Redwood National and State Parks located along the northern California coast, is one of the most beautiful and serene places on Earth. The towering redwoods, some of which are over 350 feet tall, have been around for centuries and provide a habitat for many different species and a diversity of ecosystems.
This International Biosphere Reserve is also home to some of the tallest trees in the world and protects nearly half of the world’s old growth redwoods. Whether you’re looking for a place to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life or simply want to experience something truly incredible, Redwood National Park is definitely worth a visit.
From Yosemite National Park, it’s a 200-mile drive west to the San Francisco Bay Area, then another 300 more miles north along Highway 101. Visitors to Redwood National Park can enjoy activities like hiking, camping, picnicking, and wildlife viewing. There are plenty of amazing trails to choose from, each with its own unique features and scenery. Here are some popular hikes that you won’t want to miss!
Things To Know Before Visiting Redwood National Park
Entrance Fees – Most of the park is free to access, however, some of the day use and campground areas do require fees.
I really like this guidebook.
If you love national forests and parks, and visit them enough, I recommend you purchase the America the Beautiful Annual Pass. I have one and I love it, because you can get into all the National Forests, Parks, Monuments and more, including 2,000 sites for free at any time, after a one-time fee of $80. You can purchase the pass at most entrance gates to national parks or online here.
Sunscreen – being in national parks and forests means being exposed to the sun, regardless of the season. I highly recommend you bring sunscreen with you. I love this brand, as it doesn’t irritate sensitive skin and the company only uses clean ingredients that are healthy for our skin.
Leave No Trace – I’m a huge advocate of Leave No Trace. If you want to learn more about the Seven Principles, you can do so here.
First Aid Travel Kit – You always want to be prepared and safe when going to national parks or forests. I recommend bringing along a first aid travel kit for safety measures.
Insect Repellent – When traveling to national parks and forests, you always want to make sure you have proper repellent from unwanted pests lingering around you when you’re enjoying the natural scenery. I like this eco-friendly brand.
Dogs – Dogs are not allowed on trails due to their potentially disruptive presence to the ecosystem. Make sure to check the rules before you go and bring along your dog.
Information About Redwood National Park
Address – 1111 Second Street, Crescent City, CA 95532
Location – Northern California
Established – October 2, 1968
Size – 138,999 acres
Native Land – Athabaskan, Yurok, Whilkut, and more
Visitors – Redwood National and State Parks bring in a minimum of 700,000 people a year (2022)
Redwood National Park and State Parks Entrance Fee – $0.00
There are no entrance fees to drive the scenic roads or highways in our three state parks and national park.
Gold Bluffs Beach / Fern Canyon – Day Use & Vehicle Fees – $12.00
Day use fee. To be paid at the California State Park entrance kiosk at the southern end of Gold Bluffs Beach. State and federal passes will be honored. Free permits are required to enter the Gold Bluffs Beach Day Use Area from May 1st to September 30th.
Jedediah Smith Campground – Day Use & Vehicle Fees – $8.00
Day use fee for vehicles parked next to the Smith River. State and federal passes will be honored.
Driving in Redwood National Park
Driving in Redwood National Park is considered one of the most beautiful, scenic drives in North America. To get from the northernmost tip of the park, the Jedediah Smith Redwoods to the Humboldt Redwoods, is about a 3 hour drive.
Almost all of the driving in Redwood National Park can be done by car. There is a short stretch from Gold Bluffs Beach to Fern Canyon where you may need 4WD, depending on the road conditions.
Fog is also common along the roads in the park so drive carefully and enjoy the views!
Getting Fuel in Redwood National Park
There are plenty of options for getting gas in the park, so you don’t need to worry about running low on fuel. If you’re driving through Orick, CA and you’re low on fuel, I’d advise you to fill up, as the next station is quite a bit away.
