Redwood National Park: The Complete Guide for 2021

Nicole Jordan

California, USA

Over 2,000 years old, towering over 300 feet tall, and reaching a circumference of more than 90 feet around: the redwood trees at Redwood National Park are a sight to behold. With over 40,000 acres of old-growth forest and fossils dating back to the Jurassic period, Redwood is one of the most sacred national parks in the US. Wandering through the lush, green forest among these magnificent giants is a humbling experience (and unlike anywhere else in the world). The park offers opportunities for everyone, whether you enjoy a stroll through the forest, views of the Pacific Ocean, activities along the river, or wildlife spotting. Let’s explore.

Where is Redwood National Park?

Redwood National Park, California, US.

Redwood National and State Parks are located along the northern coast of California. The parklands stretch about 50 miles from Crescent City, CA, near the Oregon border, down to Orick, CA. The National Park Service controls the recreation and protection of 4 areas: Redwood National Park, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park.

Redwood National Park Facts

Redwood National Park, California, US.
  • Of the 132,000 acres protected as Redwood National Park, about 40,000 acres remain ancient forest due to park protection starting in 1968. Over 90% of the old-growth redwoods that grew along California’s northern coast were logged in the early 1900s prior to protection of this area.
  • The redwoods grow to be the tallest trees in the world, with the tallest reaching 379 feet.
  • Coastal redwoods actually take in about ⅔ of their water from precipitation in the crowns of their trees. Because of the regular fog along California’s coast, the trees have adapted to absorb water this way with the remaining ⅓ coming through their roots.
  • Coastal redwoods can live over 3,000 years, but average 500 to 700 years. They have no known killing diseases and rarely suffer from insect damage.

Getting to Redwood National Park

Redwood National Park, California, US.

San Francisco is the closest large city to Redwood National Park. It is about 5 ½ hours south of Redwood and is home to the largest nearby airport. To get to Redwood National Park, leave San Francisco crossing the Golden Gate Bridge heading North on US-101. Continue on US-101 N for 310 mi. The 101 runs through Redwood National Park and the section through the park is also known as Redwood Highway.

Redwood National Park Weather

Redwood National Park, California, US.

Located along the coast of Northern California, Redwood National Park naturally has a damper, cooler climate, commonly coated in fog. Temperatures average in the mid 40s to mid 60s year round. Summer is the most ideal time to visit for slightly warmer temperatures in the 70s, and a lower level of rainfall. October through April sees the most rain, averaging between 60-80 inches throughout the region.

Redwood National Park Hours

Redwood National Park, California, US.

Redwood National Park is open everyday, 24 hours a day. Redwood National Park is under limited operations due to COVID-19. For current status and frequent updates, check out the current conditions.

Redwood National Park Entrance Fee

Redwood National Park, California, US. Karin Hildebrand Lau / Shutterstock.com

There are no entrance fees to drive the highways or scenic roads through the national park and affiliated state parks. Certain areas, including Gold Bluffs Beach/Fern Canyon and Jedediah Smith Campground, have $8 day use vehicle fees.

Hiking in Redwood National Park

Redwood National Park, California, US.

If you’re ready to stretch your legs (but not sure where to start), here’s a list of our favorite hiking trails in Redwood National Park:

Easy, great for beginners:

  1. Big Tree Wayside (0.3 mi; flat)
  2. Lady Bird Johnson Grove Trail (1.3 mi; 75 ft gain)
  3. Fern Canyon Loop Trail (1 mi; 150 ft gain)
  4. Stout Memorial Grove (0.5 mi; 30 ft gain)
  5. Simpson Reed Trail (1 mi; 20 ft gain)

Moderate, fairly strenuous:

  1. Tall trees Grove Loop Trail (3.3 mi; 750 ft gain)
  2. Trillium Falls Trail (2.6 mi; 430 ft gain)
  3. Cathedral Trees Trail (3 mi; 275 ft gain)
  4. Boy Scout Tree Trail (5.3 mi; 750 ft gain)
  5. Mill Creek Trail (7.4 mi; 250 ft gain)

Hard, experience recommended:

  1. Hidden Beach and False Klamath Rock (7.6 mi; 1,150 ft gain)
  2. Redwood Creek Trail (15.6 mi; 1,100 ft gain)
  3. Skunk Cabbage Trail (7.3mi; 1,300 ft gain)
  4. Fern Falls via Boy Scout Tree Trail (6.3 mi; 875 ft gain)
  5. Miners’ Ridge and James Irvine (11.6 mi; 1,350 ft gain)

Redwood National Park Lodging

Redwood National Park, California, US.

