The Little Bald Hills Trail
Length 9.8 mi · Climbing 1600 ft
The Little Bald Hills Trail starts in the old-growth redwoods near Stout Grove and climbs to a pine-studded ridge. Along the way there's a nice variety of scenery, including some exceptionally lush fir groves. However, this isn't an old-growth trail, and even the old-growth redwoods at the trail's base can't compare with those in other parts of the park.
The trail has a lot of climbing but it's not especially steep or difficult, and the grade isn't quite as unrelenting as it looks from the elevation profile. This is the only trail in Jed Smith where mountain biking is allowed, and the trail is fairly popular with bicyclists, who sometimes barrel down the trail at high speed.
Click here to see the trailhead location in Google Maps.
The trail starts among extravagantly lush lowland redwoods but immediately leaves them behind as it starts to climb. The redwoods become much smaller and dense thickets of huckleberry shrubs line the trail, screening the views of the redwoods. Small Douglas-Fir trees, their trunks spotted with white lichens, grow among the redwoods.
Right at the end of the old growth, there's an area of pretty good-sized redwoods. As the old growth ends, there's a small sign to your right marking the historic boundary of the state park.
For the next mile or so the trail passes through a logged area, with numerous stumps among the small second-growth redwoods. Fortunately the logged area soon ends as the woods open up and the trail passes through a narrow band of scrub.
A bypass trail has been built around a Port-Orford-Ceder root rot infestation. The gravel-surfaced bypass runs through a bright and strikingly pure grove of Douglas-Fir, one of the more interesting parts of the trail. The trees are initially very small, but toward the top of the grove they increase a bit in size.
After the bypass trail rejoins the original alignment, the trail passes through some especially lush Douglas-Fir and redwood forest before reaching a spur trail to the backcountry camp. The backcountry camp is located at the edge of a field and the four sites are fairly well spaced out. Despite being labeled a primitive camp, on the official park map, there's a horse corral, running nonpotable water, and an outhouse.
Just after the camp, the woods open up and begin transitioning to meadow. The trail becomes less well-maintained and climbs onto the bald, which is actually more of a sparse pine forest. The hilltop is broad and flat, and with the trees all around there's no view to speak of, just a few brief glimpses of the hills to the south and, at one spot, a tiny glimpse of the ocean. The trail gently rises and falls, passing through a few little groves of pine trees. A few wildflowers dot the grassy hills in summer, and butterflies fly about. It's a quiet area that feels very remote.
For the recommended hike shown on the map above, turn around at the large wooden sign that marks the Redwood National Park boundary. However, it's also possible to hike or ride a 17.3 mile loop by continuing through the Smith River National Recreation Area and turning left onto the Paradise Trail to reach South Fork Road. After the park boundary, it's all downhill, but it isn't particularly scenic.
© 2011 David Baselt