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23 Best Things to Do in Redwood National and State Parks (+ Tips for Visiting!)

Redwood National and State Parks offer you the chance to discover some of the most scenic redwood groves on the planet. But they also offer an astonishing variety of other beautiful landscapes to explore and many fun things to do.

Located in Northern California, close to the Oregon border, Redwood National and State Parks comprise four parks: Redwood National Park, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, and Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park. The complex is bisected into north and south halves by the Klamath River.

Each of the parks is individually worthy of a visit if you love nature. Together, their beauty is formidable, ranging from lush redwood groves to pristine beaches and vast prairies to windy coastal bluffs. From hikes to scenic drives and tidepooling to wildlife viewing, many exciting activities await you at Redwood National and State Parks.

Considering a visit to these beautiful parks?

Read on for the best things to do in Redwood National and State Parks, plus things to know before you go!

TABLE OF CONTENTS
Things to Do in Redwood National and State Parks
Redwood National and State Parks Hours and Fees
Visitor Centers for Redwood National and State Parks
Where to Stay When Visiting Redwood National and State Parks
How Much Time Do You Need for Redwood National and State Parks?
Getting to Redwood National and State Parks
Getting Around in Redwood National and State Parks
The Best Time to Visit Redwood National Park
Tips for Visiting Redwood National and State Parks in Northern California

Things to Do in Redwood National and State Parks

Together, Redwood National State Parks cover about 139,000 acres, and protect about 45 percent of all remaining old-growth coast redwoods, the Sequoia sempervirens. These amazing giants once covered extensive areas of the California coast, but intensive logging over several decades cut deeply into the population.

Beautiful views along the Damnation Creek Trail in Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park California

Today, Redwood National and State Parks help preserve not only the old-growth redwoods, but also a number of other endangered species. Redwood National and State Parks is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of only three sites in California.

Hyperion, the world’s tallest tree, is part of Redwood National and State Parks, as are Helios and Icarus, the second and third tallest. Their exact locations are kept secret, to protect them.

Because of their location, several hours from the nearest large city in California, Redwood National and State Parks are among the lesser visited of California’s national parks. Which means you can explore them in relative quiet, except possibly in the height of the season in summer.

Excited to learn more? Let’s get started discovering the best things to do in Redwood National and State Parks!

Hike Fern Canyon

Arguably the single most sought-after activity in Redwood National and State Parks, the Fern Canyon Loop Trail is well deserving of a place in any nature lover’s California bucket list. The lush canyon, carved by Home Creek, was featured in Jurassic Park 2.

Exploring Fern Canyon in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park is one of the best things to do in Redwood National Park.

Both walls of the narrow canyon are covered in a luxuriant growth of different types of ferns and mosses and other greenery, with moisture dripping down the walls. Walking through the canyon, you feel exactly like you are in an adventure movie, making your way through an exotic forest!

You can hike Fern Canyon as a one-mile loop, or hike it as an out and back as far in as you like. During the summer, footbridges make the trail dryer and easier to navigate. The rest of the year, your feet will likely get wet, but the trail is still doable. Wear waterproof footwear and check trail conditions before you head out.

Location: Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

Drive Howland Hill Road

Our favorite drive in Redwood National and State Parks is the 6-mile scenic drive along Howland Hill Road. The graded dirt road is narrow, and you feel like you are driving through a tunnel of towering redwoods: it is without a doubt an exhilarating and humbling experience all at once.

Howland Hill Road in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, California

If you approach from the south, the road climbs uphill into the park, through some of the finest redwoods you will see anywhere, and then down past more trees and woods. The green is deeply restful, and the sunlight streaming through makes for great photo ops.

There are pullouts along the way, and parking at trailheads. The Del Norte Titan and the Grove of Titans, featuring some of the tallest trees in the park, are off trail: a boardwalk trail is being built to allow visitors to view them without trampling the vegetation.

