Your Guide to Exploring Redwood National Park

This sizable national park in the far reaches of Northern California is actually a complex of one national park, Redwood National Park, and three state parks: Del Norte Coast Redwoods, Jedediah Smith Redwoods, and Prairie Creek Redwoods. All four are cooperatively managed by the National Park Service and the California State Parks system.

The combined Redwood National and State Parks (or RNSP) preserves nearly 139,000 acres of stunning natural landscapes, including old-growth forests that are home to 45% of all remaining coastal redwood old-growth forests (totally nearly 39,000 acres). Coastal redwood trees are the tallest and one of the most massive tree species on Earth. They are also usually considered to be some of the oldest (some are more than 1,000 years old).

In addition to the redwood forests, the four parks preserve other indigenous flora and fauna, including the Chinook salmon, northern spotted owl, Steller’s sea lion, and Roosevelt elk, many different cultural resources, large portions of rivers and streams, and over 35 miles of pristine Northern California coastline.

Redwood National and State Parks, or just Redwood National Park, is one of the best places (and sadly one of the last remaining places) to explore the massive and beautiful coastal redwood trees. And luckily, the park is home to numerous trails and adventures to help the adventurous traveler get out and explore them up close.

This adventure guide covers everything you need to know about Redwood National Park; including, how to get there, the best time to visit, where to stay, what to bring, what to see, and what trails to explore. So if you are planning a trip up to Northern California, then make sure to check out our in-depth Redwood National Park Guide below.

\\ Fast Facts About Redwood National and State Parks

YEAR ESTABLISHED: the national park was established in 1968, but it was combined with the three state parks in 1994.

LOCATION: in the Del Norte and Humboldt Counties in Northern California, USA

SIZE: 138,999 total acres

NUMBER OF ANNUAL VISITORS: 435,879 in 2021

COST TO ENTER REDWOOD NATIONAL AND STATE PARKS: free! Though you will have to pay to stay at the campgrounds (which is $35 a night).

IS REDWOOD NATIONAL AND STATE PARKS PET FRIENDLY: not really. You cannot bring dogs on any of the major hiking trails, but they are allowed on roads like Newton B. Drury Scenic Byway, especially when it is closed to cars.

BEST FOR: hiking, photography

REDWOOD NATIONAL AND STATE PARKS HISTORY

In the 1850s, old-growth redwood forests covered more than 2 million acres of the California coast. The northern portion of that area was originally inhabited by Native American groups (including the Yurok, Tolowa, and Karuk tribes) who had called the region home for thousands of years. Prior to Euro-American contact, Native Americans had adapted well to the abundant environment. This included using all resources available in a sustainable way: fallen redwoods for houses and boats, local wildlife for food, and the wide array of plants for medicine. Similarly, the local groups were spiritually connected to the forest. As one historian put it, “their lives were enmeshed in the very character and fabric of the trees.”

The Native groups lived in harmony with the trees until they were eventually forced out of their land by gold seekers and timber harvesters, which started to arrive in the mid-18th century. The outsiders needed the forest’s raw materials for their homes and commerce (logging followed the expansion of America, for companies were always struggling to keep up with the furious pace of progress). Soon enough, timber harvesting quickly became the top manufacturing industry in the American West.

For the most part, the felled redwoods were shipped out to both the southern region of California, where the population was quickly increasing due to the gold rush, and to rapidly growing metropolises like San Francisco. While in the beginning the logging was mostly done with hand tools, which was very tedious and took a lot of time, by the 1920s and 30s, advancements in technology (namely the development of chainsaws and tracked bulldozers) led to a massive increase in the rate of logging of redwood trees. Eventually, acres of ancient redwoods would be cut down in just a few days.

Luckily, a small group of people took notice and started lobbying to protect the remaining redwood groves. Founded in 1918, the Save the Redwoods League started working hard to preserve the few remaining old-growth redwoods. Their hard work resulted in the establishment of Prairie Creek Redwoods, Del Norte Coast Redwoods, and Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Parks (among others, including Humboldt Redwoods State Park, home to the famous Avenue of the Giants) in the early 1920s.

Redwood National Park was eventually created in 1968 — though by this time, nearly 95% of the original redwood trees had already been logged. The National Park Service and the California Department of Parks and Recreation combined Redwood National Park with the three abutting Redwood State Parks in 1994 for “the purpose of cooperative forest management and stabilization of forests and watersheds as a single unit.” Today, the rare ecosystem and cultural history found within the parks is a designated World Heritage Site, while the wider area (which includes the whole California Coast Ranges) is an International Biosphere Reserve.

Learn more about the history of the national park here.

REDWOOD NATIONAL AND STATE PARK VISITOR CENTERS

There are four visitor centers within Redwood National and State Parks: the Hiouchi Visitor Center, Jedediah Smith Visitor Center, Prairie Creek Visitor Center and the Thomas H. Kuchel Visitor Center. Likewise, there is also an information center in the town of Crescent City.

HIOUCHI VISITOR CENTER

This small visitor is the first one you come across if driving to the park from the north (mainly Oregon). The center is located along Highway 199 and just across the street from the Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park Campground. Here you can talk to staff about recommended hikes and drives, check out various exhibits (including ones on the park’s preservation history and important people), get your national park passport stamp, and eat lunch at one of the picnic tables.

