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The Ultimate Redwood National Park Adventure Guide

41°18′N 124°00′W

Sunlight beams in a vibrant green redwood forest

THIS ADVENTURE GUIDE COVERS EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT EXPLORING, ADVENTURING AND CAMPING IN REDWOOD NATIONAL PARK IN NORTHERN CALIFORNIA.

 


This sizable national park in the far reaches of Northern California is actually a complex of one national park, Redwood National Park, and three state parks: Del Norte Coast Redwoods, Jedediah Smith Redwoods, and Prairie Creek Redwoods. All four are cooperatively managed by the National Park Service and the California State Parks system.


The combined Redwood National and State Parks (or RNSP) preserves nearly 139,000 acres of stunning natural landscapes, including old-growth forests that are home to 45% of all remaining coastal redwood old-growth forests (totally nearly 39,000 acres). Coastal redwood trees are the tallest and one of the most massive tree species on Earth. They are also usually considered to be some of the oldest (some are more than 1,000 years old).


In addition to the redwood forests, the four parks preserve other indigenous flora and fauna, including the Chinook salmon, northern spotted owl, Steller's sea lion, and Roosevelt elk, many different cultural resources, large portions of rivers and streams, and over 35 miles of pristine Northern California coastline.


Redwood National and State Parks, or just Redwood National Park, is one of the best places (and sadly one of the last remaining places) to explore the massive and beautiful coastal redwood trees. And luckily, the park is home to numerous trails and adventures to help the adventurous traveler get out and explore them up close.


This adventure guide covers everything you need to know about Redwood National Park; including, how to get there, the best time to visit, where to stay, what to bring, what to see, and what trails to explore. So if you are planning a trip up to Northern California, then make sure to check out our in-depth Redwood National Park Guide below.




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📌 HOW TO GET TO REDWOOD NP 🗺 TOP 8 THINGS TO SEE IN REDWOOD NP

🏕 WHERE TO STAY IN REDWOOD NP 🥾 TOP HIKING TRAILS IN REDWOOD NP

🎒 WHAT GEAR TO BRING TO REDWOOD NP








\\ Fast Facts About Redwood National and State Parks



YEAR ESTABLISHED: the national park was established in 1968, but it was combined with the three state parks in 1994.


LOCATION: in the Del Norte and Humboldt Counties in Northern California, USA


SIZE: 138,999 total acres


NUMBER OF ANNUAL VISITORS: 435,879 in 2021


COST TO ENTER REDWOOD NATIONAL AND STATE PARKS: free! Though you will have to pay to stay at the campgrounds (which is $35 a night).


IS REDWOOD NATIONAL AND STATE PARKS PET FRIENDLY: not really. You cannot bring dogs on any of the major hiking trails, but they are allowed on roads like Newton B. Drury Scenic Byway, especially when it is closed to cars.


BEST FOR: hiking, photography








REDWOOD NATIONAL AND STATE PARKS HISTORY


In the 1850s, old-growth redwood forests covered more than 2 million acres of the California coast. The northern portion of that area was originally inhabited by Native American groups (including the Yurok, Tolowa, and Karuk tribes) who had called the region home for thousands of years. Prior to Euro-American contact, Native Americans had adapted well to the abundant environment. This included using all resources available in a sustainable way: fallen redwoods for houses and boats, local wildlife for food, and the wide array of plants for medicine. Similarly, the local groups were spiritually connected to the forest. As one historian put it, "their lives were enmeshed in the very character and fabric of the trees."


The Native groups lived in harmony with the trees until they were eventually forced out of their land by gold seekers and timber harvesters, which started to arrive in the mid-18th century. The outsiders needed the forest's raw materials for their homes and commerce (logging followed the expansion of America, for companies were always struggling to keep up with the furious pace of progress). Soon enough, timber harvesting quickly became the top manufacturing industry in the American West.


For the most part, the felled redwoods were shipped out to both the southern region of California, where the population was quickly increasing due to the gold rush, and to rapidly growing metropolises like San Francisco. While in the beginning the logging was mostly done with hand tools, which was very tedious and took a lot of time, by the 1920s and 30s, advancements in technology (namely the development of chainsaws and tracked bulldozers) led to a massive increase in the rate of logging of redwood trees. Eventually, acres of ancient redwoods would be cut down in just a few days.


Luckily, a small group of people took notice and started lobbying to protect the remaining redwood groves. Founded in 1918, the Save the Redwoods League started working hard to preserve the few remaining old-growth redwoods. Their hard work resulted in the establishment of Prairie Creek Redwoods, Del Norte Coast Redwoods, and Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Parks (among others, including Humboldt Redwoods State Park, home to the famous Avenue of the Giants) in the early 1920s.