Redwood National Park Camping

Planning a night under the stars? Here are some of the best campgrounds and campsites inside and outside of Redwood National Park:

  1. Jedediah Smith Campground
  2. Mill Creek Campground
  3. Elk Prairie Campground
  4. Gold Bluffs Beach Campground
  5. Humboldt Redwoods State Park Campground
  6. Panther Flat Campground
  7. 44 Camp
  8. Elk Country RV Resort & Campground
  9. Agate Campground
  10. Big Lagoon Campgrounds 

Redwood National Park Hotels

If camping isn’t your thing, there are plenty of resorts, hotels, hostels, inns, cabins and B&Bs within an hour of Redwood National Park. Here are some of our favorites:

  1. View Crest Lodge
  2. The Lost Whale Inn Oceanfront B&B
  3. Emerald Forest Cabins & RV
  4. Turtle Rocks Oceanfront Inn
  5. Trinidad Bay Bed & Breakfast
  6. Elk Meadows Cabins
  7. The Gingerbread Mansion Inn 
  8. Trinidad Inn
  9. Carter House Inns
  10. Curly Redwood Lodge

Redwood National Park Tours

Redwood National Park, California, US.

Join a guided tour of the redwoods with a commercial outfitter. Check out Redwood Sightseeing Tours or Redwood Adventures for guided sightseeing, wildlife viewing, and hiking trips. Also, swing by the park visitor center to join a ranger-led activity including tidepool exploration, kayaking, nature walks, and campfire programs.

15 of the Best Things to Do in Redwood National Park

Drive the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway

Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway, California, US.

While US-101 also passes through the park, Newton B Drury Scenic Parkway runs parallel and takes you through the old-growth redwood forest. It only takes a little longer to drive than the 101, has multiple pull offs for hikes, and offers spectacular views.

Walk amongst the giant trees at Big Tree Wayside

Big Tree Wayside, California, US.

Located right off Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway in nearby Prairie Creek State Park, this short, flat walk takes visitors to “Big Tree”, a 1,500 year old, nearly 300 foot tall redwood.

Explore Stout Memorial Grove where Star Wars was filmed

Stout Memorial Grove, California, US.

This grove is one of the most popular because of its easy access and speculations that Return of the Jedi was filmed here.

Wander through Fern Canyon in awe

Fern Canyon, California, US.

With narrow canyon walls densely covered in green ferns, mosses, and fungi, Fern Canyon is an impressive, unique spot to hike.

Hike the Trillium Falls Trail

Trillium Falls Trail, California, US.

The family-friendly hike at Trillium Falls in Redwood National Park takes you through old-growth redwoods, ferns, fir trees, maples, and trillium flowers to a small waterfall deep in the forest. This is a must stop on your visit to the redwoods!

Visit Elk Meadow Day Use Area

Elk Meadow, California, US.

Redwood National Park is home to Roosevelt elk, one of the largest types of deer. This day use area is a popular spot to safely observe these impressive mammals that were nearly hunted to extinction prior to park protection.

Explore the tide pools at Enderts Beach

Enderts Beach, California, US.

During low tide, take the ½ mile trail down the coastal cliffs at Enderts Beach for a chance to see the marine wildlife in these tide pools.

Enjoy the lupines along Bald Hills Scenic Drive

Bald Hills, California, US.

If you visit Redwood National Park in the spring, this 17-mile, one-way road is worth the drive. The road starts in old-growth redwoods before opening up to prairies covered in wildflowers. Also be on the lookout for Roosevelt elk and black bears. On a clear day, you might even catch views of the Pacific Ocean.

Look for wildlife at the Klamath River Overlook

Klamath River Overlook, California, US.

After flowing more than 250 miles, this spot is where the Klamath River meets the Pacific Ocean. Don’t forget your binoculars! This is a popular spot to see a variety of marine and bird wildlife. Sometimes, whales and seals can even be spotted.

Spend a night camping at Gold Bluffs Beach

Gold Bluffs Beach, California, US.

While looking out to the ocean at Gold Bluffs Beach, you will hear the sounds of the waves crashing with steep sea cliffs to your back.

Go kayaking on the Smith River

Smith River, California, US.

For a short period of summer, ranger-led kayak programs are offered on the Smith River. This is the largest free-flowing river in California and along the paddle you will explore the unique geology, wildlife, scenery, and learn about the role of the watershed in relation to the growth of the redwood trees.

Cycle the Ossagon Trail

Ossagon Creek, California, US.

The Ossagon Trail has a steep elevation gain when coming from the ocean but offers incredible views and takes you through a forest with sitka spruce and ancient coast redwoods. This trail can be as short as 1 ½ miles or as long as a 19-mile loop along the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway.

Drive through the Tour-Thru Tree

Tour Thru Tree, California, US.

The Tour Thru Tree is located just outside of the national park and is one of three redwoods you can drive through.

Visit Battery Point Lighthouse

Battery Point Lighthouse, California, US.

This California Historical Landmark was one of California’s first lighthouses. With construction starting in 1856 for $15,000, this lighthouse now features a museum with the history of the area dating back to the mid 1800s. From April-September, the lighthouse is open daily for tours from 10am to 4pm when low tides permit. October through March it is open for weekend tours only.

End the day at SeaQuake Brewing

SeaQuake Brewing, California, US.

SeaQuake Brewing is located in the town of Crescent City and is the perfect spot to end the day with a delicious dinner and beer.