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Redwood grove makes good day-trip getaway

Vickie Aldous/Mail Tribune A visitor to the Stout Grove walks on a fallen tree through ferns and towering redwoods.
Stout Grove has an easy trail, towering trees

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park near the coast is a popular day-trip getaway for Rogue Valley residents fleeing summer heat and wildfire smoke, but many have never heard of the Stout Grove section of the park.

Stout Grove has towering 300-foot redwoods, but it’s quieter and more wild than more heavily trafficked parts of the park.

Over the years, trees have toppled in the grove. Kids and adults can climb onto the fallen giants, then use them like natural bridges to walk for hundreds of feet above shoulder-high ferns and redwood sorrel, which looks like a blanket of clover on the ground.

To reach Stout Grove, travel south of Grants Pass on Highway 199, also known as the Redwood Highway, toward Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. The trip takes roughly an hour-and-a-half from Grants Pass, or two hours and 15 minutes from Medford.

Before reaching the main entrance to the park, look for a bridge to the left and a sign for Stout Grove. Drive over the bridge along Douglas Park Drive, which becomes Howland Hills Road. The windy, narrow road will turn into a dirt road and you’ll likely see vehicles parked in different spots so people can enjoy the nearby Smith River and the trees.

Watch for a trailhead sign on the right that says, “River Trail.” The sign will also tell you that the Stout Grove is a half-mile down the trail, and that dogs, bikes and camping are not allowed in the grove.

There isn’t much parking near the trailhead, so most people park in pullouts along the narrow road, which isn’t suitable for RVs and trailers. There are no restrooms.

The Stout Grove trail leads into the trees, around a loop and back to the trailhead. The largest tree in the grove, called the Stout Tree, is on the loop. A wooden viewing platform was built around the tree in 2018 so visitors won’t hurt the tree’s bark and fragile root zone.

To extend the adventure, at the farthest part of the loop from the trailhead, look for a side trail that leads to the rocky banks of the Smith River.

You can walk across two pedestrian bridges to cross a creek and the Smith River to reach the main part of the Jedediah Smith Redwoods Park, which has campgrounds, picnic tables, restrooms and trash containers.

There is no parking fee at the Stout Grove trailhead. If you drive instead to the main part of the redwoods park, there is a $8 fee per vehicle.

To reverse directions and visit the Stout Grove from the main part of the park, park close to the Smith River, then walk to the left along the rocky bank around a large turn in the river until you see the pedestrian bridges leading you to the other side of the river and the Stout Grove.

Until about 2010, Stout Grove was little-known and little-visited, but it’s now very popular, according to the park website. “On most summer afternoons, the little parking lot now fills up, and parked cars overflow onto Howland Hill Road,” it says. “Fortunately there's plenty of parking on the road, and even at the busiest times it’s only about a 5-minute walk to the trailhead.”

You can extend your day trip or turn it into a weekend getaway by visiting beaches near Brookings or Gold Beach. Don’t make plans to return via Bear Camp Road, a slow, winding dirt road across rugged mountains that connects Gold Beach to the Grants Pass area.

The route is shorter based on miles, but the slow-going road has been made even slower by ongoing construction delays. The road closes in the fall because winter snow blocks the route.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.