Wide vehicles and trailers will not be able to traverse the narrow Howland Hill Road. Driving slow is the best way to appreciate the beauty of this drive.

Location: Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park

Stroll Lady Bird Johnson Grove

The flat, short trail through beautiful redwoods at Lady Bird Johnson Grove is perfect for even the briefest of itineraries. Located off Bald Hills Road, the ridgetop loop trail is about 1.5 miles in length, and situated 1,200 feet above sea level.

Rhododendron in bloom in Lady Bird Johnson Grove in Redwood National Park, California

The understory in the grove is especially beautiful, with lots of mature ferns and rhododendrons with pretty pink flowers in late spring. This is one of the groves in the parks where you can reasonably expect to see swirling mist for that mysterious atmosphere you associate with redwood forests.

You can view the plaque dedicated to Lady Bird Johnson, and, in the summer, join a ranger-led interpretive walk through the famous grove.

Location: Redwood National Park

Drive the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway

The scenic alternative to US 101, the 10-mile Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway winds through the heart of Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. Mr. Drury served as the executive director of the Save the Redwoods League for many years, and is highly regarded for his work in protecting the redwood forests.

Looking up at the canopy along Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, California

While the drive features old-growth redwoods and is a worthy activity in itself, you will also find many opportunities to stop and explore along the way, since it is the start point of several trails through the park. Don’t miss the Corkscrew Tree, with its four twisty trunks!

At the south end of the road, be sure to look for elk in the large meadow. The Newton B. Drury Parkway is wide enough for trailers and RVs. There are pullouts along the drive if you want to stop to take photos.

Location: Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

Walk the Simpson-Reed Trail

Less than one mile in length, the Simpson-Reed Trail features large old-growth redwoods with trunks draped in bright green moss. The understory includes hemlocks and maples, ferns, and the ubiquitous redwood sorrel.

Simpson-Reed Grove Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park California

The accessible Simpson-Reed Discovery Trail is one of the more beautiful short walks in the complex, great for families with young kids or visitors using wheelchairs or walkers. Look for the felled trees in the grove, especially a really long one that you can see right by the side of the trail.

Although the grove is located close to the highway, traffic noise dies down as you get further into the grove. The Peterson Memorial Trail is a short optional extension to the loop. You will find the trailhead for the Simpson-Reed Trail off Walker Road.

Location: Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park

Take in the Views at the Klamath River Overlook

Arguably the most scenic overlook in the park complex, Klamath River Overlook offers superb views of the coastline and the ocean. But what makes this spot special is that you can see the Klamath River flow into the ocean here! The river pools on the sand, making for a great photo op.

A view of the mouth of the Klamath River in California

The Klamath River Overlook is one of the prime birdwatching spots in the park, and a great place to look for marine life as well. You may see whales spouting or fluking in the ocean in season, and see or hear harbor seals. Sunsets here are magnificent on fog-free evenings.

You will find picnic tables at the overlook if you want to enjoy lunch here. Larger vehicles, such as RVs, are not advised on the access road.

Location: Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park

Good to know: If you are planning to visit in an RV or with a trailer, the High Bluff Overlook, a little to the south, offers superb vistas and parking for all types of vehicles.

Admire Trillium Falls

The Trillium Falls Trail is one of the prettiest trails in the park, with not just a beautiful little waterfall to photograph, but lots of interesting flora, from redwoods to maples, firs, and ferns. You can snap photos of the falls, which flows over rocks, from a steel bridge.

Trillium Falls in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

The three-petaled Western trillium wildflowers bloom in late spring to early summer. White, sometimes tinged with pink or purple, the delicate flowers are a joy to photograph. You may also see the pink Pacific rhododendron in bloom at that time.

The hike to Trillium Falls is a 2.6 mile loop and is rated moderate. Trillium Falls comes up about 0.5 mile into the hike, and if you wish, you can turn back at that point. The trailhead is located at Elk Meadow, with plenty of parking. Look for Roosevelt elk in the parking area!

