Get ready for an unforgettable adventure as we take you on a journey through the beauty of the California Redwoods. From seeing towering redwoods, elk herds, and even banana slugs to exploring a rainforest and tidepools the California redwood forests are an experience you don't want to miss.
On out last trip to the Redwood forest lasted a little over two weeks and in this time we discovered that the redwood forests have so much more to offer than its incredibly tall coastal redwoods. Yes as the worlds tallest trees, the redwoods are a must see, but after your second or third redwood destination the trees might start to all look alike or you will find yourself wondering what else is there?
Diversity in travel is a must! In this guide, we will give you the best places to see coastal redwoods and uncover the hidden gems that offer a variety of experiences for the ultimate redwood road trip.
Whether you're a family seeking new adventures or an explorer eager to discover the wonders of this diverse region, we've got you covered. Buckle up your kids and get ready to discover seven incredible redwood road trip destinations that will leave you with memories to last a lifetime. So, get ready, pack your camera, and let's start exploring!
Redwoods: Top 7 Road Trip Destinations from North to South
Road trip #7: Kayak and hike through the redwoods of Jedidiah Smith Redwoods State Park
Jedidiah Smith Redwoods State Park Is my personal favorite redwood park. At this park you can see the redwoods in two different ways, hiking along the trails and while you kayak down the Smith River.
The best place to hike along the redwoods is the Stout Grove. This is a short loop trail where everything looks giant. Get ready to feel like Jack from Jack and the beanstalk as you walk along the worlds tallest trees and ferns as tall as an adults waist.
Take the time to kayak down the Smith River, the last, large, natural free flowing river in California. This means there are no dams along the length of the river. It is cold, clear, and rocky, perfect for seeing salmon and viewing redwoods along its banks.
Pro Tip: There is only one place to rent kayaks in this park, contact Redwood Rides for more info.
In the summer you can swim in the river at the Society Hole off HWY 199. Address is 6441 North Bank Road Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, Crescent City, CA 95531
This park is beautiful year round, and is located near an estuary where you can see sea lions and other possible wildlife. If you visit in the fall you may even have the opportunity to see a salmon run!
Jedidiah Smith Redwoods State Park Top 5
- Hike the Stout Grove trail, .5 mile.
- Kayak the Smith River.
- Hike the Simpson-Reed Grove Trail, .9 mile.
- Visit the estuary where the river meets the ocean to see sea lions and birds. GPS 41.948037, -124.205010 cross streets- Mouth of Smith River Road and Rivers End Road.
- Attend a park Interpretive Activity (summer only)
Road trip #6: Tide pooling at Sue-meg State Park
Are you ready to see Californias best tidepools? Welcome to Sue-meg State Park, (Formally known as Patrick's Point).
When the tide is low, head to Palmer's Point and walk down the .2 mile beach trail to get to the tide pools. What makes these tide pools the best in California is its diversity of life. You may see various species of sea anemones, periwinkles, purple urchins, hermit crabs, shore crabs, gumboot chiton, and if your patient maybe even a nudibranch that calls this place home.
Check a local tide chart before you go. Timing is everything, even safety. (remember: the lower the tide the safer it is and the more you'll see.)
Don't leave after seeing the tidepools, Sue-meg offers the opportunity to explore a Yurok Plank-house Village to learn about the Yurok people. There are also hiking trails and a beach where you can look for agates.
Sue-meg State Park Top 5
- Look for plants and animals in tide pools at Palmer's Point, .2 mile round trip.
- Rockhound at Agate Beach, .5 mile round trip.
- Search the cliff walls at Agate Beach for agates that are becoming exposed by the eroding cliffs.
- Visit the Sue-meg Village and see a reconstruction of a Yurok plank-house village and learn about the Yurok people, .5 mile loop.
- Hike the Rim Trail, 3.1 miles out and back, for great ocean views.
Road trip #5: Visit California's Rainforest, Fern Canyon
If your thinking, “this place looks familiar” you may be right. The beautiful fern covered canyon walls were featured in the movie “The Lost World: Jurassic Park”.
Fern Canyon is a breath of fresh air as you explore the Redwood forests. Ferns not only cover the steep canyon walls, but drip with life and water! Water is so plentiful here that you might notice the cascades of moss growing down the walls of the narrow gorge dripping with water. It is also home to many amphibians such as frogs and salamanders so don't where sunblock or anything with chemicals on your skin that will hurt them if it gets into the water and keep a close eye open so you can see them.
Wearing water shoes is a must. Home Creek, which through time has carved this ravine, flows through this beautiful canyon, and while plank foot bridges might be available during parts of the year, plan on getting your feet wet. There is no way to hike this canyon with out crossing Home Creek many times.
Fern Canyon Top 5
- Hike the amazing Fern Canyon, 1.1 mile loop
- Climb on fallen logs to gain a new perspective.
- Visit and picnic at Gold Bluffs Beach.
- Look for amphibians (like salamanders and frogs) hiding under leaves and in water.
- See how many different types of ferns you can find. There are over 7 species of ferns growing here.
Road trip #4: Discover the beauty and redwoods of Prairie Creek State Park and Redwoods National Park
While Prairie Creek State Park and Redwoods National Park are two different parks, they are literally across the street from each other. Making it possible to visit both parks in the same day.
At over 300 feet tall, redwoods can live to be over 2000 years old! Though they are huge and strong, redwoods have shallow root systems, making them vulnerable to being knocked over by strong winds. That’s why they grow together in groves, like those of Redwoods National Park.
So as you explore these two parks you will not see redwoods covering the landscape. Instead you will hike to see the various groves. Make sure to enjoy the meadows along the way, these are great places to see local elk herds.
