Skip to Content

A guide to visiting Redwood National Park

A guide to visiting Redwood National Park

Sharing is caring!

During our 3-month road trip across the USA, one of the national parks we visited was Redwood National Park. I hadn’t realised beforehand quite how far it was away from major cities. This didn’t matter for us since we were road tripping and heading north up the California coast anyway, but if you’re planning on visiting Redwood National Park and State Parks then it requires a little bit more planning. Yes, you can see redwoods throughout the state of California, but a visit is something special. This area is definitely the best place to see redwoods in California. So, read this guide to Redwood National Park, California for everything you need to know if you’re planning on visiting Redwoods National Park.

There’s also a section at the end of the post about where to find other redwood forests if you’re staying in San Francisco.

visiting redwood national park pinterest

About Redwood National Park

Redwood National Park is renowned for being home to some of the tallest trees in the world. But the park isn’t just about trees, there are also prairies, oak woodlands, rivers and around 40 miles of coastline.

You can’t fail to be impressed by the size of the redwoods in both height and number but what’s more surprising (and saddening) is that it’s said only about 5% of the redwood forest, California remains. On a more positive note, the park leads the world in restoration efforts helping to keep the largest redwood trees growing and thriving!

About redwood trees

Redwood trees are amazing. They’re believed to have been on earth since 240 million years and can grow to 300 ft (91m) or more! It’s easy to see why they’re often referred to as ‘giant redwoods’ in California. But it’s not only their height that is impressive, it’s also their age. Along the coast, you may see redwoods that have been living for over 2000 years! 

Wondering “what is redwood?” It’s a subfamily of coniferous trees that grow commonly on the coast which is while you’ll find them along the northern California coast from Big Sur and there is also some redwood forest in Oregon.

The coastal California redwoods only grow in the Pacific North West so you’ll have to visit this part of the world if you’re looking to see some!

Redwood National Park tree facts

The oldest tree in Redwood National Park is believed to be somewhere between 1,900 – 2,200 years old! It’s named the Grizzly Giant and can be found in Mariposa Grove.

The tallest tree in the Redwood National Park is Hyperion. It’s a coast redwood and is  379.1 ft (115.55 m) tall! It was only recently discovered (2006) as it’s in a more remote part of the Redwood National Park, California. So while you might not find this one, you’ll still be amazed by the size of the other trees in the park!

redwood national park california (1 of 7)

Important things to know about Redwood National Park

  • Technically, this area is made up of four parts: Redwood National Park, Prairie Creek State Park, Jedediah Smith State Park and Del Norte State Park. The four are called Redwood National and State Park but I’ll refer to as just Redwood State Park throughout. You may also see places refer to it as Redwood National Forest.
  • Make camping reservations for Redwood National Park! There aren’t any hotels or lodges inside Redwood National Park and remember to book campsites 3-4 months in advance too!
  • Pets are allowed on leash in certain parts of the park.
  • There are no restaurants inside the park boundaries so take everything you’ll need for your day trip or overnight stay with you.
redwood national park california (1 of 7)

sea of redwoods

Where is Redwood National Park located?

If you’re wondering, like I was when we were driving through this part of the US, “where is the Redwood forest?” then there’s are multiple answers. There are some redwood forests near San Francisco, but the Redwood National Park area is in northern California along the coastline. It’s about 1.5 hour’s drive from the Oregon-California border. Roughly 6 hours from Redwood National Park to San Francisco and almost 7 hours from Portland in Oregon.

Redwood National Park map

redwood national park mapYou can see a complete list of the Redwood Park map here from the National Parks Service.

If you’re going hiking to find even more giant redwood trees you’ll need a Redwoods trail map as there’s limited signal within the park and the trails can be confusing. I recommend this one.

redwood national park california (1 of 7)

How to get to Redwood National Park

As Redwood National Park is quite far away from any major cities, getting to Redwood National Park isn’t exactly the easiest undertaking. But, don’t let that put you off, especially if you’re planning a California road trip!

Getting there by car is easiest, and usually the cheapest. The other benefit of taking the car is that whichever direction you come from, you’re treated to amazing views along the coast and plenty of redwood roadside attractions too.

If you are visiting California on vacation and need to rent a car, I highly recommend checking out RentalCars.com who make it super easy to compare prices so you get the best deal.

Closest airports to Redwood National Park

The two main international airports near to Redwood National Park that you’re most likely to arrive at are Portland International and San Francisco International airports.

The closest domestic airports to Redwood National Park are Crescent City Airport which is served by United Express Airlines and Eureka-Arcata airport served by Horizon Air.

If you have dates in mind then I recommend checking out Skyscanner.com to compare your cheap flights! Or, if you’ve yet to choose your dates then take a look at Dollar Flight Club, once signed up you can set your home airport(s) and then they’ll let you know when they find amazing deals on flights. The savings they find every day AMAZE me! Dollar Flight Club has also introduced deals for internal flights in the US so it’s even better now!

redwood national park california (1 of 7)

Driving directions from Portland to Redwood National Park

The journey from Portland, Oregon to Redwood National Park is around 370 miles along the I -5. However, if you’ve got some time I strongly recommend driving along the Oregon Coast.

It’s one part of our three-month American road trip that Thom and I talk about all the time. It was such a surprise and it’s incredibly beautiful!

San Francisco to Redwood National Park

If you’re wondering how far is Redwood Forest from San Francisco (assuming you’re talking about the national park), it’s about a 300-mile drive on highway 101. It’s slightly longer if you take the slower, but more picturesque highway 1 which goes directly along the coast.

redwood national park california (1 of 7)

Permits, passes and entrance fees for Redwood National Park

Planning for a Redwoods National Park trip means you’ll have to think about the following fees, permits and passes.

