Redwood Parks at Northern California Coastline – Visit Planning
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.
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.
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?
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
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.
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
I also do not
cover dining options.
Few Words about The Redwoods:
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
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.
impressive old growth redwood groves are located at flat sections of the
landscape, near riverbeds or side creeks, where they have the best growing
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
time between the north and south option is around 1 hour and 30 minutes.
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.
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
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Tall Tree grove (if you are hiking
the 15 miles trail this is 1 day activity, if you are driving this is half day
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
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
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.
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
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.
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 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.
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 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).
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
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.
“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.
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.
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 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.