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Three great hikes and a drive in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park


Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park is less known than its southern neighbors. However, if you take the time to visit this park, you’ll find some of the most scenic redwood groves anywhere in a setting which feels wonderfully remote. In this post, I’ll highlight my three favorite trails in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park.

Redwood National Park is confusingly called “National and State Parks” as it is administered jointly as a federally owned Redwood National Park and three California State Parks. From south to north, they are Prairie Creek, Del Norte Coast Redwoods, and Jedediah Redwoods. Jedediah Smith Redwoods features the least developed, most pristine and dense old-growth forest of the three state parks. Situated inland, near the Smith River, rather than on the coast, it is often filled with sunlight.

Howland Hill Road

The 9-mile Howland Hill Road is the next best thing to hiking a trail in the park. You drive through an old logging road that is unpaved but well-graded (not recommended for large vehicles). You can almost roll down your window and touch giant trees from your car. As the road winds above a river valley, in some places you will stand a hundred feet above the base of the redwoods. You can capture the height of the trees without tilting your camera up and causing them to converge. To find the road, head east out Crescent City, turn right at the fork. Dawn is a great time for this drive.

Stout Grove

Many consider Stout Grove (flat 0.6-mile loop) to be the most beautiful stand of redwoods anywhere. Thanks to rich sediments from the Smith River, some of the largest and densest trees grow there.

The understory consists of western sword ferns above clover-like redwood sorrel. No small trees hide the giants, which contributes to a cathedral-like feel. Although soft light always works well, thanks to a break in the canopy over Mill Creek, between 4pm and 5pm in the summer, the sun slants into the grove beautifully. The Stout Grove trailhead is on a short spur of Howland Hill Road, two-thirds of the way from the west end.

Boy Scout Tree Trail

The Boy Scout Tree Trail (5.2 miles RT) is an outstanding hike ending at the tallest waterfall in the entire Redwood National Park. The trail is more about the journey than the destination.

The waterfall may not be that impressive, but the abundance of huge trees set in an interesting variety of environments along the trail is. No other trail that I know offers at the same time a pure redwood plain grove, an upland redwood grove, and a mixed-species forest dotted with gigantic redwoods. As a bonus, no highway noise can be heard from the trail, unlike most of the trails in Redwood National Park – a long and skinny park. I met only two other parties during my hike. The trail starts on the north side of the Howland Hill Road, about 2.5 miles from its west end.

Simpson-Reed Trail

If you are not paying attention, all the redwood forests may look similar, but they each have a distinct character. The Simpson-Reed Grove in Jedediah Redwoods State Park is quite from the two previous trails. It looks like a jungle rainforest, with growth on every available surface. Fallen redwoods act as nurse trees. Moss and lichens cover hemlock trees. The trailhead is a bit tricky to find. It is not along Hwy 199, but rather hidden on Walker Road, on the north side of Hwy 199.

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park is the most unspoiled redwood park, so there are relatively few trails. What are your favorite redwood trails (there or elsewhere) ?


  1. Richard Wong says:

    Awesome writeup QT. I visited Jedediah Smith for the first time last summer and agree with your assessments. It would be nice to spend more time up there!

  2. Russ Bishop says:

    Wonderful post and images QT. I agree that the Stout Grove is my favorite of the north coast old growth forests.

  3. Michael Burkhardt says:

    Great write up and images QT! It’s always been on my lost to spent a little more time in he redwoods. Definitely saving this list as a reference.

  4. QT Luong says:

    Thanks Richard, Russ, and Michael. Glad to hear that our impressions are in agreement.

  5. Sarah Marino says:

    Hi QT – This is a great write-up. Super helpful! We are headed to the Redwoods this May and will be staying at this particular park so I look forward to putting your suggestions to use. Thanks!

  6. M. D. Vaden says:

    QT … if you are in Crescent City next month, I’ll have 14 ft. of wall hung with redwood stuff June 1st to June 30th, in the small art gallery. Not sure if I will included the print canvas of the new world record coast redwood though, since the canvas isn’t as “artistic” as several others.

    Cheers, M. D. Vaden

  7. Patricia and I were married in Jedediah Smith (Nickerson Grove). Patricia went to Humboldt State and still had good friends in Crescent City. We arranged for a lady-minister from a hippie church to meet us in CC and caravanned to the grove with her and our friends. We exchanged vows between two tall redwoods before uncorking the Champagne. Nickerson Grove is still under the radar and offers solitude not found on the other hikes.

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