Are you looking for the best hikes in Redwood National Park? Well, look no further. I’ve visited Redwood National Park more than 15 times and can assure you that hiking is the best way to explore this stunning park.
With imposing heights and lifespans upwards of 2,000 years – these ancient redwoods have seemingly withstood the test of time.
In fact, Redwood National Park preserves the most fantastical groves of mighty redwoods in the entire world – reason alone to visit.
I’m not one for small talk, so let’s get to the good stuff!
Redwood National Park Hiking Tips
Practice Leave No Trace
- If you’re unfamiliar with Leave No Trace, it’s a measure to be a good steward of the land. You can read about the seven principals of Leave No Trace here.
You + Sunscreen = Best Friends (Forever)
- I swear by this sunscreen, I discovered it in France and now buy it in bulk. It works like a charm and doesn’t leave strange residue or smells, you’ll NEVER catch me without it!
Wear hiking boots with good traction
- Even though (most) trails are well maintained, exposed roots are not uncommon. It’s easy to trip in the woods, so set yourself up for success by wearing proper shoes. These are my hiking boots and I’d sleep in them if I could. They’re that good!
- Stepping on the exposed tree roots actually harms the trees and causes them to degrade over time. Step over roots whenever possible.
- Bring insect repellent during summer months and a light rain jacket regardless of the season. Check trail conditions before heading out!
- Always pack more water than you think you’ll need. This is the water bottle I’ve been using the past 6 years (yes, really) and I never leave the house without it.
Hiking with pups
- By and large, dogs are not allowed on trails or in buildings in national parks. However, Redwood National Park is an exception because the park is intertwined with state parks. As such, dogs are allowed on-leash in some areas of the park. Click here for the places you can hike with your cute pup.
Guidebooks & maps
Best Hikes in Redwood National Park
Redwood National Park Short Hikes (1 hour or less)
1. Lady Bird Johnson Grove
Lady Bird Johnson Grove is often considered the most popular hike at Redwood National Park. This well-known 1.5-mile loop is named after Lady Bird Johnson, the former first lady of the United States (few know she was an active conservationist).
This trail is easy for hikers of all skill levels and offers views of magnificent redwoods – a can’t miss during your first visit to the park.
2. Fern Canyon
Fern Canyon is my favorite hike at Redwood National Park even though there’s no redwoods. It’s a very short 1-mile hike that takes you though a canyon filled to the brim with ferns on either side, hence the name.
Worth noting: the parking lot for Fern Canyon is hard to reach with a low clearance vehicle. If you have a low-clearance vehicle, you may need to hike in a bit further.
While in Fern Canyon, make sure to swing by Gold Bluff’s Beach and walk along the coast. You’re practically guaranteed to see Roosevelt Elk here, we see them here every time we visit!
2. The Big Tree
The Big Tree hike is more like a light walk than an actual hike. The distance from the parking lot/road to the tree is very short. The Big Tree is 304 feet tall and 21 feet across, a little boardwalk leads directly to it. This is a great spot for kids!
4. Stout Grove
Stout Grove is a .6-mile trail through one of the world’s most scenic cathedral of redwoods. There’s no understory in this grove so the massive redwoods get all the attention.
The best time to visit Stout Grove is in the summer, around 3-4pm in the afternoon because the sun peaks through the gray landscape and illuminates this area (becoming a photographers’ dream). I highly recommend visiting this grove.
5. Simpson Reed Trail
The Simpson Reed Trail is a relatively flat, gravel-compacted 1-mile roadside loop that follows the bank of the turquoise blue Smith River. This used to be the most popular hike in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park until it was moved to a less visible location.
The new trailhead is unmarked, but just follow the signed at the Hwy 199 pullout that redirects drivers to Walker Road. The trail is unique from other trails in the park because it’s lusher and fuller.
Long Hikes in Redwood National Park (1+ hours)
6. James Irvine-Miner’s Ridge Loop
This loop is considered the most popular long hike in the parks, so if you have a hankering for a long hike, this is the one to choose. The tral takes you through 13 blissful miles of old-growth forests and leads you to Gold Bluffs Beach and Fern Canyon.
7. Trillium Falls Trail
This is a 2.6-mile trail with 433 feet of elevation gain. This lightly-trafficked trail is considered moderate and is best used from April to October. You’ll pass through old-growth forests on your way to Trillium Falls.
