Redwood Parks at Northern California Coastline – Visit Planning

Introduction:

In this blog I will try to help you to plan your northern California Redwood Parks visit.

In this section of California, you will find the most beautiful old-growth Coastline Redwood groves that are protected in many state and national parks.

 

In addition to the many redwood’s parks, you will have the opportunity to explore northwest California ocean coastline, that in part has long stretch of dunes at river outlets and in other sections ragged rocky cliffs.

 








Where it is ?

This trip recommendations will follow highway 101 from south to north, the south most point will be at Leggett where highway 1 reconnect to highway 101 and the north most location will be Crescent City and Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, just south of the Oregon line.

 

There are several others old-growth Redwood grove parks south of the northern shore, closer to San Francisco (places like: Muir Woods NM, Armstrong Redwoods SP, Navarro River Redwoods, Van Damme SP, Portola Redwoods, Big Basin Redwoods SP) but no doubt that the Redwood Parks at the north are the most beautiful.

 




When to travel?

All parks and trails are open year-round, but your trip experience will depend on the season.

Summer temperatures range from 40 to 75F. At summer month morning and evening fog is common along the oceanfront.

Expect to have many other travelers at the popular parks and hikes from late spring to summer, parking lots and campgrounds may be full, and hiking trails will be crowded.

Winter brings chillier 35 - 55F days, prepare for rain from November to May.

 



 

How many days to plan your visit?

You can cover a lot of ground and interesting locations at the northwest California coast in 4 days. There is always more to see and do but at 4 days you can cover a lot of old-growth redwood groves, hiking activities and enjoy other attractions and this aria has to offer. You can always spend more days here; I promise you that you will not get bored.

 

I will provide 3 trip itineraries: 1 day visit with must see locations while driving the 101 north/south, and 2 and 4 days visit options.

 

If you are starting your trip at San Francisco than you need to include in your planning also the driving time, from the northern point of Crescent City this is 8 hours’ drive to San Francisco.

 


 

How far is it from San Francisco?

Our destination located in the most northern ocean coastline of California.

The drive from San Francisco to the starting point of my trip suggestion, junction of highway 1 with the 101 at Leggett, is 182 miles on highway 101 (plan for 3-4 hours’ drive depending on traffic and stops).

The northeast point of the trip at Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park near Crescent City is 356 miles north of San Francisco. If you are planning to drive back from Crescent City to San Francisco in one day plan for at list 7-8 hours’ drive.

Highway 101 is a main and busy road, for its south section (Napa Valley) it is freeway but there are many sections where the 101 is one lane road, in some section it is winding and narrow with slow moving traffic. This can be a long drive so you should plan your trip with stops and things to do on your way.

 


 

Another nearby highway 1 road trip:

You can connect your visit at the northern California redwoods to a highway 1 coastline trip from San Francisco to Mendocino. There are many things to do and see at this area, there are few redwoods forests, but if you visit at northern California redwood you can skip them and focus on other attractions, see my blogs on locations along highway 1 - San Francisco to Fort Bragg.

 

 

Coming from or traveling to Oregon:

I start the road-trip description from the south, junction of highway 1 with the 101 at Leggett all the way north to Crescent City. You can also do this trip on the opposite direction, from north to south, this is for people coming from Oregon.

If you are not coming back to San Francisco than you have 2 options to keep heading north into Oregon. The first is keep driving along the coast on highway 1 into Oregon coast, amazing destination by itself. The second option is drive northeast on highway 199 to Grants Pass, Oregon, city is located on I5. From Grants Pass you can drive to Portland or keep heading east to Crater Lake NP and Bend.

There is another east-west option is to drive highway 299, start north of Eureka, all the way east to Redding in north central California.

 


 

Things I do not cover in my blogs:

I do not cover in my blog accommodations arrangements as I mainly sleep in campgrounds and in my car.

I also do not cover dining options.

 

 



Few Words about The Redwoods:

California’s coast redwoods are the tallest trees on earth.

The tallest one, an un-disclose location tree by the name of Hyperion was discovered in 2006, is towering 379.7 feet (115.7 m) tall.

The redwoods follow the rain and fog at elevations below 2,000 feet, where heavy winter rains and moderate year-round temperatures occur.



The 2,000 years old trees can grow up to 350 feet tall or more, with a base diameter of about 20 feet.

The redwoods trees “looks” and the forest density are different, depending on their exact location, lower or higher elevation, how far they are from the ocean front, and the amount of fog they are getting.

