Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park: The Complete Guide

Howland HIll Road in Jedediah Smith Redwoods
Linda Tanner/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
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Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park Visitor Center

Address
1111 2nd St, Crescent City, CA 95531, USA
Phone +1 707-458-3496

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park is the northernmost state park in California'sRedwoods National Park, which also includes other state parks like Henry Cowell, Prairie Creek, Del Norte Coast, and the Humboldt Redwoods. Unlike other national parks, Redwoods National Park is a system of unconnected state parks that fall under federal and state jurisdiction. Together, these parks protect almost half of California's remaining old-growth redwoods, trees whose average age is 500 to 700 years. It's an area so important that it has been named a World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve.

Tucked right beneath the Oregon border at the tippy-top of California in Crescent City, this park was named after Jedediah Strong Smith, a 19th-century explorer and frontiersman. With many hiking trails and a large campground next to the Smith River, there are plenty of ways to explore the Redwood groves in this park. Or, if you're just passing through, some people say a drive down Howland Hill Road, the park's main thoroughfare, is pretty close to a tour of heaven.

Howland Hill Road winds through old growth trees, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, Redwood National Park, California.
James + Courtney Forte/Getty Images

Things to Do

A redwood forest is a marvel to explore. When you're not craning your necks to try to take in the full height of the trees, you might be trying to wrap your arms around their large trunks or climbing inside a hollowed-out tree for a photo opportunity. You can appreciate the groves on one of the many short or long hikes or, if you're short on time and just passing through, take in the scenery as you cruise down Howland Hill Road. Campsites are available for those who want to spend a night or two and you can fish, snorkel, or kayak in the Smith River. From October through February, anglers can catch salmon and steelhead during their seasonal runs. In summer, try fishing for cutthroat trout. Note that anyone over age 16 must have a valid fishing license.

Four mountain bikers ride on the Old Highway 101 through Jedediah State Park
Joel W. Rogers/Getty Images

Best Hikes & Trails

  • Stout Grove: At just .6 miles. this is an easy loop through the Stout Memorial Grove, which is named after a 19th-century lumberman who founded one of the largest lumber companies in the world during its time.
  • Boy Scout Trail: Built by a boy scout troupe in the 1930s, this 5.6-mile round-trip trail leads to Fern Falls.
  • Nickerson Ranch Trail: Just one mile long, this is a moderate trail along Mill Creek that has many fallen redwood trees lying across the creek which creates a habitat for young fish.
  • Leiffer-Ellsworth Loop Trail: This 2.4-mile loop passes by the old redwood planks left behind from a wagon road built more than a century ago. In the spring, this is an extra colorful hike thanks to the flowering trillium, wild ginger, and clintonia.
  • Little Bald Hills Trail to South Fork Road: For a big challenge, this 19.6-mile round-trip trail begins in a redwood forest near Smith River and climbs to an elevation of 1,800 feet where you can find uncommon plant species like bear grass and hair manzanita. This trail is also open for mountain bikers and horseback riders.

The park's hiking trails range from as short as a half-mile to ten-mile strenuous hikes. Park rangers can help you choose the hikes that are best for your ability and interest.

Scenic Drives

Howland Hill Road is about six miles long, a meandering drive that is one of the most intimate and awe-inspiring redwood drives. It is part of one of Northern California's most scenic drives: the Redwood Highway. It will take about an hour if you don't make any stops. If you have never been in the middle of an unspoiled redwood forest, it's worth taking the time to do. You can start your Howland Hill drive either from Crescent City or the visitor center near the town of Hiouchi on U.S. Highway 199.

Unfortunately, the Howland Hill drive is not suitable for large RVs or vehicles with towing trailers. If the hard-packed gravel road has been graded recently, it's passable for a family sedan, but conditions can vary from smooth to deeply rutted. Your best bet is to check the conditions before you start the drive. The most reliable way to get the current status is to stop at one of the park's visitor centers, which are in Crescent City and near the Hiouchi entrance. Park rangers at the campground entrances can also give you information. If you don't have time for the whole drive or road conditions prevent driving its full length, try to get as far as Stout Grove, which is at its most photogenic in the early morning or on a sunny afternoon. The 0.5-mile loop walking trail is accessible to all.