🕝 HOURS: 9 AM — 5 PM between Spring and Fall, and 9 AM to 4 PM in the Winter (closed major holidays)

📌 LOCATION: Hiouchi, California, across the street from the Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park Campground

JEDEDIAH SMITH CAMPGROUND VISITOR CENTER

Located in the middle of the large Jedediah Smith Campground, this visitor center also has a couple of exhibits (mostly on the coast redwoods and local wildlife), restrooms, passport stamps, a small picnic area and nearby hiking trailheads. The visitor center can easily be walked to if you are staying at the campground already.

🕝 HOURS: open from mid-May to Labor Day (early September) from 9 AM to 5 PM

📌 LOCATION: 10 miles east of Crescent City, California in the Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park Campground

PRAIRIE CREEK VISITOR CENTER

Located in the heart of the redwoods, this visitor center can be reached off of Highway 101 and is a good place to stop if you are planning to drive the beautiful Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway. This visitor center, like the two above, also offers exhibits on the coastal redwood forests, the local wildlife and some of the area’s history. Similarly, here you can also peruse a small park bookstore, eat lunch at one of the picnic tables, or head out on one of the nearby hiking trails.

🕝 HOURS: 9 AM — 5 PM between Spring and Fall, and 9 AM to 4 PM in the Winter (closed major holidays); rangers may be present during the summer

📌 LOCATION: off of Highway 101 near the southern end of the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway and next door to the Elk Prairie Campground

THOMAS H. KUCHEL VISITOR CENTER

The final visitor center within Redwood National and State Parks is this visitor center that focuses more on the park’s coastal biomes. Inside you can find exhibits on the various watersheds and marine life, peruse a small bookstore, get your park passport stamp, eat at one of the picnic tables, head out on a nearby beach or talk to a ranger about one of the trails close by.

🕝 HOURS: 9 AM — 5 PM between Spring and Fall, and 9 AM to 4 PM in the Winter (closed major holidays)

📌 LOCATION: off of Highway 101 just south of Orick, California; this is the first visitor center you come across if driving to the park from San Francisco.

You also have the opportunity to stop in at the Crescent City Information Center, which is located in downtown Crescent City, California (the closest sizable city to the national park). Just like the four visitor centers above, this center offers a couple of exhibits, a bookstore, a picnic area, and park passport stamps. The information center is open 9 AM to 5 PM in the Spring, Summer and Fall. During the Winter it usually is either closed or has reduced hours.

You can find the exact location of this visitor center here.

REDWOOD NATIONAL PARK MAP

\\ When to Visit Redwood National and State Parks

The best time to visit Redwoods National and State Parks is going to be during the late spring and summer months. This includes any time between late April and August.

During this time of year, you can expect warmer temperatures and sunnier skies during the middle of the day (though fog is quite common in the morning). Also, this is when everything is open in the park — including campgrounds, visitor centers and trails/scenic drives. Likewise, between mid-spring and early summer, you have a good chance of spotting beautiful wildflowers in the park, especially bright pink and red rhododendron flowers.

💬 INSIDER TIP: while the summer months have the best weather, they are also the busiest. We highly recommend booking your lodging and getting your permits in advance if planning to visit between May and August.

\\ How to Get to Redwood National and State Parks

DRIVING DIRECTIONS TO REDWOOD NATIONAL AND STATE PARKS

There are no exact “entrances” to the park like you would find in other national parks (remember there is no entrance fee either). Instead, it is more like you enter the national park via one of the three state parks. If you are driving from the south (like from San Francisco or Oakland) then you will first reach the park by entering Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park near the Thomas H. Kuchel Visitor Center. If you are driving in from the north (like from Portland or Eugene in Oregon) then you will first reach the park by entering Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park near the Hiouchi Visitor Center.

FROM SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA TO REDWOOD NATIONAL AND STATE PARKS

It is approximately 312 miles from downtown San Francisco to the southern entrance of Redwoods National and State Parks (the Thomas H. Kuchel Visitor Center). This drive can take anywhere from 5.5 hours to 6 hours depending on traffic.

The entire drive between San Francisco and Redwoods National Park is going to be along Highway 101, which you can easily pick up in San Francisco by the famous Golden Gate Bridge. Along the way, you have the opportunity to stop off in such places as Healdsburg and Geyserville, which are known for their beautiful wineries, and Leggett, which is home to one of the few remaining drive-thru redwood trees.

💬 INSIDER TIP: if you are planning to fly to California and then drive up to Redwoods National and State Parks, then we suggest booking a flight into San Francisco International Airport (SFO). From the airport, it is easy to rent a car and hop on Highway 101. Plus, then you get to drive over the famous Golden Gate Bridge!

FROM PORTLAND, OREGON TO REDWOOD NATIONAL AND STATE PARKS

It is approximately 318 miles from Portland to the northern entrance of Redwoods National and State Parks (near the Hiouchi Visitor Center on Highway 199). This drive can take anywhere from 5.5 hours to 6 hours depending on traffic and road construction.

Most of this drive will be spent on Interstate 5 (until the town of Grants Pass) and Highway 199, which follows the beautiful Smith River. Along the way, you have the opportunity to stop off in such places as Salem and Eugene, Oregon, Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve, and the Smith River Recreation Area.