The most impressive old growth redwood groves are located at flat sections of the landscape, near riverbeds or side creeks, where they have the best growing conditions.

When I’m referring to an “old growth redwood grove” location that indicate area of tress that was never being logged, the trees and the land are kept in their natural conditions.

Second growth redwood forest may also be impressive but not as the old growth grove.

 



 

The Redwood Parks:

As result of extensive logging activity in between 1880 and the early 1900s, thousands of acres of old-growth redwoods had disappeared; Series of state and national parks in northern California protect the remaining of the old-growth Redwoods. Managing the parks provides protection and preservation of more than 105,000 acres of redwood forest.

As a result of the excessive logging only about 5% of old growth Redwood exist today, 95% of them are in northern California and 80% of them are already protected in one of the parks.

Probably your perception is that you are going to visit the “Redwood National Park”, in practice most of the redwood forests and old-growth grove are California State parks. Few parks are managed jointly by National Park and State Park organizations.

 


 

Camping:

Almost in any state park you can find a campground, the same is also to national Forest. Make your campground reservation in advance, summer month can be overbooked.

Do plan for rain, even in summer, or to get wet from the dense and deep fog.

 


 

Dogs:

According to official State and National Park, dogs are allowed on roads and in campgrounds, but not trails. I do not travel with dog but based on what I saw at the trails people did hike with dogs in where it is not long hike.

 

 

Trip options:

 

With more than 10 different large state and national parks and many other prime locations there are so many different places to visit and thing to do and see here. In the list below I tried to list the top destinations to visit at.

You should plan your trip according from where you plan to arrive here (from the south or north) and depending where is your next destination.

If this is road-trip that start and end at San Francisco, you need to add at list 8 hours (1 day) of driving.

 

 


The most recommended Redwood Parks:

- Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park (even just to drive the Howland Hill Drive)

- Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park (even just to drive the Newton B Drury Scenic Pkay)


 

The most recommended Redwood short hikes:

- Rockefeller Grove Loop **** (Humboldt Redwoods SP)

- Big Tree Loop ***** (Prairie Creek Redwoods SP)

- Fern Canyon ***** (Prairie Creek Redwoods SP)

- Lady Bird Johnson Grove **** (Redwood National Park)

- Grove Of the Titans ***** (Jedediah Smith Redwoods SP)

- Stout Grove ***** (Jedediah Smith Redwoods SP)

 





The most recommended Redwood long hikes:

- Redwood Creek Trail to Tall Tree Loop (15.5 miles) ***** (Redwood National Park)

- The James Irvine and Miners’ Ridge loop (12.5 miles) ***** (Prairie Creek Redwoods SP)

- Boy Scout Tree Trail (5.5 miles) ***** (Jedediah Smith Redwoods SP)

 



The most recommended Redwood car drive:

- Avenue of the Giants *** (Humboldt Redwoods SP)

- Mattole Rd **** (Humboldt Redwoods SP)

- Newton B Drury Scenic Pkay ***** (Prairie Creek Redwoods SP)

- Howland Hill Drive ***** (Jedediah Smith Redwoods SP)

 





1 day - Visit Itinerary:

It is challenging to advise on one day trip in this amazing large region. My recommendations will mainly include driving, viewpoints, and very short visits and walks at few, near the road, redwood groves.

 

Each of the below north and central options will consume a day, you might combine them to one day if you will have only short walks in each location.

The driving time between the north and south option is around 1 hour and 30 minutes.

 



North option:

Drive from Crescent City to Howland Hill Drive (west to east), this forest road cross Jedediah Smith Redwoods SP. Along your drive on this unpaved forest road, stop for short hikes at ‘Grove Of the Titans’ and Stout Grove, here you can find the largest in volume redwood exist.



Central option:

Driving Newton B Drury Scenic Pkay at Prairie Creek Redwoods SP and hiking all or part of Big Tree Loop. This is probably the most beautiful redwood grove, just of the main road near the park visitor center. You can also a short stop at Big Tree Wayside.

Here at the open grass fields just outside the grove to the south, and along highway 101 to the south, you may also find the Roosevelt Elk herds.

Just short drive to the south can take you to Lady Bird Johnson Grove in Redwood National Park, a short hike at elevated Redwood grove.

 

 





2 days - Visit Itinerary:

For 2 days my recommendation is to combine the above north and central visit options.