Location: Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

Stroll Stout Memorial Grove

The quintessential redwood grove, Stout Memorial Grove features mature old-growth redwoods with hardly any other trees to distract from their majesty. The lush understory is made up of ferns and redwood sorrel. A viewing platform lets you get close to the Stout Tree without damaging the undergrowth.

A fallen redwood tree in the Redwood National and State parks California

Although the trees in this grove aren’t the tallest you can see, at around 300 feet tall they are still impressive as a group. Stout Tree is the largest tree in the grove by far. The grove is located by the Smith River, and you will see lots of fallen trees as you walk the 0.5-mile trail.

The dappled light and serene setting in the grove (when it isn’t busy!) makes for a moving experience. Visit in the late afternoon in summer for the best light.

Location: Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park

Drive Bald Hills Road

Bald Hills Road is a beautiful drive, especially in the spring. The road climbs steeply from US 101 on its way to the trailheads for the Lady Bird Johnson Grove and the Tall Trees Grove, with redwood forests along the route.

Further along, Bald Hills Road passes by wide open prairies, for a change of scenery. In spring and early summer, carpets of wildflowers, especially purple lupine, blanket the prairies, making for a picture postcard scene.

Lupine in bloom along Bald Hills Road in Redwood National Park in the spring

Look for wildlife as you drive: Bald Hills Road is a prime wildlife viewing area in the park. You may see Roosevelt elk and black bear! From the Redwood Creek Overlook, you can see all the way to the Pacific Ocean if the day is clear.

Orick Mill, the last surviving old growth lumber mill, comes up near the start of the drive. You can also hike to the Dolason and Lyons historic ranch sites from this road. Bald Hills Road is about 17 miles one way, and the last few miles are unpaved. This road is not suitable for trailers or RVs.

Location: Redwood National Park

Hike the Epic James Irvine Trail

If you plan to spend a few days in the parks, and you enjoy hiking, the James Irvine Trail is a longer trail through redwood groves to the ocean and back. You can also add on the Fern Canyon Trail to this hike.

Trail through Fern Canyon in Prairie Creek Redwoods SP California

For the full 12-mile loop, begin by the Prairie Creek Visitor Center and follow the James Irvine Trail until it connects with the Friendship Ridge Trail and the Fern Canyon Loop. You will pass old-growth redwoods inland, spruce forests nearer the coast, and be awed by the lushness of the vegetation in Fern Canyon. Emerge onto Gold Bluffs Beach.

You can turn back and retrace your steps, or continue along Davison Road and take the more strenuous Miners Ridge Trail back to the visitor center. This is a challenging loop and will take several hours, so prepare accordingly!

Location: Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

Go Birdwatching

If you enjoy birding, bring your binoculars or zoom lens: over 280 species of birds have been spotted in Redwood National and State Parks. That’s over one-third the species you can see in all of the USA!

A male Northern pintail in flight

Because there are so many diverse habitats within the parks, you will see sea and shore birds, birds that love rivers, creeks, and ponds, birds that live in coniferous forests, and birds of the woodlands and prairies.

From owls, woodpeckers, jays, and warblers, to raptors of many kinds, ducks, herons, egrets, sandpipers, pelicans, grebes, and loons, you will not want for choice here! In the summer, be sure to look for the endangered marbled murrelet if you are up and about early in the day.

There are many birdwatching spots within the Redwood National and State Parks, including the trails, drives, and overlooks we’ve described in this article.

Location: Redwood National and State Parks

Check Out the Big Tree Wayside

If you want to see some really big redwood trees in a really short time, do the short walk from the parking lot off the Newton B. Drury Scenic Byway to the Big Tree viewing area. A viewing platform around the Big Tree allows you to get up close.

