Planning a vacation to Redwood National Park in the Pacific Northwest and want to know what to see and do there? Well, Redwood National Park is home to the tallest trees in the world and ancient redwood forests with trees over 2,000 years old and 400 feet tall.
Even without considering any of the other things to see here, the sequoia trees are reason enough to visit this park. But if you’re looking for more, there are plenty of other adventures to take. For example, this park in Humboldt County in Northern California also offers a diverse range of old-growth woods, coastal drives, treks, and other diversions for National Park enthusiasts.
If you want to know more about what you can do at Redwood National Park, you’re in the right place. This guide lists all the things you can do on your next visit.
Quick Overview of Redwoods National Park & State Parks
A visit to Redwood Park is a perfect getaway for outdoor enthusiasts. The park is in a central location in northern California, between San Francisco and Portland, with each city being 6 hours away.
Another unique feature about this park is the redwood and state parks partnership between constituent state parks in California. The constituents of the redwoods league include three state parks and one national park. They are:
- Prairie Creek State Park
- Jedediah Smith State Park
- Del Norte State Park
- Redwoods National Park
The joint park lobbies to conserve the oldest cedar trees as the region boasts about 40,000 acres of aging forest. Apart from the rich history buried in the redwood forest, the park is ideal for many outdoor activities highlighted in this article.
Activities in Redwood National Park
Redwood National Park has scenic views rendering the park ideal for hiking activities. A quick tour gives an other-worldly feel, like the trails intertwined in the redwood forest that highlight the natural landscape.
1. Hike Tall Trees Grove
The park is known for its tall trees and is home to the world’s tallest tree, Hyperion, standing at 379 feet tall. This tall tree has been compared to monumental buildings like the Statue of Liberty. Most visitors feel dwarfed and awed by Hyperion and the other trees in this grove.
Visitors are encouraged to visit Hyperion, but conservation efforts are taken seriously, and the park mitigates over-tourism by requiring visitation schedules. You do need a permit to visit this area of the park, but they are not hard to come by. You can apply online with an approval period of 48 hours to 4 weeks.
2. See The Elk Refuge
The park has a rich history of conservation efforts in Humboldt County, home to the Roosevelt Elk population. Most of the conservation efforts have reached fruition since, historically, Roosevelt’s Wapiti population faced extinction due to overhunting.
The Elk prairie on the Newton Drury scenic parkway is a favorite among visitors to watch the Roosevelt elk. Their population has experienced growth visible in some park segments, mostly in Prairie Creek. The trailheads and a guest center nearby make the viewing area easily identifiable.
Roosevelt elk are also visible on Davidson Road, which many people prefer due to ample parking.
Visitors are urged to maintain a safe distance, especially redwood photographers. Photography zoom lenses are recommended. A 10-400mm or a 70-200 lens is suitable to ensure the personal safety of the photographers. However, photographers should still exercise caution due to the unpredictable behavior of wild animals.
3. Hike the Fern Canyon
Fern Canyon is a perfect spot for lovers of prehistoric environments. As the name suggests, the Fern Canyon is a 15m drop covered with ferns, giving it an ancient feel, which is why these prehistoric ferns were featured in the film Jurassic Park.
The trails meandering through the park are viable paths, with one located at Davidson Road after Gold Bluffs Beach, providing access to the Canyon. Although Davidson Road is treacherous to most drivers, especially after the rainstorm, park rangers, situated at Kuchel Center, provide adequate guidance to drivers before taking on an adventurous pursuit.
The canyon’s popularity means there is stiff competition for most sight-seers looking for a parking spot.
4. Other Scenic Byways
Lost Coast Loop: The beachfront is famous for the meandering roads commonly called the Wild Cat or Mattole road. The scenic views of the beachfront awe most visitors as do the winds and coastal hills along this drive.
Highway 36: The park caters to motorcyclists through Highway 36. The highway cuts through small farms and towns towards Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park and Van Duzen County Park. Motorcyclists enjoy the park’s rich history as they drive through the enchanting cedar forest.
Newton Drury Parkway: This large tree-lined byway passes via national and state parks. It is a slower approach than Highway 101, but those 10 miles are jam-packed with remarkable stops, like the Ah Pah trail, Wayside, Elk Prairie, and a slew of clearly-marked trailheads. This drive is great for the entire family.
Trinidad to Patrick’s Point: The route is tricky and bumpy for the first 6.5 miles, but the beach views are among the greatest in the country.
5. Visit The Enderts Beach
Enderts Beach is a picturesque beach in Redwood National Park, making it ideal for hiking, watching tidal pools, and photography. The beach, which begins at the southern end of Enderts Beach Road, is an easy 0.5-mile walk.
The coastal trail follows the cliffs and eventually descends to the seashore, a 200-foot decrease in elevation. You can read the interpretative signs along the road to learn about the plants and tidepools. Please keep in mind that this is not a swim beach because the chilly water, big waves, and swift current are harsh, so keep your distance!