You can add to the above plan a visit to Fern Canyon, amazing short canyon covered with fern plants. The hike itself is a short easy 1-hour hike but its location on the far ocean side of Prairie Creek Redwoods SP and the driving time to the ocean side from the main road will consume around 3 hours. You can spend there more time, visiting the long open sandy ocean front.

 






4 days - Visit Itinerary:




Day 1:



Starting at San Francisco this is a long 300 miles drive day.

When coming from San Francisco on 101 you can break your long drive at few attractions along the road, the most popular family stop is probably at Confusion Hill Gravity House.

take the Avenue of the Giants scenic byway drive and have a short stop at Humboldt Redwoods StatePark visitor center.

From here drive north and just before reconnecting to highway 101 turn left below the 101 bridges into Mattole Rd. this amazing side-road will take into few old growth redwoods. Drive the road and hike Rockefeller Grove Loop and/or the Big Tree loop.

From here keep driving north, additional 1 hour drive will bring you to Eureka. Not too much to do here, maybe eat lunch or see the old downtown.

At your afternoon I recommend visiting Sue-Meg State Park (formally named Patrick's Point) and the nearby small fishing town of Trinidad, local beaches, and ocean cliffs.

 




Day 2 and 3:


At day 2 and 3 will be at the heart of the redwood country, visiting Redwood National Park and the adjacent Prairie Creek Redwoods SP, together they create a large redwood forest heaven.

 

The recommended place to camp is at Elk Prairie Campground (easy access to redwood hikes) or at Gold Bluffs Beach Campground near the ocean and Fern Canyon.

 

I will provide here a list of places to visit and hikes options in those parks; you will organize your days as you see fit.

If you want to have long hikes this is the place to do them, you have 2 long hikes, you can do them both or only one.

You do have many other options, not less rewording, of short and easy hikes.

 

Big Tree Loop (2-3 hours): The best redwood hike is the Big Tree Loop near Prairie Creek Visitor Center. This is an easy 3-mile hike.

 



Fern Canyon (1 day for the long hike, 2-3 hours if you are driving to the parking lot): You can hike from Prairie Creek Visitor Center the 12.5 miles long James Irvine and Miners’ Ridge loop or by driving Davidson Rd to the oceanfront and hike the short and easy coastal trail to Fern Canyon. Here you can spend time at the wide-open ocean beach.

 


Lady Bird Johnson Grove (1 hour visit): A short 1.5-mile hike in a nice redwood grove.

 

Tall Tree grove (if you are hiking the 15 miles trail this is 1 day activity, if you are driving this is half day activity): 15.5 miles hiking Redwood Creek Trail or by getting car day use permit, park near the grove and hike to the Tall Tree grove (this will be total of 4 miles). You can apply for a Tall Trees driving permit up to four weeks in advance but not less than 48 hours away. If you received a day permit to Tall Trees Grove you can take it at Thomas H. Kuchel Visitor Center. Even though you are driving to a parking lot near the grove plan for at list a half a day for this activity.

 

Newton B Drury Scenic Parkway (1 hour): 10 miles drive crossing the redwood forest with many of pull-outs for short hikes. Visit here the Big Tree Wayside and you can also drive the Cal-Barrel Forest Rd.

 

Viewing the Roosevelt Elks: in this park there is a big herd of Roosevelt Elk, you may see them at the open grasslands along the roads.

 



 

Day 4:



This day is all around Jedediah Smith Redwoods SP and the city of Crescent City.

Plan for at list a half a day at Jedediah Smith Redwoods SP.

Depending on where you spend the night drive to Crescent City and from there find the way to Howland Hill Drive. This forest road cross Jedediah Smith Redwoods SP from west to east and considered to be one of the most beautiful redwood drives.

Stop and hike the Boy Scout Tree Trail (5.5 miles) and soon after the shorter ‘Grove Of the Titans’ trail and visit Stout Grove.


I found many different things to do in Crescent City, walking along the water-front and on the long Jetty, see the sunset at Battery Point Lighthouse, walk along Pebble Beach and see the sea stacks, and try to see the illusive St. George Reef Lighthouse, located 6 miles out in the ocean.

 

If you have time, you can visit Trees of Mystery Park. This is a popular family attraction (costs $20 for adults), just on the 101 road at False Klamath. It has a forest walk, elevated canopy walks and a large gift shop.

 

 



North California Redwood Destinations:

Sorted South to North on highway 101

Below are short description and a link to a detailed blog on each location

As always in my blogs, pictures are important part of my visiting experience and I have many pictures in each blog.