The grove contains other mature redwoods, so if you have a little more time, do some of the short walks that lead off from here, such as the Circle Trail. There is lots of signage to point you, and interpretive plaques if you want to learn more.

The Big Tree is understandably super popular, so this isn’t the place to go for that “cathedral quiet” experience. But it’s a fun quick stop to see some great trees, one you should not miss.

Location: Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

Look for Whales at the Crescent Beach Overlook

The many coastal overlooks in the park are worth visiting on bright sunny days, not only for the spectacular ocean views they offer, but also for the opportunity to spot marine life, including whales, in season.

Crescent Beach Overlook in Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park California

Crescent Beach Overlook is situated in the north of the complex. On clear days, the panorama of the sandy beach, the ocean, and the rock formations in the water, will take your breath away with its beauty. It is a fabulous spot from which to look for whales and sea birds.

Parking is limited, but there are picnic tables in the overlook area to sit and enjoy the views and a meal. Sunset is a particularly spectacular time to be here.

Location: Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park

Hike to the Tall Trees Grove

Want to do an epic backcountry hike in the Redwood National and State Parks? if you are an experienced hiker, the hike to the Tall Trees Grove comes with a round trip length of four miles and an elevation change of 1,600 feet.

The Tall Trees Grove hike takes you down 800 feet to the bed of Redwood Creek. Because of the sheltered location and adequate water, the redwoods here are really tall: several are as much as 350 feet tall. The understory is pretty, and there are spruces and other trees by the creek as well.

While you will find other groves in the parks with trees that are as tall and large (and easier to access!), this hike is beautiful and much less-trafficked, since you require a permit and there is a daily limit. Apply for yours online before your trip if you want to do the hike.

The banana slug is commonly seen in redwood forests in Northern California

Go Biking or Horse Riding

While hiking some of the more than 200 miles of trails in the Redwood National and State Parks is without a doubt the best way to enjoy being close to the redwoods, you can enjoy biking and horse riding in the parks as well.

Most bike trails in the parks are in the south of the complex, mainly along restored logging roads. The Gold Bluffs section of the Coastal Trail offers three easy miles. Davison Trail also has an easy 3-mile bike section. From October to May, on the first Saturday of each month, the Newton B. Drury Scenic Byway is a hike and bike trail, with no motorized traffic permitted.

Local companies offer guided horseback tours of Redwood National and State Parks. The park complex has designated equestrian trails and stock-ready camps, if you want to experience a multi-day trip. Short rides are also available.

Location: Redwood National and State Parks

Hike the Boy Scout Tree Trail

The out-and-back Boy Scout Tree Trail is a little over five miles round trip, with an elevation change of about 750 feet, so it’s a decent workout. The trail is one of the most beautiful longer hikes in the park for viewing old-growth redwoods. The trailhead is off Howland Hill Road.

Redwoods along the Boy Scout Tree Trail in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park California

Along the trail, you climb a couple of hills, which offer superb views of the forests all around. The moss-covered trunks and green ferns, with the reddish trail meandering through them, makes for a very pretty picture. The silence is to be savored.

You will find the Boy Scout Tree at the end of a small unmarked path to the right, at the bottom of the valley. The trail ends at Fern Falls, a small (but pretty) cascade: this hike is more about the journey than the destination.

The Boy Scout Tree Trail is popular, especially in the summer, so visit early to enjoy more serenity and solitude along the trail. Sunny mornings provide the best photo ops.

Location: Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park

Explore the Tidepools at Enderts Beach

Enderts Beach is known for its tidepools, and the coastline here is stunning as well. Go at low tide to look for starfish, anemones, mussels, crabs, and other interesting creatures in the pools. This beach is a fabulous photo spot as well.

To get to the beach, park at the south end of Enderts Beach Road and hike the Last Chance Section of the California Coast Trail to Nickel Creek Camp, where a downhill path will take you to the beach.

Enderts Beach is not a swimming beach, due to sneaker waves and cold water temperatures. Never turn your back on the ocean, and visit only at low tide.

