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Redwood State & National Parks

The Redwood National and State Parks are unlike anywhere else in the world. These parks are full of enchanting forests made up of massive redwood giants hundreds of years old, coastal cliffs with rock strewn beaches, as well as home to slimy and slow banana slugs creeping their way along the forest floor.

Redwood State & National Parks

The Home Of Giants

The Redwood National and State Parks are collectively located along the west coast in the most northern part of California. Technically, there are a number of State Parks dedicated to the redwoods beginning in the Santa Cruz, CA area, stretching all the way up to the California/Oregon Border.

Humboldt Redwoods State Park, in particular, is home of the world’s largest old growth redwood forest. This collection of protected and preserved wildernesses provides many options for the whole family to explore. Combined, the parks are rich in cultural history, contain hundreds of miles of trails to hike, bike, and run, and hold beautiful areas to pitch a tent. Here is everything you need to know before visiting the Redwood National and State Parks. 

Redwood National & State Parks

Here are some of California’s 49 Redwood State Parks, from North to South:

  • Jedediah Smith Redwoods SP
  • Del Norte Coast Redwoods SP
  • Prairie Creek Redwoods SP
  • Grizzly Creek Redwoods SP
  • Humboldt Redwoods SP
  • Richardson Grove SP
  • Navarro River Redwoods SP
  • Portola Redwoods SP
  • Big Basin Redwoods SP
  • Henry Cowell Redwoods SP

Hiking 

Hiking is the very best way to explore these gorgeous wilderness areas. The Redwood National and State Parks has hundreds of miles of trails that weave throughout the parks. You can frolic along meadows, crane your neck to see old-growth redwood forests, or get your feet wet along the beaches. Here are some of the must do treks: 

  • Rockefeller Loop (Humboldt Redwoods SP): Coming in at under a mile with very little elevation change, this easy hike starts 1.1 miles west of the Avenue of the Giants on the Mattole Road, which breaks off at Avenue of the Giants mile marker 20.6, at Dyerville. Here you’ll stroll through Rockefeller Forest, part of the biggest area of old-growth redwoods on Earth.
  • Prairie Creek – Foothill Trail Loop (Prairie Creek Redwoods SP): This family friendly easy walk takes you right along a bubbling river. The length in total is just shy of 3 miles with less than 95 feet in elevation gain. This hike will take you under some of the oldest trees in the world! 
  • Fern Falls via Boy Scout Tree Trail (Jedediah Smith Redwoods SP): At 7 miles in length with 938 feet of elevation gain; this trail is rated more moderate in difficulty. The trail immerses you in a forest of giants as you make your way to Fern Falls. Located in the grotto, the falls are about 20 feet tall and carpeted with ferns and moss. 
  • Tall Tree Grove (Redwood NP, south of Prairie Creek Redwoods): One of the more strenuous hikes in the parks is this Instagram popular trail. The loop is a little over 3 miles with 750 feet elevation gain. Here you see some of the Southern Redwoods as you hike to a lovely stream. Because of its popularity you now need to obtain a free permit online prior to hiking. 

Visitor Centers 

One of my favorite things to do when visiting any State or National Park is to check out the visitor centers. There you can find helpful information such as maps, current road conditions and weather forecasts. As well as asking a ranger for their favorite trails to try and interesting wildlife and local history. Most visitor centers have gifts to purchase where profits go back to the protection of the parks. Plus ask about your kids becoming a junior ranger to get a whole booklet of kid friendly activities to perform. Here are the best ones to check out at Redwood National and State Parks. 

  • Humboldt Redwoods State Park Visitor Center: Located along the Avenue of the Giants, this visitor center features exhibits and activities and the world’s first RV the Kellogg Travel Log,, carved from a fallen log and driven across the country four times. Address: 17119 Avenue of the Giants, Weott CA 95571. Hours: May – September 9AM – 5PM, October – April 10AM – 4PM.
  • Hiouchi Visitor Center: Located in the northern parts of the park in Hiouchi, this smaller visitor center is about as friendly as you can get. The store has a variety of gifts such as badges, postcards, books, etc., as well as a selection of grocery items. Not sure where to go to see Redwoods, the staff is happy to give you their personal recommendations. Address: 1600 US-199, Crescent City, CA 95531. Hours: Spring to Fall: Open daily, 9AM to 5PM. Winter: Open daily, 9AM to 4PM.
  • Prairie Creek Visitor Center: This historic building was home to the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1930. Now it is a wonderful place to stop in and see their exhibits on the coast redwood forest, wildlife, and history of the area. There is also a gift shop with various items to check out. Address: Prairie Creek Visitor Center, Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway, Orick, CA. Hours: Spring to Fall: Open daily, 9AM to 5PM. Winter: Normally open daily, 9AM to 4PM.
  • Thomas H. Kuchel Visitor Center: The exhibits here at the Kuchel Visitor Center are some of the most kid friendly. They focus on the coast redwoods and watersheds featuring new technologies to enhance the learning experience. In the summer you can join a ranger for a beach walk to learn even more about this beautiful area. Address: US-101 & Redwood Hwy, US-101, Orick, CA 95555. Hours: Spring to Fall: Open daily, 9AM to 5PM. Winter: Open daily, 9AM to 4PM.