Entrance fees for Redwood National Park

Redwood National and State Parks are fee free with the exception of day use areas within the Prairie Creek Redwoods, Del Norte Coast Redwoods, and Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Parks.

Fern Canyon is within a day use area and requires paying a day use fee of $8 per car or showing a federal pass such as the America is Beautiful Parks Pass.

While Redwood National Park is free, if you’re planning on visiting a few US National Parks over the course of a year then consider buying the “America is Beautiful National Parks Pass. It’s valid for a whole year and gets you entry into hundreds of National Parks, State Parks and historic and national monuments too.

Redwood National Park camping fees

If you want to stay in Redwood National Park then it’ll have to be in one of the Redwood National Park campgrounds. There aren’t any hotels or lodges inside the park. What you do have a choice of is whether to stay in a developed campground in Redwoods, CA or in a backcountry campsite. Camping within the park is one of the best ways to enjoy these beautiful northern California redwoods!

There are four campgrounds in Redwood National Park: Jedediah Smith, Mill Creek, Elk Prairie and Gold Bluffs Beach.

Camping in a campsite costs $35 per night. There are also some Redwood National Park cabins at the Jedediah Smith and Elk Prairie campgrounds.

You must reserve in advance (at least 3 months), especially in the summer as redwood forest camping is very popular!

You can learn more about the campsites in Redwood National Park here. 

Backcountry permits for Redwood National Park

There are more than 322km of backcountry trails and seven designated backcountry campsites and spending a night in the backcountry can be great fun if you’re well prepared! Backcountry exploration can lead to some of the best camping in Redwood National Park!

For visitors to Redwoods National Park looking to stay overnight in the backcountry, you’ll need to get a backcountry permit. These are free and are issued in-person up to 24 hours in advance of your trip.

Take a look at the backcountry trip planner to decide what would work best for you and then head to the Hiouchi or Kuchel Red Wood National Park Visitor Centres to get your permit. Permits are limited and are issued on a first-come, first served basis.

redwood national park california (1 of 7)

Top 5 things to do in Redwood National Park

Add these top things to do in Redwood National Park to your Redwood travel itinerary!

  1. Take a scenic drive
  2. Go on one of the awesome Redwood National Park hikes
  3. Hit the beach!
  4. Learn about the trees on the Lady Bird Johnson Grove interpretive trail
  5. Find the oldest redwood tree in Redwood National Park: The Grizzly Giant at around 2,000 years old!

Where’s the drive-through tree in Redwood National Park?

There isn’t a redwood drive in tree within the Redwood National Park boundaries. However, if you’re driving the California coastal road you’ll find plenty of strange roadside attractions like this In Klamath, less than an hour north of Redwood National Park, you’ll find the Klamath tour-thru tree and there’s also the Chandelier drive through tree south of the parks.

5 of the best Redwood hikes

If you love hiking then be sure to check out these best hikes in Redwood National Park.

  • Damnation Creek
  • Trillium Falls
  • Coastal Trail – Last Chance Section from Crescent Beach Overlook to Damnation Creek Trail
  • Fern Canyon loop trail
  • Tall Trees trail

redwood national park california (1 of 7)

Where to stay near Redwood National Park

With no Redwood National Park hotels inside the park itself, you’ll have to be prepared to stay a little outside in one of the cities near Redwood National Park. But don’t worry there are some great hotels near Redwood National Park.

Hotels near Redwood National Park

Whilst you won’t find a list of where to stay in Redwood National Park, these hotels and inns near Redwood National Park make great options. They’re in the town of Eureka which is less than 1 hour’s drive south of Redwood National Park. Here’s a selection of some of the best places to stay near Redwood National Park.

Camping near Redwood National Park

There’s a lot more choice when it comes to campgrounds near Redwood National Park.

We camped in our van in the small town of Klamath just north of Redwood National Park. The town is full of RV parks including Klamath River RV Park, Golden Bear RV Park, Blackberry RV Park and Redwood RV Park.

When you visit redwoods you can also stay south of Redwood National Park at Emerald Forest Cabins & RV Park, Azalea Glen Rv Park Campground and Sylvan Harbor RV Park & Cabins.

redwood national park california (1 of 7)

Where to see Redwood forest near San Francisco

If you’re looking for options for where to see redwoods in California that are closer to San Francisco, here are a few places.

Muir Woods National Monument

If you’re looking for where to see redwoods near San Francisco then one of the most popular places is the Muir Woods National Monument. This is the best place to see redwoods near San Francisco if you’re short on time and don’t want to make a long drive. This park full of redwood trees near San Francisco gets very busy so go early in the morning. Parking can be an issue too. If you branch off from the main trail then things get a little quieter so I recommend doing that!

Big Basin Redwoods State Park

Big Basin Redwoods State Park is just 65 miles (105km) south of San Francisco. It’s the oldest state park in California and has around 80 miles (128km) of trails that go through a coastal redwood forest. It also has a unique feature in that there are a number of waterfalls that can be found there.

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park is just southeast of Big Basin and is a great option for a redwoods vacation from San Francisco. You can see some truly great redwoods here on the Redwood Grove trail which weaves through old-growth redwoods. There’s the option to take a guided walk most weekends too.

Hendy Woods State Park

In the middle of wine country in Mendocino County is Hendy Woods State Park. Being a bit further from the coast, you’ll likely notice that this park is a lot warmer and less foggy than the other California redwood parks. If wine tasting is part of your California itinerary then stopping here is very worthwhile.

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

One more of the best places to see giant redwoods is Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. This popular stop along the Big Sur scenic drive is known for the coastal views but there are also trails that stroll through redwood groves. One of the best hikes to see redwoods is along the Ewoldsen Trail, which offers views of redwood groves and the Pacific Ocean.

More USA National Parks posts