DISTANCES FROM OTHER NEARBY NATIONAL PARKS

Crater Lake National Park to Redwoods National Park (the Hiouchi Visitor Center) | 3.5 hours // 166 miles (267 kilometers)

Yosemite National Park to Redwoods National Park (from the Thomas H. Kuchel Visitor Center) | just over 9 hours // 495 miles (796 kilometers)

Sequoia National Park to Redwoods National Park (from the Thomas H. Kuchel Visitor Center) | 9.5 hours // 565 miles

(909 kilometers)

Lassen Volcanic National Park to Redwoods National Park (from the Thomas H. Kuchel Visitor Center) | just over 4 hours // 213 miles (342 kilometers)

➳ If you are looking to learn more about the best things to see and do while road tripping to Redwood National and State Parks, then we highly recommend checking out Roadtrippers. This easy-to-use app shows you all of the best places to eat, sleep, and explore while out on the open road. You can check the site out for yourself here.

✈️ OTHER TRAVEL OPTIONS FOR REACHING REDWOOD NATIONAL AND STATE PARKS

While driving is by far the most straightforward and easiest way to reach this national park, it is not your only option. Below are a few other modes of transportation available to you — though be prepared for a bit more of an adventure and a bit more time spent on the journey.

BY PLANE

While we already mentioned that San Francisco, California was the closest major international airport to the national park, it is not your only option. Other nearby airports include the Rogue Valley International Medford Airport, which has flights from Denver, Seattle, Portland, Salt Lake City and Las Vegas and is only about 2 hours from Redwood National Park (the airport is located in the town of Medford, Oregon); and the Arcata-Eureka Airport, which has flights from Denver, Phoenix, LA and San Francisco and is only a short 40 minutes from the southern entrance of Redwood National Park.

One thing to consider is that, while these airports are quite a bit closer than San Francisco, they will likely be a bit more expensive to fly into. Plus, it will also be harder to rent a car there than at SFO.

BY TRAIN & BUS

If planes and cars aren’t your thing, then you are in luck (sort of) for you also have the option to take public ground transportation to the park. To do this, you will need to take an Amtrak train to the town of Klamath Falls, Oregon, which is roughly 180 miles away from the national park, and then take a bus from there up to Crescent City, California. The Amtrak system does run a bus between Klamath Falls and Crescent City. You can learn more about the route — and even more stunning train rides — on the Amtrak website.

GETTING AROUND REDWOOD NATIONAL AND STATE PARKS

Because the park is really made up of a complex of three state parks and one national park, it takes a bit of time to explore all of the different areas. That is why you definitely will want some form of private transportation with you when exploring the park for there is NO national park shuttle.

We recommend either driving up to the national park with your own vehicle (a regular car or a van) or renting one in either San Francisco, Portland or Crescent City.

Just to give you an idea of some of the distances between major points of interest in the national park: it is approximately 55 miles between the Stout Grove Trail and Lady Bird Johnson Grove Trail (both very popular short hikes) and 51 miles between the far southern point (the Thomas H. Kuchel Visitor Center) and the Jedediah Smith Campground, which is located in the far north of the park.

💬 INSIDER TIP: having a bike with you on your trip could also be a lot of fun. There are numerous roads that are open to biking; including, the very scenic Howland Hill Road and the Coastal Drive. You can learn more about biking in Redwood National Park here.

\\ What Does it Cost to Enter Redwood National and State Parks

It is totally free to enter Redwood National and State Parks, but you will have to pay day-use fees at the state park established campgrounds. Similarly, if you are planning to drive to Gold Bluffs Beach or Fern Canyon you will have to pay an entrance fee. But, if you have the federal America the Beautiful Annual Pass all fees will be waived (except the nightly cost to stay at the campgrounds).

You can learn more about the park’s entrance fee system here.

🎟 PURCHASE YOUR AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL ANNUAL PASS

While you do not have to pay to enter Redwood National Park, if you are thinking of visiting other national parks within the USA then we highly recommend purchasing the America the Beautiful Annual Pass. This pass, which costs $80 and is good for 365 days, gets you into over 2,000 federally protected areas; including, national parks and monuments, national historic parks and national wildlife refuges.

You can learn more about the annual pass and purchase it for yourself here.

\\ Where to Stay in Redwood National and State Parks

Because Redwood National and State Parks is within a short drive of a number of small Northern California towns, you can find a fair amount of lodging options available depending on your budget. From cozy hotels to stunning campgrounds nestled into the redwoods themselves to RV parks within a short walk of the beach, this area has a lot to offer. Below are some of the best places to stay near Redwood National Park.

LODGING NEAR REDWOOD NATIONAL AND STATE PARKS

There are no lodges within the national or state parks. The closest towns with optimal lodging are going to be Klamath, which is located in the middle of the national park between Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park and Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park; Crescent City, which is roughly 10 minutes away from Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park; and Eureka, which is around 45 minutes south of the southern entrance to the national park.