Location: Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park

Hike the Prairie Creek to Foothill Loop

A relatively easy 2.5 mile hike, the Prairie Creek to Foothill Loop Trail is super scenic, and accessible. You do hear some traffic, so it’s not completely serene, but the reward overall is high. You can also go in on the Prairie Creek Trail and return via the Cathedral Trail, a slightly longer and equally scenic loop.

Hiking Prairie Creek Trail in Redwood National and State Parks, California

Prairie Creek Trail winds its way past large old-growth redwoods, with the creek rushing along below. Along the creek, you will see maples, which look lovely in the fall. The undergrowth features ferns and redwood sorrel.

The trail leads to the Big Tree, one of the largest redwoods in the park. The return, via the Foothill Trail, takes you along the edge of a redwood forest. The longer Cathedral Trail features impressive redwood groves and a more secluded return.

Location: Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

Go Kayaking

Local companies offer guided kayak tours along the Smith River or the ocean. Rafting trips are offered on Smith River as well. Paddling the beautiful turquoise river lined with redwoods on a bright sunny afternoon is a wonderful experience! You can pick from morning or afternoon tours, or opt for a full-day adventure.

In the summer, you may be able to join a ranger-led kayaking tour of the Smith River, so inquire if you plan to visit in that time of year. A ranger-led tour offers the chance to learn a great deal about the geology and flora and fauna as you paddle. Tours last about three hours and leave from the Hiouchi Visitor Center.

Location: Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park

Look for Roosevelt Elk (and Other Wildlife)

Redwood National and State Parks are home to a wide variety of land mammals. While the parks are most know for their populations of Roosevelt elk, you may also see black bear, bobcats, mountain lions, coyotes, and foxes, as well as river otters and North American beavers.

Roosevelt elk in Redwood National and State Parks California

Roosevelt elk are the most commonly seen land animals in the parks. You will very likely see some at Elk Prairie, on the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway, or at Elk Meadow, on Davison Road off US 101, or at Gold Bluffs Beach. Your chances of seeing elk, and other wildlife, are better early and late in the day.

Always observe wildlife from within your car or from a very safe distance. Even elk can be unpredictable, especially during rutting season and during calving season.

Location: Redwood National and State Parks

Picnic in the Parks

You will find picnic tables at many spots in the parks, whether at beaches, coastal overlooks, or in the prairies and forests. Each of the parks has a day use area.

If you bring a portable grill, you may be able to grill outdoors (but check with the park just prior to your trip), or you can bring a prepared picnic to enjoy.

Enjoying a meal (or three!) in the parks is a great way to take a scenic break and savor your surroundings while you sit for a bit.

Hike Damnation Creek Trail

One of the most popular hikes at Redwood National and State Parks, the Damnation Creek Trail offers a challenge with an elevation change of over 1,000 feet. Along this trail, you will find the quintessential redwood grove scenery, with wispy rhododendrons at the base of tall redwoods.

Hiking Damnation Creek Trail in Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

You’ll have the most otherworldly experience if you walk this trail when the pink flowers of the rhododendrons are in bloom and fingers of mist create that mystical appearance you associate with redwood forests.

The 4-mile round trip out and back trail features large redwoods close to the highway and winds its way to the Pacific Ocean, although there are no actual ocean views until the very end. As you approach the ocean, the redwoods give way to spruce trees, but the scenery is still very attractive.

Location: Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park

Enjoy Coastal Drive

Coastal Drive is a narrow 9-mile road that offers stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and the mouth of the Klamath River. It is steep in parts, with curves, and parts of the road may be closed depending on the season (or due to erosion), so check prior to embarking on your trip.

Be sure to stop at the overlooks along the way to take in the views, and bring binoculars to look for whales, sea lions, and sea birds. Along the route, a must-not-miss stop is the World War II radar station, posing as a farmhouse: a great bit of history to relish!

