by Mario Vaden
Hiouchi Trail follows the Smith River in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, opposite the water from the day use area and campground. Almost 365 days of the year, parking is available next to Hy. 199 where the bridge crosses over the river. Part of the year, it's available to park near Stout Grove if you can cross Mill Creek and if Howland Hill Rd. is open. But the Hy. 199 end is the most reliable access.
Although the first 1/4 mile doesn't scream old growth redwood trail, the character of the path grows, and the entire trek has what many redwood hikes lack altogether ... the sounds and intermittent view of the Smith River. You can hear the water most of the way, most of the year. The water can have a rich blue color that varies with sun and clouds. The color is from mineral rock farther upstream n the hills.
There are several seasonal brooks along the way which flow half the year or more. And Mill Creek at the far end where it meets Mill Creek trail flows all year. There is a gorgeous grove of huge redwoods at the Mill Creek end that feels like a smaller version or extension of Stout Grove .. and, Stout Grove can be reached by crossing Mill Creek in the summer or early autumn season.
Hiouchi Trail passes some massive boulders ... like 40 tons, 80 tons ... maybe even 200 tons.
Winter 2014, I wondered what the story was behind a giant boulder resting on the slope where it seems like it should not be resting. A boulder with that much size and weight should easily have kept rolling down to the Smith River. I believe the rock is a testimonial that a giant coast redwood used to stand there ... one big enough to have stopped it. Probably a 12 ft. to 14 ft. Coast Redwood ... but so long ago, it has fallen, decayed and disintegrated.
The giant boulder also told me more. Boulders don't grow out of the ground like redwoods, so there must be a source. I went up into the forest to look for it's point of origin, and found an 80 ft. cliff that I will call Ochenta Point. The rock face is 80 ft. high and the top had a thick wig of poison-oak, with various evergreens, Rhododendrons and California Bay growing all around it.
On the face of these boulders ... some of them ... grows Selaginalla, a plant that looks like moss, but isn't a moss. It can hang in strands 2 feet or longer.
Along the trail are mixed species including Madrone, Coast Redwood, Douglas Fir, Port Orford Cedar and others. I measured Rhododenron over 30 ft. tall ... those bloom approximately May / June.
On a scale of 1 to 10 ... it seems fair to give it a firm 5, but if you like rivers, maybe even 6. But completely pushing aside any rating, this is a really cool little trail. I've met some folks who say it's their favorite trail and that it feel ancient to them. With that feedback and unique aspects, including the sit-down lookout over the river, you can't really make a wrong choice on this one.
Photo: Rising up to Hiouch Trail next to Hy. 199