6. Hike Lady Bird Johnson Grove
The most popular grove in the area is this compact 1.5-mile path through a renowned redwood grove. The sequoia encountered here are old, many dating back over 2,000 years. As you hike, you’ll make your way through forests of redwoods and other seasonal coniferous trees.
Lady Bird Johnson, the former first lady of the United States, inaugurated Redwood National Park in 1968, giving the grove its name. While at the White House, she campaigned for the National Park Service. Today, informative signs are set up along the trail, making it ideal for families to learn more about the park.
7. Explore the Prairie Creek Redwoods
If you’re planning a trip to the state parks and Redwood National Park with your family, Prairie Creek is a must-see! This area contains several of the area’s most prominent attractions, such as massive redwood trees, gorgeous vistas, and great hikes, such as the Fern Canyon.
On the south side of the Newton Drury Scenic Byway, stop by the Prairie Creek visitor center, get a pamphlet, and talk to rangers about preferred hiking paths.
As you go north, you’ll come across various trails to explore. Chat with rangers to determine which one is best for your group.
8. View Crescent Beach Overlook
You can see magnificent redwood trees in the state parks and Redwood National Park, but the park’s craggy ocean shoreline is visible from the better vantage spots.
You may photograph the beachfront from Crescent Beach on Enderts Road or go straight to Enderts coastline to witness the waves up close. The best part is that the stunning vista is just a few kilometers from Crescent City’s downtown, making it very accessible.
9. Drive the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway
A 10-mile beautiful route traverses Prairie Park. It’s among the few spots where tourists can drive into the core of an ancient redwood grove, aside from Avenue of the Giants. If you only have time for one scenic drive, make it this one.
You’ll witness towering redwoods along the way as well as plenty of little paths for a closer look. You may get up closer and personal with the park’s historic sequoia on the Wayside Trail and Ah-Pah Trail.
10. Drive Howland Hill Road
Howland Road, which runs through the Jedediah Smith State Park, is located at the park’s northern end. On this uneven dirt road, your automobile passes between massive redwoods, with several trailheads and turn-offs throughout the route.
You’ll need an average-sized car to travel on this route because some tree passes are relatively tight. Please note that this road doesn’t allow RVs or trailers.
Although Howland Hill Road is just five to ten miles in length, due to the lumpy route and numerous sights, it takes about 60 minutes to complete. A favorite stop from the gorgeous drive is a few miles from Stout Grove.
11. Camping at Gold Bluffs Beach
Explore Redwood National Park camping. Gold Bluff’s coastline is amongst the park’s finest campgrounds. On the shore, among the dunes, you can set up camp with a view of the most tranquil and beautiful Pacific sunsets.
You’ll enjoy immediate access to routes like Fern Canyon, as well as chances to see Roosevelt elk that dwell nearby. This coastline is also an excellent place to see migratory whales in the spring. At Gold Bluffs Beach, essential services such as food lockers, fire pits, and bathrooms with showers are available.
12. Watch the Whale Migration
Whale watching is among the top winter and spring activities in Redwood National Park. Tourists can see whales swimming in the ocean in March, April, November, and December.
On a bright, tranquil day, if you’re lucky, you’ll see whales from many viewpoints, so make sure you have your binoculars. High Bluff and Klamath River Overlook are excellent spots for whale watching.
13. Stop By Kuchel Tourist Center
The Kuchel Center is Redwood Park’s main visitor center. It’s conveniently located on Highway 101 and great for a fast information stop. There are a few displays, a bookshop, and an educational park film. It’s a terrific spot to start your day by checking with rangers about roads and trailhead conditions. Remember to have your park passport stamped at this and other tourist centers!
14. Check Out Hiouchi Visitor Center
The Hiouchi Center is a fantastic place to go for park knowledge when you’re in the park’s northern areas. It is situated in Jedediah Smith State Park, off Highway 199. Before visiting the park’s northern region, park rangers provide you with various personalized recommendations, stamp your nature reserve passport, and give you a map of the area.
Tips for Visiting Redwood National Park
- Purchase an America the Beautiful National Parks Pass. This includes admission to Redwoods National Park and each California state park. With a yearly park pass, you’ll have access to over 60 parks as well as over 300 monuments, historic landmarks, and other attractions.
- The park does not have any eateries or businesses. Restaurants and hotel alternatives are found just before Orick, Trinidad, and Klamath Parks. You’ll have to prepare ahead of time and bring snacks and sandwiches if you want to eat in the park.
- Google Maps is considered to be untrustworthy. When Google Maps leads you in the wrong direction, use the authorized park maps to get there from trails.
- Before leaving, always check the road and path conditions. The park’s circumstances change rapidly due to rain, fallen trees, and landslides. Check route conditions online or with a guide at any visitor center before embarking on any of the region’s picturesque drives or hikes.
Things to Do At Redwood National Park
Redwood National Park offers a wide range of exciting activities. Don’t forget to see Fern Canyon, the Roosevelt Elk, Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway, Tall Trees Grove, and the Kuchel Visitor Center if you have limited time.
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