Below are a few of the best options when it comes to booking lodging near Redwood National and State Parks.

| Anchor Beach Inn: this modern hotel in Crescent City sits right across the street from South Beach and just up the road from Crescent Harbor. The hotel offers free parking, electrical vehicle chargers, high-speed internet, and water sports equipment rentals. | BOOK YOUR STAY

| Pacific Inn: another great option in the Crescent City area is this comfortable hotel that is located right in the heart of downtown. Amenities include free parking, free wi-fi, and in-room microwaves and refrigerators. The hotel is also dog friendly. | BOOK YOUR STAY

| Curly Redwood Lodge: with a funky name like that, you have to know there is an interesting story behind it. In this case, the name actually comes from the fact that one curly redwood tree was used to build the hotel (it produced over 55,000 feet of lumber!). Amenities at this Crescent City hotel include free parking, free wi-fi, and a 24-hour front desk. | BOOK YOUR STAY

| Woodland Villa Country Cabins: located in the middle of the small town of Klamath, which in turn is located in the heart of Redwood National and State Parks, this cool resort offers 12 individual cabins as well as a small restaurant, coffee shop and market. Other amenities include free parking and kid-friendly activities. The cabins are only half a mile from the Trees of Mystery (an outdoor amusement-style destination) and less than two miles from the Yurok Loop Trail and Wilson Creek Beach. | BOOK YOUR STAY

| Hiouchi Motel: this small locally-owned motel is located in the tiny town of Hiouchi, which is a very short drive from the Jedediah Smith Redwoods National Park and the entrance to the Howland Hill Road. Amenities include free parking, free breakfast and wi-fi. | BOOK YOUR STAY

CAMPING IN REDWOOD NATIONAL AND STATE PARKS

There are four developed campgrounds within the parks. From north to south, they are Jedediah Smith, Mill Creek, Elk Prairie and Gold Bluffs Beach. All four campgrounds can quickly fill up — especially during the busy spring and summer season. Therefore it is highly recommended that you reserve your campsite in advance. You can do that here or head to reservecalifornia.com for more information.

Below is a quick breakdown of each of the four established campgrounds within the national and state parks:

JEDEDIAH SMITH CAMPGROUND

This large campground is located within Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. From the campground, you have easy access to the Stout Grove Trailhead, the Hiouchi Visitor Center, the Hiouchi Trailhead and the Templeman Redwood Grove.

Cost: $35 /night

Number of Sites: 86, no RV hook-ups

Hours: open year-round

Facilities: hot showers, ADA-accessible restrooms, dump station, picnic tables, fire pits, food lockers, and trash bins.

Find the exact location of the Jedediah Smith Campground here.

MILL CREEK CAMPGROUND

Located a bit further south in Del Norte Redwoods State Park, the Mill Creek Campground is quite a bit larger than Jedediah Smith Campground. It is also a bit closer to the town of Crescent City as well as to a couple of beaches (including Crescent Beach).

Cost: $35 /night

Number of Sites: 145, no RV hook-ups

Hours: the campground is open May 18 through September 30

Facilities: hot showers, ADA-accessible restrooms, dump station, picnic tables, fire pits, food lockers, and trash bins.

Find the exact location of the Mill Creek Campground here.

ELK PRAIRIE CAMPGROUND

A bit smaller than the other two campgrounds, the Elk Prairie Campground is located in the more southern part of the park and is likely the best option if you are hoping to head out on hiking and biking trails directly from the campground. Similarly, this is also where you might have the best opportunity to spot Roosevelt elk and other wildlife.

Cost: $35 /night

Number of Sites: 75, no RV hook-ups

Hours: open year-round

Facilities: hot showers, ADA-accessible restrooms, dump station, picnic tables, fire pits, food lockers, and trash bins.

Find the exact location of the Elk Prairie Campground here.

GOLD BLUFFS BEACH CAMPGROUND

The smallest of the four campgrounds, and also maybe the most remote (you have to take an unpaved road to reach it), the Gold Bluffs Beach Campground is the only one not within a large forested environment. Instead, you are right on the Gold Bluffs Beach as well as the beautiful California Coastal Trail.

Cost: $35 /night

Number of Sites: 26, no RV hook-ups

Hours: it is typically open all year (though check beforehand)

Facilities: solar showers, restrooms, wind shelters, picnic tables, fire pits, food lockers, and trash receptacles.

Find the exact location of the Gold Bluffs Beach Campground here.

BACKCOUNTRY CAMPING IN REDWOOD NATIONAL AND STATE PARKS

If you are looking for a bit more adventure or if you just want to get away from people and instead get back to nature, then maybe consider reserving one of the national parks 7 backcountry campsites.

The sites, which can be reached via foot (backpacking), bike, horse, or raft, are located in such environments as old-growth redwood forests, oak woodlands, beaches, prairies, and marshes. While there are only 7 designated campsites, many of them have multiple camps. No matter which site you choose to camp in, you will need to first get a backcountry permit — which is now only available online.

You can learn more about each campsite — including how to get there and what to expect — and also reserve your permit here.

CAMPING OUTSIDE OF REDWOOD NATIONAL AND STATE PARKS

If you are hoping to camp or spend the night outside of the national park — either because the park is full or you need RV hook-ups (the national park campgrounds don’t have any) — then we recommend checking out these three spots. All are within a short drive (or walk, or bike ride) of the park’s many outdoor adventures, including hiking trails, redwood groves and beaches.