Depending on the time of year, the waterfall may be no more than a trickle, but the hike is beautiful and a great way to spend an afternoon.
8. Boy Scout Tree Trail
This trail is considered one of the most pristine old-growth trails in the world. The trail is well insulated from sound, so it feels like a complete escape from humanity.
The trail has become popular over the years, so start this hike early in the morning to avoid crowds.
9. Redwood Creek Trail
Considered one of the most popular hikes in Redwood National Park, this trail takes you through 16 redwood-filled miles while following Redwood Creek.
Most hikers choose to camp overnight in an effort not to rush the experience. Which is great because this is the only area in the park that allows dispersed camping.
The best part is the end of the trail that takes you to some of the most ancient Redwoods in the park – including Hyperion, the tallest tree in the entire world. The exact location of the tree has never been disclosed to the public.
Visiting Redwood National Park? Scenic Drives You can’t miss
#1. Avenue of the Giants
- This is a beautiful 31-mile drive through a section of Highway 101. The road curves around massive Redwoods that refuse to accommodate to the progressiveness of men. They are time-tested after all and have nothing to prove.
#2. Newton B. Drury Parkway
- This is a 10-mile drive through scenic old growth forest. Make sure to visit the Big Tree during this drive.
Visiting redwood National Park via car
Most of the roads in Redwood National and State Parks are paved. However, some of the roads are unmaintained dirt roads, which makes them challenging to drive with low clearance vehicles.
In fact, we drove our little Prius to Gold Bluffs Beach and the bumper guard tore off! We don’t suggest doing that. High clearance vehicles are the way to go in these parts.
Drive-Thru Trees at Redwood National Park
Driving through a living redwood while visiting Redwood National and State Parks seems like a very popular thing to do. If you would like to participate, there are three options to choose from. All three drive-thru trees are privately owned and charge a fee. See fees below.
- Shrine Tree is the closest one to Eureka. The opening of this tree was created by nature (unlike the other two trees). The fee is $10 per car.
- Klamath Tree is an hour north of Eureka and sits on Yurok tribal land. If you arrive after the ticket booth closes, there is an honor system for driving through the tree. The fee is $5 per car.
- Chandelier Tree is in the city of Leggett. The cost is $10 per car.
Seasonal delights at Redwood National Park
Timing is everything, there’s certain seasonal things that happen in the park that you shouldn’t miss if you’re lucky enough to be visiting during the right season.
Peak Gray whale migration occurs November – December and March – April. Head toward the coast to whale watch. Great viewing spots include: Gold Bluffs Beach, Crescent Beach Overlook and High Bluff Overlook.
Mid-May to early-June gives way to rhododendron blooming season. Come during this time to experience rhododendrons in full bloom.
Roosevelt Elk are common throughout the park, especially near Gold Bluffs Beach (we seen them every time we camp there). Just be mindful they may be aggressive during rut and calving season. Give them ample space and do not approach, regardless of the time of year.
Redwood National and State Parks (is there a difference?)
Redwood National and State Parks encompass a number of parks combined into one co-managed system including (from north to south):
- Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park
- Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park
- Praire Creek Redwoods State Park
- Redwood National Park
While not technically part of this system, Humboldt Redwoods State Park is an hour and a half south from the above mentioned parks and is totally worth a visit.
The Avenue of the Giants is located here and these trees have a very unique feel from the more coastal redwood parks. These redwoods are actually redder in color as well.
Best Time to Visit Redwood National Park
We’ve visited Redwood National Park in summer, spring and winter. The mild climate keeps temperatures between 40 – 60 degrees year-round, so no season is off limits.
Regardless of when you plan to visit, make sure to bring warm layers and rain gear. It’s easy to underestimate how chilly 40 – 60 degrees can feel, especially with the moisture in the air.
- Summer is the busiest season in the park. Winter has fewer visitors but a higher chance of precipitation. We visited in February and didn’t run into a single person during a 4-hour hike.
- October through April averages 60-80 inches of rain over the region.
Where is Redwood National Park?
- You might notice that Redwood National Park is sometimes referred to as Redwood National and State Parks. That’s because the two park systems intertwine and are co-managed by California State Parks and the National Park Service.
- Redwood National and State Parks sit on the northernmost coast of California, practically at the Oregon border. The parks are a 6-hour drive from both San Francisco, California and Portland, Oregon.
