There are stunning views of the Smith’s south fork and on a hot summer day this trail offer plenty of shaded portions.
With so many mind-blowing trials to hike — under vast canopies of redwood, often in remote places where the sound and sights of the modern world do not intrude — it’s hard to recommend Craig’s Creek Trail without reserve. True, it’s a nice walk in the forest, and one with an end point on the south fork of the Smith that has unusually clear, crystalline and swimmable waters. But the hiker is often presented with a view of South Fork Road in the distance, so it sometimes feels a little too connected. Still, if you’ve exhausted the lineup of go-to trails and are looking for some more miles to log, definitely opt for the challenge of Craig’s Creek Trail.
The trail starts in the small bit of land between the middle and south forks of the Smith, just before the second bridge. The trail itself was an old pack trail used by miners in the late 1800s. Hikers pass through a diverse plant community on the trail, including old growth redwood, Douglas fir, knob cone pine and stands of alder, tan oak, live oak and chinquapin. There are few small feeder creeks into the Smith to jump across and if you time the season right, the trail can be rife with edible mushrooms.
Be sure to watch for poison oak (summertime only) and you’ll need to consent to hearing noise from the occasional car on South Bank Road (all seasons). There is a lot of climbing on Craig’s Creek Trail, with a short climb and steep descent at the end as the trail winds down to the creek and river. But it does make a great spot to take the sun, munch on your trail mix and swim in the Smith. Giant boulders make for easy access to the river — soothing after the nearly two hours it will take you complete the trail from trailhead to creek.
Directions from the bnb: Turn right on to 199 from Monument and turn right again at the forks toward Stout Grove. Cross the first bridge over the middle fork of the Smith and as you approach the second bridge, slow down. Do not cross the second bridge. Park off to the right hand side of the road and look for the trail head on the opposite side of the road.
Craig’s Creek Trail
Length: 6.4 miles round trip
Trail Type: one-way in, one-way out
Difficulty: Moderate to demanding as there are many ups and downs on the trail. Switchbacks on the final descent to Craig’s Creek.
Location, distance from bnb~hiouchi: trailhead and parking for the trail is just before the second bridge on the road to Stout Grove, 5 minutes.
Snapshot description: This partially shaded trail through a mixed conifer forest offers nice views of the Smith’s south fork and the chance to swim in a beautiful and deep swimming hole at trail’s end. Not among the most stellar of local hikes but a challenging walk. A very nice hike in the winter with a protective tree canopy for the trail’s first mile. During the summer, watch out for rampant poison ivy which lines the trail.