The best and easiest groves to get to are listed in the Top 5 list below, but if your ready for something besides trees in the redwood forest you can check out Trillium Falls. This is a small waterfall, located in lush green area of the forest. Its a great spot to get away from the crowds.
Prairie Creek State Park is also home to Fern Canyon, California's very own rain forest. It is such a unique place that we listed it as its own location in this article.
Prairie Creek SP and Redwoods NP Top 5
- See some of the tallest trees in the park on the Cathedral Trees Trail, 3 miles out and back. (Prairie Creek Redwoods SP)
- Hike the Revelation Sensory Trail, .25 mile loop. (Prairie Creek Redwoods SP)
- Hike to Trillium Falls, 3.1 mile loop.
- Hike the Lady Bird Johnson Loop, 1.4 mile loop. (Redwoods NP)
- Keep an eye out for Roosevelt elk at the Elk Meadow. (Prairie Creek Redwoods SP)
Road trip #3: Drive through the Avenue of the Giants and see more Redwoods
This is the most iconic drive through the Redwood forests. Here you drive along a narrow two laned road lined with redwoods. It is located just north of Humboldt State Park.
While there isn't lots of things to do besides drive and take pictures, the view is beautiful.
Two fun stops along the Avenue of the Giants are the gift shop at Ancient Redwoods RV Park where you can get some fun souvenirs and learn about the redwoods and second stop is seeing the Albino Redwood located about ¼ of a mile north of the campground. This spectacular sight is a short walk into the woods along a trail, from the pullout on the road. (the pullout with the tree in its center) You can get exact directions from the gift shop.
Road trip #2: Experience the wonder of Black Sands Beach in Shelter Cove
Shelter Cove is home to scenic cliffs and beautiful beaches with black sand. Strong waves mean these beaches are not good for swimming, but they are great for walking, taking pictures, building rock towers, viewing tide pool creatures on nearby rocks, and seeing black sand.
This area makes up the southern section of California’s 100-mile Lost Coast. This means there are 100 miles of natural, undeveloped coastline that can be hiked and explored.
Pro Tip: The road to Shelter Cove is really windy. It's worth the drive, but be prepared if anyone gets car sick.
Shelter Cove is a quaint small town with a small airport and a few restaurants. It is peaceful, beautiful, and very laid back. Plan on a relaxing day trip or a weekend getaway. Also because its so off of the beaten path the restaurants close as early as 8pm.
Black Sands Beach Shelter Cove Top 5
- Take a walk on the beach.
- Explore the different coves. Little Black Sands Beach,and Cove Beach.
- Picnic and watch the large waves crash against the rocks.
- Drive to Point Bonita Lighthouse Trail and walk .5 miles to the lighthouse.
- Watch seals in the wild at Seal Rock Picnic Area.
Road trip #1: Relax and take a stroll at Humbolt Lagoons State Park
With all nearby hikes and wonders of the Redwood Forests, Humboldt Lagoons will be a breath of fresh air.
This is the perfect place to take a stroll on the beach. Where else can you enjoy the ocean on one side of you and and large lagoons on the other?
Take the time to swim, paddle, or fish in one of the Lagoons. You can even rent paddleboards and kayaks in the visitor center.
Big Lagoon is a good spot for playing in the water with your kids. Its also a favorite for watersports since it is open year-round.
Where to stay in the Redwoods
Now that you have discovered the seven must-experience outdoor road trip destinations along the redwoods of the Northern California Coast, here are the campgrounds we stayed in and a few recomendations.
Jedidiah Smith Campground: Takes RVs up to 36 feet. Smaller campground with no hookups. Great location next to the redwoods.
Sunset Harbor RV Park: This is the campground we stayed in. When we travel we need internet accessibility through our cellular hotspots. Verizon worked well here. The campground itself is small with full hookups. The overall look of the campground is not super impressive but it was safe and near the Redwoods and harbor.
Ancient Redwoods RV Park: This campground is super small, but its location is unbeatable. Located right on the Avenue of the Giants, near Humboldt SP. Berry bushes line the campground walls and the campground has an impressive gift shop with knowledgeable staff to help you plan your day. About $58 an night, less with Good Sams discount.
Redwoods National Park:
Takes RVs of all sizes. Campgrounds best feature is its meadow which is frequently inhabited by the local elk herds. Great location, next to Redwoods NP, Prairie Creek SP, Humboldt Lagoons SP, and Sue-meg SP.
Big Lagoon County Park Campground: Located near the ocean and a fresh water lagoon. Tents and small RVs allowed. Max RV Length 25 feet, and no hookups. About $30 per night. First come first serve only. we didn't stay here but it looked nice for travelers that don't need wi-fi.
Hidden gems and lesser-known spots to explore along the Redwoods
Bonus Stops: Add to your Redwoods Road Trip:
- Tolowa Dunes State Park
- Damnation Creek Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park
- Trees of Mystery, Klamath
- California Coastal Trail North to Hidden Beach, Klamath
Humboldt Redwoods State Park
- Mackerricher State Park
- Glass Beach
- Russian Gulch State Park
- Point Arena Lighthouse
- Bowling Ball Beach
- Bodega Head, Bodega Bay
Embrace the adventure and start planning your outdoor road trips in the Coastal Redwood Forests
The Costal Redwood Forests are a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts and road trip aficionados. With its diverse landscapes, breathtaking beauty, and hidden gems, there's always something new to discover. So, pack your hiking boots, grab a map, and embark on an unforgettable adventure through the seven must-experience outdoor Redwood Forests road trips! Embrace the beauty of nature, soak in the serenity, and create memories that will last a lifetime. The Redwood Forests are waiting to be explored - are you ready?