Smithe Redwoods State Natural Reserve

California > Southern Humboldt County

Smithe grove

Smithe Redwoods features a small but attractive grove of alluvial-flat redwoods. As in so many other groves, Highway 101 (which at this point is a twisty two-lane road) runs right through the old growth. If you're driving north from San Francisco, this is the first real grove of old-growth redwoods that you'll see from the freeway. There's a small pullout - no on or off ramps and no facilities of any kind, just a little paved area by the side of the road - which serves as a popular highway rest stop. From this lot you can stroll around the grove or scramble down to the Eel River, where you'll find a deep swimming hole.

The reserve doesn't have any trails, but you can freely walk around within the old-growth grove because the many visitors have worn away all the groundcover. The really big trees all seem to be right along the highway. Further in, the grove looks like a scaled-down version of Richardson Grove - the trees aren't that big, but it's a pure redwood grove, very open at ground level with straight stately trees emerging from the perfectly flat ground. The grove would be even more attractive if it had the usual ground cover of redwood sorrel and ferns. As you might expect, a constant roar of traffic fills the little flat.

There's supposedly a waterfall that you can see if you walk under the Dora Creek highway overpass, but at the moment you can't get there without swimming.

The grove used to be a resort called "Lane's Redwood Flat". Next to the parking lot is a redwood with a walk-through tunnel that used to serve as the entrance to the gift shop. About 20 yards into the grove is a second sawed-off redwood with a similar tunnel. Both redwoods, though still alive, are now sawed-off at a height of about 12 feet. In vintage postcards, the roadside tree was clearly not sawed-off (redwoods with big holes carved in them usually last only a few decades). There's no sign of the cabins or the "Redwood Novelties" store that used to be here.

Click here to see the reserve's location in Google Maps or in Google Street View.

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Vintage postcards from Lane's Redwood Flat

  • Lane's Flat Cabins. The large redwood with the goose-shaped sign on it is one of the walk-through trees, and is still present today.
  • Office
  • Ol' Swimmin Hole. Presumably the Eel River next to the redwood grove.

Smithe grove



© 2009 David Baselt