Below are some of the best RV parks and campgrounds near Redwood National Park:

| Camp Klamath RV Park and Campground: located right on the edge of the town of Klamath (which is in the middle of the national park), this cute, family-run RV park and campground includes full hook-up RV sites, a large picnic and BBQ area, and easy access to the coast and beaches. | BOOK YOUR STAY

| Golden Bear RV Resort: just up the road a little ways from Camp Klamath is another fantastic spot to base yourself if you are looking to stay in your RV near the national park. The Gold Bear RV Resort is a bit closer to the mouth of the Klamath River and within a short drive of the Klamath River Overlook and the California Coastal Trail. The resort includes free internet, self-serve laundry and is pet friendly. | BOOK YOUR STAY

| Redwood Meadows RV Resort: this more northern RV resort and campground is located super close to Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park and its numerous trails. Likewise, the resort is right in the heart of the small town of Hiouchi, which has a few restaurants and cafes and a small grocery store. Within a short drive or walk you can reach the Smith River, the Grove of the Titans and Stout Grove. | BOOK YOUR STAY

\\ What to Bring With You to Redwood National and State Parks

The weather in Redwood National Park is often times a bit on the chillier side — though in the summer, during the day, it can sometimes start to heat up just a bit, especially if you are out hiking. Therefore, we recommend focusing on packing layers when planning to visit Redwood National Park. That way you can be cozy during the chillier, foggy mornings and then easily switch to more lightweight and breathable clothing once the sun starts to shine.

Below are a few of the key things you will want to make sure to pack with you when visiting Redwood National Park and the surrounding area.

| Thermal Base Layers: a great way to start your layering process is to invest in a set of nice, comfortable, wicking base layers. This long-sleeved shirt works great on its own and also under a rain jacket or light puffy, while these cozy tights are perfect under a light set of hiking pants.

| Rain Jacket: one of the most necessary outdoor items you will want to pack with you when visiting Redwood National Park is a solid rain jacket. This piece of clothing will likely come in super handy if you are planning to do any morning adventures, for that is when rain and fog are most common. This longer rain jacket by Kuhl is breathable and easy to move around in.

| Light Puffy Jacket: while a rain jacket is a great place to start, you will also want to bring along a lighter puffy jacket for those chilly mornings, and those evenings spent around the fire. This puffy by Mountain Hardwear packs down easily, is made of durable recycled materials and has synthetic insulation that delivers lightweight warmth even when wet.

| Waterproof Hiking Boots: while most of the trails within Redwood National Park are quite short, there are still enough adventures to be had that you will definitely want to bring along some solid waterproof hiking shoes. This mostly leather pair by Danner is comfortable, lightweight and has great gripping abilities for when you are hiking on wetter surfaces.

| Wool Socks: because it never gets super, super cold up in Redwood National Park, you can actually get away with wearing a bit lighter pair of hiking socks. This pair by Icebreaker is made out of a Merino wool blend that helps regulate temps and repels unwanted odors. It also has a reinforced heel and toe area to enhance durability for extensive wear (because no one likes wearing socks with holes in them).

| Sunscreen and Bug Spray: while you might expect very little sun out in the redwoods, you will likely be surprised to find that in the summer it can get quite bright out. But honestly, no matter where you are planning to hike, it is important to protect your skin by always wearing sunscreen. This eco-friendly sunscreen by Badger is perfect for storing in your backpack or car.

Also, the mosquitos are no joke up in the redwoods so definitely make sure to bring along at least one bottle of bug spray. This one by Murphy’s Naturals is made entirely from all-natural ingredients and also repels ticks.

| Hiking Fanny Pack: if you are just looking to do the shorter hikes around Redwood National Park (which mostly take you through massive coastal redwood groves) then you can get away with just a lightweight fanny pack. This durable and easy to carry one by Patagonia is 5L in size — which is definitely plenty of room for your phone, keys, Chapstick and maybe some bug spray.

| Hiking Day Pack: but if you are instead thinking about heading out on a couple of longer hikes while in Redwood National and State Parks then you will want a bit more carrying capacity than 5 liters. This 15-liter backpack by Osprey is lightweight, has comfortable straps and even has a specific spot for your water bladder.

➳ You can find even more awesome outdoor adventure gear at Backcountry.com.

THE TOP 8 THINGS TO DO IN REDWOOD NATIONAL AND STATE PARKS

This list includes 8 of the best things to do within Redwood National and State Parks. The list goes in order from the southern end of the park to the northern end near Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park.

❔ GOOD TO KNOW: a common question about Redwood National and State Parks is where the famous drive-through tree is. Unfortunately, there aren’t any within the national park. In fact, there are only three remaining coast redwood drive-through trees: one in Myers Flat (near Avenue of the Giants), one near the town of Leggett, and one in Klamath. The closest one to Redwood National State Parks is going to be the one in Klamath. Known as the Klamath Tour Thru Tree, this touristy spot is just 13 miles north of the Prairie Creek Visitor Center.

1 | Bald Hills Road

One of the first ways to get a sense of the beauty and landscape of Redwood National and State Parks is to head out on this 17-mile (one-way) drive located on the far southern end of the park. Along Bald Hills Road, which is mostly unpaved, you can stop off and explore Lady Bird Johnson Grove and Tall Trees Grove, both of which are home to some truly massive coast redwood trees. Once you pass through the redwood forest, you will pop out onto a wide open plain that is a popular spot to see Roosevelt elk and, if you are really lucky, a black bear. Also, in the springtime, this area of the park is usually covered in wildflowers, including bright purple lupine flowers.

HOW TO GET TO BALD HILLS ROAD

The entrance to the drive is about 1 mile north of the town of Orick. There is a sign designating which turn to take. If you do the whole 17-mile drive out, it will eventually lead you past a couple of historic ranches and towards Highway 169 near the town of Weitchpec.

2 | Lady Bird Johnson Grove

If planning to drive up Bald Hills Road, then you should definitely make sure to put aside some time to check out the beautiful and historic Lady Bird Johnson Grove.

