Redwood National Park in California is one of the most well-known of the parks and not just for being the only place on Earth that you can find coast redwood trees.
The park has so much more to offer and is home to a string of forests, beaches, and grasslands, giving it’s visitors diverse scenery and activities. We’ve all seen photographs of the Redwoods but there’s nothing quite like experiencing it. It’s truly one of the most magical places I’ve ever explored and even just a drive through the park will leave you breathless!
Why Visit Redwood National Park?
Redwood National Park is a park I believe everyone should see in their lifetime. Exploring miles and miles of some of the world’s largest and oldest trees can feel like somewhat of a spiritual experience. It feels as though you’ve stepped inside of a completely different world and you can’t help but feel a deep connection with nature while you’re inside the park.
All of your senses will be heightened. Not only will the sheer size of the trees amaze you, but the fresh, cool air and smell of the forest will be something you’ll remember forever. The peace and quiet you feel amidst these majestic giants is incredible.
The park has so many other reasons to visit, including its wildlife and the wide variety of plant species. Redwood National Park’s range of habitats makes it home to many rare animals and birds, some of which are on endangered species lists.
You’ll also have the opportunity to visit three California state parks in the area, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, and Jedediah Smith State Park.
Things to Do
You won’t want to stop exploring the park, and there’s lots of it to enjoy, no matter what activities you prefer. Here are the most popular activities in the park:
Take a Scenic Drive
You don’t even have to leave the comfort of your car to experience the magic of the redwoods. So, if you don’t have more than one day to spend at the park, you’ll still be able to enjoy the beauty. There are eight different drives to choose from, each one offering different views!
Take the coastal drive loop for panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and Klamath River estuary or enjoy some whale watching from Requa Road! Wherever you go in the park, you can’t miss the opportunity to take the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway, a great alternative to U.S. 101, which passes through the stunningly beautiful old-growth redwood forest in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park.
Many roads in the park have restrictions or even prohibit RVs, so be sure to check ahead if you don’t have a separate tow vehicle.
There are approximately 170 miles of trails for hikers to explore in and around Redwood National Park. It’s best to check the National Park Service website for a full list of the park’s trails and their current conditions, but here are a few of the most popular ones.
Lady Bird Johnson Grove Trail
This trail is special as it surrounds the dedication site of Redwood National Park. It’s an interpretive trail and consists of numbered plaques that mark the different points of interest, guiding you through the history of the area.
Rhododendrons and azaleas can be found along the trail in springtime, and during autumn, you can enjoy the changing colors of vines and big-leaf maple. The loop is an easy one and a half mile walk, perfect for a leisurely stroll along this historical path.
Fern Canyon Loop Trail in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park
You can’t miss the prehistoric wilderness that this hike has to offer. In fact, you’ll walk right through the dense forest that served as the backdrop for several scenes in Jurassic Park 2. You’ll be amazed by the 30-foot-deep canyon covered with ferns and thankfully, you won’t have to worry about running into any dinosaurs.
It’s one of the most peaceful hikes you’ll ever take. It’s only .7 miles long but will take longer than you’d expect because of all the photos you’ll be taking and beauty you’ll be soaking in.
Stout Memorial Grove Trail in Jedediah Smith State Park
Stout Grove is often called the heart of Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. It’s a nice and easy flat walk through thriving redwoods and lush ferns.
It’s one of the very best places to experience a coast redwood forest in Northern California and is a truly enchanting experience. It’s lightly trafficked and a ways off the highway, so you’ll be able to enjoy much of your hike to yourself in complete peace and quiet.
The famous Stout Tree in the grove is 16 feet in diameter at its base and 340 feet tall, making it one of the most massive trees in the park! It’s rippled bark makes it even more unique and photogenic.
Tall Trees Grove Loop Trail
This popular trail is known for it’s access to the Libbey Tree, which was once the world’s tallest known living thing, but still one of the tallest redwoods you can actually see for yourself!
However, it’s a bit challenging to get to the grove. Only a limited number of cars per day are allowed access. After you obtain a permit, you’ll have a 45-minute drive to the trailhead, followed by a climb up Bald Hills Road.
After another 6-mile drive down a gravel road, you’ll reach the 1.3-mile long trail, which has considerable elevation change. But the difficulty of reaching the grove adds to its appeal and this hike offers an extra level of serenity. The name of the trail says it all and you won’t be disappointed!
There are six permitted trails within the park for bikers to enjoy, which cover over 50 miles. You can get the list of trails and descriptions at the NPS website.
Many of the trails are steep and challenging but offer incredible views of redwoods and coastline. There are bicycle rentals for your convenience, or you can take a guided bike tour through the national park and state parks.
View the park from a different perspective while kayaking the Smith River. There are a few guide services you can choose from, but the best option might be taking a tour from a park ranger.
You’ll learn about the geology of the river and how it impacts the growth of the redwoods, all while paddling along the largest free-flowing river system in California.
Visit “Trees of Mystery”
You can’t miss this roadside attraction that has been a tourist favorite since 1946. Amongst the giant redwoods that its interpretive trails feature are some unusual tree formations and around 50 sculptures and carvings that share stories of legendary logger Paul Bunyan.
The attraction also offers the SkyTrail, a 1/3 mile gondola ride through the forest treetops and up to an observation deck that offers spectacular mountain and ocean views. Be sure to visit the Trees of Mystery’s Native American museum as well, which is free to the public.
When to Visit
The best time to visit Redwood National Park greatly depends on what you’re hoping to experience. For dry and warm weather and ranger-led programs, you’ll want to visit in the summer months.
To avoid crowds and witness the grey whale migration, visit sometime between late autumn through early spring. Springtime and autumn are also a great time to enjoy comfortable temperatures, fewer crowds, blooms, and bright colors.
Where to Stay
You’ll have two options for staying inside the park: developed campgrounds or backcountry camping. There are four developed campgrounds, all of which require reservations. Also, it’s important to note that there are restrictions on RV size. Call ahead to be sure that your RV will fit in the spaces provided.
If you prefer to be more secluded, there are eight designated backcountry camps that you can hike to (unfortunately, you can’t take your RV with you). You’ll need a permit, which is free to obtain.
There are plenty of campgrounds and RV parks outside of the park if you prefer. Many of them even sit along the coast, offering great ocean views, and can be perfect if you have a larger RV. Elk Country RV Resort & Campground is a great option, as well as Sounds of the Sea RV Park, and Azalea Glen RV Park Campground.
Getting to and Around Redwood National Forest
Most of the different areas that make up Redwood National and State Parks are accessed from US-101. To get to the area from the north, you’ll take US-199 to US-101.
If you’re coming from the south, follow US-101 north. The best way to get around the park is by car along the numerous roads and highways that connect those different areas.
Many of the roads are narrow, windy, and bumpy so towing or driving your RV isn’t recommended and even prohibited on some roads.
Tips and Tricks Specific to Redwood National Forest
- There is no formal entrance to the park along US-101, so it’s very possible that you won’t even know when you’re entering or exiting the park!
- You’ll want to check the current conditions of the park’s trails and roads before you visit. With the changing weather, it’s not uncommon for the area to experience flooding, ice, dense fog, fallen trees, etc.
- Beware of wildlife! Roosevelt elk are prominent in the park, as well as black bears, bobcats, mountain lions, coyotes, and more. View wildlife from a safe distance, especially during elk mating season in the fall and when calves are being born in May and June.
For the latest info on visiting Redwood National Park, visit their website: Redwood National Park.
Have you been to Redwood National Park? What tips can you share?