We came to California’s stunning northern coast to see the tallest living things on Earth: the majestic, old-growth redwoods in Redwood National and State Parks. But we were just as awestruck by the beautiful, rugged coastline, sandy beaches, and the sparkling turquoise waters of the Smith River.
This road trip through Jedediah Smith Redwoods, Del Norte Coast Redwoods, Prairie Creek Redwoods, Patrick’s Point, and Humboldt Redwoods state parks meant that we were going to be doing A LOT of hiking through redwood forests, so we booked a kayaking trip to mix things up and experience the ancient redwoods from a whole different perspective: by boat!
We booked our Smith River kayaking tour through Redwood Rides, choosing the half-day Redwoods By River tour.
We chose the morning half-day kayaking tour because 1) we weren’t sure our arms were ready for a full day of paddling, and 2) there were too many other things we wanted to see and do in the area!
Our Kayaking Excursion
We met our tour group and guides at a gas station in town, then caravaned to the river access point together. Around 9:00 am, the tour guides got everyone into life jackets and kayaks and we set out on our excursion, exploring 3.5 miles of the Smith River through old-growth redwoods in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park — a California state park that boasts some of the largest trees in the world and most scenic parts of Redwood National Park.
Our Redwoods By River tour lasted from 9:00 am to about 12:00/12:30 pm. It was the perfect amount of time to get out on the water and have a memorable adventure with the family!
The first mile of our tour, had us paddling through the gorgeous high-walled gorge of the Smith River’s Middle Fork and later the views along the riverbank shifted to towering, majestic redwood forests. On the water we traversed some minor rapids, floated through calm wide areas, and paddled our tushies off to stay the course.
The tour then pit-stopped at the rocky beach and seasonal bridge at Jedediah Smith Redwoods Campground for a half-mile side hike to Stout Grove, the world’s most scenic redwood grove. We didn’t realize that was part of the tour and had already hiked Stout Memorial Grove and the nearby Hiouchi and Mill Creek Trails, so while our tour group headed into the forest, we stayed back to swim and play in the cool, sparkling river.
When the tour resumed, we paddled under the seasonal footbridge and continued making our way down the wide, scenic Smith River until the your ended at a large rocky beach with an organic picnic lunch. The lunch provided looked yummy, but with food allergies and restricted diets, we skipped it in favor of our own lunch! Brian was able to leave his truck at the end-point of the tour, so he drove it right down onto rocky beach and we enjoyed a delicious riverside tailgate lunch.
Know Before You Go
- Redwood Rides Adventure Outfitters operates under permits from Six Rivers National Forest and Redwoods National and State Parks and offers kayaking tours year-round and rafting trips from October through June or early July, depending on river levels. They also offer all sorts of other outdoor adventures like fishing hiking, biking, and backpacking tours.
- Tours meet at Hiouchi Hamlet Market and Chevron Gas Station at 2100 US Highway 199, Hiouchi, California 95531.
- Included in the tour is the inflatable kayak (single or tandem) and paddles, a life jacket, and a dry bag for your belongings. Shuttle service is provided so you can leave your vehicle where the tour ends. Wet suits are provided for tours in cool weather.
- The minimum age for a tour is 3 years old and all children 11 and under must ride in a tandem kayak with a parent, guardian, or guide. We chose tandem kayaks just for fun!
- The Redwoods By River Tour includes both kayaking and hiking in Stout Grove at Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park — so you don’t need to worry about visiting that grove on your own.
- Redwood Rides guides are certified by Rescue 3 International in swiftwater rescue and the American Red Cross for First Aid and CPR.