Location: Just south of the Klamath River

Redwood National and State Parks Hours and Fees

Redwood National and State Parks are generally open all day, every day. But before you visit, check the park website for information on special closures. Visitor centers, day use areas, and campgrounds have varying hours and seasons of operation.

Redwood National Park is free to visit. Jedediah Smith Redwoods, Del Norte Coast Redwoods, and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Parks collect day use fees at entrance stations for developed campgrounds. Discounted pricing is offered to holders of the America the Beautiful National Park Passes. California State Park Passes are accepted.

Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park charges a fee to drive to Gold Bluffs Beach and Fern Canyon. National Park Passes are accepted.

Prior to your visit, check the park websites for current information on fees and passes.

Do you have your National Parks Pass yet? Valid for one full year from the month of purchase, the America the Beautiful National Parks Pass costs USD 80.00 and offers admission (one vehicle or 4 persons) to over 2,000 Federal recreation sites, including national parks, national forests, and more! Get yours online at REI now!

Driving the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway in Redwood National and State Parks in California

Visitor Centers for Redwood National and State Parks

There are five visitor centers at Redwood National and State Parks (see map). We recommend you stop by one of the visitor centers upon arriving, to get oriented, have your questions answered, obtain information, and get suggestions on hikes and other activities tailored to your needs.

The visitor centers feature exhibits and information about the parks, and some have bookstores where you can buy maps, books, and souvenirs. Some host programs and talks.

If you arrive from the south, the Thomas H. Kuchel Visitor Center is located in Orick. Here you can watch a film about the parks, and attend ranger talks in season. It is open year round, except on major holidays.

Other visitor centers are located in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, Crescent City, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, and Hiouchi.

Redwood National and State Parks in Northern California

Where to Stay When Visiting Redwood National and State Parks

When visiting Redwood National and State Parks, you can camp inside the parks, or stay in hotels or Airbnb rentals in communities around the parks. We stayed in a vacation rental by the Klamath River and found it a very convenient base for exploring the parks.

Airbnbs Near Redwood National and State Parks

This beautiful home, nestled amidst spruce trees, offers views of the Pacific Ocean and Klamath River. The 3-bedroom, 2-bath home is a five-minute drive from the Redwood National and State Parks. The home features a full kitchen, laundry facilities, and a hot tub with ocean views. Book a stay here!

This charming cottage has a king bed in the large loft bedroom and a balcony with a partial view of the Klamath River. It is located amidst spruce trees and is very close to the parks. It has a kitchen area and a wood stove. Perfect couples retreat in nature! Book a stay here!

This highly-rated restored mobile home is in Hunter Valley, inside the parks. The home, with two bedrooms and one bath, features a redwood deck inside a gated and fenced double lot. You will feel like you are glamping! Book a stay here!

This cozy cabin is located in Hiouchi, close to Jedediah Smith Redwoods SP. The one-bed, one-bath wooded retreat is perfect for a couple. Built from sustainably harvested redwood, the cabin has a full kitchen. Book a stay here!

A beach in Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Hotels near Redwood National and State Parks

Emerald Forest Cabins are located in Trinidad, about 0.5 mile from the beach and about a 20-minute drive from the Thomas H. Kuchel Visitor Center. Each room in the lodge has a microwave and a refrigerator. There are standalone units available as well. Book on booking.com | Book on hotels.com

View Crest Lodge has a spectacular location in Trinidad. Located just 5 minutes from the beach, each cottage offers a microwave and a small refrigerator. Some cottages have a full kitchen. View Crest Lodge is about an 18-minute drive from the Thomas H. Kuchel Visitor Center. Book a stay here! Book on booking.com | Book on hotels.com

Camping in Redwood National and State Parks

There are four developed campgrounds within Redwood National and State Parks: Jedediah Smith, Mill Creek, Elk Prairie and Gold Bluffs Beach. The campgrounds are all managed by the state parks, and reservations can be made at Reserve California. Reserve well ahead of your visit: the campgrounds are extremely popular.

