Location & Directions
Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park is located nine miles east of Crescent City on Highway 199.
Seasons & Climate
Summer temperatures range from 45 - 85 degrees. Winter temps fluctuate from 30 - 60 degrees.
Annual rainfall can reach up to 100 inches from November through May.
About the Park
Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park is the last in a long string of redwood parks that stretch up Northern California's coast. A few miles inland from the ocean, the park is densely forested with huge ancient trees. In fact, it contains seven percent of all the old-growth redwoods left in the world. No roads or trails mark "Jed Smith's" core—just pure, primeval majesty.
The park was named for Jedediah Strong Smith, who in the 1820s became the first white man to explore the interior of northern California. The park was established in 1929 with a small parcel donated to Save the Redwoods League by the family of lumberman Frank Stout.
Today, you can fish, snorkel, or kayak in the Smith River, the longest major free-flowing river in California; take a historic drive on Howland Hill Road; enjoy a campfire program at Jedediah Smith Campground; or hike through a lush rainforest on 20 miles of trails. The 1936 film The Last of the Mohicans was filmed just upstream, in the Smith River National Recreation area.
“Thick redwood forest, banana slugs, a beautiful river, and pollywogs,” says Save the Redwoods League, which helped the state acquire more than 5,500 acres of redwoods here. “What more could you ask for?”
Before European contact, the lives of the Tolowa people, along with their neighbors the Yurok, Hupa, Karuk, and Chilula, were secure and well ordered. New settlers depleted natural resources, causing radical environmental changes and cultural conflict. European diseases to which the Tolowa had no immunity decreased their numbers, and many were sent to the reservation at what is now the Smith River. Part of the site of Camp Lincoln, built in 1862 as a buffer between the native people and the settlers, is located in the park. Tolowa descendants still live in northern California, and many continue to practice their traditions.
Who Was Jedediah Smith?
Jedediah Strong Smith was the first non-native known to have traveled overland from the Mississippi River across the Sierra Nevada to the Pacific coast. In 1821, at age 22, he came west and joined the fur-trapping party of General William Ashley. By late 1826, Smith and two partners had bought out General Ashley. Smith led his trappers across southern Utah, Nevada, Arizona, the Mojave Desert, and Cajon Pass to Mission San Gabriel, where they rested for two months.
When Mexican governor José María Echeandía ordered them to leave, Smith headed north into the San Joaquin Valley. In May 1827 he went to Utah to recruit more trappers, but as they re-crossed the Colorado River, the formerly friendly Mojave Indians attacked, killing 10 men. When Smith and his surviving men reached Mission San Jose, Smith was arrested and sent to Governor Echeandía in Monterey.
Again ordered out of the province, the party went north through the redwoods, reaching what is now called the Smith River in June 1828. Two years later, Smith and his partners sold their business and returned to St. Louis. In 1831, Smith felt the lure of the Santa Fe Trail. While seeking water during his last wagon train west, he was killed in a Comanche ambush along the Cimarron River.
Jedediah Smith’s wish was to be “the first to view a country on which the eyes of a white man had never gazed and to follow the course of rivers that run through a new land.” His reports on the geology and geography of the western territories appeared in newspapers of the day, and proved that the Sierra Nevada could be safely crossed to reach California. In a remarkably few years, his travels, observations, and notes filled in many blank spaces on the country’s map.
Saving the Redwoods
California’s redwood parks are monuments to those whose vision preserved them. In 1900, concerned citizens formed the Sempervirens Fund to help save the coast redwood groves at Big Basin near Santa Cruz, and Save the Redwoods League was formed in 1918.
The names of several memorial groves at Jedediah Smith reflect the generosity of lumbermen who donated them or preserved them until the League could purchase them. When the park was established in 1929, the Frank D. Stout Memorial Grove became its first dedicated grove. The 5,000-acre National Tribute Grove, dedicated to those who fought during World War II, was purchased largely with League funds.
In May 1994, Jedediah Smith Redwoods, Del Norte Coast Redwoods, and Prairie Creek Redwoods state parks joined with Redwood National Park in a cooperative management effort, forming Redwood National and State Parks. Today, the four parks’ combined 133,000 acres contain 45 percent of California’s old-growth redwood forest, an area of primeval splendor almost four times as big as Manhattan Island. These parks have been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and form a portion of the protected California Coast Ranges Biosphere Reserve.
