way home because he
could hear his pots of honey calling him. The path is clear, and you won’t
get lost, but it did seem appropriate to be in the fog since it is so
important to redwood ecosystem. Redwoods get more than half their summer
moisture from fog, and can absorb it through their leaves.