This 1.5-mile loop trail is situated at the dedication site of Redwood National Park. The name actually comes from the dedication of the trail by former US President Richard Nixon in honor of former first lady Lady Bird Johnson for her tireless work for environmental conservation. Today, the trail includes clear examples of what a second-growth forest looks like compared to an old-growth forest (you can actually feel and hear a difference — it is kind of wild) as well as a few interesting interpretive signs about specific points along the hike.

During the springtime, this is a great hike to head out on if you want to see blooming azaleas and rhododendrons, while in the summer there are daily ranger-led hikes (perfect if you want to learn more about the park’s history).

HOW TO GET TO LADY BIRD JOHNSON GROVE

The easiest way to get to this historic redwood grove is to drive 2 miles up Bald Hills Road. The trailhead and parking lot are on the left side of the road and will be clearly marked. The parking lot is rather small, so RVs and trailers are not allowed.

Other hiking trails nearby include Redwood Creek Trailhead, which is a great area to go backpacking in Redwood National Park, and Tall Trees Grove (which does require an online permit, get yours here).

3 | Fern Canyon

By far one of the most popular trails within the park is this easy 1.1-mile loop near the coast. And for good reason — Fern Canyon is beautiful.

Most of the Fern Canyon hike is through a narrow, wet canyon covered in vibrant green ferns — some of which are direct descendants of plants that lived millions of years ago. While you won’t see any massive redwood trees here, you will still get a great idea of the insane natural beauty that this park protects. Plus, this is a great way to explore the park’s coastline — including Gold Bluffs Beach.

To reach the trailhead, you will need to drive down Gold Bluffs Beach Road/Davison Road, which can be picked up right off of Highway 101. But be aware that this road is unpaved and is not suitable for larger vehicles like RVs and trailers.

Likewise, during the busy summer months (May through September) you will need to get a parking permit to drive to the Fern Canyon Trailhead. You have to get your permit ahead of time online. Besides the permit, you will also need to pay a $12 fee for Gold Bluffs Beach Day-Use area (where the trailhead is). That is unless you have the America the Beautiful Annual Pass or a California State Park Pass (either pass gets you in for free). You can learn more about the permitting process (and reserve yours) here.

💬INSIDER TIP: the Fern Canyon trail is through a wet canyon, therefore it is a good idea to wear shoes that you don’t mind getting wet and that have good grip. Also, if you want to hike through Fern Canyon but either can’t get a permit or if you want to do a bigger hike than the 1.1-mile loop, then consider hiking from the Prairie Creek Visitor Center to the canyon. This hike is 11-miles round-trip.

4 | Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway

Located in the heart of Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, the most southern of the three state parks in the Redwood National Park complex is this uber-scenic road that gently takes visitors past thousands of acres of old-growth redwood forests. Along the way, you have the chance to stop off and hike at a number of trails — including the 1.8-mile Ossagon Trail, which can be hiked or biked, the 4-mile Ten Taypo-Hope Creek Loop trail, which follows a stream through massive redwood groves, the 4-mile long Karl Knapp/Prairie Creek Trail, which follows the crystal-clear Prairie Creek, and Circle Tree trail, which — though short (only 0.2 miles total) — is still a great way to enter a dense redwood forest and experience the insanely lush environment (it also gives you access to the Big Tree, which as the name would suggest, is one of the biggest trees in the state park).

The Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway is around 11 miles long and can take anywhere from 20 minutes to a couple of hours to drive completely. Besides the few hiking trails along the route, you can also stop off and see the Atlas Grove, and Corkscrew Tree, check out the Prairie Creek State Park Visitor Center and start another scenic drive along the Coastal Drive.

❔ GOOD TO KNOW: besides driving the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway you also have the opportunity to bike it. In fact, between November and May, the road closes to vehicles on the first Saturday of each month. Known as Bike and Hike Day, this is the best time to explore the scenic parkway by foot, bike, or with your pet.

HOW TO GET TO THE NEWTON B. DRURY SCENIC PARKWAY

You can start the drive along Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway either by exiting Highway 101 at Exit 765 or 753. The southern entrance is very close to the Prairie Creek State Park Visitor Center and Elk Prairie Campground, while the northern entrance is just five miles south of the town of Klamath.

5 | Klamath River Overlook

Offering magnificent views of the mouth of the Klamath River — the second largest river in California — and the Pacific Ocean, the Klamath River Overlook is a great spot to head to if you want to explore a bit more of the coastal side of the national park, spend some time looking for birds and marine life (including migrating whales and seals), or if you just want the perfect spot to picnic during sunset.

This picnic area is also one of the trailheads for the California Coastal Trail. From the Klamath River Overlook you can head out on the Coastal Trail towards the Lagoon Creek Day Use Area and nearby Wilson Creek Beach.

HOW TO GET TO THE KLAMATH RIVER OVERLOOK

To reach the Klamath River Overlook, you will need to turn off Highway 101 onto Patrick J. Murphy Memorial Road, which is located just north of the town of Klamath. Once on Patrick J. Murphy Memorial Road you will drive around 2.5 miles until you get to the Overlook.