Best Time to Visit Redwood National Park
The weather in Redwood National Park can vary based on the season and when you decide to come. It’s pretty mild year round, given it’s within the marine west coast coastline and surrounded by beautiful, lush forest.
Each season brings something unique, but my favorite time to explore is in the Fall and Winter, when there aren’t many visitors and the climate is cooler.
Redwood National Park Seasons
Spring in Redwood National Park
Springtime is such a beautiful time in the Redwoods, with beautiful flowers blooming and less visitors in the park. If you’re looking for mild weather and natural, serene, beauty, this is the perfect time to come and explore the park.
In March, the park will be around the 40s and by the mid 50s in June. Temperatures vary between 58 – 71°F.
Summer in Redwood National Park
During the Summer months, the temperatures can get up into the 80s during the day and at night, the temperature can fall to the 60s. This makes for a perfect time to explore the park if you enjoy warmer weather.
If you’re still trying to avoid the crowds but want to enjoy the beautiful weather, I recommend going in June as the parks gets more visitors in July and August.
Note: Mosquitos are out in the Summer, so make sure you bring your insect repellent.
Redwood National Park in Fall
This is my favorite time to explore. The weather is cooler, the crowds are down, and the weather is mild, usually in the 60s and 70s in September. The air is crisp and you get to enjoy the park as the seasons begin to change.
Redwood National Park in Winter
Winter is such a beautiful experience in the Redwoods. The temperatures vary between the low to mid 40s to the mid 50s. Crowds won’t be an issue this time of year, which means you can practically have the place all to yourself.
During the winter months, you can expect rain and snow, so be prepared as this time of year in the park brings its own unique charm.
Where is Redwoods National Park?
Redwood National and State Parks is located on the northernmost coast in California. It’s about 325 miles (a 6-hour drive) north of San Francisco. Roughly 50 miles long, the parklands stretch from Crescent City, CA (near the Oregon border) in the north to the Redwood Creek watershed south of Orick, CA. Five information centers are located along this north-south corridor.
Directions To Redwood National Park
There are several ways to access the park from different directions.
Closest Airport to Redwood National Park – CEC Del Norte County Airport in Crescent City is the closest airport
The fastest way to get to Redwood National Park – Flying is the fastest way to Redwood National Park via the Del Norte County Airport in Crescent City. The next fastest route is driving to the park.
Flights are typically expensive into the local airport and rental cars are limited. The husband and I plan to fly, but driving is the most practical option. The airport is only 20 minutes to the park, so it’s convenient for those who choose to fly.
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Coming From San Francisco
Another great option is to fly into San Francisco, rent a car, and then drive to Redwood National Park. It is a 5 and a half hour drive from SFO airport in San Francisco via 101-N with no traffic.
Coming From the North (Oregon)
If you’re coming from Oregon, you can fly into Medford, Oregon and drive three hours to Redwood National Park. This may be a cheaper route than coming in from Crescent City.
Coming From the South (Los Angeles)
You can fly from LAX airport in Los Angeles to Redding, California and drive the three and a half hours to Redwood National Forest. Ideally, you could also road trip along the way to the park. Check out my LA to San Francisco Road Trip guide on the best routes to stop along the way.
Redwood National Park Shuttle System
Unfortunately, there is no public shuttle system or transportation system that is in use at Redwood National Park. You will need your own vehicle to drive into the park.
Traveling to Redwood National Park in an RV
Because Redwood National Park is located off both routes 101 and 299, it is easy to travel in an RV into the park. There are four developed campgrounds that are available for RV’s. Jedediah Campground, which is best for motorhomes that are twenty-five feet or less, and trailers that are under twenty-one feet.
Elk Prairie Campground is ideal for motorhomes under twenty-seven feet long and is available year-round. Trailers must be under twenty-four feet. This campground has seventy-five sites that are available.
Mill Creek Campground is situated right next to the coast and has 145 sites available. Motorhomes must be under twenty-eight feet and trailers must be under twenty-four feet.
