Rain Forests of the Pacific Northwest
Anglers will find good fishing in the Smith River for rainbow and cutthroat trout from late August until the rains begin. From October to February, salmon and steelhead provide challenging excitement. A fishing license is required.
Stout Grove Trail
This wheelchair-accessible trail is an easy 0.5 mile-round-trip excursion to a superb grove of redwood trees. The largest, the Stout Tree, is 340 feet high and 20 feet in diameter. From north of Crescent City, turn east off US 101 and travel approximately 6 miles on US 199 to Howland Hill Road; turn right and continue 2 miles to the trailhead parking. From July to September, a footbridge is put in place over the Smith River and access is available by trail from Jedediah Smith Redwoods Campground. (Free maps are available from Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, (707) 464-9533.
Between the Elk Prairie Campground and the park office is an unusual trail for both the blind and the sighted. The walkway is edged by wood and rope handrails that run the length of the 0.2-mile loop."Touchable" features are described on signs and in a braille handbook available at park headquarters.
Fern Canyon Loop Trail
The 0.6-mile trail through Fern Canyon is a major attraction of Prairie Creek Redwoods, a one-of-a-kind magical walk. The eroding water of Home Creek caused a natural cut through bluffs, and a lush profusion of five-fingered ferns cover the 50-foot-high walls. The trail is reached by driving 8 miles on narrow, unpaved Davison Road, where trailers and vehicles over 24 feet in length or 8 feet in width are prohibited (vehicles pulled by motor homes do come in handy). The trail can also be accessed by a wonderful trail loop for those willing and eager for a longer excursion that penetrates deeper into the mysteries of the rain forest. From the Prairie Creek Campground area, hike the James Irvine Trail (4.5 miles) to Fern Canyon; go south on the Beach Road past Gold Bluffs for a little over a mile; and then take Miners Ridge Trail (4.2 miles) back to the campground. This is a fairly long trail, but an easy one, and the rewards are many, including the starbursts of light piercing through the magnificent trees. Besides the majestic trees, you will see lush, boggy carpets of tiny mushrooms, mosses, and flowers. Free maps are available from Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, (707) 488-2171.
Redwood Creek Trail
Three miles north of the Redwood Information Center (at the south end of Redwood National Park), a spur soon goes off the Bald Hills Road to the trailhead. This 17-mile-round-trip trail accesses the Tall Trees Grove, where the tallest redwood tree (367 feet high and approximately 600 years old) is found. Whether you plan to reach the grove on this trail or not, do sample this fine path for at least a mile or two as it follows the creek and gets you close to possible spottings of ducks, herons, hawks, ruffled grouse, and bald eagles. The Tall Trees Grove is more easily reached via a steep 2.5-mile-round-trip trail off Bald Hills Road, where trailers and motor homes are prohibited. (Parking for RVs is available at the Redwood Information Center, just to the south on US 101.) Other vehicles may use the road only with a limited number of permits, best obtained before 10 a.m. in summer. A shuttle bus runs between the information center and the trailhead to alleviate traffic (donation fee) from May through September.
Lady Bird Johnson Grove
A lovely stand of redwood trees is seen by walking the 1-mile nature trail loop reached via the steep Bald Hills Road. (See Redwood Creek Trail for notes on vehicle restrictions. The shuttle bus stops here before continuing on to the Tall Trees Grove.)
A 19-mile combination of roads and trails has been designated a bicycle trail. From the Elk Prairie Campground, follow the campground road and link up with the jogging trail, which takes you through the forest to Davison Road. Ride this road to the Beach Road at Gold Bluffs and on to Fern Canyon, and then continue north on the Coastal Trail to Ossagon Trail. This last trail climbs steeply up to the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway. Head south on this road back to the campground. Be alert for hikers along the trails and show them respect. Do not ruin their experience of the redwood forest.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication