Redwood National and State Parks: An Extensive Guide

Redwood National and State Parks: An Extensive Guide

California’s Redwood National and State Parks (RNSP) are perhaps best known for the tallest trees in the world. But it’s also an amazing destination for those who love the outdoors. With more than 200 miles of trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding, scenic camping opportunities, and being one of the best places for wildlife watching in North America, this place has something for everyone.

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About Redwood National and State Parks 

The Redwood National and State Parks are a complex of several protected areas that were established to protect the tallest trees on earth – Sequoia sempervirens, commonly known as the coast redwood. These trees can grow to almost 116 meters (380 ft) tall and reach almost 5 meters (16 ft) in diameter. 

In 1850, the area, mainly inhabited by Native Americans attracted many people due to a minor gold rush. As the efforts in getting a significant amount of gold vanished, many turned to lumber. A significant number of coast redwoods were cut down and used to develop the city of San Francisco. In 1920, to save the old-growth that was remaining, several state parks, and later a national park was established. 

Today, the Redwood National and State Parks protect the giant trees, a 40-mile long coastline, prairies, woodlands, and riverways. It also plays a big role in preserving animal species that inhabit this unique natural area.  

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Redwood National and State Parks Weather

The climate in Redwood National and State Parks is unique. The temperatures in this place always range from 4 to 16 degrees Celsius (40-60 F). 

It gets quite frosty during the winter months, and being so close to the Pacific Ocean, snow and strong winds are very common. The humidity in this area makes it even less pleasant. 

During the warm months, the fog gets drawn inland from the ocean. This creates a very humid and damp environment. So if you’re camping, prepare to get wet without a drop of rain. 

Although it cannot boast of the perfect weather, this unique climate is one of the reasons the Sequoia sempervirens was able to grow here and why it is the primary habitat for many unique animal species.   

Getting to Redwood National and State Parks

Flying 

Del Norte County Regional Airport is a convenient airport to get to if you want to get to the Redwood National and State Parks. It’s located in Crescent City, which is also a great hub to explore the parks and surrounding areas. Klamath is another great option to explore the parks in the area and it’s only a 40-minute drive from the airport. 

Driving 

If you’re driving to the Redwood National and State Parks, you can get there via Highway 101. The main entrance to the park is just north of the town of Orick, but multiple small roads break off Highway 101 and lead into the park as well. If you’re the more adventurous type, you could get to the parks from the east, through the town of Weitchpec. Take the Bald Hills Road and head west. It’s not an easy drive, but it awards you with some great scenery.

Redwood National and State Parks Map

redwood state parks map

Find the official maps for Redwood National and State Parks here or by clicking on the map image.

Things to do in Redwood National and State Parks

Hiking 

Hiking is one of the best ways to explore the Redwood National and State Parks at your own pace. The parks contain miles of scenic hiking trails that will allow you to explore the giant coast redwoods, beautiful coastline and unique woodlands. Here are some of the most notable hiking trails.  

  • Tall Trees Grove Loop: The tall trees grove trail is an easy-to-moderate hike that explores one of the most astonishing places in the area – the Tall Trees Grove. This grove includes the Libbey Tree, which was long-known to be the tallest redwood on earth until its top was “trimmed” likely due to a storm. 

Trail length: 5.1 km/3.3 mi roundtrip.
Trail type: lollipop.
Hike level: easy-moderate. 
Trail guide

  • Lady Bird Johnson Grove Trail: This 1.3-mile easy hiking trail is one of the most popular walks in the park. Rangers often recommend this trail to visitors who are short on time but want to be amazed by what the parks have to offer. It’s an enjoyable trail for the whole family.

Trail length: 2.1 km/1.3 mi roundtrip.
Trail type: lollipop.
Hike level: easy.   
Trail guide

  • Trillium Falls Trail: This easy-to-moderate loop trail passes a small but scenic waterfall and takes you through an old strip of old-growth redwoods. You will also be able to visit an old sawmill site.  

Trail length: 4.2 km/2.61 mi roundtrip.
Trail type: loop.
Hike level: easy-moderate. 
Trail guide

  • Redwood Creek Trail: This moderate out-and-back hike is said to be the second most popular trail in the area and is also frequented by backpackers. Although the most scenic section of the trail is the first one and a half miles, the path is admired by those who love peaceful nature escapes.  

Trail length: 25.1 km/14.35 mi roundtrip.
Trail type: out-and-back.
Hike level: moderate.
Trail guide

  • James Irvine Trail: this 10.7-mile out-and-back hike explores scenic woodlands and old-growth redwoods. The hike is also a prime habitat for elk and black bears, which can be sometimes seen roaming through the area. 

Trail length: 17.2 km/10.7 mi roundtrip.
Trail type: out-and-back.
Hike level: moderate. 
Trail guide

  • Boy Scout Tree Trail: This remote 5.3-mile out-and-back trail offers some of the best views of the old-growth redwoods in the area. It’s especially scenic during a sunny day as it creates a beautiful pattern of sun rays breaching through the dense forest. 

Trail length: 8.5 km/5.3 mi roundtrip.
Trail type: out-and-back.
Hike level: moderate.  
Trail guide

  • Damnation Creek Trail: the 3.5-mile trail is one of the most recommended short hikes in the area. It combines remote and stunning woodland scenery and magnificent views of the ocean. Although the trail is short, you will have to descend to the beach. This also means you’ll need to tackle a little bit more than 1000 feet of elevation gain when going back. 

Trail length: 5.6 km/3.5 mi roundtrip.
Trail type: out-and-back.
Hike level: easy-moderate. 
Trail guide

  • Coastal Trail, Klamath Section: this 7.8-mile hiking trail is also known as the Hidden Beach Trail. Although the trail is close to the beach, most of it leads through the forest, so don’t expect to see the ocean until the last section of the hike. 

Trail length: 12.55 km/7.8 mi roundtrip.
Trail type: out-and-back.
Hike level: moderate-strenuous. 
Trail guide

  • Skunk Cabbage Trail: this 7.3-mile out-and-back trail takes you through a beautiful colorful forest to the beach, which is a part of the Skunk Cabbage Section of the Coastal Trail. Although many end the hike at the beach, you can extend the trail in either direction by continuing to walk along the beach.  

Trail length: 11.7 km/7.3 mi roundtrip.
Trail type: out-and-back.
Hike level: moderate. 
Trail guide

  • Klamath Overlook: this 1-mile trail is a perfect hike for those looking to see spectacular views without much effort. It’s a great way to see some highlights of the area if you don’t have much time to spend here. 

Trail length: 1.6 km/1.0 mi roundtrip.
Trail type: out-and-back.
Hike level: easy.
Trail guide

There are a lot more wonderful trails in Redwood National and State Parks. Check out the Redwood Hikes website to find more.

redwood national and state parks guide-amazing place

Biking

Biking is another great way to experience Redwood National and State Parks. It’s a great way to explore the beautiful area at your own pace. RNSP is a great area for backcountry biking and some parts can also be used for e-biking. Please note that e-bikes are allowed within the boundaries of Redwood National Park (mostly the southern part of the park system), but you would have to check the state park rules if you’re planning on driving an electric bike there. State park regulations vary from federal laws. Here’s a map where you can find the Redwood National Park boundaries

Here are some of the recommended backcountry biking trails in RNSP

  • Little Bald Hills: 6 miles east of Elk Valley Road on Howland Hill Road. 10-mile round trip rated difficult.
  • Last Chance Section (Coastal Trail): End of Enderts Beach Road. 10-mile round trip rated difficult.
  • Ossagon: Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway. 3-mile round trip rated moderate. 
  • Gold Bluffs Beach Section (Coastal Trail): via Davison Road. 6-mile round trip, rated easy.
  • Davison: Davison Road at Elk Meadow Day Use Area. 6-mile round trip, rated easy.
  • Streelow Creek: 4.5 miles from U.S. 101 on Davison Road. 6-mile round trip, rated easy.
  • Lost Man Creek: 3 miles north of Orick, CA, Highway 101. 22-mile round trip rated moderate. 

Another fascinating biking option is the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway, which is usually closed for vehicles between October and May, to allow bikers and hikers to enjoy the scenery more peacefully. 

You can find more information about biking in RNSP on this page

Scenic drives

For those who only have a short amount of time or would like to enjoy the park without dropping a sweat, Redwood National and State Parks offer 3 amazing scenic drives you can enjoy without leaving your vehicle.

Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway

The Newton B Drury Scenic Parkway is a spectacular scenic drive in RNSP. The ride will take you through a corridor of coastal redwood trees and allow you to explore the beauty of the park from within. You will be able to pull out near most of the highlights and even do some of the shorter hiking trails. This is one of the best ways to see the Sequoia sempervirens for those who do not have much time to spend in the parks. 

Bald Hills Road Scenic Drive

The Bald Hills Road is a wonderful drive for those who love a bit of adventure. This scenic drive won’t take you through the coastal redwood trees, but it’s a great way to get some altitude and see the stunning prairies, hills, valleys and the ocean. It is a windy and narrow road, so it’s not recommended for campervans or trailers. Part of it is gravel, so it does get dusty during the dry days. 

Howland Hill Road Scenic Drive

Located near Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, the 10-mile Howland Hill Road takes you through a narrow road that was once used as a stage coast road. This drive will allow you to get very close to the redwood trees. There are also some pullout opportunities, for those who are also looking to do some hiking. Though parking space is very limited. This scenic drive is not suitable for recreational vehicles.

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Wildlife watching

Redwood National and State Parks are a great destination for wildlife viewing as it is home to a huge number of animal species. Whale watching is perhaps the most popular attraction for animal lovers. Be sure to visit between November – December and March – April for the gray whale migration. Do not worry if you’ve missed visiting during the months mentioned above. There is also a resident whale population that can be seen there almost every day. According to the National Parks Service, the best locations for whale watching are Klamath River Overlook, Crescent Beach Overlook, Wilson Creek, High Bluff Overlook, Gold Bluffs Beach and Thomas H. Kuchel Visitor Center.

The parks are also a place to see one of the largest members of the deer family – the Roosevelt elk. The best location to spot them is just south of the Klamath River, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, though sometimes they can be seen in other places too. Always keep a safe distance from wildlife. Check out my guide on useful tips for wildlife watching to find out how to do it safely and up your chances to spot them.

RNSP is also great for bird-watching and marine life viewing. Check out the tides schedule to make sure you can get to the beach and explore. The abundance of wildlife will amaze you.

Front-country camping

There are 4 front-country campgrounds available at Redwood National and State Parks. 

Jedediah Smith Campground

The Jedediah Smith Campground is situated on the bank of the Smith River and surrounded by old-growth redwood trees. It’s one of the most scenic campgrounds in the area. 

Price: USD 35.00 per night. Summer (USD 100 per night) and winter (USD 80 per night) cabins available.

Camping sites: 86 tent or no hook-up RV sites available. 

Amenities: Hot showers, accessible restrooms, dump station, picnic tables, fire pits and barbeques, food lockers and trash receptacle, visitor center, campfire center.

Open: year-round.  

Reserved through ReserveCalifornia.com.

Mill Creek Campground

This campground is situated in a young redwood forest, has plenty of shade and is a great location for hiking.

Price: USD 35.00 per night. 

Camping sites: 145 tent or no hook-up RV sites available. 

Amenities: Hot showers, accessible restrooms, dump station, picnic tables, fire pits and barbeques, food lockers and trash receptacles, campfire center.

Open: 18th May – 30th September.

Reserved through ReserveCalifornia.com.

Gold Bluffs Beach Campground

The Gold Bluffs is a beach campground located at the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. Enjoy the great ocean views and easy access to 70 miles of hiking and biking trails.

Price: USD 35.00 per night. 

Camping sites: 26 tent or no hook-up RV sites available. 

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

Open: year-round.

Reserved through ReserveCalifornia.com.

Elk Prairie Campground

The Elk Prairie Campground is tucked away between old coastal redwood trees and has easy access to some great hiking and biking trails. 

Price: USD 35.00 per night. Summer (USD 100 per night) and winter (USD 80 per night) cabins available.

Camping sites: 75 tent or no hook-up RV sites available. 

Amenities: Hot showers, accessible restrooms, picnic tables, food lockers and trash receptacles, firepits and barbeques, visitor center, campfire center.

Open: year-round.  

Reserved through ReserveCalifornia.com.

There are also more camping options outside of the park boundaries, run by private companies. 

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Backcountry camping

A free backcountry permit is required to access the backcountry trails and camping areas at Redwood National and State Parks. Follow this link to get an online backcountry permit.

There are seven designated backcountry campsites in the parks.

Little Bald Hills Camp

  • Distance: 3.3 miles of strenuous hiking to the campground. 
  • Sites: 5. 
  • Amenities: fire pits, bear-proof lockers, toilet, picnic tables. 

More details

DeMartin Camp

  • Distance: 3.5 miles of moderate hiking to the campground. 
  • Sites: 10. 
  • Amenities: Picnic tables, bear-proof food lockers, fire pits, and toilets. 

More details

Flint Ridge Camp

  • Distance: 4.5 miles of strenuous hiking from the east access to the campground; 0.25 miles of easy hiking from the west access to the campground. 
  • Sites: 8. 
  • Amenities: Picnic tables, bear-proof food lockers, fire pits, and toilets. 

More details

Gold Bluffs Beach Hike and Bike Campground

  • Distance: 4.5 miles of moderate hiking via Miners Ridge Trail to the campground for hikers.
  • Sites: 1. 
  • Amenities: picnic table, food locker, and barbecue grill, fire pit, water, restroom, and solar shower facilities.

More details

Elam Camp

  • Distance: 3 miles from the Redwood Creek Trailhead, 7 miles from the Tall Trees Trailhead, or 6 miles from the Orick Horse Trailhead. Hiking level moderate to strenuous, depending on the trail.  
  • Sites: 3. 
  • Amenities: picnic tables, fire pits, toilet, bear-proof lockers, non-potable water, and a corral.

More details

44 Camp

  • Distance: 3 miles from the Tall Trees Trailhead (additional permit required for this trail), 7 miles from the Redwood Creek Trailhead or 12 miles to camp from the Orick Horse Trailhead. Hiking level moderate to strenuous, depending on the trail. 
  • Sites: 4. 
  • Amenities: Picnic tables, bear-proof lockers, fire pits, non-potable water from the nearby creek (must be treated). No toilets available’ campers must dig suitable catholes and pack out all used toilet paper. 

More details

Redwood Creek Dispersed Camping

  • Distance: 2 miles to the campground. You are allowed to camp on the Tall Trees and Redwood Creek Trailhead. The campground can also be reached by hiking 6.5 miles on the Orick Horse Trail. Hiking level moderate to strenuous. 
  • Sites: NA. 
  • Amenities: none. 

More details

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Wildlife at Redwood National and State Parks

Redwood National and State Parks are home to around 280 species of birds, 66 species of mammals, including 13 species of bats, several marine mammals and even unique tidepool invertebrates, like crabs, mussels and sea stars. 

Visiting these parks would give you a rare opportunity to see the Roosevelt elk, black bears, gray whales, orcas, sea lions and harbor seals, bald eagles, peregrine falcons, barn owls among hundreds of other wonderful creatures. 

Hotels and Lodging around Redwood National and State Parks

There are numerous lodging opportunities near the Redwood National and State Parks. The best locations to stay and explore the area are Crescent City (north of the parks), Klamath (right down the middle) and Berry Glenn (south of the parks). 

Crescent City

Crescent is situated at the northern section of the park system and is one of the most convenient locations to stay for those who want to explore RNSP due to the airport and what the city has to offer. One of the best accommodation options in Crescent City is the Oceanview Inn and Suites, which is well-rated by the guests and offers amenities like a spa bath, computer room, and complimentary continental breakfast. Other options worth-mentioning are the Lighthouse Inn and the Lakeside Hostel & Guest House

Klamath

Klamath is a lot smaller than Crescent City, so don’t expect to find much to do here after you explore the parks. But its central location is perfect for those who have time to explore both the southern and northern parts of the RNSP system. The recommended place to stay in Klamath is the Holiday Inn Express Redwood National Park which is popular for its comfortable rooms, good breakfast and contemporary decor. 

Berry Glen

Berry Glen is a small town just north of Orick. It’s located at the southern section of the park system and is a perfect location for hikers, backpackers and nature lovers. The Berry Glen Redwood Park Loft is a perfect place to stay if you like privacy and great views. Another cozy option in this area is the Elk Meadow Cabins, which offers fully equipped family cabins for a private stay. 

