The Hiouchi Trail runs along the Smith River from Lohse Grove to Stout Grove. It features a superb grove just across the creek from Stout Grove. Otherwise, although there are a few small pockets of old growth redwoods along the way, the trail mostly passes through uninteresting mixed-species forest at the edge of the old growth.
In summer, the trail is easily reached from the Jed Smith campground by way of a seasonal footbridge across the Smith River, making it a convenient place for campers to take a walk.
Here’s the trailhead location in Google Maps.
Start from the Stout Grove parking lot. Walk through Stout Grove and cross Mill Creek to reach the start of the Hiouchi Tail. A small footbridge crosses the creek during the summer. The creek can easily be forded in the fall and spring, but in winter it’s sometimes too high to cross.
Another option is to hike the trail in the opposite direction by parking in a small pullout just before eastbound Highway 199 crosses the Smith River. This makes a nicer hike because it puts West Stout Grove at the end. This trailhead has become inexplicably popular in recent years, with four or five cars parked at it on nice weekends, even though pulling off and back onto Highway 199 is somewhat hazardous.
The eastern end of the trail is in a small but exceptionally attractive alluvial-flat redwood grove, which is actually the most scenic part of the trail. The flat and open grove has some very fine large redwoods, plus an understory of maples that turn yellow in the fall. The biggest trees are clustered around an opening that helps to illuminate the grove. In some ways I like this area even more than Stout Grove; it’s brighter and seems more stately, and unlike Stout Grove, which always has groups of people wandering around, almost no one comes here. If you’re hiking the trail from the other end, the grove makes a nice endpoint for the hike and is a striking contrast with the rest of the trail.
Leaving the grove, the trail quickly enters a much more mundane riverside redwood forest, with small trees and a dense understory of huckleberry. The trail rises and falls as it makes its way along a terrace above the river, near the edge of the forest canopy. The trail is somewhat rough and can be slow going.
The trail crosses two ravines where you get brief glimpses of Jed Smith’s magnificent old-growth forest, but otherwise the old growth is mostly hidden by the understory. Likewise, the river is mostly hidden by the woods, but there are a few good viewpoints. On the other side of the river, the gravel beaches adjacent to the campground are a popular spot for campers to hang out. A low hum of traffic noise emanates from Highway 199.
At about 1.5 miles, the trail briefly turns away from the river and enters old growth forest. Soon after, a side trail leads to a small beach. The main trail then leaves the old growth and begins to climb. The hum of Highway 199 becomes more of a roar, since the trail is now above and alongside the highway.
The next trail intersection marks the end of the Hiouchi Trail; although there aren’t any signs, the trail ahead as well as the trail to your right are both the Hatton Trail. To your right, the trail descends to Highway 199 trailhead, just west of the large bridge over the Smith River. Unless you’re parked there, skip this branch and instead continue straight ahead.
The trail pulls away from the river and, after cresting a small ridge, enters some very nice old-growth redwood upland. The change is really remarkable: for the past few miles the trail has run along the diminished edge of the redwood forest, and here it dives into a full-blown old-growth redwood grove. The hillside grove is open and is made up of tall, perfectly straight trees. After 0.3 miles, the trail reaches an intersection with an unmarked (and unmaintained) side trail to your left that climbs to Lohse Grove. This is the end of the hike; turn around and return the way you came to Stout Grove.
© 2009, 2014, 2020 David Baselt