Bluffs beach Campground is located along the Pacific coastline and there are twenty-six sites available. Motorhomes must be twenty-four feet. Trailers are not permitted.
Boy Scout Tree Trail
This lovely trail in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park winds through a dense, old-growth redwood forest and amazing views. The Boy Scout Tree Trail is like taking a step back in time. A 5.8 mile out and back kind of hike that makes for a great escape from the noise and crowds of city life. Plus, it is open year-round.
Together with Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park contains possibly the most spectacular old-growth coast redwoods (Sequoia Sempervirens) which also happens to be the world’s tallest tree. These awe-inspiring trees stand tall and proud, reaching heights of up to 350 feet and offer plenty of opportunities to get outdoors and enjoy nature.
Be sure to stop and appreciate the beauty of Stout Grove—also on the Howland Hill Road—on your way out of Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. Stout Grove is a must-see. This magical place is full of the tallest trees you’ve ever seen, and the air is thick with their fragrance. It’s impossible to describe the feeling of walking among these giant redwoods – you have to experience it for yourself.
Tall Trees Grove Trail
This trail is definitely not for the faint of heart – it’s a strenuous 4.5-mile round trip with a considerable elevation change to reach the grove. But if you’re up for the challenge, you’ll be rewarded with some of the most breathtaking views and equally beautiful old-growth redwoods. The towering trees provide shade and create a feeling of peacefulness. It’s easy to see why this is a very popular place with visitors. Be sure to bring your camera, as there are plenty of photo opportunities along the way!
Note: To visit the grove, you first have to get a free permit from any of the Redwood National and State Parks visitor centers; The Thomas H. Kuchel Visitor Center is probably the closest. The permit includes a parking lot pass and a gate combination.
Fern Canyon Trail
Many people are familiar with the movie Jurassic Park, and while it may be set in a fictional world, the Fern Canyon trail that served as one of its filming locations is very real. This beautiful canyon is located in Northern California’s Redwood National and State Parks and it is only a short drive from the Crescent City Airport.
Prepare to get your feet wet to fully experience this short, easy loop trail. The Fern Canyon Trail is surrounded by towering walls of moss-covered rock and lush ferns that create a prehistoric atmosphere.
A herd of Roosevelt Elk is often in the area so it is important to keep your distance and know how to stay safe. These large animals can be dangerous if they feel threatened. Here are some tips on what to do if you encounter a Roosevelt elk:
- Avoid direct eye contact, walk widely around the animal(s) – they have very good eyesight and will perceive you as a threat if you’re too close. Make noise, so that your position is known to the elk.
- If in a group, stay together.
- If an elk does approach you, stand your ground – don’t run away from them, as this will trigger their chase response. Drop a backpack or jacket in front of you to act as a distraction and “barrier” between you and the elk
- Slowly back away and find an alternative route when driving in areas where elk live – they often cross roads and can cause serious damage to your vehicle if you hit one.
- Be especially careful around young calves – their mothers will be very protective and may become aggressive if they perceive a threat.
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So, if you’re looking for an adventure that feels like something out of a movie, Fern Canyon is definitely worth checking out.
Lady Bird Johnson Grove Hike
How about going on a fun (and easy) family day hike? the Lady Bird Johnson Grove is a great option. Located not far from Highway 101, north of Orick on the Bald Hills Road. This 1.5-mile hike takes you through a Sequoia grove and offers stunning views of the surrounding area.
There are few things as peaceful as a grove of trees, they always seem to have a calming effect. It’s no wonder, then, that memorial groves have become popular in recent years. Each grove has its own story to tell, like the Lady Bird Johnson Grove.
In 1969 President Nixon dedicated this grove to former First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson, for all of her conservation and environmental work. The national park service has also installed a few benches along the trail up to the dedication plaque, making it perfect for a leisurely stroll.
