National Park Guides

Exploring Nature’s Sky Scrapers: Redwood National Park

POSTED ON August 16, 2023 BY Ralph S.


Introduction

Welcome to an awe-inspiring journey through the magnificent Redwood National Park and its neighboring state parks.

Nestled along the picturesque northern California coast, this enchanting region is a sanctuary of breathtaking beauty and natural wonders. From the ancient giants of Redwood Creek and Prairie Creek to the mesmerizing vistas of the Pacific Ocean, Redwood National, and State Parks offer an unforgettable experience for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers alike.

As you venture through this extraordinary landscape, you’ll encounter the majestic tall trees and the incredible Coast Redwoods, which stand as living testaments to time itself. These towering giants create an ethereal canopy, casting an otherworldly glow over the pristine surroundings.

Explore the tranquil pathways that wind through the parks, allowing you to immerse yourself in the tranquility of nature. Discover the vibrant biodiversity that thrives within this ecosystem, from the pristine waters of the Smith River to the diverse wildlife that calls this place home.

Whether you’re a hiker, a photographer, or simply seeking solace in nature, Redwood National Park and its neighboring state parks beckon you to uncover their hidden treasures.

Join us on this virtual journey as we unveil the wonders of Redwood National and State Parks, an unparalleled destination that will leave you in awe at the sheer magnificence of our natural world.

Tall trees in Redwoods National Park

History of Redwood National Park

The history of Redwood National Park is a tale woven with preservation, admiration, and relentless efforts to protect one of nature’s greatest treasures. Established in 1968, Redwood National Park was born out of a collective recognition of the importance of preserving the majestic redwood trees that dominate the landscape of northern California.

The creation of the park was a collaborative effort between the National Park Service and the California state parks, resulting in the formation of the renowned Redwood National and State Parks.

Redwood National Park is also renowned for its diverse and picturesque landscapes. From the lush, fern-filled gorge of Fern Canyon to the scenic beauty of the Smith River, the park encompasses a wide range of ecosystems and natural wonders.

The park boundaries extend along the California coastline, hugging the shores of the Pacific Ocean and following the course of the Klamath River. Its proximity to San Francisco makes it a popular destination for nature enthusiasts and city dwellers seeking an escape into the serene wilderness.

At the heart of Redwood National Park lies the old-growth redwood forest, where ancient giants stretch toward the heavens. These coastal redwood forests are home to some of the tallest trees on Earth, captivating visitors with their sheer magnitude and timeless beauty. Among the park’s notable attractions is the Tall Trees Grove, where visitors can wander through a cathedral of giants, their towering presence leaving you in awe of nature’s grandeur.

Today, the park stands as a testament to the ongoing dedication to protecting and celebrating the wonders of nature. As you explore the depths of Redwood National Park, you become a part of this rich history, connecting with the legacy of those who have cherished and fought for the preservation of these natural marvels.

Redwood National and State Parks

Key Facts about Redwood National Park

Size: Approximately 138,999 acres (560.88 km2).

Number of Visitors: 435,879 (2021).

Established on: October 2, 1968, as a collaborative effort between the National Park Service and the California state parks.

Total Length of Hiking Trails: Approximately 200 miles (322 kilometers).

Highest Point: 2,049 ft (625 m) above sea level at Bald Hills Road

Lowest Point: 0 ft (0 m) at sea level in the Pacific Ocean

Other interesting facts about Redwood:

  • Redwood State Parks, situated in northern California, is a remarkable collection of four parks that celebrate the grandeur of the redwood trees, including the iconic Sequoia sempervirens, known as the coast redwood, the world’s tallest tree species.
  • Within the park, you’ll find tall trees grove, reaching heights of over 350 feet (107 meters), reminiscent of a scene from Jurassic Park.
  • The park’s old-growth redwood groves, such as Prairie Creek Redwoods and Mill Creek, transport visitors to a bygone era, showcasing ancient giants that have stood for centuries in this pristine old growth forest.
  • Redwood National Park is not only a sanctuary of magnificent trees but also boasts the breathtaking beauty of the nearby Pacific Ocean, where the park’s boundaries meet the stunning coastline.
  • The park’s scenic Smith River flows through a portion of the park, offering visitors the opportunity to enjoy its crystal-clear waters and admire the surrounding redwood forests.
  • While Redwood State Parks primarily focus on the coast redwood, it is worth noting that the giant sequoia, found in other California parks like Sequoia and Kings Canyon, belongs to a different species altogether.
  • The Klamath River winds its way through the park, marking the border between California and Oregon and adding to the park’s natural allure.
  • Exploring Redwood National and State Parks allows you to witness the profound beauty of old-growth forests that have been preserved to showcase the resilience and majesty of these incredible redwood groves.
  • Despite its natural seclusion, the park is relatively accessible, with its proximity to major cities like San Francisco making it a popular destination for both local and international visitors seeking a glimpse into the world of these ancient giants.