Redwood National Park was eventually created in 1968 - though by this time, nearly 95% of the original redwood trees had already been logged. The National Park Service and the California Department of Parks and Recreation combined Redwood National Park with the three abutting Redwood State Parks in 1994 for "the purpose of cooperative forest management and stabilization of forests and watersheds as a single unit." Today, the rare ecosystem and cultural history found within the parks is a designated World Heritage Site, while the wider area (which includes the whole California Coast Ranges) is an International Biosphere Reserve.


Learn more about the history of the national park here.






REDWOOD NATIONAL AND STATE PARK VISITOR CENTERS


There are four visitor centers within Redwood National and State Parks: the Hiouchi Visitor Center, Jedediah Smith Visitor Center, Prairie Creek Visitor Center and the Thomas H. Kuchel Visitor Center. Likewise, there is also an information center in the town of Crescent City.



HIOUCHI VISITOR CENTER

This small visitor is the first one you come across if driving to the park from the north (mainly Oregon). The center is located along Highway 199 and just across the street from the Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park Campground. Here you can talk to staff about recommended hikes and drives, check out various exhibits (including ones on the park's preservation history and important people), get your national park passport stamp, and eat lunch at one of the picnic tables.


🕝 HOURS: 9 AM - 5 PM between Spring and Fall, and 9 AM to 4 PM in the Winter (closed major holidays)

📌 LOCATION: Hiouchi, California, across the street from the Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park Campground



JEDEDIAH SMITH CAMPGROUND VISITOR CENTER

Located in the middle of the large Jedediah Smith Campground, this visitor center also has a couple of exhibits (mostly on the coast redwoods and local wildlife), restrooms, passport stamps, a small picnic area and nearby hiking trailheads. The visitor center can easily be walked to if you are staying at the campground already.


🕝 HOURS: open from mid-May to Labor Day (early September) from 9 AM to 5 PM

📌 LOCATION: 10 miles east of Crescent City, California in the Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park Campground



PRAIRIE CREEK VISITOR CENTER

Located in the heart of the redwoods, this visitor center can be reached off of Highway 101 and is a good place to stop if you are planning to drive the beautiful Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway. This visitor center, like the two above, also offers exhibits on the coastal redwood forests, the local wildlife and some of the area's history. Similarly, here you can also peruse a small park bookstore, eat lunch at one of the picnic tables, or head out on one of the nearby hiking trails.


🕝 HOURS: 9 AM - 5 PM between Spring and Fall, and 9 AM to 4 PM in the Winter (closed major holidays); rangers may be present during the summer

📌 LOCATION: off of Highway 101 near the southern end of the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway and next door to the Elk Prairie Campground



THOMAS H. KUCHEL VISITOR CENTER

The final visitor center within Redwood National and State Parks is this visitor center that focuses more on the park's coastal biomes. Inside you can find exhibits on the various watersheds and marine life, peruse a small bookstore, get your park passport stamp, eat at one of the picnic tables, head out on a nearby beach or talk to a ranger about one of the trails close by.


🕝 HOURS: 9 AM - 5 PM between Spring and Fall, and 9 AM to 4 PM in the Winter (closed major holidays)

📌 LOCATION: off of Highway 101 just south of Orick, California; this is the first visitor center you come across if driving to the park from San Francisco.




Visitor center in Redwood National and State Parks



You also have the opportunity to stop in at the Crescent City Information Center, which is located in downtown Crescent City, California (the closest sizable city to the national park). Just like the four visitor centers above, this center offers a couple of exhibits, a bookstore, a picnic area, and park passport stamps. The information center is open 9 AM to 5 PM in the Spring, Summer and Fall. During the Winter it usually is either closed or has reduced hours.


You can find the exact location of this visitor center here.






REDWOOD NATIONAL PARK MAP


The northern half (left) and southern half (right) maps of Redwood National and State Parks.







\\ When to Visit Redwood National and State Parks


The best time to visit Redwoods National and State Parks is going to be during the late spring and summer months. This includes any time between late April and August.


During this time of year, you can expect warmer temperatures and sunnier skies during the middle of the day (though fog is quite common in the morning). Also, this is when everything is open in the park - including campgrounds, visitor centers and trails/scenic drives. Likewise, between mid-spring and early summer, you have a good chance of spotting beautiful wildflowers in the park, especially bright pink and red rhododendron flowers.


💬 INSIDER TIP: while the summer months have the best weather, they are also the busiest. We highly recommend booking your lodging and getting your permits in advance if planning to visit between May and August.