6 | Endert’s Beach and Crescent Beach Overlook

Another great spot to head to for some coastal adventures is Endert’s Beach and the Crescent Beach Overlook. Both spots are located along Endert’s Beach Road which can be picked up off of Highway 101 near the town of Crescent City. Endert’s Beach specifically, is a great spot to do a bit of tide pooling and whale watching. Plus, this is another trailhead for the California Coastal Trail, meaning from the beach you walk to Crescent Beach to the north or down south to Nickel Creek (and beyond).

HOW TO GET TO ENDERT’S BEACH AND CRESCENT BEACH OVERLOOK

It is really easy to reach both Endert’s Beach and the Crescent Beach Overlook from Highway 101. If coming from the south, the turn off will be on the left side of the road right before you get to Crescent City. While if you are coming down from the north (like from Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park) you will either turn right onto the road once you leave Crescent City or if you are going the backway along Humboldt Road (which is the route we took), then it will be just across the street from the Humboldt Road and Highway 101 intersection.

7 | Howland Hill Road

Traversing the heart of the Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, the Howland Hill Road is by far one of the most scenic routes in the entire Redwood National Park. The road, though only 10 miles in total length, gives you a super up-close view of some of the park’s most beautiful coastal redwood forests — and that’s just if you stay in your car! For an even better view, we recommend pulling over and hiking one of the many trails that split off from the scenic road. This includes the Mill Creek Trail, which wanders through an old-growth forest and along the Mill Creek stream (where you can sometimes see Chinook salmon) and out to the famous Grove of Titans, where you can wander around some of the largest coast redwood trees in the area, the Boy Scout Tree Trail, which is 2.8 miles long (one-way) and gives you the chance to see Fern Falls and Boy Scout Tree (a double redwood), and the Nickerson Ranch Trail, which is a short hike that gives you an awesome view of a primeval redwood forest.

Howland Hill Road is entirely unpaved and quite narrow. Only regular sized vehicles or bikes should be ridden on it (large trucks, RVs and trailers are not allowed). And even then you should be prepared for some tight squeezes. The park recommends putting aside between 1 hour and 1.5 hours to drive the road — though as always, the more time you spend somewhere the better!

HOW TO GET TO HOWLAND HILL ROAD

If you are driving towards Howland Hill Road from the south (aka driving up towards Crescent City on Highway 101) then the easiest way to reach the start of the scenic drive’s southern entrance is to turn onto Humboldt Road right before you reach the city limits (exact location). Keep driving up Humboldt Road until you get to Howland Hill Road. Turn right and keep driving until it turns to dirt (about half a mile later).

If you are instead driving in from the north, then you will need to turn left onto South Fork Road from Highway 199 (near Myrtle Beach) and then drive up until you cross the Smith River and see Douglas Park Drive on your right. Turn there and keep driving until it turns into Howland Hill Road and becomes dirt. Along the drive, you will also get the chance to go through a historic wooden covered bridge.

8 | Stout Memorial Grove

The final thing you definitely need to do while visiting Redwood National and State Park is to explore this beautiful coast redwood grove. The Stout Memorial Grove, which is around 44 acres in size, is often considered to be the heart of Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park and for good reason.

The grove loop trail, which is only 0.5 miles in length, gives you the chance to take in numerous 300-foot redwood trees as well as take in the mighty Smith River, which is one of the last undammed rivers in all of California. Also, because of the closeness of the river, this grove has fewer understory trees and plants — meaning the massive redwoods are easier to see and admire.

To reach the Stout Memorial Grove, you can either drive a short way along Howland Hill Road until you get to the trailhead or, if it is summertime, you can park at the Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park Campground Day-Use Area (you may need to pay an $8 day-use fee) and walk towards the Smith River and across a summer hiking bridge to the grove. Though the latter option is not always available and should be confirmed as accessible beforehand.

HOW TO GET TO THE STOUT MEMORIAL GROVE

The Stout Memorial Grove can be easily accessed either from the Jedediah Smith Redwoods Campground Day-Use Area in the summer or from Howland Hill Road year-round.

\\ Top Hikes and Adventures in Redwood National and State Parks

There are over two hundred miles of trails within Redwood National and State Parks. All of the hikes will be beautiful and amazing — so if you are stressing about doing the “perfect” hike, don’t. They are all fantastic. Below are a few worth considering depending on your time requirements and fitness level.

SHORTER TRAILS

| Simpson-Reed Trail // 1-mile loop — this easier trail takes you through an ancient forest where you can walk amongst 1,000+ year-old redwoods. Besides numerous redwood trees, you can also spot huckleberry bushes, various ferns, and even animals like rough-skinned newts and red-legged frogs.

Location: Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park

| Hiouchi Trail // 2 miles — another great hike in the Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park is this slightly longer trail along the beautiful turquoise Smith River. The trail passes old-growth redwoods as well as plants such as Douglas-firs, tanoak, huckleberry and thimbleberry.

Location: Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park

| Endert’s Beach (via the Coastal Trail) // 0.6 miles — this coastal trail rewards you with great views of the Pacific Ocean as well as the opportunity to check out some tide pools. Likewise, there are interpretive signs along the way that help you learn more about the coastal forests and the various tidepool creatures.

Location: Redwood National Park

| Yurok Loop Trail // 1-mile loop — another coastal trail is this short 1-mile loop hike that gives you the opportunity to look for various seabirds that often nest on the nearby seastacks (rock structures). Commonly spotted birds include cormorants, brown pelicans and common murres. Likewise, you can also see False Klamath Cove and Lagoon Creek from the trail.