lush green forest in Redwoods National park

Climate and Weather

Redwood, which is managed by the National Park Service, offers different experiences, like exploring the tranquil Redwood Creek or immersing yourself in the towering presence of the ancient redwood trees. Before you visit Redwood National and State Parks, it’s essential to be prepared for the climate and weather conditions that vary throughout the seasons.

Here’s what to expect when visiting Redwood National Park in each season:

Spring (March to May)

Spring offers milder temperatures, with highs averaging 12–18 °C (54–65 °F). It’s a season of renewal when the park comes alive with blooming flowers and fresh greenery.

Exploring Redwood National and State Parks and the nearby parks along the Klamath River and Oregon border is a delight during this time.

Don’t miss the chance to visit the park’s old-growth forests and witness the resilience of the ancient redwoods. But always remember to check the weather forecast before visiting Redwood National Park and consult with park authorities for any specific advisories.

Summer (June to August)

Summer brings pleasant temperatures, with average highs ranging from 16–22 °C (60–72 °F). The Redwood National and State Parks, including popular spots like Gold Bluffs Beach and the scenic Smith River, are perfect for camping, hiking, and beach activities.

But remember that summer is the peak tourist season, so expect larger crowds and more bustling trails.

Fall (September to November)

Fall in Redwood National Park brings milder temperatures, with highs averaging around 12–18 °C (54–65 °F). This season offers a magnificent display of fall foliage, with the redwood forests and the enchanting Fern Canyon turning vibrant shades of orange and gold.

It’s a great time to visit the park’s old-growth redwood groves, such as those in the Del Norte Coast (map) and Mill Creek areas.

Winter (December to February)

Winter brings cooler temperatures to the park, ranging from 7–13 °C (45–55 °F). Be prepared for rain (more info), as this season is known for its wet weather. However, the park’s lush landscapes and misty forests create a magical ambiance.

Bundle up and explore the park’s bike trails or embark on wildlife spotting adventures, including the majestic Roosevelt elk.

Trees in the Redwood National Park

When to Visit Redwood National Park

Choosing the best time to visit Redwood National Park depends on your preferences and what you hope to experience. With its stunning landscapes, iconic redwood trees (Sequoia Sempervirens), and diverse ecosystems, this park, which comprises Redwood Creek, Del Norte Coast Redwoods, Prairie Creek, and Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Parks, offers something extraordinary throughout the year.

For mild weather and smaller crowds, the shoulder seasons of spring (March to May) and fall (September to November) are ideal.

During spring, the park awakens with vibrant blooms and fresh greenery, providing a picturesque backdrop for exploring popular spots like Prairie Creek Redwoods and Lady Bird Johnson Grove (map).

In fall, the changing foliage adds an enchanting touch to the Del Norte Coast Redwoods and Bald Hills Road, making it an excellent time for scenic drives and peaceful hikes.

Summer is the peak tourist season, attracting visitors from near and far to immerse themselves in the beauty of the redwood parks. While trails may be busier, this is the best time to enjoy outdoor activities at Gold Bluffs Beach, meander along the Smith River, or wander through the captivating Fern Canyon.

Winter offers a quieter and more intimate experience in the park. You can witness the majesty of the old-growth redwoods in a misty ambiance, marvel at the world’s tallest trees, and spot the magnificent Roosevelt elk amidst the tranquility of Mill Creek and Jedediah Smith redwoods.

Recommended Gear

When preparing to visit Redwood National Park, it’s essential to have the right gear to make the most of your experience in each season.

Here are some recommended items for your trip: You can find more information in our blogs about day hike checklist and multi-day hikes.

A man standing among tall trees in Redwoods National Park

Spring:

Layered Clothing: As temperatures can fluctuate, pack layers to easily adjust to changing weather conditions. Check out our blog about choosing the best hiking clothes for your next adventure to know the correct clothes to include.

Waterproof Gear: Because spring brings rain, a waterproof jacket, pants, and footwear are essential, especially for exploring areas like Fern Canyon and Redwood Creek.