Camping is also allowed at designated backcountry camping sites and dispersed camping sites in a specific area by Redwood Creek. Permits are required, so call the park ahead of your visit for details if you want to explore backcountry or dispersed camping.

There are developed campgrounds and RV parks in areas surrounding the parks as well, so if you cannot find a spot inside the park, look for an option nearby. Smith River National Recreation Area, to the northeast of the parks, has campgrounds as well.

Hiking in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, California

How Much Time Should You Allow for Redwood National and State Parks?

You can craft an itinerary for Redwood National and State Parks that ranges from just a few hours to a week or more. How long you spend at the parks is based entirely on the time you have available and the activities you want to do.

While hikes offer unparalleled opportunities to experience the tallest trees in the world up close (a California bucket-list experience!), if you are time-constrained, or you don’t want to hike, you can focus on a few scenic drives, only getting out for scenic overlooks or for very short strolls to trees.

With more than a few hours, you have the opportunity to pick a few longer, more challenging hikes to explore the diverse habitats in the park, choose times with perfect light for photos, look for birds and wildlife, and generally savor your time among these beautiful giants of the forest.

We drove up from the Central Coast and spent a week enjoying the parks. Frankly, we could have spent another week without running out of new things to do. It really is a beautiful part of the state, deserving of all the time you can give it.

A view of redwoods and prairie from the Elk Prairie Trail in Prairie Creek Redwoods SP in California

Getting to Redwood National and State Parks

Redwood National and State Parks are located along the North Coast of California, with the northern end at Crescent City, just a few miles from the Oregon border, and the southern end at Orick, about a 5.5-hour drive from San Francisco. Driving is the best way to get to the parks.

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Redwood National and State Parks can be accessed from US 101 north or south. If you plan to drive up from San Francisco, the Thomas H. Kuchel Visitor Center is located about 312 miles north of the city, along Highway 101. You can also do a road trip along the coast, which takes longer, but allows you to see the beauty of the Sonoma Coast and stop at the pretty village of Mendocino and scenic town of Fort Bragg, CA, along the way.

If you plan to visit from Redding, take California Highway 299 West to US 101 N to the Kuchel Visitor Center. Driving south from the Oregon Coast, the Crescent City Information Center is located about 26 miles south of Brookings. Driving from Central Oregon, take US Highway 199 to US 101 South to Crescent City.


Getting Around in Redwood National and State Parks

You’ll need a vehicle to get around in Redwood National and State Parks, whether it’s a car or a motorcycle. You can explore parts of the park on horseback or on a bike as well.

Note that some roads in the park are not suitable for larger vehicles like RVs or trailers. Also, some roads in the parks are unpaved. Some of the unpaved roads can be quite rough, with lots of potholes and/or creek crossings, depending on the time of year. A high clearance vehicle or 4WD may be required in some cases.

Call the park ahead of your visit to discuss your planned activities with a park ranger and get suggestions on the most appropriate type of vehicle for your visit.

Fog envelops Damnation Creek Trail in Del Norte Coast Redwoods SP California

The Best Time to Visit Redwood National and State Parks

From a weather perspective, late spring through early fall is the best time to visit Redwood National and State Parks, although you may get patches of dry, clear weather in winter as well. On account of drier, warmer weather and long daylight hours, summer is high season in the parks, and popular trails and attractions are likely to be crowded during this time.

The coast sees temperatures between the mid-60s and mid-40s year round. Expect rain between October and April. In summer, fog rolls in from the ocean, creating the moist conditions necessary for the redwoods to thrive.

In late spring, you will see lots of wildflowers in the park, from pink Pacific rhododendron blooms to the white trillium blossoms and magenta redwood sorrel. The prairies are covered with wildflowers in late spring and early summer, making it a spectacular time to visit. In the fall, leaves of maples and other deciduous trees along creeks change color, making for great photo ops.

