The Hatton Trail is a very attractive route that starts across from the Simpson-Reed Trail and climbs a hillside high above Highway 199, leading to a plateau and a slightly anticlimactic memorial grove. The entire route is lined with old-growth redwoods set among a lush mixture of sorrel and ferns. Although it's all very scenic, the best redwoods are at the beginning of the trail; the trees gradually become less impressive as the trail climbs. The biggest drawback to this trail is the constant traffic noise, which rises and falls in volume but is almost always present.
Parts of the hike are remniscent of the Prairie Creek uplands, but there's a lot more variety here: for example, there are more kinds of groundcover plants and more of a change in the character of the forest as the hike progresses. Typically for Jed Smith, on sunny days the woods are remarkably bright and filled with light, except for the dense, lush, jungle-like woodland at the beginning of the trail.
Included in this hike is the Hatton Loop, a short loop across the road from the Simpson-Reed Trail. The Hatton Loop is less spectacular than the Hatton Trail or the Simpson-Reed Trail and is heavily affected by traffic noise.
The trail begins in an overgrown, rainforest-like redwood grove, much like the Simpson-Reed Trail across the street. Thick layers of moss cover all non-redwood trees (living redwoods shed their bark and don't accumulate moss), lichens drip from branches, and a riot of different plant species occupies the understory.
Within a few hundred yards the trail begins to climb and the excessive lushness gives way to a rich redwood forest, with huge trees in contrasting colors, some light and some dark, and a deep-green carpeting of five-finger and sword ferns. The trail winds around ravines, offering superb views of giant trees.
As the trail continues to climb, the forest becomes a bit more mundane; the redwoods are mostly small and have a very light greyish color, and the ferns seem to be lighter in color too. The trail runs closer to Highway 199 and the noise of trucks roaring by intrudes on the hike; you can actually see the highway below.
The Lohse Grove Spur Trail climbs to a plateau that hosts a light-filled, mixed redwood forest containing Douglas Fir and smaller redwoods with light-grey bark. This part of the hike is the most isolated from traffic noise and Lohse Grove itself is the only part of the hike with no traffic noise. The spur trail is little-used and heavily overgrown, especially near the end. If the foliage happens to be wet you'll get soaked. A grove dedication sign marks the end of the trail; an unofficial path continues a few yards further until it's blocked by a large fallen tree.
Although it isn't part of the recommended hike, after the Lohse Grove spur the Hatton Trail continues for another 0.3 miles before it ends at a T intersection with the Hiouchi Trail. Just before this intersection, the redwoods diminish greatly in size and attractiveness. The Hiouchi Trail itself is much less interesting than the Hatton Trail, running through an unimpressive band of forest at the edge of the old growth for much of its length.
The Hatton Loop branches off from the Hatton Trail near the trailhead. The short loop is less impressive than the main trail, climbing a hillside and offering some views of a group of big redwoods below before descending again. A short spur leads to a nice grove very near Highway 199.
© 2007, 2012 David Baselt