Sturdy Hiking Shoes, such as muddy trails and waterproof hiking shoes, to keep your feet dry and provide stability on uneven terrain.

Spring is a fantastic time for birdwatching, and having binoculars handy will enhance your wildlife spotting, including the Roosevelt elk.

Summer:

Summers in the park can be warm, so opt for lightweight, breathable fabrics to stay comfortable during hikes and beach activities at Gold Bluffs Beach.

Don’t forget to pack sunscreen, sunglasses, and a wide-brimmed hat to shield yourself from the sun’s rays while exploring the sun-dappled trails of Prairie Creek and Lady Bird Johnson Grove.

Mosquitoes can be prevalent in certain areas, so insect repellent will ensure a more enjoyable experience.

Fall:

Fall is a fantastic time to explore the park’s trails, including Prairie Creek Redwoods. Pack outdoor navigation equipment and comfortable walking shoes for long hikes amidst the beautiful autumn foliage.

As temperatures can be cooler, especially in the evenings, bring sweaters, jackets, and long pants for comfortable outdoor adventures.

Capture the stunning fall colors or get a closer look at the coast redwoods with a camera or binoculars.

Winter:

Winter temperatures can be chilly, so pack warm layers, including insulated jackets, hats, gloves, and thermal base layers, for your visit to the redwood forests.

Be prepared for rain showers by bringing a waterproof jacket, pants, and footwear to enjoy the misty beauty of the Kuchel Visitor Center and other areas.

With shorter daylight hours, having a flashlight or headlamp will be useful for exploring trails during the darker hours.

Always remember to check the specific weather forecast before your trip and consider the activities you plan to engage in.

Forest in Redwood National Park

What to Do in Redwood National Park

Redwood National and State Parks is a true nature lover’s paradise. With its stunning landscapes, ancient redwoods, and diverse ecosystems, it offers an array of activities for visitors throughout the year.

From exploring old-growth forests to spotting wildlife and beachcombing along the coast, there are plenty of adventures waiting to be discovered in this magical park.

Here are some ideas on what to do while visiting Redwood National Park:

Hiking and Backpacking

Redwood National Park offers a variety of outdoor experiences, including hiking and backpacking. There are numerous trails that have been carefully designed to provide visitors with an array of spectacular views, natural habitats, and ancient redwoods.

Some of the popular trails include the Coastal Trail, a stunning continuous hike that begins at Crescent Beach Overlook and winds through prairies, old-growth forests, and rugged coastline, and the Klamath River Overlook Trail, which has sweeping landscapes from high above the Klamath River.

A Trail in Redwoods National Park

Best Hikes in Redwood National Park

Prairie Creek Trail: This is an easy 2.5-mile (4-kilometer) round trip where visitors can immerse themselves in the magical Fern Canyon, where lush greenery drapes the walls, and trickling streams create an enchanting atmosphere. Marvel at the delicate ferns and mosses that cover the towering walls of this unique canyon. It takes approximately 1 hour to complete the trail

Lady Bird Johnson Grove Trail (map): This is a 1.5-mile (2.5 km) round trip easy-to-moderate hike where visitors can walk among ancient coast redwoods in this serene grove named after the former First Lady. Enjoy interpretive signs along the trail that provide information about the towering trees and the efforts to preserve them. Breathe in the crisp forest air and soak in the tranquility of the old-growth forest. It takes around 1.5–2 hours to complete.

Boy Scout Tree Trail (map): This is a 5.5-mile (9 km) round trip moderate-to-strenuous trail that journeys through Redwood National and State Park to witness the impressive Boy Scout Tree, one of the tallest trees in the world. This trail showcases the beauty of old-growth redwoods, offering glimpses of towering giants and the chance to spot wildlife like Roosevelt elk. Be prepared for some elevation gains along the way. Duration: Allow 4-5 hours

Damnation Creek Trail (map): This is a 4.4-mile (7 km) round trip strenuous hike that cuts through the lush coastal forest to reach the picturesque Redwood Creek Overlook. This challenging trail rewards you with breathtaking views of the crashing waves along the rugged coastline. Experience the dramatic meeting of the old-growth forest and the mighty Pacific Ocean. It takes about 4-5 hours to complete the entire trail.

