Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park

Length of stay: 1 day
Visited: April 2023

The coastal redwoods are among some of the oldest and tallest trees in the world. They can live for more than 2,000 years and reach a height of over 90 metres (or 300 feet). Redwood forests only grow naturally in a narrow band along the Pacific coast from southern Oregon to central California. They depend on stable temperature and moisture, which is often provided from the wet winters and frequent fog in the summer.

After spending the night at Prairie Creek Redwoods, we started to make the journey back to Seattle, passing through Jedediah Smith Redwoods on the way back. These two parks, along with Del Norte Coast Redwoods and the Redwood National Park protect nearly half of all the old-growth redwood forest remaining in California.

We left the campground first thing in the morning just as the sun was starting to rise. We were soon rewarded for our early start by seeing some elk by the side of the road.

From Prairie Creek Redwoods it was just over an hour drive to reach Jedediah Smith Redwoods. There are two main areas that provide access to most of the hiking trails in the park. We passed the first area along Route 199 and decided to start there. We turned off on Walker Road, a narrow dirt road, and first hiked along the Leiffer and Ellsworth Loop (3.5km loop, rated moderate). The trail meanders through a redwood forest filled with towering trees and a lot of lush ferns. The first 800 metres was relatively flat with minimal elevation gain.

The path then connects with the Ellsworth Trail to form a longer loop. This portion of the trail was narrower and more rugged. We started to question whether we were on the actual trail anymore. Much of the path was overgrown with vegetation and there were several fallen trees that we had to scramble over, under and around. This section of the forest also looked much younger as the trees weren’t as tall.

We came across a junction with a sign that pointed us back to Leiffer Loop, which provided some validation that we weren’t lost in a maze of greenery. From there we thought we were in the clear as this path is more defined. But then we took a wrong turn at another junction and ended up by the road. It turns out there are two access points to the trail. Instead of turning around to find the connector path that leads to the other access point where we parked, we decided to just walk back along the road as it was flat and shaded.

But then we came across a fork in the road. Maybe we should have taken a picture of the trail map with us. We turned down the road in the direction we thought made the most sense based on where we parked. Shortly after we saw a car coming down the road, which provided some reassurance. Once we passed the bend in the road, we spotted our car. What we thought was a short hike ended up taking just over an hour to complete. No complaints as the first portion was scenic and the trail was quite peaceful and quiet.

We then hit up the Simpson-Reed Trail (1.3km loop, rated easy), which consists of a wide accessible trail that leads through an ancient forest. Many of the redwoods here are over a thousand years old. There is also an abundance of ferms along the path, which flourish here in the moist cool environment.

Along the way there’s a series of information panels that provide more fun facts about the forest. For example, despite being some of the world’s tallest trees, the coastal redwoods have a shallow root system. They extend only about six to ten feet into the ground. This is largely because in the Redwood region, there is plenty of water close to the ground’s surface, so the trees don’t need a deep root system. A shallow root system can make the trees vulnerable to strong winds and floods though. However, their roots can spread hundreds of feet from the tree and even join roots from neighboring trees, creating extra support and stability.

The trail connects with the Peterson Memorial Trail for a slightly longer loop. We decided to give it a whirl since the path is short and relatively flat. After crossing the bridge, the trail leads through a forest with slightly younger trees.

We then headed to the other section in the park, across from the Smith River, which required driving down a narrow dirt road. We followed the road for about a mile to get to the Stout Memorial Grove (0.8km loop, rated easy). From the parking lot there’s a short paved path that leads downhill to the start of the loop. The trail winds through an ancient coastal redwood forest. In 1929, Clara Stout donated this 44-acre grove of old-growth redwoods to the Save the Redwoods League to save it from being logged.

It was then time for us to hit the road again as we had just over five hours of driving to get to Portland.


73 thoughts on “Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park

  1. John says:

    Oh my gosh, that forest is so beautiful! I would love to be there, thank you so much for the beautiful photos, guys! I find it odd that the root system of these giants are so shallow, they almost certainly are interconnected with other trees around them. 🥰

  2. says:

    We loved finding out all the fascinating facts about these beautiful giant specimens on our trip last year, I remember reading that surprising fact about the roots of the trees. This is obviously a wonderfully abundant place in terms of these fabulous trees.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Oh I know. I’m always a huge fan of trails that have these storyboards or information panels that provide more information about the history of the area or more details about the flora and fauna. The Redwoods are impressive and I’m glad large areas of them are being protected.

