Northernmost of California's redwood state parks, Jedediah Smith beckons the hiker with both a primeval redwood forest and the banks of the Smith River, the state's only major river without a dam.
The park honors mountain man and pathfinder Jedediah Smith, credited with discovering (for westbound travelers) the Rocky Mountains pass through which most California--and Oregon-bound--emigrants traveled.
Smith was also the first to journey (by land, anyway) to what was to become the West Coast of the continental United States--from San Diego to just short of the Canadian border. The Smith River was named for the dogged adventurer, who crossed the wild watercourse in 1828.
Centerpiece of the state park is Stout Memorial Grove. Among the magnificent 5,000 acres of trees in nearby National Tribute Grove is one of the world's largest: Stout Tree, named not for its considerable girth, as you might suspect, but for Frank D. Stout, whose family donated the grove to the Save-the-Redwoods League in 1929.
Another towering redwood is Boy Scout Tree, visited by a trail constructed by the Scouts of Crescent City's Troop 10 in the 1930s.
Directions to trail head: From U.S. 101, at the south end of Crescent City, turn east on Elk Valley Road. After 1 1/2 miles, fork right on Howland Hill Road and continue east about four more miles to the signed trail head located on the north side of the road.
The hike: Stroll the fern-lined path with 300-foot tall trees towering above you. After a mile, the trail follows a redwood-topped ridge, with tall sword ferns pointing the way.
About two miles along, the path descends a series of wooden steps to a lush, lovely creek. Another mile of quiet forest walking brings you to a fork: The right branch goes to Boy Scout Tree; the other leads to Fern Falls.
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Boy Scout Trail
WHERE: Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, Northern California
DISTANCE: 7 miles round trip to Fern Falls.
TERRAIN: Redwood forest primeval.
HIGHLIGHTS: Old-growth redwoods, water fall.
DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY: Moderate.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, 1375 Elk Valley Road, Crescent City, CA 95531; tel. (707) 464-9533.