Located just 10 minutes from the bnb on Howland Hill Road, this is both a simple walk in the redwoods and a deep dive into the ecology of the Smith River watershed.
The trail is a short, hard-pack loop that offers an absolutely exquisite introduction to the renowned coast redwood. Because the grove is in a flood plain, there is very little understory to clutter the view so the connection hikers have with the redwoods is immediate and unrelenting. Massive tree after massive tree (many which have fallen and are easily climbed) make this one of the most beautiful and impressive groves of virgin redwood in the world. And in spite of the superlatives, it is often a peaceful and uncrowded experience, even in summer.
The grove is located within Redwood National Park and the Jedediah Smith State Park so trod gently and respect the forest. Gaze at massive redwoods, some over 300 feet tall, and pay special attention to the Stout Tree, the largest coast redwood in the grove (325 ft) and the 29th tallest known coast redwood. Signs pointing out the Stout Tree have long been removed but there’s usually a small crowd milling about the tree’s massive trunk, taking photos and gazing upward into the tree’s complex canopy.
Stout Grove’s loop trail can be walked in 20 minutes or a couple of hours, it all depends on your schedule and how you react to being in the presence of these giant trees. You’ll see downed trees to investigate and climb on to, fire damaged trees to study, vast fields of five finger fern, and earth carpeted in the three-leafed redwood sorrel.
A spur trail off the main loop, down to Mill Creek and the Smith, is worth taking as well. When you cross the creek you can head further into the forest too, right takes you on to the Hiouchi trail and left sets you off on the Mill Creek Trail. Come summer the National Park Service erects a footbridge over the Smith (usually June, July and August) giving campers in the state park campground easy access to Stout Grove. For Stout Grove hikers there’s not much to see on the other side of the Smith River footbridge save for the campground, but being on the bridge affords a great view of the Smith. If it’s hot enough, slip between the wire hand rails and take a dip in the water. The current is slow and there are usually dozens of people nearby.
Directions from the bnb: Drive up Monument Dr. and make a right on Hwy. 199. Make your next right about a mile up 199 and cross over two bridges, the first spanning the middle fork of the Smith, the second which spans the south fork of the Smith. Make a third right on to Douglas Park Road which will turn into Howland Hill Road. In about two miles, look for the small sign for Stout Grove and take a right down that paved access road to the grove’s parking lot. And as you pass under the covered bridge on Douglas Park Road, take a look to your right. The massive square house with the copper-colored roof is bnb~hiouchi.
Length: .5 mile
Trail Type: loop
Difficulty: After an initial descent from parking lot, easy
Change in elevation: 40 ft (all on the access path from the parking lot, the trail itself is completely flat.
Location, distance from bnb~hiouchi: off Howland Hill Road, 10 minutes by car to parking lot; summer options include crossing Mill Creek by foot from the campground or even from the Mill Creek or Hiouchi Trails.
Snapshot description: Easy-to-hike loop trail delivers exceptional opportunity to see, touch, connect with old-growth redwoods; close to Hwy. 199 yet seldom crowded.