Jedediah Smith State Park offers camping among the redwoods along the Smith River with miles of hiking in old growth redwoods and is just a 20 minute drive to the ocean. The 106 camp sites are mostly private and the restrooms are heated in the morning! Watching the sun set along Smith River was incredible! So many hiking choices make it difficult to pick just a few to do in one weekend. Any of the trails you choose will take you through some of the most beautiful redwood forests you will ever experience. Standing next to these redwood giants reminds you of your place in the world…humble and thankful. With the ocean near by, you can leave the comfort of the redwood forest and enjoy the windswept beaches along Crescent City.
Jedediah Smith State Park Campground
Arriving at Jedediah Smith SP campground in the late evening on a Friday we quickly set up camp, got lost finding the bathrooms, then headed down to the Smith River to catch the sun setting. We walked along the rocky shoreline in complete awe of where we were. The campground is forested which keeps out most of the light but along the Smith River it is completely open to the blue sky above. The rocks were all different colors including orange which was not a common color we are used to seeing. We just kept walking and admiring the deep green of the river with the deep green of the redwoods reflecting off it. Then the sky lit up orange above us as the sun went down. Magical.
While we headed back to our campsite, the smells of campfires and food filled the air. We started our fire, got out our pre-made dinners (we like to do that on the first night so we don’t have to cook after a long drive) and enjoyed a bottle of wine by the fire. The park ranger had warned us we were in bear country and to not have any food smelling products inside our sleeping accommodations. Everything went into the bear box provided after we were done with it. Neither of us wanted a visit from a bear! The first night at Jed-Smith we stayed in the back of the truck and felt pretty safe from the bears.
Waking early Saturday morning, the bosslady went to shower off the campfire smell and get ready for the day. Much to her surprise the shower rooms were heated!! This was a welcome surprise for sure! It’s always hard to be cold from sleeping outside all night and then have the ambition to go shower in a cold place. This was a game changer!
The forecast was showing rain Saturday evening so we set up our tent before we went out on our first of many adventures. It’s much easier to play cards and eat dinner in the tent versus the back of the truck!
The Boy Scout Tree Trail
We had a list of hikes we wanted to do while visiting Jedediah Smith State Park. Highly recommend chatting with the ranger when you get there to see which ones they like and have tips for or if there are any trail closures to be aware of. The Boy Scout Tree Trail was on the top of our list because it ended at a waterfall. Hint, it is also high on A LOT of other people’s lists! Get there early!
The drive to the Boy Scout Tree trail is about 20 very scenic minutes. Howland Hill Road is a super bumpy, completely dirt, gorgeous road! This is your first glimpse into what you will experience on your hike! The Rhododendrons were in bloom all along the road and the trails giving off pops of pink/purple in an otherwise green and brown forest environment. We saw several people walking along the road an people driving were trying to avoid the large holes in the road. About 2 miles in, you will reach a small sign for the Boy Scout Tree trail. Parking is very limited here and if you don’t get there early (before 10 am) you might have to park down a little in one of the turnouts. We snagged one of the last spots at 10 am.
The wide trail started off with lush ferns growing around tall giant redwoods. It seemed as if the redwoods kept getting taller and taller as we hiked along uphill. Take your time and enjoy all the little sounds and smells of the forest as you hike. Some of the sounds might be other people chatting but they pass and it becomes quiet again. So peaceful! As the trail gently sloped down we came into this amazing grove of very tall, very straight redwoods almost perfectly spaced apart. More light is let through giving it a bright and open feel. It’s breathtaking to walk through this part of the trail.
The Boy Scout Tree trail meanders up and down and around the forest. Walk under a fallen tree with ferns growing on top then down into a lush more rainforest-like environment where giant maples fill in the spaces between the redwoods. Keep heading down and look for a small spur trail, there’s a sign with an arrow, and take that up about 50 feet to a double redwood tree. It’s one of the larger redwoods on this trail. Take a moment to look up and see how wide and tall he really is!
About a half mile past this, you will end at Fern Falls. Due to the late May rain the falls were flowing pretty good still! AND there were a ton of Boy Scouts picnicking and checking out the falls. We opted not to climb up to the top as it didn’t look like there was an actual trail but one created by people wanting to get “the shot” so we took a moment to enjoy our turnaround spot and then headed back.
The lighting of the redwood forest had changed and was brighter which allowed us to notice different parts of the trail we didn’t catch on the way in. Always amazing what the lighting can do to showcase different parts of the forest!
The Boy Scout Tree Trail was a moderate 7.8 miles with 1,145 elevation gain. Plan on spending some time stopping and checking out nature along the way and also having a lot of people on the trails with you. There are no restrooms, the closest one is at the Stout Grove parking lot.