Tall Trees Grove Trail: This is a 4.5-mile (6.5 km) round trip moderate hike where hikers can explore one of the most awe-inspiring groves in Redwood National and State Parks. The Tall Trees Grove showcases some of the world’s tallest trees, including the famous Hyperion, the world’s tallest tree. A permit is required to access the trail, adding to the exclusivity and serenity of the experience. Plan for a half-day excursion

Redwood Creek Trail (map): This is a 15.6-mile (25 km) round trip strenuous hike that ventures deep into the heart of the old-growth forest along the banks of Redwood Creek. This challenging multi-day hike takes you through breathtaking scenery, ancient redwoods, and picturesque meadows. Camp overnight in designated backcountry sites and experience the solitude of this magnificent wilderness. It’s best done on a 2 or 3-day schedule that allows for backpacking and camping.

Remember to obtain any necessary permits, check trail conditions, and consult with the national park rangers for the latest information before embarking on any hike.

Also, you can check the visitor centers, visitor guides & newspapers, and backcountry trip planners for detailed information about walks, hikes, and popular trails.

Camping

Camping in Redwood National and State Parks offers a unique opportunity to fully immerse yourself in the natural splendor of the park and its iconic redwood forest. Here are the main campgrounds available for visitors:

Camping in Redwood National Park

Gold Bluffs Beach Campground, situated along the scenic coast, offers breathtaking ocean views and direct access to the sandy shores. No reservations are available for the Gold Bluffs Beach Campground, and it operates on a first-come, first-served basis. But you need a free Gold Bluffs Beach / Fern Canyon Parking permit.

Elk Prairie Campground, nestled within the enchanting prairie of Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, provides a serene setting surrounded by majestic redwoods and frequented by the park’s resident Roosevelt elk.

Reservations are recommended and can be made through the National Park Service (here) or ReserveCalifornia.

Jedediah Smith Campground, located in Redwood National and State Park, is renowned for its old-growth redwood grove and scenic beauty.

Reservations for the Jedediah Smith Campground can be made through the National Park Service or ReserveCalifornia.

Mill Creek Campground, near Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, offers a tranquil setting surrounded by towering trees and a nearby creek.

Reservations for Mill Creek Campground can be made through the National Park Service or ReserveCalifornia.

In addition to the developed campgrounds, Redwood National Park also provides opportunities for backcountry camping in seven designated backcountry campsites.

There are seven backcountry campsites available for those seeking a more secluded and immersive experience in the park’s wilderness. You can only apply for a backcountry permit online up to 160 days in advance but no later than 24 hours prior to your planned camping date. Here are some helpful links for planning a successful backcountry trip: The Backcountry Trip Planner (PDF), Redwood National and State Parks maps, and a backcountry mileage chart (PDF)

It’s important to note that dispersed camping is not permitted within the park. Visitors must use designated campgrounds or obtain the necessary permits for backcountry camping.

Scenic Drives

Redwood National and State Parks offer stunning scenic drives that allow you to marvel at the majestic beauty of the redwood forests. Drive along the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway near Humboldt Redwoods State Park or Howland Hill Road in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, both of which offer breathtaking views of old-growth redwoods and the opportunity to witness the world’s tallest tree up close.

Ranger-led Programs

Immerse yourself in the knowledge and expertise of park rangers by participating in ranger-led programs. These programs offer guided hikes, informative talks, and educational activities that provide insights into the ecology, history, and preservation efforts of the redwood forest.

Check with the visitor center for a schedule of ranger-led programs during your visit.

Tide Pooling

Explore the fascinating intertidal zones of Redwood National Park’s coastline during low tide. Discover a rich diversity of marine life, including anemones, starfish, and crabs, in the tide pools scattered along the rocky shores. Remember to tread carefully and respect the delicate ecosystems while observing these captivating creatures.

Wildlife Viewing

Redwood National Park is home to a variety of wildlife species, including Roosevelt elk, black bears, gray whales (during migration season from November – December and March – April), and numerous bird species. Keep your eyes peeled while exploring the park’s trails and meadows for opportunities to spot these magnificent animals in their natural habitat.

Kayaking

Discover the park’s waterways by kayaking along rivers such as the Smith River or exploring coastal estuaries. Paddle through the calm water, surrounded by the serenity of the old-growth redwoods and the diverse flora and fauna that thrive in these aquatic ecosystems.

Bicycling

Enjoy the scenic beauty of Redwood National Park on two wheels by cycling along designated bike paths. Pedal through the redwood forest, taking in the fresh forest air and the awe-inspiring vistas along the way. Cycling is a fantastic way to explore the park at your own pace and connect with its natural wonders.

There are a few bike shops offering rental services. So, Visitors can rent bikes along the Redwood Highway near the eastern entrance of Howland Hill Road.