Where to Camp

There is just one campground within the park, which has 106 sites and four ADA-accessible cabins. Cabins have electricity, heaters, and lights but they're more like a hard-sided tent than a cozy cabin in the woods. They don't have bathrooms or kitchens and you can't cook, smoke, or use an open flame inside. Cabins each have an outdoor barbecue, fire pit, bear box, and picnic bench. Campsites can accommodate trailers up to 21 feet long and motorhomes up to 25 feet. The park has restrooms, showers, and an RV sanitation station, but you will have to carry water from water spigots to your campsite.

To choose a campsite, check the campground map. Campsites with numbers in the high 50s, which are furthest from the highway and closest to the river, with lots of privacy. Among those, the ones that back up to the river are especially nice. Sites numbered in the 40s are also good, but somewhat closer together. For busy holiday weekends like Memorial and Labor Day, reservations are recommended. The park and campground are open year-round. There is no admission fee for day use.

Where to Stay Nearby

Just to the east of Crescent City, you can find many hotels nearby or further south if you prefer not to camp. In addition to standard American hotel chains like Travelodge, Best Western, and Holiday Inn, you'll also find independent motels.

  • Anchor Beach Inn: Just five miles from the park, you can stay close to the redwoods while enjoying a view of the Pacific.
  • Curly Redwood Lodge: This unique and historic lodge, originally built in the 1950s, was built using a single redwood tree, one that produced 57,000 feet of lumber.
  • Oceanfront Lodge: Across the water from the historic lighthouse, this hotel has a great location and every room has an ocean view.

Read more about the best hotels near Redwood National Park.

How to Get to Get There

The park is nine miles northeast of Crescent City. To get to Howland Hill Road from Crescent City, turn east onto Elk Valley Road from U.S. Highway 101. Follow it for a mile and turn right (east) onto Howland Hill Road. The road becomes unpaved after about 1.5 miles. After you get back on the pavement on Douglas Park Road, turn left onto South Fork Road. That will take you to the junction with U.S. Highway 199.

To get to Howland Hill from Hiouchi, turn onto South Fork Road, then right onto Douglas Park Road. Keep following the road until the pavement ends (where the road name changes to Howland Hill Road), then drive over the hill and turn left onto Elk Valley Road, which will take you to U.S. Highway 101.

Accessibility

The Stout Memorial Grove Loop Trail and Simpson Reed Peterson Memorial Trail are considered accessible because they are mostly flat, but they are not paved. Each is less than a mile long and consists of compacted aggregate trails that create a smooth surface. Accessible parking and restrooms are available at both of these trailheads.

The Nature River and Leiffer Trails are also considered accessible but may be more challenging as they have bridges that may pose a challenge for some people to cross in the rain. However, the Leiffer Trail also has a fallen redwood tree which gives visually impaired visitors a tactile opportunity to admire the tree's root system.

On the campgrounds, there are seven handicap-accessible campsites and routes to the restrooms are also accessible from these sites. All four cabins on the campground are accessible with flat surfaces and a ramp. There is an accessible bathroom located across from site 40 and accessible parking nearby. The picnic area has 10 accessible tables with pedestal grills and accessible parking trails.

Tips for Your Visit

  • Black bears live in and around the park. Most of them stay away from people. To keep them from getting used to finding food in the campground, all campsites have bear boxes they can't get into. Find out how to stay bear safe in a California campground.
  • Poison oak grows in the park. If you're allergic to it, you probably already know how to identify and avoid it. If you don't, its leaves grow in groups of three and are never side by side. Find out more about what poison oak looks like.
  • Some visitors complain about mosquitos during the summer. If you plan to camp or hike in the park, bring repellent.
  • Summer temperatures range from 45 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Winter can be rainy (up to 100 inches of it), and temperatures are between 30 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Snow is extremely rare.
  • During the dry season, vehicles stir up plenty of dust on the unpaved portion of Howland Hill Road, so stay on the lookout out for potholes no matter what time of year it is.
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Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park: The Complete Guide