Pacific gray whales migrate south to Baja California in November-December, and return north in March-April. Although these are the best times to spot whales in the ocean, you may see some any time of year from the Klamath River Overlook.

Whipplea modesta in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park California

Tips for Visiting Redwood National and State Parks

Download a park map and Brochure

Download the official park map and brochure, or print them, prior to your visit. Per the park, your GPS or mobile apps may not be accurate in the Redwood National and State Parks area.

Rely on printed maps or guides and signs to get to places within the parks. This handy guide is a highly-rated reference book for Redwood National and State Parks, with all the top trails and sights, plus maps and color photos. Get it on Amazon!

Read Up on Park Safety Guidelines

The Redwood National and State Parks website has a page on safety. Read up and follow the guidelines for a safe and enjoyable visit.

Don’t Expect Great Cell Reception

Cell reception within the park area is spotty and quite limited. You will likely have the best reception near the visitor centers or on the fringes of the park.

Find grocers and other stores

If you plan to drive from the south, Trinidad is a great place to stop in order to shop for bottled water, groceries, and other supplies you think you will need. Coming from the north, Crescent City has full-service grocery stores and other shopping.

Redwood National and State Parks in California

Carry Plenty of Drinking Water

Bring adequate supplies of drinking water and carry enough on each hike so you stay hydrated. You will find potable water at the visitor centers.

A cooler is a great investment if you go on lots of road trips or trips to outdoor areas.

Bring Snacks and Food

There are no eateries inside the parks, so it’s a great idea to carry food and snacks. Picnic tables are available at spots throughout the park, so you’ll be able to stop for a picnic lunch during the day if you’ve packed food.

You will find restaurants in communities just outside the parks: in Trinidad, Crescent City, and Klamath. The Larrupin’ Cafe in Trinidad for dinner, and breakfast or dinner at the Requa Inn are highly rated.

Dress in layers

You can encounter variable weather any time of the year in Redwood National and State Parks. Be prepared by always dressing in layers, and bring rain gear with you: you might run into unexpected showers at any time.

Long-sleeved tops and long pants are always prudent when hiking. Bring a sun hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen for exposed trails and time on the beach or by the water.

Canopy in Lady Bird Johnson Grove in Redwood National Park, California

Wear Sturdy Hiking Shoes

Comfortable closed-toed walking shoes are a must even for shorter nature walks and hikes, and hiking shoes with good grip are recommended if you plan to do longer, moderate to strenuous hikes with a lot of elevation change.

Trails can be slippery and wet, so we recommend waterproof footwear.

Carry Bug Spray and a First-Aid Kit

Redwood National and State Parks is a wooded, moist area, and you may encounter mosquitoes and other biting insects. Bug spray is a must!

Also bring your own travel-sized first-aid kit, including clean tweezers, along with sanitizing wipes and lotion.

Bring Your Camera and Binoculars

If you love photographing birds or wildlife but don’t want to carry your heavy gear, look for a pocket digital camera with a good zoom lens. We love our little Panasonic Lumix DC-ZS70: it has a 30X zoom and Leica lens and takes excellent photos of even small birds if the light is decent.

We also always bring our compact binoculars if we expect to see birds or wildlife: we love the Celestron Trailseeker compact binoculars. They are waterproof and great for the lower light of dawn or dusk, when you are more likely to see birds and wildlife.

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Planning to explore more of California’s natural beauty? Check out our articles on other national parks in California!

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Discover the best things to do in Redwood National and State Parks on the Northern California Coast, from epic hikes to scenic drives and wildlife viewing!

Dhara

Dhara loves to explore her home state of California. With her husband Kishore, she has done numerous road trips in the state in every season. She hopes to share her love of the Golden State with you, and help you find your own exciting experiences here.

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