The most old-growth redwoods per acre in California
HIGHLIGHTS: Just east of Highway 101, about a dozen miles south of the Oregon border, Jedediah Smith’s 10,000 acres have more old-growth redwoods per acre than any other park in California. The park is the last in a long string of redwood parks that stretch up the Northern California coast. A few miles inland from the ocean, it’s densely forested with huge ancient trees. In fact it contains 7 percent of all the old-growth redwoods left in the world. No roads or trails mark its core, just pure primeval majesty.
The park was named for Jedediah Strong Smith, who in the 1820s became the first white man to explore the interior of northern California. The park was established in 1929 with a small parcel donated to Save the Redwoods League by the family of lumberman Frank Stout. The 1936 film Last of the Mohicans was filmed just upstream, in the Smith River National Recreation area.
ACTIVITIES: Explore two visitor centers and 20 miles of hiking and nature trails in a lush rainforest; take a historic drive on Howland Hill Road; enjoy a campfire program at Jedediah Smith Campground. You can fish, kayak and snorkel (you’ll need a wetsuit) in the Smith River, the longest major free-flowing river in California and a haven for chinook salmon and steelhead trout. Look for river otters, marbled murrelets, spotted owls, ruffed grouse and osprey. Enjoy picnicking, camping and bicycle-in camping. Bicycle on paved roads and one backcountry route: Little Bald Hills Trail.
Just for Kids
- Aimed at kids age 7 through 12, Junior Ranger programs (external link) are offered during the summer months. When you arrive, pick up a self-guided Junior Ranger Adventure Guide (external link) and a schedule of events at any one of five visitor centers serving Redwood National and State Parks: from south to north,
- Thomas H. Kuchel Visitor Center in Orick for all four parks
- Prairie Creek Visitor Center in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park
- Jedediah Smith Campground and Hiouchi centers (open May to September only) off Highway 199
- Crescent City Information Center in Crescent City
- Most of the park’s ranger- or docent-led programs for children offer games, crafts, hiking, and exploring. Aimed at kids age 7 through 12, they usually start on Memorial Day weekend and end after Labor Day. Check at a visitor center for days and times, or call 707-458-3496 or 707-458-3294.
- Redwood EdVentures (external link) offers fun for the entire family. Take a self-guided treasure hunt in many North Coast redwoods state parks, including Jedediah Smith. Find the final clue and win a cool patch!
- Before heading to the park, explore the Redwoods Learning Center. The center offers fun redwood-themed activities, classroom tools and ways to get involved in redwoods protection. Redwoods bingo, anyone?
- For more ways to enjoy Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park and environs, go to the Smith River Alliance website (external link). And check out the latest Redwood National and State Parks Visitor Guide (external link).
VISITOR CENTERS: The Jedediah Smith Redwoods Visitor Center and Hiouchi Information Center are across the road from each other 9 miles east of Crescent City on Highway 199. The former is state-run; the latter is federal. You can get the same park information at both.
CAMPGROUNDS: Jedediah Smith Campground has 87 family campsites. Each has a table, fire ring and cupboard, with restrooms and showers nearby. Some sites can accommodate trailers or motor homes up to 36 feet (no hookups). Reservations are recommended between Memorial Day and Labor Day. For reservations, call 800-444-7275 or go to Reserve America (external link). Hike and bike campsites may not be reserved.
TRAILS: Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park has 20 miles of hiking trails.
- Stout Grove (0.6 miles): This easy loop showcases stately Stout Memorial Grove. On a sunny day, the grove’s colors are most spectacular in late afternoon. The grove was named for lumberman Frank D. Stout, founders of Knapp, Stout & Company, one of the largest lumber companies in the world in the 1870s and 1880s. Stout died in 1927. His wife, Clara, donated the 44-acre grove to Save the Redwoods League, which helped establish the park in 1929. Driving east on Howland Hill Road, the trailhead (external link) is at mile 6.7. After circling the grove, you can walk down to the Smith River. In summer, a footbridge leads to the park’s campground (which is also accessed from Highway 199).
- Boy Scout Trail (5.6 miles roundtrip): Built by Boy Scouts from Crescent City in the 1930s, this trail is the only one in the park that leads into the wild heart of Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. The destination, Fern Falls, is pleasant enough—but not as impressive as what you see in the process of getting there. At lunchtime, sprawl out under the more-than-300-feet-tall Boy Scout Tree, which is really two coast redwoods intertwined. At the end of the day, you’ll understand why redwood writer David Baselt calls this park “a showcase of the world’s best redwood scenery.” To get to the trailhead (external link), turn off Highway 101 onto Elk Valley Road at the south end of Crescent City. After 1.5 miles, fork right onto Howland Hill Road. You can begin viewing magnificent trees from the car. In 4 miles, the signed Boy Scout Trail runs north.
