TRAVEL

10 must-see spots in Redwood National and State Parks

A guide to experiencing the home of the world’s tallest trees

The trees just keep getting taller and taller. And the light is different, more golden and dappled. Cell service is getting spotty, but you don’t care. You’re not looking at your phone for messages anyway. Because the place you’re pulling into—Redwood National and State Parks—is like nothing you’ve ever seen. And the wonders outside your window have you transfixed.

Redwood National and State Parks is a complex of four incredible parks managed in partnership by the National Park Service and California State Parks. The four parks are Redwood National Park, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. Together, these parks contain 45% of the world’s remaining protected ancient coast redwood forests. It’s a place so spectacular, so precious that it has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, alongside Stonehenge, the Pyramids of Egypt, and the Great Barrier Reef.

Video footage by Kyle and AJ Cooper

More than 1 million people from around the world visit annually. In 2020, visitors were reduced to a trickle due to the pandemic, but as things open up again, more and more people are embracing a trip to the redwoods as a safe, outdoor escape.

Save the Redwoods League has a special connection to the place. By the early 20th century, nearly all of California’s old-growth coast redwoods were cut down by the timber industry, and the League, its supporters, and its many partners stepped in and protected these remaining stands. And that involvement continues to this day through a partnership called Redwoods Rising, where the League has joined with the National Park Service and California State Parks to restore more than 70,000 acres of damaged forest to its former glory.

You can learn about that on your visit to Redwood National and State Parks as you take in all this region has to offer. You’ll walk among the tallest trees, view incredible wildlife, feel the ocean wind on your face along the pristine coastline, sleep under the stars, and so much more.

The four parks that make up Redwood National and State Parks rest on ancestral territory of the Yurok and Tolowa, and a visit to the area provides an opportunity to not only experience nature but also to learn about these rich cultures. We hope the following pages are a helpful start as you plan your own trip to the heart of redwoods country.


Top spots in the parks

We asked our staff and friends to share the best places to experience.

With nearly 132,000 acres of spectacular landscape, there is never a shortage of things to do in Redwood National and State Parks. Tall coast redwoods, peaceful meadows, dramatic coastline, and inspiring wildlife meet you at almost every turn. Here we share some of our favorite places.

Map of best spots in the park

beams of light shining through a foggy redwood forest
Damnation Creek Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park. Photo by Zack Stanton, @zackatak71

DAMNATION CREEK TRAIL

DEL NORTE COAST REDWOODS STATE PARK
#7 ON MAP

In two short, steep miles, Damnation Creek Trail leads from fern-festooned old-growth coast redwood forest down to rocky tidepools and crashing waves. Walking this trail is great in the late afternoon when the fog rolls in and lends more drama to the spectacular forest.


GROVE OF TITANS

JEDEDIAH SMITH REDWOODS STATE PARK
#4 ON MAP

In the northernmost reaches of California’s coast redwood range, the lush rainforest of Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park embraces ancient trees of epic proportions, including the Grove of Titans. After sustaining damage from an influx of visitors walking off trail for years, the grove is now protected by a new boardwalk that provides visitors ecologically sensitive access through the grove.


Smith River
Smith River, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. Photo by Jon Parmentier

SMITH RIVER

JEDEDIAH SMITH REDWOODS STATE PARK
#1 ON MAP

One of the only rivers in California to flow freely from its source to the Pacific Ocean, the Smith River is a wonder to behold thanks to the serpentine bedrock that give it its unique green appearance. There are lots of terrific access points in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park that also offer spectacular coast redwood views.


Stout Grove
Stout Grove, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. Photo by Robert Shea, Flickr Creative Commons

STOUT GROVE

JEDEDIAH SMITH REDWOODS STATE PARK
#3 ON MAP
Not far from the Smith River in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park is Stout Grove, one of the most beautiful redwood groves you’ll ever visit.


Howland Hill Road
Howland Hill Road, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. Photo by Caleb Castle

HOWLAND HILL ROAD

JEDEDIAH SMITH REDWOODS STATE PARK
#5 ON MAP

Once a stagecoach line, the winding Howland Hill Road is a fantastic opportunity for those who like to drive among the tall trees. Beware: It’s a dirt road too narrow for RVs. Many trailheads lead off the road, including the newly reopened Grove of Titans Trail.


Big Tree at Prairie Creek State Park
Big Tree Wayside in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park off Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway. Photo by Kirt Edblom, Flickr Creative Commons

PRAIRIE CREEK TRAIL-CATHEDRAL TREE TRAIL LOOP

PRAIRIE CREEK REDWOODS STATE PARK
#10 ON MAP

Starting at the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park headquarters, this easy walk delivers on its promise of spectacular coast redwoods. Take the Prairie Creek Trail up to the Big Tree Wayside, then return on the Cathedral Tree Trail.


Roosevelt elks
Roosevelt elks. Photo by League staff.

ELK MEADOW

PRAIRIE CREEK REDWOODS STATE PARK
#12 ON MAP

Elk Meadow is a great place to stop for a look at the scenery, and you’ll probably see resident Roosevelt elks. Watch for them in meadows throughout the parks.


Trillium Falls
Trillium Falls, Redwood National Park. Photo by Max Forster, @maxforsterphotography

TRILLIUM FALLS TRAIL

REDWOOD NATIONAL PARK
#13 ON MAP

Not far from Elk Meadow is the lovely Trillium Falls Trail in Redwood National Park, which offers enchanting views of old-growth redwoods and one of the area’s waterfalls.


Redwood Creek Overlook
Redwood Creek Overlook, Bald Hills, Redwood National Park. Photo by Max Forster, @maxforsterphotography

BALD HILLS

REDWOOD NATIONAL PARK
#16 ON MAP

On a trip where you’ve spent a lot of time within forests, the Bald Hills area provides an overview of the area’s redwoods, and you can see the legacy of logging and conservation. Don’t miss the Redwood Creek Overlook, where you can learn about Redwoods Rising, a partnership of Save the Redwoods League, California State Parks, and the National Park Service to restore more than 70,000 acres of coast redwood forest to its former glory.


Fern Canyon
Fern Canyon, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. Photo by Kirt Edblom, Flickr Creative Commons

FERN CANYON

PRAIRIE CREEK REDWOODS STATE PARK
#8 ON MAP
You’ve probably seen the photos showing walls of lush green ferns surrounding a tranquil, rocky, bubbling creek. This place in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park is near the top of the list of sights to see. Learn the best times to visit.


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About the author

Garrison Frost joined Save the Redwoods League in 2019 as its Director of Communications.

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