At times it’s hard to know if you’re in the “national park” or “state park” portion, but don’t let that take away from the allure. The only challenge is knowing when to expect an entrance fee (more on that to come).
For helpful maps of the park, click here.
Getting to the Park
The closest airport to Redwood National Park is in Crescent City, the second closest is the Eureka-Arcata Airport.
Both airports are small and rather costly. What’s more, they are airline-specific, so depending on the airline you fly, you will land in one or the other.
If you’re open to a long road trip, you could fly into San Francisco and make the scenic 6-hour drive north on the US Highway 101. Talk about adventure!
If you’d like to save money by flying into a larger airport, I suggest the Medford Airport because the drive to the park is only two hours from here.
Redwood National Park Entrance Fees
Redwood National Park is open year-round and there is no fee to enter the park.
However, if you plan to visit the parks managed by the state (Jedediah Smith, Del Norte Coast and Prairie Creek Redwoods) there is a day-use fee. State parks honor the federal “America the Beautiful” pass and provide discounts on entrance fees.
Even though Fern Canyon and Gold Bluffs Beach are in Redwood National Park, there is an entrance fee of $8 to enter the area because it leads through Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. However, the fee is waived for holders of the “America the Beautiful” pass.
Visitor Centers in Redwood National Park
There are five visitor centers in the park that provide maps, information and trip-planning advice.
Hours vary by season in each visitor center and if you’d like more information about a particular center, simply click on the name and you will be directed to the website.
- Hiouchi Visitor Center
- Jedidiah Smith Visitor Center
- Prairie Creek Visitor Center
- Thomas H. Kuchel Visitor Center
- Crescent City Information Center
Camping and Lodging
There are no lodging accommodations in the park, so campgrounds book out quickly. There are four developed campgrounds in Redwood National Park – three in the forest and one on the beach. All campgrounds are first come, first serve but reservations are available. The camping fee is $35.
- Jedidiah Smith Campground
- Mill Creek Campground
- Elk Prairie Campground
- Gold Bluff’s Beach Campground (our favorite campground in the park because of the elk sightings, the ocean, and proximity to Fern Canyon)
If you’re visiting during the popular summer months (May 1st through September 30th) you will want to make camping reservations three to four months in advance. Camping reservations may be made 48 hours in advance by calling 1-800-444-7275 or online.
There are over 200 miles of backcountry hiking trails in Redwood National Park, all for your enjoyment! If you plan to camp at a designated backcountry campsite, you must get a (free) backcountry permit 24 hours in advance.
Permits are available on a first come, first served basis at Kuchel Visitor Center and Hiouchi Visitor Center. The National Park Service provides a helpful Backcountry Trip Planner to help you choose the best hike for you! You can read it here: Backcountry Trip Planner.
You MUST camp at one of the seven designated backcountry campsites, you can read more about the designated campsites here: Backcountry Designated Campsites.
Nearby Cities & Conveniences
There are 6 cities and towns located around the parks. They include (from north to south):
- Crescent City (near Jedediah Smith) – city with most of the modern conveniences one could hope for including hotels, gas, restaurants, groceries, and more
- Klamath (between Del Norte & Prairie Creek) – small town with a nice holiday inn and gas station
- Orick (near Gold Bluffs Beach & Redwood National Park) – small town with two convenience stores, one gas station, and one restaurant that does not keep regular hours
- Trinidad (south of Redwood National Park) – while technically California’s smallest city, it feels more like a town with a few cafes, grocery stores, gas stations, and a few bed & breakfasts
- Arcata & Eureka (between Trinidad & Humboldt Redwoods) – cities with most of the modern conveniences one could hope for including hotels, gas, restaurants, groceries, and more
“The redwoods, once seen, leave a mark or create a vision that stays with you always. No one has ever successfully painted or photographed a redwood tree.
The feeling they produce is not transferable. From them comes silence and awe. It’s not only their unbelievable stature, nor the color which seems to shift and vary under your eyes, no, they are not like any trees we know, they are ambassadors from another time.“
In sum, the BEST hikes in Redwood National Park are:
- Lady Bird Johnson Grove
- Fern Canyon
- The Big Tree
- Stout Grove
- Simpson Reed Trail
- James Irvine-Miner’s Ridge Loop
- Trillium Falls Trail
- Boy Scout Tree Trail
- Redwood Creek Trail
I hope you enjoyed this guide to the BEST hikes in Redwood National Park!
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