After an amazing hike and with several hours of daylight left we opted to head into Crescent City and grab lunch and check out the beaches. The Battery Point Lighthouse was our first destination. The tide was low so we could actually walk across to the little “island” the historic lighthouse was on. You can only reach it by foot during low tide! Crazy to think you have to time your visit on and off by the tide and the caretakers that live at the lighthouse do too! With a storm coming in the wind was crazy and there weren’t too many people at the beaches. Just us crazy ones willing to get out all bundled up to check out the lighthouse!
Nearly getting blown away we hopped back in the truck and took the scenic waterfront drive up toward Point Saint George enjoying the views of the rocky coastline from the warmth of the truck. Noting we would like to head back to Point Saint George the next day we headed back to camp. The rain was to start at about 7 pm so we lit the campfire and cooked dinner while it was still dry out. When it started to rain and we headed inside the shelter of the tent, then it started pouring and didn’t let up until the wee hours of the morning.
With all the rain the night before we were hoping to explore Stout Grove before everyone else was out and about. Once again we snagged one of the last actual parking spots! The trail down to Stout Grove is the only steep part and lasts just a short bit. Once on the valley floor you have an option to turn right or left to hike the .6 mile loop. We went the opposite direction of everyone else. THESE REDWOODS ARE HUGE! The trails are wide and well maintained and the forest almost has a groomed look to it but it has been left natural with fallen trees crossing parts of the trails and back in the forest. This is definitely one of the more picturesque trails we were on this weekend. If you only have an hour in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, drive down Howland Hill Road, stop at Stout Grove and enjoy the views, then get back on Howland Hill Road and head through the park. Totally worth it!
Following the loop trail there was a little spur that went to where a footbridge is put up when the Smith River is lower and you can get across to the campground. The river was still pretty high so there wasn’t a footbridge yet. Walking under brightly lit maples we turned a corner and were walking between the giants again. The feeling one has when standing next to such an old majestic redwood is amazing. It reminds us of our place in the world…to be stewards of this special place and respect it so future generations can enjoy what we have been fortunate enough to see.
Mill Creek Trail
After the Boy Scout Tree trail and Stout Grove we weren’t expecting to be blown away by the beauty surrounding us. 🙂 Nature has a way of surprising you! The trail head off Howland Hill Road is marked with just a sign and no immediate parking. There are some spots just down the way from the trail. Mill Creek starts off gently ascending through lichen covered trees lining the narrow trail. Then it winds around smaller redwoods with bright green ferns lining the trail. The light was just right to make the ferns appear to be glowing and lighting the path. So pretty! We had followed the Mill Creek trail description so we knew were going to see some mighty big redwoods!
The Grove of Titans are just off the Mill Creek trail, you can see them but can’t get up close and personal. Several signs warn you when you are close to one because people have tried to go off trail to get a better look. Please stick to the main trail to preserve this amazing place!
Winding around the hillside on a narrow trail keep an eye out for the giants in the distance. Chesty Puller was the first ‘landmark’ to show we were nearing the Grove of Titans. You get to get up close and personal to him! He’s massive! There’s a fallen tree next to him covered in ferns that you get to walk through and end up in jungle like atmosphere with dense ferns and large maples. Cruise through this area for a bit and you reach Mill Creek and the sun shines down on you. We ran into a couple coming from the opposite direction who told us there was a baby bear just up the way along the creek. Thankful for the warning, we proceeded with caution and excitement! We had wanted to see a bear but from the truck, not on foot. We forgot our bear bell to attach to our backpack so we got out the keys to jingle. Nothing worse than scaring a bear!
We hiked along the creek and saw the baby bear up ahead on a sandbar munching on grasses. Whew! He wasn’t going to be hungry for us! Pausing a good distance away and snapping a ton of pics we watched him hang there all by himself. We were more concerned with mama bear watching us so we spoke loudly letting them know we were nearby. Not sure if we wanted to keep going on the trail another couple came up behind us and we showed them the bear. We opted to hike together, safety in numbers right? The trail led us just above where the baby bear was eating. We stopped super quick, took a few pictures, and when he looked up at us with a curious look we quickly kept going on the trail. Hearts beating fast and still on the lookout for mama bear we almost missed the Grove of Titans…ok we did miss them. 🙂 We hiked along with this other couple that were also looking for them and were chatting and felt a little more safe the further we got from the baby bear.
Realizing we had gone too far, we turned around and followed the trail description and found El Viejo del Norte. He’s a gnarly dude that you might not pay too much attention to if you weren’t looking for him! Just to the left is the Lost Monarch tree which is one of the largest in the park. She’s a beauty and you can see her from the official trail. No need to go off trail!