 

Highway 101 Attractions between Leggett to Avenue of the Giants

There are few “Redwoods” tourists’ attraction in this section of highway 101, none of them is a “must see” but you can stop at one location, have a break from your long drive north (or south).

Probably the best place for a family to stop is at Confusion Hill Gravity House.

 


 


Humboldt Redwoods State Park

Humboldt Redwoods State Park is a large park along highway 101 corridor, alongside South Fork Eel River gorge. The Park protects Rockefeller Forest, the world's largest remaining contiguous old-growth forest of coast redwoods.

The Park 32-mile Avenue of the Giants scenic byway drive is highly recommended, you will pass alongside the redwoods and can stop at many old grove locations for short hikes. 6 miles long Mattole Road, west of Highway 101, is one of the most beautiful winding roads, amazing redwoods trees on both sides and few recommended hiking option.

 






 


Eureka

Eureka is a large port town in Northern California, at the heart of the North Redwood Coast. Its Old Town district features Victorian houses such as Carson Mansion.

Unfortunately, as a result of the decline in the logging industry, low income, poverty and homeless problem Eureka has high crime rate.

As a tourist there isn’t so much to find in this town. I only had a short stop at the old city district, where you can see all the Victorian houses including Carson Mansion and I visit the nearby marina and the inner bay front.

 




 

Trinidad

Trinidad is a seaside small fishermen town in Humboldt County, located on the Pacific Ocean north of the Eureka. I spend some time at the oceanfront near this town. At the south, the shoreline is long, open, sandy beach (county park and state beach), heading north the landscape change into ragged cliff section. North of Trinidad you can visit Sue-Meg State Park (formally named Patrick's Point State Park).

 



 


Redwood National and State Parks

The Redwood National and State Parks (RNSP) are a complex of several state and national parks located along the coast of northern California. The combined RNSP protect 139,000 acres of redwood forests. RNSP protect 45 percent of all remaining coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) old-growth forests, the tallest, massive and among the oldest trees on Earth.

The main body of Redwood National Park is a huge section of the Redwood Creek basin, in the middle of which is located the iconic Tall Trees Grove. When the park was created in the 1960s, one of this grove’s trees was, at 368 feet tall, the world’s tallest known tree, other slightly taller trees were discovered since then.

https://www.nps.gov/redw/index.htm

 



 

Redwood National Park - Redwood Creek Hike to Tall Trees Grove

A 15.5 mile long, out, and back, trail along the Redwood Creek River that will take you to an old redwood Tall Trees Grove. A location where few years back the Libbey Tree was considered as the tallest trees on earth (368 feet tall).

In a different hidden location, the Hyperion tree was discovered in 2006, and is 379.7 feet (115.7 m) tall, tallest known to man tree.

Another more “friendly” option to visit Tall Trees Grove is to get a car day-permit (reservation at list 2 days in advance), park 1.5 miles away and visit Tall Trees Grove, this will be a 4.5-mile-long hike.


 


 

Redwood National Park - Lady Bird Johnson Grove Trail

The Lady Bird Johnson Grove provides a fun, short walk into impressive old growth Redwood grove. Relatively popular location that offers all things that a redwood grove visit has to offer.

 



 

Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

This is one of the most impressive redwood forests with probably the easiest visitor’s accessibility, especially for ones that are driving on highway 101.

The most impressive old redwood groves in the park are located at the valley, along Prairie Creek, on both sides of Newton B Drury Scenic Parkway.

Do not miss this scenic parkway drive, even if you do not have time for a real visit at the park, take off highway 101 and drive the 10-mile scenic Newton B Drury Parkway.

If you are just driving through the park and not planning to do any hike, be sure to stop at the many roadside pull-outs along the drive for short stop to see the groves.



Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park- Fern Canyon

Fern Canyon is a quarter of a mile long canyon where the 50-foot-high canyon walls are completely covered by ferns and are dripping with moisture. The Canyon is located at the ocean front of the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. Fern Canyon was chosen as a location for filming Jurassic Park 2: The Lost World.

 




 

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park is fantastic!

The Park has quite a few easily accessible groves, right off the Highway 199 corridor. These include the Peterson, Templeman and Stout Memorial Groves. Don’t miss the 10-mile scenic Howland Hill drive and the Boy Scout hike.

 



 

Crescent City

Crescent City is named for its beautiful crescent-shaped stretch of Pacific Coast beachfront. The city is home to historic attractions such as the Battery Point Lighthouse and is providing an easy visitor access to the nearby beautiful beaches and the Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park.

 






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