October 2006: Smith River National Recreation Area


Eureka, California

The closest place to get your dog on the trail under redwoods is the Smith River National Recreation Area, located adjacent to Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. Established in 1990, the 305,000-acre park was created around Smith River, the last free-flowing river in California without a dam. Smith River is the largest Wild & Scenic River System in the United States - more than 300 miles have been so designated.

The marquee trail is the South Kelsey National Recreation Trail, the remnants of an historic transportation link between the Pacific Ocean at Crescent City and the gold mines in the Klamath River region. This is a long linear trail that leaves between Horse and Bucks creeks and follows the South Fork of the Smith River for seven miles before beginning an ascent to 5,775-foot Baldy Peak at the 13-mile mark. Campgrounds are available on the route, which continues another 15 miles into Klamath National Forest. Shorter day hikes with your dog are available throughout the recreation area. A walk of nearly two moderate miles on Craig's Creek Trail finds many redwood trees along the South Fork. The Myrtle Creek Trail is an interpretive hike along an old mining flume where miner Jim Slinkard once found a 47-ounce gold nugget the shape of an axe. Experienced canine hikers can tackle the Devil's Punchbowl Trail where switch-backs climb steeply to two postcard lakes tucked in the mountain peaks.

Are you seeking solitude, awe-inspiring views, a quiet haven away from crowds, or perhaps you've wondered what life would be like for a fire spotter in the Forest Service? While fire lookouts may be passing into history, they remain objects of interest for many people, both for their beautiful locations and the mystique surrounding existence in a high and remote site. Now you have an opportunity to feel for yourself what it's like to live in a fire lookout. The Six Rivers National Forest invites you to experience life at the top of Bear Basin Butte (elevation 5303') through rental of a historic fire lookout and a new 1930's style cabin. The Lookout and Pierson Cabin, rented as a pair, may be reserved for one to four nights between July 1 and September 30.

Headquarters for the Smith River National Recreation Area is in Gasquet on U.S. Highway 199.