Walking trail at The Founders Grove Trail at Humboldt Redwoods State Park

A Guide to Redwoods National Park

The Redwoods National and State Parks on the Northern California coast is just one of the National Parks within California that offers massive redwood trees, hiking, and scenic drives. This national park is unique because it is made up of multiple different parks within a large area rather than one specific park. Typically Jedediah Smith Redwoods, Del Norte Coast Redwoods, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Parks, and Redwood National Park are thought to make up the collection of the Redwoods National and State Parks. Although the Humbodlt Redwoods State park is not technically within this park system, it is a great area to see Redwoods and is about an hour south and I will include it in my things to do. Even though there are multiple different parks to see, you can still see most of the parks in just a few days.

Redwood tree at the Founders Grove Trail at Humboldt Redwoods State Park

Table of Contents

When to Visit the Redwoods National Park

You can visit the Redwoods National and State Parks year round. During the winter, the area typically gets more rain but you will have less crowds. During the summer, it is the peak season so it will be a more packed. The benefit of the summer is that you often will have fog to make for moody photos in the morning. If you can go during the spring, you will get to see some spring colors mixed between all the trees.

Check out the National Parks website before you go to make sure there are no road closures or park closures. 

Redwoods and Ferns at the Simpson-Reed Grove Trail at Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park in California

Where to stay when visiting the Redwoods National Park?

I recommend staying up in Crescent City, CA which is on the north side of the parks. It allows for easy access to all the different areas. The longest drive you have will be down to Humboldt Redwood State Park which is about a 2 hour drive. We visited this park on the way coming up from San Francisco area so we didn’t have to backtrack later. All the other parks are close to Crescent City. There are some hotels in the area, but I would recommend staying in an Airbnb since you will want to stay here for a few days. We stayed in one, right on the beachfront for about $200/night.

Foggy afternoon of the Pacific Ocean on the Crescent city coastline

Where is the Redwoods National and State Parks located?

These parks are all located on the Northern California coastline, just south of the Oregon border. The Northern most Californian coast as well as a few miles of Oregon Coast are the only location where these Redwoods grow. It is far from any large airport, but the closest one would be San Francisco which is almost a 6 hr drive away. You could consider flying into a regional airport in Eureka, CA or Redding, CA but typically flights are limited and expensive. Either way, you are going to want to have a car for this trip so that you can explore all the different parks. There is not a good public transportation option for this area.

Ferns, Fallen down tree, Redwood Tree, The Founders Grove Trail, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, California

What to do at the Redwoods State and National Parks?

There are lots of things to do at the Redwoods National and State Parks and if you are only here for a few days, your days will be packed. Try to spend some time exploring the area, and don’t neglect the beautiful Northern California Coastline. 

Drives

This area is beautiful and one of the ways to see more of the area is to go on some beautiful drives. Here is a list of my favorite drives from the area. 

Road, Avenue of the Giants, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, California

Newton B Drury Scenic Parkway

This road parallels Highway 101, but takes you through Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. Take this 10 mile paved side road and drive through the redwoods. There are lots of places where you can just pull over and take a walk through the Redwoods. Make sure to check out the Corkscrew Tree. Another good stop is the Big Tree. Near the end of this road before you get back on 101, you can often find Roosevelt elk.

Corkscrew Tree, Prairie Creek Redwoods National Park, California, Redwood Tree

Howland Hill Road

This is a narrow, unpaved road that takes you out to the Stout Grove. On the way, you will pass by many huge Redwoods. 

See through tree, burnt tree, Stout Memorial Grove, Jedediah Smith Redwood Park, California

Drive Between Trinidad and Moonstone

Okay, this is not really about the Redwoods, but about the amazing California coastline. This drive will take you by amazing ocean rock formations. Be warned, this road is very narrow and I would avoid it if you have a big car or someone who is afraid of heights in your car. 

Trinidad coastline, Pacific Ocean Coastline, California Coastline, scenic coast

Avenue of the Giants

This is another road that parallels highway 101 and is part of the Humboldt Redwoods State Park. Although this is technically not within the Redwoods National and State Park, this is a detour I recommend taking. We came up from San Francisco area and stopped at this park on the way to Crescent City. The Avenue of the Giants is a 31 mile scenic drive. There are multiple stops along the way that are part of a self-guided auto tour. 

Fallen down redwood tree at The Founders Grove Trail in Humboldt Redwoods State Park

Hiking

One of the best ways to explore the Redwoods is to get out of your car and walk with the giants. It would be too much to go over all the great hikes in this park, so check out this page about the 5 best beginner hikes in the Redwoods National and State Parks. 

hiking, redwoods tree, Redwoods National Park, Prairie Creek Trail, Prairie Creek Redwoods National Park, California

Look for Elk

One thing that you should not miss while at the Redwoods National and State Park is looking for the elk. There is a herd of Roosevelt elk that stay in this area year round. You can typically finding them near Elk Prairie. We also saw them just as you enter Crescent City. Unfortunately it was not safe to pull over and get a picture of them, but it was cool seeing this huge herd of elk in the wild. 

Tree covered in moss, Simpson-Reed Grove Trail, Jedediah Smith Redwood Park, California

Other tips

  • Make sure to get gas before you start your day. Within the parks, there are very few gas stations. 
  • Pack your lunch – there are not any places to eat within the parks, you will have to drive to one of the neighboring towns for food if you don’t pack your own. 
  • Cell service is pretty poor in this area, try to download or print maps before you go.
  • The weather can change fast, and you should be prepared for the different weather. While we were there, it would go from foggy to sunny and then back to foggy within a few hours. This area also tends to see a lot of rain as well. 
  • Wear hiking boots or shoes that can get dirty. 
Cathedral Trees Trail, Prairie Creek Redwoods Park, California, Redwood Trees

Nearby things to do

  • Eureka, CA – Eureka is the largest coastel town between San Francisco and Portland. This town is most known for old Victorian homes and historic downtown.
  • Crescent City, CA – I recommend staying in Crescent City, but if you don’t it is still a good place to check out. The coastline is beautiful with huge rock formations coming right up to the shore. There is also a lighthouse here as well.
  • Samuel H Boardman State Park, OR – This park is located just across the Oregon border and has beautiful scenery. 
Natural Bridges, Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor, Oregon Coastline, Scenic coast

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