- Leiffer-Ellsworth Loop Trails (2.4 miles): More than a century ago, supplies were hauled inland from Crescent City on a wagon road made of redwood planks. Hikers can view parts of the old Crescent City Plank Road at the northern end of the park on the Leiffer and Ellsworth Loop trails. Along the way are coast redwoods, big-leaf maple, vine maple, western hemlock, and California hazel. In spring, there’s a burst of color from trillium, wild ginger, clintonia and many other flowering plants. Start at the Leiffer loop: Drive east on Highway 199, turn north on unpaved Walker Road and proceed about half a mile to the trailhead. Be prepared for hiking up short and generally shady ups and downs.
- Little Bald Hills Trail to South Fork Road (19.6 miles roundtrip): Starting in a redwood forest near the Smith River, head upward 1,800 feet, passing through plant communities you won’t see elsewhere in the park. Port Orford cedar, knobcone pine, bear grass, and hairy manzanita are just a few of the interesting species. At 3.3 miles from the trailhead, you’ll find a Redwood National Park backcountry campground with four sites, a horse corral, and nonpotable water; at 4.8 miles, you head into Smith River National Recreation Area. From there, you can walk downhill an additional 5 miles on the Paradise Flat Trail to South Fork Road. Bikes and horses are permitted as well as hikers. The marked trailhead is near the east end of Howland Hill Road.
MUST-SEE, UNIQUE FEATURE OR SEASONAL HIGHLIGHT: If you visit the park during May and June, don’t miss an explosion of the Pacific rhododendron. In any season, consider a drive along the Howland Hill Road. Built in 1850, this unpaved 10-mile-long road will take you from Crescent City to the town of Hiouchi past some of the park’s best old-growth redwoods. From Highway 101 at the south end of Crescent City, turn east on Elk Valley Road. Take the right fork on the Howland Hill Road after about 1.5 miles.
Be sure to check out the live redwoods webcam to see the wild Smith River running through this park!
HIDDEN GEM: More than a century ago, supplies were hauled inland from Crescent City on a road made of redwood planks. Parts of the old Crescent City Plank Road can be viewed by hikers on the Leiffer and Ellsworth trails. Driving east on Highway 199, turn north on Walker Road and proceed about half a mile to the Leiffer trailhead.
FEATURES ACCESSIBLE TO PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES: Campfire center, three trails, and some campsites, showers, picnic tables, restrooms.
DOGS: On leash in developed areas. Not on trails.
ENTRANCE FEE: $8 for day-use vehicle entry; no charge to walk or bike into the park.
- Redwood National and State Parks’ four-park information center is in Crescent City at 1111 Second Street. Telephone: 707-465-7335. Other visitor centers are in Orick, Prairie Creek, Jedediah Smith Campground, and Hiouchi.
- The Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park brochure contains valuable information on the park’s natural and cultural history as well as tips for planning your visit.
- The Redwood National and State Parks website (external link) provides additional information on Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park.
- Other good sources of information about the park are California State Park’s Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park page (external link), Redwood Parks Association (external link) and Smith River Alliance (external link).
- Learn about the history of the area at the Del Norte County Museum (external link) in Crescent City. May 1 to October 1, the museum is open six days a week, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- If you have an hour: drive through some of the park’s largest old-growth redwoods on Howland Hill Road.
- If you have half a day: drive out Howland Hill Road to Stout Grove. Stroll through the gigantic trees and picnic beside the Smith River.
- If you have a full day: drive out Howland Hill Road to the Boy Scout Tree Trailhead and take an amazing hike into the heart of the park.
EAT: Christine Aralia, Land Project Manager, suggests Good Harvest Cafe (external link) in Crescent City for large portions and fresh ingredients.
FAVORITE HIKE: Stout Grove (external link) is great for out-of-towners and little ones to take an easy walk and dip their toes in the river.
FAVORITE PARK ATTRACTION: Christine says “Thick redwood forest, banana slugs, a beautiful river, pollywogs — what more could you ask for?”
See the wild Smith River with our live redwoods webcam!
DON’T MISS: Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park.
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Acres Protected by the League: 5,568
Tags: Del Norte County
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