We kept hiking with the other couple passed where we saw the baby bear, which was not too far from the Grove of Titans, said our farewells and stood by the creek to enjoy the sunshine and a snack. Just standing there quietly enjoying the views…then all of a sudden the bosslady turned around and a fellow hiker was right behind her. You guessed it, she screamed! Probably scared the other hiker as much as she was scared. A little jumpy from the bear sighting she apologized and carried on.
The hike back to Howland Hill Road was just as gorgeous as when we went out. Mill Creek runs parallel to Howland Hill Road so you could hike all the way back to Stout Grove but we opted for a shorter hike to explore a few more places. Our hike along Mill Creek trail was 4.6 miles with 384 elevation gain/loss. Please don’t ask which hike we would rather do, the Boy Scout Tree or Mill Creek, we couldn’t decide if there was only 1! If we do get the opportunity to go back in the fall when the leaves are changing we definitely want to check out both!
Howland Hill Road is the scenic route back into Crescent City so we went that way and got the truck extra dirty. 🙂
Point Saint George
Crescent City doesn’t have a ton of restaurants so we picked one near the beach and sat outside to enjoy the sunshine and fresh salt air. After lunch we headed back up the scenic drive to Point Saint George. The parking lot is large so parking wasn’t an issue but there are no restrooms here. Just a heads up! We walked down the semi-paved path through the sand dunes to reach the beach. The lighthouse is offshore and the lighthouse keeper’s home is near the parking lot. It’s a great historical spot to stop!
Along the wide sandy beach there were hundreds of “by-the-wind-sailors” or Velella, blue jellyfish that had washed ashore. We had seen this on the news a while ago near us but hadn’t witnessed it in person. It was crazy to see! Careful not to touch them, they can sting.
We kept going toward the tide pools and had to walk across a massive accumulation of small pieces of driftwood layered on top of the the tide pools. Some people were digging through the driftwood, not sure what they were looking for. There wasn’t a ton of sea life here as it seems the tide goes out this far quite often so we headed back and walked along the beach. Going from the redwoods to the beach was a great combination for the weekend!
Back at camp we walked along the Smith River until sunset again and then lit the campfire, cooked, drank good wine and played cards. The hubs might have won this weekend’s card game! 😉
Highway 101 Scenic Stops
On the way up we passed by all of the scenic stops so we could get to the campground and settle in before dark. On the way home we chose to stop at as many of them as we could! The first one was the famous Trees of Mystery! If you have children, this is a great stop for them! Plan on about an hour for the entire tour. In the parking lot you can see a large Paul Bunyan and his ox Babe…and Paul talks and waves! He’ll even answer questions! Pay the fee and head up the interpretive trails. There was much more to see in this roadside attraction than we thought! Our intent was to ride the Sky Trail but we got so much more out of it!
The Sky Trail was a see through gondola that took you up through and above the redwood forest to a landing at the top that had views west to the ocean and east to more valleys and trees! Heading back down was gorgeous! They do have a strenuous trail you can take back down but we opted for the ease of flying through the redwoods instead.
Back in the truck we headed south on Highway 101. We stopped at ALL of the shops. We are looking for a slab for our outdoor seating and we were in the perfect area to shop for this! There was a tree house we got to go in and see so many things made out of redwood! It was nice to support the smaller shops and we found a souvenir at each place.
Leaving the redwoods was a little difficult. The terrain along Highway 101 becomes more familiar with the hills covered in vineyards and more traffic. If you are wanting a peaceful place to recharge, head up to the redwoods. It brings so much joy and peace to our lives which is why we keep trying to surround ourselves with these mighty giants!
Campsites at Jedediah Smith State Park are $35 / night. There are 106 campsites and as mentioned above the restrooms are heated in the morning! Each site gets a picnic table, fire ring and a bear box. We were at campsite #89 and had bear proof trash bins and the water spigot. The site was large enough for a very large tent as well as room to roam. The restrooms were a bit far so we got lots of steps in! Amazingly, we had good cell reception in the campground.
Boy Scout Tree Trail was was a moderate 7.8 miles with 1,145 elevation gain.
Mill Creek trail was an easy 4.6 miles with 384 elevation gain/loss.
Things We Love:
So the things we really loved on this trip were the redwoods! But, if we had to choose a camping item that helped us through the weekend we would have to say it was our new GSI halulite tea kettle! This 1 quart tea kettle has a low profile so it fits nicely in our bin for kitchen items. It doesn’t whistle at you waking up other campers which is great but you do have to pay attention as the water boils fast! We use this for the instant Starbucks Via coffee for the hubs, tea and powdered bone broth for the bosslady. You could also boil water to use to clean up your dishes. It fits perfectly on our Coleman stove and barely weighs anything! Click on the Amazon link below to see more details!
Where else can you find us?
Don’t forget to check out the video of the hike on our Hike Then Wine YouTube channel!
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