Jedediah Smith State Park

California’s coastline exudes a seemingly unspoiled landscape—amidst a burning state, the coast brings tranquility and hope. Although the destination discussed in this article is not necessarily on the coastline of California, it lies within miles of the North Coast and the journey to arrival may consist of a handful of hours hugging the coastline. Jedediah Smith State Park, a redwood grove of splendor only 10 minutes from the sea, resides near the border of Oregon and California. Encompassing seven percent of old-growth redwoods throughout the world, a walk through the campground of Jedediah Smith State Park emanates a feeling of awe as trees 350 feet and taller loom above. About a six hour drive from Sacramento brings you to the forested redwoods. Add some extra coastal scenery and make that nine hours. Although the redwoods are not a quick jaunt around the corner, the trek to them is one hundred percent worth the time and effort.

Settled along the Smith River, Jedediah Smith State Park’s campground hosts a backyard of small, pristine beaches and just on the other side of the river you will find shaded, misty hiking trails. The ambiance of the park is that of ultimate peacefulness—reading a book cover to cover in one sitting followed by a serenaded nap by the neighboring birds becomes frequent. As a seasoned nap and book enthuse, and as an outdoors advocate and explorer, this park checks all the boxes. Here is a short list of things to do, or not do, while napping or adventuring in the redwood canopy.

Howland Hill Road
I’ll start with the most debated among my acquaintances—the nine mile drive along Howland Hill road. The dirt road weaves through the redwood giants and without getting out of the car, passengers receive what is claimed the most majestic view in the area. For elderly folks or people who may have less mobility than others, this is a great option. For the rest of us, sitting in a halted line of cars while some would like to continue and others want to stop and smell the roses, it could be closer to hell. If you’re able, maybe stick to the hiking trails and lighten up the car load on Howland Hill road.

A few miles upstream from the campground is a prime spot for a drop in on a raft … if the water is moving fast enough. We learned this the hard way and ended up walking a mile back to camp. This should be an obvious one, but if there is no current in the water, don’t try and go rafting.

Junior Rangers (for the kids)
I played awesome auntie and helped the kids get their Junior Ranger badges. Did you know kids can get Junior Ranger badges at every national and state park? Pretty rad. The (big) rangers give the little ones a workbook discussing all things of the specific area. Once they receive enough points, the workbook is turned in, an oath is taken to, “always keep learning,” and they receive Junior Ranger badges.

Miscellaneous Hikes
A small footbridge stands at the back of the campground. Follow this to the other side of the river to discover trailheads to various trails. Easy, moderate and difficult trails all begin here, so take your pick. I ran some, walked some and leisurely sauntered some—the variety is wide.

A two minute walk from camp brings you to a handful of prime fishing spots. Wake up early or wait until dusk to cast your line. Make sure you have a fishing permit!

Jedediah Smith State Park hosts an eclectic grouping of people but I see it most fit for families with children and large groups. #VanLife is very prevalent, so if you’re cruising through the area in your van, you will fit right in. The park has nice bathrooms, even showers you can pay for with quarters, just be sure to keep track of your time or you’ll end up soapy with no water left … a typical day in my life. Informational nature walks navigate the perimeter of the campground and nightly ranger programs are held near the visitor center. A perfect getaway that isn’t too far off the beaten path, Jedediah Smith State Park deserves a gathering of good people. Don’t forget to pick up after yourselves and after the rest of humanity, and adventure on.

    Ellen Baker

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    Rock scrambling, exploring and taking photos along the way.