The Trillium Falls Trail
The trailhead is located at Elk Meadow – just off Davison Road. This is a beautiful hike that takes you to a spectacular waterfall. The trail is well-maintained and easy to follow, making it perfect for families. The views along the way are breathtaking, and the waterfall is definitely worth the hike!
Crescent City Harbor Trail
The trail offers stunning views of the harbor and the Pacific Ocean, making it a perfect spot for a relaxing walk or bike ride. In addition to the natural beauty of the area, the trail also features some interesting historical sights, including an old lighthouse that stands on a small island (only accessible by foot at low tide), and a scenic overlook just south of the Crescent City Harbor.
With its rocky coastline and breathtaking views, it’s no wonder this spot is such a popular destination. A short hike from the parking lot will take you to the overlook, where you can spend some time taking in the incredible scenery. If you’re in the mood for some beautiful coastal views, be sure to check out Crescent Beach Overlook! A beautiful place to get some exercise and take in some history.
Where To Stay in Crescent City
There are several choices if you’re staying in Crescent City. Here are some choices:
Crown of the Coast – a beachfront vacation home with breathtaking ocean views
Oceanfront Lodge – an oceanfront hotel off the rugged Northern California coast
Anchor Beach Inn – a cozy inn, situated just next to the beach
This coastline is also part of lands and waters of Tolowa people, a Native American tribe that have inhabited the Smith River and Six Rivers regions of northwestern California and southwestern Oregon for many centuries. Large canoes were built by the Tolowa, which allowed them to hunt sea lions in the open waters.
The culture and history of the Tolowa people is rich and deeply intertwined with the land, the animals that live on it, and the natural world in general. This is perhaps most evident in their spiritual beliefs, which center around whales, and other marine mammals. For the Tolowa people, these animals are not simply sources of food – they are powerful spiritual beings who play an important role in their lives.
Klamath Overlook via Coastal Trail Hike
The Klamath River is one of the most varied and beautiful rivers in North America, running for more than 250 miles through Oregon and Northern California. The river has been a vital resource for Native Americans for centuries, and has also been called the “last great wild salmon river system on Earth” and today it is popular with anglers, boaters, and nature enthusiasts.
The Klamath is also home to an impressive variety of wildlife, including bald eagles, salmon, and black bears. You might even catch a glimpse of migrating gray whales in the spring or fall. A 4-mile section of the California Coastal Trail heads north from the Klamath River Overlook and goes to Hidden Beach and Lagoon Creek Beach.
A much shorter hike to the Klamath River Overlook, only one-mile round trip, descends the hill to a lookout area where the river meets the Pacific. Trust me, a visit to the Klamath river will be one of the highlights of your trip!
Camping in the Redwoods
There are 2 ways to spend the night when camping in Redwood National Park; at one of the four developed campgrounds or by hiking to a backcountry campsite. Either way, it is definitely an experience you’ll never forget.
There are many different campgrounds in Redwood National Park. Some of them are right by the river, while others are up in the hills. All of them offer great views and plenty of opportunities to see the magnificent redwood trees.
If you’re looking for a place to camp while visiting this amazing park, you’ll have plenty of options. Whether you’re looking for a developed campground with all the amenities or a secluded experience deep in the forest, there’s something for everyone. Here are some highlights of what each campground has to offer. Keep in mind that during warmer temperatures it can get quite busy, so reservations are recommended.
Mill Creek Campground
Nestled in the heart of Del Norte Coast Redwoods, Mill Creek Campground offers visitors a unique camping experience. From towering redwoods to brisk ocean breezes, Mill Creek is the perfect place to call home base while exploring Northern California’s incRedible coastline.
If you’re looking for a place to camp near the redwoods, Mill Creek Campground is the best place. There are plenty of campsites available, and the park offers many amenities, including restrooms, showers, and a dump station. So, make sure to add Mill Creek Campground to your list of must-visit destinations and don’t forget to dip your toes in the cold and clear water of the Smith River.
