The Hatton Trail is a very attractive hillside trail that starts at Highway 199 and climbs to a plateau with a bright ridgetop grove. The entire route is lined with old-growth redwoods. The biggest redwoods are at the beginning of the trail; as the trail climbs, the woods gradually change from lush, impressive lowlands to more mundane but still scenic uplands. If you’re persistent enough to push through the overgrown side trail to Lohse Grove, you’re rewarded with redwood grove that has an open, airy look typical of ridgetop stands.
The main drawback of this trail is the constant traffic noise, which rises and falls in volume but is almost always present. The trail has recently become somewhat poorly maintained; some sections have slumped and are rough due to exposed roots.
Typically for Jed Smith, on sunny days the woods are remarkably bright and filled with light, except for the dense, lush, jungle-like lowland at the beginning of the trail. There’s also a lot of variety in the redwoods and other plants that keeps the hike interesting.
Included in this hike is the Hatton Loop. Although heavily affected by traffic noise, the short loop has some spectacular lowland redwoods.
These trails, which used to get hardly any visitors, seem to be somewhat more popular now that the Simpson-Reed trailhead has been moved to a side road. A lot of people who are just driving by stop at the prominent trailhead pullout on Highway 199; while before everyone would hike the Simpson-Reed Trail, now some of them check out the Hatton Trail instead.
The trail begins in an overgrown, rainforest-like redwood grove. 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. There’s a small, open marsh to the left.
In a few hundred yards the trail begins to climb and the excessive lushness gives way to a rich redwood forest, with large, straight 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. A dense understory of tanoak and huckleberry partially hides the redwoods. The trail runs closer to Highway 199 and the noise of trucks roaring by intrudes on the hike; in places you can actually see the highway below.
Turn right onto the unmarked Lohse Grove Spur Trail. The spur trail is little-used and gets increasingly overgrown the further in you go; near the end it almost completely dispppears under dense huckleberry shrubs. If the foliage happens to be wet you’ll get soaked. However, Lohse Grove makes a great destination for the hike. Although the trees aren’t especially big, the light-filled grove with its many arrow-straight, light-barked trees is particularly attractive and much different from any of the woodland on the preceding miles of trail. There’s also very little traffic noise here. A grove dedication sign marks the end of the trail; an unofficial path continues a few yards further.
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 climbs a steep hillside, then descends and passes though a little cluster of impressive lowland redwoods amid lush vegetation. A short spur runs along the hillside to a view of a nice grove that’s unfortunately right next to busy Highway 199.
© 2007, 2012, 2017, 2021 David Baselt