Rules & Notifications
- Del Norte Coast Redwoods, Jedediah Smith Redwoods, and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Parks are the only parks in the California State Parks system that accept the Federal Access Pass discount.
- Don’t feed wildlife and keep your camp free of all traces of food.
- Store food in an animal-proof food locker.
- Place all your garbage in an animal-proof trash can.
- Howland Hill Road is gravel and not recommended for trailers.
Keep it Crumb Clean
Visitors are required to watch this short video about the impact human food has on park wildlife.
Science & Nature
California’s coast redwoods follow the fog and thrive at elevations below 2,000 feet, where heavy winter rains and moderate year-round temperatures occur. Trees can grow to 350 feet or more, with a base diameter of about 20 feet. Their root systems are broad and shallow, from only a few inches to 6 feet underground. They resist insects, fire, and rot. Their vigor in sprouting back when cut or badly burned is an important factor in their longevity. The oldest known tree has been around for more than 2,500 years.
Feathery ferns, redwood sorrel, salal, trillium, Douglas iris, and tiger lily grow in splendor beneath redwoods. Salmonberry, thimbleberry, and huckleberry provide wildlife forage, and acres of rhododendrons and azaleas bloom from April to June. The area’s warm climate encourages many other tree species—including western hemlock, Douglas-fir, big-leaf maple, red alder, California laurel, tanoak, madrone and Port Orford cedar—to share the redwood habitat.
Deer, gray and Douglas squirrels, raccoons, and redwood chipmunks are common park mammals. Bears and mountain lions are sometimes seen. A rare treat is the sight of an otter playing in the river or a beaver working in a deep pool.
The noisy Steller’s jay steals food from picnic tables and eggs from other birds' nests. Other local birds include American dippers, varied thrushes, and several species of woodpecker, with an occasional ruffed grouse, belted kingfisher, osprey, spotted owl, or marbled murrelet.
The marbled murrelet (Brachyramphus marmoratus) is known for its long commute. After spending the day fishing at sea, this chunky little auk returns, sometimes many miles inland, to nest in old-growth forests. Murrelets once numbered 60,000 along the California coast. Today, less than 6,000 remain. You can learn how to safeguard their remaining habitat by watching the "Crumb Clean" video on the park's home page.
Gooey-looking banana slugs (Ariolimax columbianus) range from California’s redwood forests to coastal British Columbia. Their color can range from bright yellow to greenish or brownish, depending on what they are eating, where they live, and how healthy they are. Some even have dark brown spots that help them hide on the forest floor. Up to eight inches long, banana slugs are the largest slugs in North America and the second-largest slugs in the world. The hole at the back of a slug’s head is its lung or “pulmonata.”
See more from our partners at the National Park Service about banana slugs and other invertebrates in coast redwood forests. Click here.
Scientists studying the effects of rising global temperatures in Jed Smith and other redwood parks have found that the size and longevity of these trees helps them store more climate-altering carbon dioxide than other plants. Even old redwoods continue to grow, each year adding more carbon-filled wood than smaller, younger trees. After redwoods die, their rot-resistant wood holds onto that carbon for a long time.
Redwoods cannot solve our climate problems all by themselves, but protecting redwoods and other forests is part of the climate-change solution.
Unlike the parkland around it, upper Mill Creek was logged for 100 years. In 2002, with the help of Save the Redwoods League and other funding partners, the state acquired 25,000 acres of this ravaged watershed, just upstream from Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. Today State Parks and the League are restoring that land. Both salmon and downstream redwoods should benefit, including spectacular Stout Grove. Read about it here.
For more information about nature and science in Redwood National and State Parks, go to the National Park Service website.
- McKinney, John, Day Hiker’s Guide to California Parks, The Trailmaster, 2007.
- Preston, Richard, The Wild Trees, Random House, 2008. The first chapter in Section 4, “Love in Zeus: The Lost Valley” describes a grueling 2-man search for champion trees in Jed Smith state park’s trail-less backcountry. Overall, Preston says, “The rainforest in Jed Smith state park is exceptionally dense, among the densest rainforests anywhere on earth, rivaling those of the jungle mountains of Peru and the fjords of southern Chile.”
- Rohde, Jerry and Gisela, Best Short Hikes in Redwood National and State Parks, The Mountaineers, 2004.
- Rohde, Jerry and Gisela, Redwood National & State Parks: Tales, Trails, and Auto Tours, MountainHome Books, 1994.