Ancient trees and a 60-foot-waterfall
HIGHLIGHTS: Formerly a private resort, this 665-acre forest of ancient redwoods along the South Fork of the Eel River is right on US Highway 101, making for easy exploration. Despite its accessibility, the peace and tranquility of the ancient redwood forest quickly embraces any visitor. The trees are so large and mature that the understory is minimal, providing the classic “cathedral” experience long associated with stands of old-growth redwoods. A picnic area, 60-foot-waterfall, and swimming and fishing opportunities in the South Fork of the Eel are complementary attractions.
ACTIVITIES: Commune with the redwoods, or scramble down to the South Fork of the Eel for a long day of swimming and sunbathing. Fishing may be permitted in season and according to California Department of Fish and Wildlife regulations.
VISITOR CENTER: None.
TRAILS: There are no developed trails at the reserve, but hiking is easy through the forest; understory vegetation is minimal. Be careful of windfalls and potholes, and try to keep to the informal trails that have been established to minimize soil disturbance and compaction.
MUST-SEE UNIQUE FEATURE OR SEASONAL HIGHLIGHT: Hiking through the redwoods and swimming in the South Fork of the Eel River are both integral to the Smithe experience, especially during warm weather. The reserve is thus a perfect stop for hot and weary travelers driving Highway 101 during summer vacation.
HIDDEN GEM: Dora Creek Falls is a beautiful 60-foot cascade that that tumbles into the South Fork of the Eel River in the northern part of the reserve, upstream from the Highway 101 Dora Creek Bridge. The best time to see the falls is from December through March, when winter rains typically add volume to area streams and rivers; however, be wary of excessively high water.
FEATURES ACCESSIBLE TO PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES: None.
DOGS: Not allowed.
ENTRANCE FEE: None.
MORE INFORMATION: Visit the reserve’s webpage, or call 707-247-3318.
PLACES TO EAT AND STAY: The Peg House near Leggett is known for its wild salmon burgers and barbecued oysters. Stonegate Villas, just south Leggett, offers immaculate rooms in a peaceful forested setting.
EAT: The Peg House is stocked with everything a camper could need, including beer, wine, food, gifts and even a mini-library. The hamburgers, salmon burgers and wild blackberry sundaes are not to be missed. There’s live music in summer.
DON’T MISS: Smyth Grove on Highway 101, 1.5 miles north of Standish-Hickey State Recreation Area, features a popular day-use swimming hole on the Eel River, set amidst giant redwoods. The Avenue of the Giants, north of the park, is a stunning 31-mile drive through the largest stands of virgin redwoods in the world.
SPECIAL EVENTS: Park Champions (external link), a program of the California State Parks Foundation, holds volunteer work parties every year.
- Smith River Kayak Tour
- Forest Walk: Meet at Stout Grove Trailhead
- Junior Ranger Program at Jedediah Smith Campground
- Junior Ranger Program: Mill Creek Campground
- Night Sky Viewing
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Acres Protected by the League: 221
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