Our first full day in Crescent City and Redwood National And State Parks was a doozy! Normally, we would get up early, head out in the morning, and be out in nature, deep in the national park all day. But because we wanted to visit the Battery Point Lighthouse, and you can only visit during low tide, our schedule was determined by the tide charts.
We spent the morning hiking the Simpson-Reed Discovery Trail and Leiffer-Ellsworth Loop Trails at Jedediah Smith State Park. Then we headed back into town for a picnic lunch, some exploring along Pebble Beach, and the lighthouse visit. When we wrapped up with the lighthouse, it was only mid-afternoon, so we headed back into the state park for more hiking and a cool seasonal footbridge!
Crossing The Smith River
The day before we had hiked through the gorgeous Stout Memorial Grove at Jedediah Smith State Park and discovered that it connects to other trails in the park and even the campground by way of a seasonal footbridge. I wanted to cross that bridge and hike the other trails, so we parked at the Jedediah Smith Campground — well, on the side of the highway outside the campground because there was no parking — and easily found the trailhead for this summer only trail access point.
From the campground, a short trail leads to the rocky shore of the beautiful Smith River and just down the shoreline, a small seasonal foot bridge stretches across the river, providing campers and visitors access to the park’s trails and redwood groves.
The bridge is narrow and a little wobbly! We crossed two at a time and were happy to see other park visitors respectfully take turns crossing the bridge. On the other side of the river, signs point you to the access point for the Hiouchi Trail and Mill Creek Trail.
If you get a chance to follow this trail and cross this seasonal bridge, I’ve got two pieces of advice:
- Wear your bathing suits! This is a great area to play in the river with your family.
- Stop in the middle of the bridge for a moment and just take in the majestic mountains and rushing river that surround you — it’s pretty spectacular!
The Hiouchi Trail And Mill Creek Trail
The Hiouchi Trail is a moderate, 2.0 mile total, out and back trail that follows the gorgeous Smith River, connecting Lohse Grove and Stout Memorial Grove. It travels through a forest of old growth Redwoods, mixed trees like California bay, Douglas-fir, tanoak, and Pacific madrone, and shrubbery and berry bushes like huckleberry, thimbleberry, and salal cover the ground.
The Mill Creek Trail is a moderate, 2.6 mile round-trip, out and back trail that winds through old growth redwood forest to sparkling Mill Creek. The trail passes several smaller streams, some of which only flow part of the year, and at the far end, it enters a grove of giant redwoods and meets Mill Creek — it’s at this end of the trail that the seasonal foot bridge from the campground meets the trail!
According to rangers, the Mill Creek Trail is quite popular with fishing fanatics, who walk the trail in the morning and fish for coho and Chinook salmon and steelhead and cutthroat trout. So if you’re looking for a quiet hike with few other tourists, try walking this trail in the afternoon like we did.
We walked a good portion of both the Hiouchi Trail and the Mill Creek Trail in the mid-afternoon and only saw a couple of other families. It was quiet and beautiful and a lot of fun! Now, we visited in mid-summer, but if you visit in October, November, or December, the trail will be lined with edible berries and you can pick and take up to one gallon of berries per day! How cool is that?!
Know Before You Go
- Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park is located 9.0 miles east of Crescent City on Highway 199 in Redwood National and State Parks in Del Norte County.
- The 10,000 acre park and campground are open year-round. Day use areas are open from sunrise to sunset.
- Download the Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park Brochure.
- The main trailhead for the Hiouchi Trail is located on Highway 199, just before west end of Hiouchi Bridge near the eastern end of the Hatton Trail.
- The main trailhead for the Mill Creek Trail is located midway up Howland Hill Road.
- During the summer months, a seasonal bridge that crosses the Smith River provides access to the Hiouchi Trail, Mill Creek Trail, and Stout Grove Trail from the Jedediah Smith Redwoods Campground.
- Jedediah Smith Redwoods Campground is located at 1461 US Highway 199, Crescent City, California 95531. It has 87 family campsites, with some able to accommodate trailers or motor homes up to 36 feet. It also four ADA accessible cabins for rent. The cabins have electricity, heaters, an outdoor barbecue, and two twin over double bunk beds. There is no kitchen, bathroom, mattresses, or bedding.
- Summer temperatures are 45-85 degrees and winter temperatures range from 30-60 degrees. From November through May, rainfall can reach up to 100 inches.
- Dogs must be on a leash no more than six feet long and must be confined to a tent or vehicle at night. Except for service animals, pets are not allowed on trails.
- Jedediah Smith Redwoods, Del Norte Coast Redwoods, and Prairie Creek Redwoods state parks joined with Redwood National Park to form Redwood National and State Parks in 1994. Today, the four parks’ combined 133,000 acres contain 45 percent of California’s old growth redwood forest. They have been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and form a portion of the protected California Coast Ranges Biosphere Reserve.
- Del Norte Coast Redwoods, Jedediah-Smith Redwoods, and Prairie Creek Redwoods are the only parks in the California State Parks system that accept the Federal Access Pass discount.