  3. Book Club Mom says:

    These are beautiful trees and I always love reading about your hiking adventures. Your description of the tree roots reminded me of a book I read last year, Songs of Trees by David George Haskell – in it he talks about how trees communicate with each other viat their root systems – I like how in your example, they bolster each other!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      You are too kind. I’m such a fan of trails that feature information panels to add some education and awareness to the hike. I never would have guessed that such tall trees would have such shallow roots. But it’s neat how they are intertwined with neighbouring trees. It really does put a new meaning behind that saying about how we’re stronger together. I’m intrigued by Songs of Trees now. Thanks for putting that on my radar.

  4. elvira797mx says:

    Wow! Awesome trees, your photos makes me feel like if i’m there.!
    So beautiful forest, thank’s for share Linda. Have a lovely Sunday
    Keep well.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Same! I never would have guessed that for such tall trees that their roots are typically shallow. It’s also pretty neat how their roots intertwine with neighbouring trees for more strength and stability. Goes to show how connected the forest really is.

  5. kagould17 says:

    Nothing beats a walk through an old growth forest in the temperate rain forest zone. The trees are amazing and the undergrowth prolific. This looks like a worthwhile stop Linda. Thanks for sharing. Allan

  6. Ab says:

    Redwood and ferns are so beautiful and you enjoyed some truly beautiful nature and trails, Linda!

    It was fascinating to read that ferns have shallow root systems. Good thing they spread quite horizontally cuz they’re massive and should be held up. Can’t imagine big windstorms.

    Looking forward to your Portland posts!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The landscape in the Redwoods is incredibly scenic with all those giant trees and waist-high ferns. Since we visited first thing in the morning we had the trails mostly all to ourselves. I’m such a fan of trails that have storyboards along the way that provide more information about the types of trees and other plants found in the area. The Redwoods are pretty special and I never would have guessed that those tall trees would have such shallow roots. But it’s neat that they intertwine with the roots of neighbouring trees. It’s a great reminder how we’re stronger together.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Oh I know. The Redwoods are something special. But here’s the thing with forests, is that every time you visit, there’s always something new to see. It’s always changing.

  7. Thattamma C.G Menon says:

    The forest is so beautiful with flora and fauna 🌹👍🌴🌱 such a gorgeous photos of stunning nature , the gaints trees rare to see !! Thank you for sharing , Best wishes 🌷❤️

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      All that shade was much appreciated given how sunny and warm it was. We had such a wonderful time hiking through the Redwoods and appreciating nature. I’m typically not the best with navigation or directions, but thankfully my partner in crime is, otherwise we most definitely would have gotten lost!

  8. Pennsivity says:

    I love seeing the Giants of the forest, …the size makes us seem so insignificant, ,..I even managed to read the information on Ferns, …interesting stuff there, …and also glad you didn’t get lost, I mean, who’d post the fantastic updates,…and photos, …take care, be safe and catch up soon…🦋

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Oh I know. I couldn’t help but feel so teeny tiny in comparison to those giant trees. It certainly helps put life into perspective. Those information panels along the trail were a nice way to combine some education with our excise. And they are helpful with navigation, something I’m not the greatest with.

  9. Linda K says:

    Aren’t those trees truly magnificent! I bet you could have spent ages just staring up at them. I certainly hope they continue to last for hundreds of years to come because there’s nothing like a walk in the forest!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I’m surprised I didn’t trip or fall or get a weird kink in my neck from constantly wanting to look up at those tall trees. They certainly don’t grow that high here in southern Ontario! It was interesting to learn about the history of these state parks and that they were created to protect some of the last remaining old growth Redwood forests. I couldn’t help but wonder what this area would have looked like if it wasn’t logged so intensely.

  10. travelling_han says:

    Oh wow your photos are stunning, I love the light you’ve captured it all in 🙂 I always think places like this make you realise how small we are – the trees are truly majestic!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. It was definitely worth getting up early for to enjoy the soft morning light while hiking through the forest. Plus we had the first few trails practically all to ourselves. Being among those giant trees definitely gives you a new and different perspective.

  11. Rose says:

    Knowing some of those trees are over a thousand years old, is so fantastic!! Imagine what they’ve ‘seen and heard’ during their lifetime. I wish they could talk and tell us about our past and our future. What a lovely place to ‘get lost’.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure. We’re just hear for a blink of an eye in comparison to many of those redwoods. Agreed, it’s too bad they can’t talk as I’m sure they’d have some wise words and great stories to pass along.

  12. NortheastAllie says:

    Very impressive and beautiful trees. I did not realize that the roots did not go as deep with these redwoods, and it was also neat to learn how old these forests are from your article!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I know. I never would have guessed that these giant trees would have such a shallow root system. But it was neat to hear how they intertwine with neighbouring trees for extra support.