Location: Redwood National Park

| Ossagon Trail // 1.8 miles — this trail, which is actually along an old road, takes visitors through dense second-growth forest and out to a more secluded stretch of beach. The trail is open to both hikers and bikers.

Location: Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park and Redwood National Park

| Friendship Ridge Trail // 3 miles — this trail, though a bit steeper than most (switchbacks are present), is a great spot to look for the park’s resident Roosevelt elk. It also takes you from a dense redwood forest nearly all the way down to the coast. This trail can also be combined with other trails for a full-day adventure.

Location: Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

| Clintonia Trail // 1 mile — the trail’s name comes from the bright pink-ish colored flowers that bloom in the spring. The hike, though short, can be combined with others in the area for a full day of exploring.

Location: Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

LONGER HIKES

| Rellim Ridge Trail to Mill Creek Loop // 10.2 mile loop — this strenuous hike climbs up through dense forest to a private vista point that overlooks the Crescent City Harbor and beyond. The hike can be reached near the west end of Howland Hill Road.

Location: Del Norte Coast Redwood State Park

| Rhododendron Trail // 11.4 miles total — if visiting Redwood National and State Parks during the spring or early summer time, then this trail should be high on your list. During that time of year, the usually green forest becomes dotted with vibrant pink and red flowers. This is a popular trail with photographers, so consider coming early if you want to see the blooms by yourself.

Location: Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

| James Irvine Trail // 10.4 miles total — this out and back trail starts near the Prairie Creek Visitor Center before heading west through some stunning old-growth forests. One of the best parts about this trail is that at the end you reach the stunning Fern Canyon. This is a great option if you can’t get a permit for Fern Canyon or if you want to see the world-famous spot, but also want to explore some magical redwood groves.

Location: Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

| Lost Man Creek Trail // 10.7 miles one-way — this long trail, which is actually along an old logging road, is open to both hikers and mountain bikers. Along the route, look out for ancient redwoods, various plants (including wild ginger and thimbleberry), and local wildlife. The trail begins at Lost Man Creek Picnic Area off of Lost Man Creek Road.

Location: Redwood National Park

THE COASTAL TRAIL

The California Coastal Trail (CCT) will eventually run all the way from Oregon in the north to Mexico in the south, covering 1,230 miles along its insanely diverse route. Presently, around 70% of the trail is complete. You can pick up sections of the long-distance trail throughout Redwood National and State Parks — including, but not limited to, Crescent Beach, Endert’s Beach, across the street from the Wilson Creek picnic area and near the Gold Bluffs Beach entrance station.

Learn more about the entire CCT here, and even more about its route through the national park here.

🥾 SUSTAINABLE TRAVEL TIP

When hiking in Redwood National and State Parks (or anywhere really), always try to be a good steward and stay on the designated trails. Because the land is quite fragile near redwood groves, when people head off trail the landscape begins to become damaged: ferns get trampled, the groundcover wears away, and the tree’s roots can become exposed.

It is believed that these human-caused disruptions can permanently damage the redwoods — mainly because foot traffic turns the uniquely spongy soil in old-growth groves (which is actually a thick mat of decomposing redwood needles) into hard dirt that inhibits root growth and absorbs less water. While you might believe that one person going off trail wouldn’t cause that much damage, these minor changes caused by bushwhacking do in fact affect the redwoods.

Therefore, always stay on designated trails, don’t create social trails, don’t climb around on redwood trees, and of course, ALWAYS follow Leave No Trace Principles.

\\ Must-See Spots Near Redwood National and State Parks

THE AVENUE OF THE GIANTS

For even more massive redwood groves, consider driving just over an hour south to the famous Avenue of the Giants. This 32-mile scenic drive takes you through some stunning and historic old-growth redwood forests, including the Founder’s Grove (home to the Dyerville Giant, which was once considered the tallest tree in the area until it fell in 1991) and Rockefeller Grove.

To reach the Avenue of the Giants, head south on Highway 101 until you reach the north entrance right past the town of Rio Dell. You can find our full Avenue of the Giants Adventure Travel Guide here.

Distance from Redwood National Park to the north entrance of the Avenue of the Giants: 1 hour and 20 minutes or 73 miles.

THE KING RANGE AND SHELTER COVE

If you are looking for a bit of a change in scenery, then consider driving down to the remote town of Shelter Cove, which is located right on the Pacific Coast in the King Range National Conservation Area. From the town you have the option to explore the rugged coastline (which includes black sand beaches) or head into the dense forest for some hiking and biking.

Distance from Redwood National Park to the town of Shelter Cove: around 2.5 hours away to the southwest.

CRATER LAKE NATIONAL PARK

By far the farthest adventure from Redwood National Park is this other beautiful national park. Located in southern Oregon, Crater Lake National Park is home to the deepest lake in the USA as well as numerous hiking trails (including a section of the Pacific Crest Trail) and road biking routes.

Distance from Redwood National Park to Crater Lake National Park: 3 hours and 20 minutes or 166 miles.

Redwood National and State Parks is one of the best places to explore in all of California. With its stunning forests, beautiful coastline and interesting human and natural history, this national park should be on every adventurer's list.

Hopefully, this adventure guide covered everything you need to know about visiting this beautiful place, but if you do have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment below or reach out to us at www.backroadpackers.com.

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Backroad Packers

Backroad Packers

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Two adventurers creating in-depth travel guides to inspire you to slow down and get off the beaten path more.