On a road trip to southern Oregon and northern California the plan was to make our way slowly back to San Diego along the scenic California coast, stopping for a few days here and there to sightsee plus do one of our favorite things – hiking – this time among giant and ancient old growth Redwoods.
Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park
The hikes among the trees in THIS park ended up being my favorite of all the redwoods we visited on this road trip – a beautiful place with lot of variety, from the massive old redwoods to streams and rivers, a scenic drive, and a huge variety of trails.
Howland Hill Road Scenic Drive
A scenic, and incredibly dusty, drive – this is the road you take to the trails we hiked in the Jedediah Smith redwoods. Its gravel surface was in good shape but in the summer the dust kicked up from all the traffic covered every plant along the road with a whitish dust – to a height and distance of about 10 feet.
The interesting, curvy and scenic road frequently narrows down to one lane where it goes between giant redwoods along the side, so it’s not a road for speeding and not for RV’s and trailers…or convertibles with the top down.
I’d love to drive this scenic road in another season when there isn’t any dust, it must be magnificent.
Despite the dust, people were stopped here and there at many of the turnouts to take photos of the redwood forest they were driving through.
Fun Fact: Howland Hill Road used to be an old logging road.
A great intro to the Jedediah Smith Redwoods is a short and easy walk in the Stout Grove. We checked in to our hotel, picked up a Subway sandwich, and headed out to get our first taste of the redwoods in this beautiful small grove.
The flat and easy trail goes past huge trees where all you want to do is just… look… up.
Fun Fact: Sempervirens, the scientific species name for coast redwoods, means everlasting. They are the tallest living things on the planet…and among the oldest!
You can make the half mile loop pretty quickly, or detour to the right to follow a lovely river trail and find a way down – a bit of a scramble down to the rocks along the Smith River.
We spent a couple of hours late in the afternoon, plenty of time to have our late picnic lunch on the rocks by the Smith River, walk the little loop of the Stout Grove, plus take the spur trail detour to the seasonal footbridge and then on the Hiouchi trail for a little ways.
Fun Fact: The 44 acre Stout Grove was donated to the Save the Redwoods League back in 1929 to protect it from being logged and to memorialize her husband – a lumber baron.
Boy Scout Tree Trail
The next day we picked up another sandwich and headed back out Howland Hill Road to the Boy Scout Tree Trailhead. There’s parking right at the trailhead and parking turnouts along the road.
This turned out to be a terrific hike, its 5.6 easy miles and described as Moderate, probably because the path has a lot of roots in it to trip you up and involves a couple of minor scrambles around fallen trees.
The out and back hike climbs up and down through pristine old-growth forest with huge ferns, has rustic bridges crossings over tiny streams, and ends at tiny Fern Falls. It’s fun to have a little waterfall at the end, isn’t it?
There are some huge redwoods along this trail, but the giant of them all is the Boy Scout Tree. Before you get to the tiny waterfall you’ll see a sign pointing uphill, we made the short detour to see it on the way back. With it’s 2 trunks fused together, the Boy Scout Tree is over 23 feet wide! With a height of 238 feet, you just keep looking up up up
We took our time on this trail with a picnic lunch sitting on a log at Fern Falls, plenty of time to admire the huge redwoods, the short detour to see the Boy Scout Tree, and finished the hike in 3.5 hours.
Fun Fact: The Boy Scout Tree is supposedly named because of its discovery by a local troop leader.
Mill Creek Trail
We started our morning in Crescent City with an hour long out and back hike on the delightful Mill Creek Trail.
The trail meanders up and down and has everything I love – a fairytale-like tunnel created by growth around a fallen tree…
…a beautiful clear creek…
…and huge ancient redwoods you can get a peek at from the trail.
I could have spent more time on the Mill Creek Trail, but the end was miles way in Stout Grove, and more redwoods were calling further south of Crescent City.
Scenic View of the Crescent City Lighthouse
After a scenic hike, how about a scenic view of the coast? Take a little detour on the way back to your Crescent City hotel to South Pebble Beach Drive for a scenic view of the historic Crescent City Lighthouse. All you have to do is take one look at the rocky coast to see why a lighthouse was needed here.
Fun Fact: The Battery Point Lighthouse (Crescent City lighthouse) was lit up in 1856 and one of the first lighthouses on the California coast. It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Pristine, Primeval, Perfect
Other redwoods we visited on this road trip were south of Crescent City in the Redwood National and State Parks; the fun roadside attraction Trees of Mystery; and a couple of days later the Avenue of the Giants and several groves there.
But the Jedediah Smith Redwoods with its pristine old growth groves and beautiful trails that, although well used, feel like a real hike in the woods – these are the redwoods I’ll want to come back to again and again.
- Hikes, Drives and Scenic Views map
- Stop at the Visitor Center on Highway 199 to get a map of the park and recommendations on hikes and activities.