  13. Bama says:

    It’s incredible that for a tree that big and tall, the coastal redwood has such a shallow root system! When you mentioned about the moisture, I could almost “smell” and “feel” the air through your photos. No wonder it’s a perfect ground for ferns.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      No kidding! I guess we lucked out with the weather when we visited as it was warm and the trails were dry. Apparently in the summer it can get quite foggy here, which would have been neat to see. I’m sure it would have made the forest look even more mysterious and enchanting.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      You are too kind. You’re right, it is hard to fully capture the size of these magnificent trees. Pictures don’t really do them justice. You have to see them for yourself to truly appreciate their height. Same with the ferns.

  14. wetanddustyroads says:

    It’s always nice to see wild animals along the way. Big (and old) trees, ferns and so many beautiful trails … it reminds me a lot of our hiking trails this past weekend (we also walked to a “Big Tree” in a forest). Your photos of the tall trees are incredibly beautiful.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It’s a good excuse to get up early as that’s typically a great time to spot some wildlife. It was a nice start to the day. Glad to hear that you have some big trees on your side of the pond. It’s pretty incredible standing next them and feeling so small.

  15. grandmisadventures says:

    How amazing to see so many elk at the park! What a beautiful place-I just love the lush greens of every shape and kind along the trail. And I think I could stare up those tall trees in wonder all day 🙂

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It was great timing and worth getting up early to see those elk by the side of the road. I hear yah about staring up at those tall trees. I’m surprised my neck wasn’t sore the next day.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Oh I know. It’s mind boggling to think just how old some of the Redwoods are. We’re just here for a blink of an eye in comparison. It really puts life into perspective. Thanks for reading and leaving a comment. Linda

  16. leightontravels says:

    Great to read you guys again! Redwoods are really special and feature on my list of natural phenomena I’d love to see. Wonderful shot of the elks. The trees are magnificent, you captured them beautifully. The presence of ferns around these ancient giants gives the whole experience a kind of ‘primordial’ vibe. Like seeing what the world looked like such a long time ago.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Hey! Welcome back to the blogging world. Hope all is going well on the house front.

      It was nice to get away in April and spend some time on the West coast again. Hiking among the giant Redwoods was such a highlight of our trip. It’s incredible just how old and tall some of those trees are. Even the ferns were massive. I couldn’t help but feel so small in comparison. It did kind of feel like we travelled back in time and caught a glimpse what some of the forests might have looked like back in the day before many of them were cut down for logging or development. I’m so glad some of them are being protected for all to enjoy.

  17. jmankowsky says:

    Redwoods and Elks? I’ve never seen either. Must be amazing! Living on the edge of the woods, we have lots of ferns, and I love them. Your pics are incredible–I feel like a dinosaur might photo bomb one at any moment.
    Hope you are well!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. It was a pretty incredible experience to walk among the giant Redwoods. We’re just here for a blink of an eye in comparison to how old some of them are. It was a nice surprise to see some elk by the side of the road. We typically have the best wildlife viewings in the morning, which is definitely worth getting up early for.

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        Thanks for your kind words. It was often tough to show the size and scope of some of these trees through the lens of my camera, but glad you got the sense that everything was super sized in the Redwoods. Even the ferns were massive.

  18. rkrontheroad says:

    It’s always a nice surprise when you think you’re kind of lost, but suddenly recognize something familiar! Those preserved old growth forests are so amazing, it seems like you’re going back in time.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure! It was nice to get that reassurance that we were heading in the right direction, especially since we didn’t have cell reception. Even if we had to turn around and retrace our steps, it wouldn’t have been that bad as the forest was scenic and incredibly peaceful.

  19. ourcrossings says:

    Wow, what a beautifully unspoiled redwood park to explore and photograph, Linda 🙂
    Bright, open, and lush, could it be that Jed Smith’s redwood groves are the most scenic in existence? Exploring a redwood forest is one of my biggest dreams, I just have to wait until baby Lily is a wee bit older in order to travel to California’s Redwoods National Parks. I would love nothing more than to crane my neck to try to take in the full height of the trees, try to wrap my arms around their large trunks or climb inside a hollowed-out tree for a photo opportunity. Thanks for sharing 🙂 Aiva xx

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It was such a humbling experience to hike among some of the tallest trees in the world. I couldn’t help but feel so small in comparison. I’m actually surprised I didn’t trip and fall from looking up so often. Hopefully you and your family are able to visit the Redwoods someday and see it all for yourself. Thanks for reading. Linda

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