Jedediah Smith Campground
Located in the heart of the Redwoods, this campground features miles of hiking and biking trails, river access, and plenty of wildlife to enjoy. In addition to hiking, boating and fishing are also popular activities that make it for an enjoyable stay. Keep your eyes peeled for elk, deer, and black bears while you’re there!
Two of the largest animals in Redwood National and State Parks besides the Roosevelt Elk are Black Bears and Mountain Lions. In California, mountain lions are only found in a few isolated areas. Although sightings are rare, these big cats are still an important part of the parks’ ecosystems.
Gold Bluffs Beach
Gold Bluffs Beach is a remote beach in northern Humboldt County. A great spot for a sandy camping experience. And what could be more peaceful and serene than horseback rides on the beach? The sound of the waves crashing against the shore, sandy beaches, and the sun shining down from above is the best way to spend an afternoon.
With miles of unspoiled coastline to explore, you’re sure to find plenty of hidden gems while on your ride. Plus, horses are known for being very gentle animals, so even if it is your first time, this will be an experience of a lifetime.
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The huge, deserted beach is the main attraction, but a few steps in the other direction is the Miners’ Ridge Trail that begins and ends at the Prairie Creek Visitor Center.
Situated just off Newton B Drury Scenic Parkway, this beautiful parkway winds its way through the redwoods and provides amazing views of nature at its finest. The hiking areas of the park include groves of old-growth forest, and at the end of the Beach Road you’ll find Fern Canyon.
You can learn more about Gold Bluffs Beach and Campground and make a reservation by clicking here.
Elk Prairie Campground
Elk Prairie Campground is a great place for an early summer camping trip. The campground offers plenty of room for tents and RVs and easy access to Elk Meadow Cabins. A great place to escape and enjoy nature. Surrounded by beautiful scenery and miles of trails, these cabins provide the perfect setting for a relaxing getaway.
The campsites located in a beautiful wooded area offer plenty of activities to keep campers busy, including fishing, hiking, and swimming.
If looking for solitude and a wilderness camping experience, check out these backcountry campsites.
Little Bald Hills
Located in the north-east corner of the parks, this backcountry campground is perfect for those looking for a rustic camping experience. There are only four sites, so reservations are recommended. If you are planning on staying at the campground, be sure to check out Little Bald Hills Trail, which is an 18.5 mile out- and-back trail.
This trail is great for bird watching, mountain biking and hiking. It’s a pretty secluded trail and it’s unlikely that you’ll encounter anyone else while on the trail. The best times to visit are March through October. Unfortunately doggies are not allowed on this trail and you’ll need to leave them at home.
A place to camp in the redwoods that isn’t as crowded as some of the other spots, DeMartin Backcountry Camp is located approximately one hour from Eureka/Arcata Airport and just north of Highway 101.
Located on a wooded ridgeline near the Pacific Ocean. Nearby trails lead to old-growth coast redwood forest, a historic World War 2 Radar Station, and high coastal bluffs.
Gold Bluffs Beach
The Gold Bluffs Beach Campground lies in the dunes along a beautiful 10-mile stretch of golden beach in Northern California. As part of Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, it is located just six miles off Highway 101 at the end of unpaved, Davison Road. You might be able to enjoy the place all to yourself, as you’ll be immersed in nature.
2022 Update: If you plan to drive to Gold Bluffs Beach or park at Fern Canyon from May 1st through September 30th, you will need to apply online for a free parking permit. You can apply here. Make sure to stay up-to-date with the latest news about how the National Park Service is protecting the public and this area with timed-entries. You can learn more here.
If you plan to explore Gold Bluffs Beach or park at Fern Canyon, pullouts and parking areas along the road provide places for picnics, walking, wildlife viewing or fishing. You will still need a free permit to park between May 1st through September 30th. You can apply for a free permit and learn more here.