For those, who do not mind driving to the parks, there are more accommodation options along Highway 101, just south of Big Lagoon. 

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Where to eat at Redwood National and State Parks

If you’re looking to be surrounded by some great grub options, then Crescent City is your best bet. If you like Mexican, check out Christina’s. This place is trendy among locals and travelers, and the reviews state the same. Another great option is the Kin Khao Thai Eatery. If you’re looking for something lighter, Enoteca is a great laid-back bistro that serves delicious sandwiches and beer. Last, but not least on my list is the Arts BBQ restaurant. This small family-owned place serves amazing meats and is one of the best-rated places for food in Crescent City. 

Klamath hasn’t got as many options for food as Crescent City, but some of those places are worth checking out if you’re in the area. The Log Cabin Diner might not look like much, but they serve delicious breakfast and lunches. The Steelhead Lodge is a good choice for those who love a good atmosphere, and a good steak. And the Country Club serves delicious American food and is known for its generous portions. 

Orick hasn’t got many options for food in general, but the family-owned Snack Shack is known for good burgers and friendly-staff, so it’s well worth giving them a visit. 

Getting supplies at Redwood National and State Parks

Groceries 

For regular groceries, you can visit the Grocery Outlet, Park City Superette or Safeway in Crescent City. If you’re located in the southern parts of the park system, you can visit the Shoreline Deli & Market and Orick Market in Orick. 

Camping supplies

If you need camping supplies, the closest store to RNSP is the Big 5 Sporting Goods store in Crescent City. For more options, you’d have to drive south to Arcata, where you can find stores like Adventurer’s Edge or the Pacific Outfitters. 

Gas stations

There are numerous gas stations in Crescent City. If you’re looking to fill up your tank around Klamath, visit the Pem-Mey Fuel Mart or Renner Petroleum. In Orick, you can get gas at the Shoreline Market and Deli, which is also a gas station.  

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Frequently asked questions about Redwood National and State Parks

How many Redwood parks are there?

The Redwood National and State Park system comprises 4 parks. The Redwood National Park and Del Norte Coast, Jedediah Smith, and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Parks.

Which is better, Muir Woods or Redwood National and State Parks?

Muir Woods attracts huge crowds of tourists from largely populated cities around it. Although the sights are beautiful in both places, we’d prefer the peace and tranquillity at the Redwood National and State Parks. 

How many days do you need in Redwood National and State Parks?

The answer to that mainly depends on what you are looking to do there. If you’re a keen backpacker, you may want to spend at least three or four days in backcountry campsites, exploring the trails. But the parks are also suitable for those who can only spare a couple of hours. You can explore the parks on one of the three scenic drives, and pull out to see the huge coastal redwood trees on the way. 

Are there bears in Redwood National and State Parks?

Yes, black bears are common in the Redwood National and State Parks and across other areas in northwestern California. 

Is Redwood National Park worth visiting?

If you love the outdoors, stunning ocean views and would like to see the tallest trees in the world, Redwood National and State Parks are truly worth visiting. It’s a great place to spend quality time enjoying nature.

Where is the best place to see the giant redwoods?

At the Lady Bird Johnson Grove in Redwoods National Park.

Which are bigger – sequoias or redwoods?

The giant sequoias are the biggest trees in the world (diameter) but the coastal redwoods are the tallest (height). 

What is the closest town to Redwood National and State Parks?

The closest town that offers a lot of amenities is Crescent City, which is located at the northern part of the park system.

Where should I stay when visiting Redwood National and State Parks?

The best hubs to explore the Redwoods National and State Parks are Crescent City, Kmalath and Orick. 

How long is the drive from San Francisco to Redwood National and State Parks?

The drive from San Francisco to Redwood National and State Parks is just under 6 hours long via US 101. 

What is the tallest tree in the world?

Hyperion is the tallest tree in the world and you can see it in the Redwood National and State Parks. It’s 115.55 m (379.1 ft) tall. 

redwood national and state parks guide-great scenery

Find other amazing outdoor destinations in California

Check out the extensive guides on Lassen Volcanic National Park or Point Reyes National Seashore, to find other amazing opportunities to spend time in nature. If you like to explore the greatest trails, you can also view the greatest backpacking trails in Northern California.

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