The trail is accessed off Howland Hill Road, which cuts deep into the heart of the Jedidiah Smith Redwoods and is by itself a lovely drive through quiet forests of big trees. Running from Crescent City to the Smith River off Hwy 199, the road is unpaved, a bit rough, and quite narrow. Pullouts allow cars to pass when they meet. This road also accesses the Stout Grove, which was the first grove to be dedicated back in 1929, and I saw numerous other side trails all along its length. I opted to travel east to west, because I wanted to enjoy the forest, see it all. If one is in a hurry, this trail is much closer to Crescent City on the western end.
One big tree after another!
Unlike other trails I've hiked lately, this one is so deep in the forest that unless other hikers are around, there are no sounds not produced by nature. Quiet, peaceful, utterly beautiful. It's also a bit rough in places -- lots of big roots to cross, very narrow in places, lots of ups and downs. Everything was also quite wet, and therefore slippery, even though it hasn't rained lately. I don't think these trails ever dry out completely, and that moisture is what makes these big babies happy. I wore my leather hiking boots for the first time in years, and I'm so glad I did -- would not have liked to try that trail in sneakers although some young folks passed me at some point literally running on the trail, so it's probably an age thing.
I can't tell you the distance to the big tree, but it's a good hike. All in all, with maybe a 15 minute stop at the tree for lunch and photos, I was on the trail for about three and a half hours. Finding the tree isn't all that easy, as I suggested above. Perhaps there is normally a sign off the main trail, but there wasn't one today. I was a little confused when I reached a trail angling uphill and to the right, wondering which way I was supposed to go, then memory from the first trip began filtering in. I knew the tree was a bit off the trail and to the right, but I didn't remember it was that far off the trail. If you try to find it, this is the only trail that angles off to the right, and it circles the tree.
According to Sullivan's book this tree is 20 feet thick, and I believe that is possible. Sorry I couldn't manage to include anything in the photo for scale and it's also not a great photo but it helps illustrate the tree. I used the self timer and took a self-portrait, arms spread and still looking miniscule, but ego prevents me from using it. This is a lovely and peaceful spot, with lots of room for sitting and looking at this wondrous tree, having lunch, or merely taking a rest.
I love that thick, shaggy bark with the moss on the north side. Still hard to see any scale, but those ferns are rather large, like the ones in other photos.