Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park
Date Walked: 21st february 2012
Total Distance: 9.4 miles (15.2km)
Total Actual Ascent: 1261 ft (385m)
Total Time Taken: 4 hours
This hike is actually 4 separate hikes in the same state park on the North Western Coast of California. I visited the Redwoods National Park (40 miles south of Crescent City) in July 2009 during a long road trip but was unable to hike far at that time. Maybe that is the reason I really wanted to come back to the area.
With Sarah back in the UK for a week it was an ideal time for my first road trip from Calgary, I departed on Sunday afternoon and made the 20 hour drive south through Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon before arriving in the beautiful little town of Crescent City California, right on the North-West coast. I spent the remainder of Monday wandering the town and its beaches and working out my plan of attack for the hike on Tuesday.
Part 1 - The Boy Scout Tree Trail
775 feet ascent
My start point bright and early on Tuesday morning was the 'Boy Scout Tree Trail' which begins after a 6 mile drive through the forest on a single track road with passing points that meanders up from Crescent City to the heart of the (free to enter) State Park.
The trail starts from a well marked location with parking for 5 of 6 vehicles and after getting my stuff together I set off along a well maintained hard gravel trail.
the silence within the forest is striking, everything is calm and so still I can hear the droplets of water from the morning mist rolling off leaves onto the forest floor and very occasionally the 'ribbet-ribbet' of the local frog population.
after a couple of miles the trail narrows and the gravel gives way to leaf mulch and pine straw completing the natural feel of the forest
my repeated appearance in the photos is to provide scale rather than some sudden urge to appear in every shot!
it is an odd hike because it starts at the top of a mountain and you slowly work your way down from the start of the trail, always concious that you will have to ascend on the return leg.
the forest becomes more jungle like as the trail descends and I am actively searching for an unmarked trail that leads off this one to the famous Scout Tree (unmarked to reduce foot traffic to the giant)
after 40 minutes or so of admiring the incredible majesty of these leviathans I find myself at the end of the trail facing 'Fern Falls' with no sign of the trailhead for the Scout Tree
the morning mist has lifted and the day is warming up, I decide to stop a while at the falls and have a drink and a bite to eat, I check all the trail info I've got but there is no clue as to the whereabouts of the Scout Tree trailhead
after a nice 10 minute rest by the falls I gather my things and retrace my steps along the trail scouring the area for signs of a side trail, eventually in a steep muddy water run that weaves upward into the forest I see a footprint. Sure enough after scrabbling up the muddy bank and ascending a short way there it is.....the monster that is the Scout Tree.
feeling much happier now having found my target I head off again toward the lowest point of the hike as I return to the start, in the bottom of the valley I stop for a 'Land of the Giants' photo opportunity
the sun begins to pierce the forest canopy and the frogs come to life as I continue my ascent to the start point
I really enjoy the walk back, not searching for the side trail any more I can just hike and listen to the forest coming to life with the sunshine.
Part 2 - Stout Grove
65 feet ascent
Stout Grove just a couple of miles further along the same single track road through the forest, stated to be the world's most scenic stand of redwoods it is a 'must see' area of the park.
Stout Grove is less like a forest and more like an exhibit, the trail is wide and hard gravel and small trail-side markers tell you the name of plants and trees around
there are still really impressive monsters here but there is little 'forest' just trees and ferns as if the area has been cleaned for viewing.
the trail does pass close to the upper reaches of the Klamath River which is a popular destination on its own with fishing and boat trips the top attractions
the grove is a wondrous place and I suspect the lack of clutter makes it a photographers paradise when the mist is rising as shafts of light beam through the canopy, but to me it feels a little over commercialised and I am soon around the short trail and on my way again.
Part 3 - The Simpson-Reed Trail
The Simpson- Reed Trail is a couple of miles further, off the narrow road and onto the main Redwoods Highway (US199) toward Crescent City before taking a right turn onto Walker Road where the trail head is located. The trial is a good firm gravel bed again but narrower than Stout Grove and there is noticeably more forest growth here....it's noticeably cooler too as the mist returns.
as I have come to expect, there are monster trees seemingly around every corner
I really liked the look of this big old gnarly monster that stands slightly off the trail set back into the forest
back on the trail I love the way this tree sweeps around and upward in an almost fluid swirl skywards and the grotto like appearance of the trail beyond, a fitting end to a very nice short trail
Part 4 - The Leiffer & Ellsworth Loops
The final trail of the day is a joined up figure of 8 using two loops trails accessed from a point a little further along Walker Road, described as 'a lot less popular' they struck me as a perfect way to end the day. It was clear from the outset that this was another very different area of the forest
there are many trees absolutely engulfed by moss giving the forest an eerie feel
but virtually none of the moss makes it onto the giants, there could be some value in understanding why there's no moss on these monsters.....could make a fortune on a patio product I think......
after a short steep ascent I'm beginning to feel the effort of the day as the humidity soaks me, high up I came across this hollow trunk where something/someone seems to have been living ......gave me a chill as I looked inside wondering if a black bear was going to jump out on me
fortunately for me nothing did jump out and I went on my way, descending the narrow winding pathway through this spectacular forest back toward the end of the trail
just one final curve and I'm back at the truck and heading off to the hotel for a well earned fresh fish and chip dinner right on the harbour.
I really enjoyed my day in these magical redwoods and I'm so glad I made the trip. The silence of the morning broken only by the occasional frog call, the clear space in Stout grove, the beauty of the grotto on the Simpson Reed Trail and the eerie moss covered growth along the Leiffer & Ellsworth Loops. What a truly incredible place this is and the only section where I saw other people was the 'cleared' Stout Grove.