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When visiting Redwood National and State Parks hiking among the redwoods is a must. One great way to do just that is to hike among the famous Stout Grove. What makes this particular grove so special is that is almost entirely redwood trees. It is a 44-acre grove of old-growth redwoods. Many consider it the heart of Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park.
Stout Grove is the first dedicated grove at Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. In 1929 Clara W. Stout donated the tract of old-growth redwoods to the Save the Redwoods League in memory of her late husband, lumberman Frank D. Stout. And even though redwood trees are indeed very “stout” the name comes from Clara and Frank Stout. But it’s a nice fit.
Finding the trailheads
There are three ways to get to the famous Stout Grove. I chose to hike in via the River Trail from its Howland Hill Road trailhead. This route seemed the best choice to me for two reasons – one, it gave me an extra mile of hiking, and two, the other trailhead for the River Trail requires a fee.
The loop around the Stout Grove is about 0.5 miles long. Either way, you hike in, it makes a lollipop loop with an approach trail and a half-mile loop.
For just the grove
If you are wanting just a short jaunt, you can hike only the loop around the grove. This trailhead is off of Howland Hill Road. From Highway 199, turn left onto South Forks Road which crosses the Smith River. Drive 0.5 miles on South Fork Road then turn right onto Douglas Park Drive. After 1.3 miles, Douglas Park Drive turns into Howland Hill Road. After you drive 2.4 miles, from the intersection of Douglas Park Drive and South Fork Road, turn right and follow that road to the trailhead.
My guide book suggested hiking Stout Grove with the River Trail, but in a reverse lollipop, beginning from this trailhead. And I guess this is the official Stout Grove trailhead.
The River Trail via Howland Hill Road
To hike in along the River Trail from its Howland Hill Road trailhead, follow the same directions as above. But instead of driving 2.4 miles after you turn onto Douglas Park Drive from South Fork Road, you only drive 1.6 miles. Here is the trailhead for the River Trail, to the right, and the Little Bald Hills Trail to the left. There’s not a lot of parking lot here, but I was able to find a spot fairly easily on the side of the road.
From Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park
The other option for hiking the Stout Grove at Redwood National and State Parks is to begin on the River Trail at Jedidiah Smith State Park. This is the only trailhead accessible to RVs and trailers. However, there is an $8 fee to park in the Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park Day Use Area.
The River Trail
As I stated above, I chose to hike in via the River Trail from the Howland Hill Road trailhead. This made a nice lollipop loop. The trail leaves from the north side of Howland Hill Road. It heads toward the river for a very brief bit before turning and following parallel to the river.
Along this portion, you get glimpses of the Smith River, the redwood forest, and the Coast Range. Moss hangs from trees and rhododendrons line your path. Around mile 0.3 the trail curves a little away from the river and you cross Cedar Creek on a small wooden bridge.
The River Trail follows along the slope of the land. Ferns and thick vegetation line the hill like carpeting on a wall. It reminded me of hiking in the rainforest.
Stout Grove Loop
At mile 0.7 the terrain flattens out and the forest opens up to the Stout Grove. Here the forest thins out and you are surrounded by 300-foot tall trees. It looks like something otherworldly. Because the grove is almost all redwoods, the forest is more open than when you hiked along the river. Massively large trunks surround you making you feel like you have been shrunken to the size of an ant. Ferns carpet the ground. And sunbeams stream through the thick canopy.
The trail is flat and wide and the entire loop feels like what landscape architects try to recreate in botanical gardens. But this trail and grove are 100 percent natural! Deadfall allows you to see how massive the entire tree is. It also shows you the circle of life and how fallen timber feeds new life.
The loop continues around and can be confusing where the other trails come into it. Around mile 1.4 you come back to the “stick” portion of the lollipop loop and the River Trail. From here, simply retrace your steps back to Howland Hill Road and your parked vehicle.
Hiking the Stout Grove is my favorite view of the redwood forest. When walking among these tall trees with large diameter trunks, made me feel like I was walking around something from fantasy fiction.
- 1.9 miles lollipop loop
- Elevation gain and loss 100 feet
- Dogs not allowed
- Backcountry camping not allowed