The Redwoods National Park astounds with some of the world’s tallest and oldest trees, and there are additionally plenty of other natural features to admire. A day’s drive or short flight from San Francisco, this is one of the most remarkable national parks on the West Coast — or anywhere in the country.
The National Park’s Redwood Trees
Many of the “giant redwoods” date back to BCE times, before virtually anything else living today had begun to grow. The trees themselves are coniferous, and found along the coasts of Northern California to Oregon. Although the trees grow naturally throughout this region, the Redwoods in national parks are especially astounding for their height, size and history.
When you come to see the redwoods, you’ll find trees that tower 300 feet in the air and are 20 feet around.
Getting to Redwoods National Park
The park is located along the Northern California coast, approximately equidistance from Portland, San Francisco and Sacramento.
Going from San Francisco to Redwood National Park is a 5.5-hour drive plus rush hour traffic, or a short flight. The return drive from Redwood National Park to San Francisco is likewise 5.5 hours, or a short flight. The closest airport to Redwood National Park is Eureka/Arcata Regional Airport (ACV). United Airlines, American Airlines and Avelo serve the regional airport.
Lodging in Redwood National Park
The accommodation options available to you will depend on where you intend to stay while touring the park.
The only lodging within the park itself is camping. Either make a reservation at one of the Redwood National Park camping locations, or obtain a backcountry camping permit at least one day before you head out. Camping is also available in the nearby state parks.
Other Redwood National Park lodging options aren’t in the park itself, but rather in Eureka, Arcata and Trinidad. Eureka and Arcata have the standard hotels and motels that you’d expect near a regional airport, as well as much nicer accommodations. There are a number of short-term rentals in Eureka and Arcata that are quite nice.
Trinidad is further north and directly on the coast. You’ll find some higher-end hotels, bread and breakfasts, small resorts, and short-term rentals in Trinidad. The adventurous might discover other places farther afield from these cities.
Getting Around Redwood National Park
The best way to see Redwood National Park is by car. Your first stop should be at the Redwood National Park Visitor Center, where you can get a map of Redwood National Park and talk with a park ranger.
You’ll want the map of Redwood National Park even if you usually let the road take you wherever. The Redwoods National Parks is actually a combination of Redwood national and state parks. You might stop at Big Basin Redwoods State Park, Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, Hendy Woods State Park or Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. These are various distances from the national park itself, but some are quite convenient when driving between San Francisco and Redwood National Park.
A ranger at the Redwood National Park Visitor Center will be most knowledgeable about the national park itself. They also may have information on state parks too, though.
Best Time to Visit Redwood National Park
The best time to visit Redwood National Park is whenever you’re able to. The park is always impressive, and there are things to do in Redwood National Park year-round.
Nonetheless, summer is the most popular time of year. The weather is sunniest during June through August, while the coastal climate and trees keep temperatures moderate. For a less crowded experience, May, September and October have fewer crowds. The Redwood National Park weather is still generally beautiful during these months as well.
Things To Do in Redwood National Park
There’s no shortage of things to do in the redwood national and state parks if you enjoy nature. You can spend several days exploring, and still not see everything that just the national park has. All of these ideas are in the national park.
See the Redwoods by Car
Spend a day seeing the redwoods exclusively by car, not getting out except for short walks to viewpoints. The park is quite large, and a vehicle will let you see the highlights within a day. Get your Redwood National Park map, and drive:
Howland Hill Road: Redwoods so close that you’ll be nervous about scraping the car. The 10-mile drive on a one-lane unpaved road is surprisingly quiet for a drive.
Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway: A 10-mile paved road that takes you through the heart of the park. You’ll go past some of the largest trees. (You can also bike the parkway.)
Bald Hills Road: A very different drive, Bald Hills Road takes you across the park’s open prairies, high hills and more arid regions. Go in the early morning or during the evening, as this is a great place to see wildlife.
See the Redwoods by Foot
Spend another day or two on foot, for a more close-up view of these trees. The following are some of the most trodden trails. They’ll take you to beautiful sights, and some smaller offshoots of paths where you can get away more. Consider any of these:
Stout Memorial Grove Trail: A redwood grove along the Smith River makes for the perfect picnic setting. The trail is only a half-mile long, but you could easily spend most of the day here. Bring a swimsuit for when you’re hot — there’s a short offshoot down to the actual river.
Boy Scout Tree Trail: A moderate hike of 5.5 miles will take you past numerous old-growth redwoods. You’ll also see “fern falls,” where ferns and water are in approximately equal amounts.
Grove of Titans: The park’s newest trail, Grove of Titans is a 1.5-mile metal boardwalk that protects the forest floor. There are a particularly high number of “reiterations” among the branches, where one branch gives rise to others.
James Irvine Trail to Fern Canyon Loop: One of the longest trails within the park is also one of the most enjoyable. You’ll pass by redwoods and spruces, before you get to the ocean. It’s a 12-mile out-and-back, so you can see all of the picturesque features twice.
Trillium Falls: One of the most family-friendly hikes, Trillium falls is an easy mile. Old-growth redwoods, maples, firs, ferns and flowers keep the path interesting, and you’ll eventually reach a 200-foot waterfall.
Hyperion: Closed to Public
Hyperion is considered the tallest tree in the world. It’s in an undisclosed location within Southern Redwood National Park, well away from trails and closed to the public. The tree is in a vulnerable state.
The other redwood trees in the park are remarkable themselves. There’s no need to seek out Hyperion when so many trees that you drive and hike past are immense.
Enjoy the Tallest Trees
The redwoods are some of the tallest trees in the world, and they’ll astound you every time you visit. However you arrive, wherever you stay, and whatever you do, there’s one sure thing. You’ll greatly enjoy your time among these living natural marvels.