Camping 

Ever want to camp under a canopy of massive trees? Or maybe wake up to the sounds of the beach at your feet? Perhaps the thought of seeing elk roam past your fabric front door is exciting? Well, the Redwood National and State Parks have four developed campgrounds to choose from! 

Jedediah Smith Campground is located right on the shores of the Smith River. There are 86 sites in total that can accommodate a 25-foot RV or 21-foot trailer. Although there are no hookups you will get to use hot showers, a dump station, food lockers, and picnic tables with barbecues. It is a lovely campground nestled right in an old growth grove of redwoods. Fishing, swimming, and hiking can all be accessed from the campground. 

In the Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park is the maple-filled Mill Creek Campground. This large 145 site campground is only open May 18th through September 30th. There are no hookups but it does has other amenities such as hot showers, toilets, picnic tables, and a campfire center. 

Elk Prairie Campground is open year round and boasts of your best opportunity to have elk visitors. The Elk Prairie has 70 miles of hiking and biking trails to enjoy, many starting from the campground. You can opt to rent a cabin here or find a site for your trailer or RV as long as it’s less than 27 feet in length. 

Last but certainly not least is the Gold Bluffs Beach Campground located with access to a secluded stretch of beach in the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. This small campground has only 26 sites to choose from and it’s open all year if funding allows it. Facilities include more rustic solar showers, wind shelters, picnic tables, fire pits and barbeques, food lockers, and trash receptacles. 

Each of the additional Redwood Parks have their own campgrounds. Humboldt Redwoods State Park has three main campgrounds – two seasonal and one year-round. Albee Creek Campground offers 40 sites near Rockefeller Forest with access to hiking, biking, and swimming. This campground is open May through mid-October. Burlington Campground is located near the visitor center and features 57 sites. This year-round campground has access to hiking, fishing, and swimming. Hidden Springs Campground has 154 sites just south of the visitor center and is open Memorial Day through Labor Day. There are a number of other camp options in Humboldt including horse camps, trail camps, and group camps.

Camping Fees and Park Passes

The Standard Camping Fee at each campground is $35 per night. Cabins are $100 per night in the summer season, but are $80 per night in winter at the Jedediah Smith and Elk Prairie Campgrounds only. If you have a California State Park pass or Federal “America the Beautiful” pass – you can get discounted nightly camping fees. 

With the California State Parks Disabled Discount Pass the fee is $17.50 per night. Any California State Parks Distinguished Veterans Pass holders stay for free. Annual America the Beautiful Pass is still $35.00 per night. But Senior or Access America the Beautiful Pass holders can enjoy a discounted rate of $17.50 per night.

Park Passes:

  • America The Beautiful Pass: National Parks & Federal Recreational Lands Pass
    • General Annual Pass: $80, available for everyone
    • Military Pass: Free, available for current US military members and their dependents in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, and Space Force, as well as Reserve and National Guard members, US military veterans, Gold Star Family members.
    • 4th Grade Pass: Free, available for all 4th grade students
    • Senior Pass: $80 for lifetime, $20 for annual, available for all US citizens and permanent residents ages 62 or over
    • Access Pass: Free lifetime pass, available to all US citizens or permanent residents with permanent disabilities
    • Volunteer Pass: Free, available to all volunteers with 250 service hours with federal agencies that participate in the Interagency Pass Program
  • California State Parks Passes
    • California Explorer Vehicle Day Use Pass: $195
    • Golden Poppy Vehicle Day Use Pass: $125
    • State Park Adventure Pass: Free, for 4th Grade Students
    • Disabled Discount Pass: $3.50, for all people with permanent disabilities
    • Distinguished Veteran Pass: Free (lifetime)

Pro Tips 

  • Avenue of the Giants is a 32-mile auto tour through Humboldt Redwoods State Park. There are are 8 stops including Franklin K. Lane Grove, Bolling Grove, the Visitor Center, Weott High Water, Mahan Grove, Dyerville Lookout, Chandler Grove, and Drury-Chaney Grove.
  • There are no entrance fees to drive the scenic roads within the Redwood National and State Parks areas. However Prairie Creek Redwoods, Del Norte Coast Redwoods, and Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Parks day areas have an $8 day-use fee.
  • Avoid any fees by purchasing State Park day use passes or any of the Interagency Federal Passes. 
  • Your best furry friend is allowed in limited areas throughout the parks. Pets are welcomed on a leash on Walker Road in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, Cal Barrel Road in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, in campgrounds, picnic areas, public roads, parking areas, and beaches that are accessible via a road. Similarly in Humboldt Redwoods, dogs are not allowed on any of the trails.
  • Want to learn just a little bit more on your visit? Attend a Ranger Led Program. Options include a 2-hour tide pool walk, one hour campfire program complete with storytelling and slideshows, or a 1-2 hour nature walk. 

So there you have it! All the hikes, all the camping, all the exhibits to check out in The Redwood National and State Parks. As always, practice leave no trace principles when enjoying the wilderness. And remember to have fun. 

Happy adventures! 

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Kaitlin is a former ballerina who now travels around the country in an 18-foot converted school bus. Her and her husband have welcomed 34 sweet children into their home the past eleven years. Although they would not be a forever home for all of them, they adopted their daughter buckets and are legal guardians to their son monkey. Follow their crazy adventures on Instagram @runawaymusbus