When entering Gold Bluffs Beach, you will need to pay the day-use fee, or show your federal pass or CA State Park pass at the entrance station. Credit cards are not accepted.
If you’re traveling via a trailer or RV, be aware that the access road (Davison Road) is a dirt road, which is very narrow and windy. Recreational vehicles and vehicles towing a trailer are not permitted on Davison Road.
To reserve a campsite go to www.reservecalifornia.com or call 1-800-444-7275.
- Sites: 24 RV and Tent Sites
- Vehicle Length Limit: 24-foot RV
- No Trailer Allowed
- No RV Hookups
Know Before You Go: For More Information, call 707.488.2171, or the Kutchel Visitor Center at 707.465.7765. For more information about accessible trails for individuals with physical or visual limitations – stop at the visitor’s center for trail maps.
While dogs are not allowed on any park trails, they are allowed at this campground on a leash and the adjoining beach.
A perfect little backcountry campsite for hikers and equestrians. A backcountry permit is required to camp at Elam Camp. You can learn more here. The site is well-hidden by the trees and provides an idyllic setting for a peaceful night under the stars.
- There are 3 campsites available and a maximum of 8 people can camp per site.
- You can only camp in the designated site.
Traveling with Horses and Pack Animals
- Pack animals, such as horses, mules, ponies, burros, goats and llamas, must be fed pelletized or certified weed-free feed.
- Animals may not graze park vegetation and must be hobbled or tied to a hitching post when unattended.
- A maximum of 12 pack animals are allowed for overnight use.
- Corral, trough, and seasonal non-potable water is available in the camp.
Located on a heavily-logged hillside across from the Tall Trees Grove and about a two-and-a-half-mile hike from the Redwood Creek trailhead. This campsite is a semi-developed backcountry site with nearby access to Redwood Creek and Tall Trees Grove. There is no working toilet and all campers will need to follow Leave No Trace Principles when camping here. Used toilet paper and all trash will need to be packed out.
Redwood Creek Dispersed
The only area in the park where dispersed camping is allowed.
These primitive campsites are located in some of the most remote areas of the park and offer an escape from civilization. You’ll need to apply for a backcountry camping permit before your trip.
Camping Tip: Practice Leave No Trace ethics when visiting Redwood National and State Parks. There are seven principles in Leave No Trace hiking, all of them easy to practice.
• Plan ahead and prepare. (Check local regulations)
• Respect wildlife.
• Be considerate of other visitors.
• Leave what you find.
• Travel and camp on durable surfaces.
• Dispose of waste properly.
• Minimize campfire impacts.
We know Redwood as home to the tallest trees on Earth. But the Parks also protect vast prairies, oak woodlands, wild rivers, and miles of coastline. Together, the Redwood Parks Conservancy and the California Department of Parks and Recreation (also known as California State Parks), are managing and restoring these lands by helping to maintain trails and campsites.
The Save the Redwoods League has also been working to protect and restore California’s redwood forests since 1918. With over 100,000 members, the League has helped preserve over 200,000 acres of redwood forest. One way they are doing this is by working with landowners to create sustainable forestry practices that maintain the health of the ecosystem while still providing for economic growth.
There are many beautiful and amazing places in the world, but only a select few are deemed worthy of becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site. These sites represent the best of what humanity has to offer, and visiting them is a must for any traveler.
From ancient ruins to stunning natural landscapes, these sites offer something for everyone. And with all that Redwood National and State Parks has to offer, it’s no wonder UNESCO named it a world heritage site. Plus, if you’re just passing through, these parks offer a variety of scenic drives to choose from, depending on what type of experience you are wanting to have.
The Kuchel Loop offers a panoramic view of the ocean and provides an up-close look at prairies and old-growth redwoods, while Newton B. Drury Parkway takes travelers on a journey through three different types of California ecosystems. No matter which route you choose, you’re sure to be awestruck by a beautiful drive. Don’t miss out on this incredible natural treasure.