A Designated Pathway in Redwood National Park

Horseback Riding

Experience the redwood forest from a unique perspective by embarking on a horseback riding adventure. Some areas within the park allow horseback riding, providing an opportunity to explore the trails and enjoy the tranquility of the old-growth forest while on horseback.

Where to Stay

When planning a visit to Redwood National Park, you have a few options for where to stay, both within the park and in nearby towns.

Here are some recommendations to consider:

Elk Prairie Campground (Redwood National Park)

Located within the park, Elk Prairie Campground offers a serene setting amidst the redwoods. This developed campground provides amenities such as restrooms, picnic tables, and fire pits. Reservations are recommended to secure your spot.

Dispersed Camping (Redwood National Park)

While dispersed camping is not permitted within Redwood National Park, there are nearby national forests and public lands that allow dispersed camping. Be sure to check with the respective agencies for regulations and permit requirements.

Crescent City

The town of Crescent City (map), situated near the northern entrance of the park, offers a range of lodging options, including hotels, motels, and vacation rentals. This coastal town provides easy access to the park and is a convenient base for exploring the redwoods.

Other Developed Campgrounds

Outside of Redwood National Park, there are additional developed campgrounds in the surrounding area. These include campgrounds in the state parks adjacent to Redwood National Park, such as Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. But remember to make reservations in advance, especially during peak seasons, to secure your preferred accommodation.

Note: consider the proximity to your desired activities, the amenities you require, and the level of immersion you seek within the park when choosing where to stay.

How to Get There

Getting to and around Redwood National Park is an essential aspect of planning your visit to this awe-inspiring destination.

Here’s a guide on how to get there and navigate the park:

Nearest Airports:

The nearest major airport to Redwood National Park is the Arcata-Eureka Airport (ACV), located in McKinleyville, California. It is approximately 40 miles (64 km) north of the park. Another option is the Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport (MFR) in Medford, Oregon, which is about 150 miles (241 km) northeast of the park.

From Arcata-Eureka Airport (ACV):

Rental Car: Renting a car is a convenient option for transportation. Several rental car agencies operate at the airport, allowing you to easily drive to the park.

Shuttle Service: Some shuttle services provide transportation from the airport to Redwood National Park. It is recommended to book in advance to ensure availability.

Public Transportation: Limited public transportation options are available from the airport. It is advisable to check local bus schedules and plan accordingly.

From Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport (MFR):

Rental Car: Renting a car from the airport is the most convenient way to reach Redwood National Park from Medford. It gives you the flexibility to explore the park and surrounding areas at your own pace.

Private Transportation: Private shuttle services and taxis can also be arranged to transport you from Medford to the park. It is recommended to book in advance.

Getting Around Redwood National Park:

  • Vehicle: Having your own vehicle or a rental car is the most convenient way to get around the park. The park’s scenic drives, such as the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway, can be enjoyed at your leisure, and they allow you to easily access trailheads, visitor centers, and various points of interest.
  • Bicycling: Bicycling is a popular way to explore Redwood National Park. Bike-friendly roads and trails allow you to immerse yourself in the park’s beauty while enjoying a leisurely ride. Remember to check trail regulations and obtain any necessary permits for backcountry biking.
  • Hiking: Lace up your hiking boots and explore the park’s trails on foot. Redwood National Park offers a network of well-maintained trails, varying in length and difficulty, allowing you to discover the old-growth redwoods and other natural wonders up close.

A Road in Redwoods National Park

It’s important to note that public transportation options within the park are limited, so having your own vehicle or arranging private transportation is highly recommended for the most flexibility and convenience.

Conclusion

Redwood National Park stands as a testament to the stunning beauty and grandeur of the natural world. With its towering redwood trees, lush old-growth forests, and scenic coastal landscapes, this park offers a captivating experience that leaves a lasting impression on all who visit.

Beyond the majestic trees, Redwood National Park is also home to a rich array of wildlife, including the magnificent Roosevelt elk. Explorations along the park’s waterways, like the Smith River and the scenic coast, unveil hidden treasures, from tide pools teeming with marine life to secluded beaches like Gold Bluffs Beach.

So take the time to plan your visit today—it’ll be worth every minute.

For more exciting destinations like this, kindly visit our National Park Guides page.


RALPH S.

Ralph S. is the founder of Silverlight, an avid hiker and trail runner he enjoys spending time outdoors, riding his motorcycle and swimming at the beach when he's not busy replying to customers or developing new Silverlight gear.

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