Redwood National Park – Camping, Things to See & Best Tips

Petr Novák

Redwood National Park is situated in the northwestern region of California along the Pacific coast. The park’s name, which could be somewhat puzzling, refers to the evergreen redwood, the tallest tree species on Earth. Remarkably, this national park is home to 45% of all the world’s redwoods. Besides these, the park’s protection extends to 40 mi of untouched coastline, expansive prairies, multiple wild rivers, and oak woodlands.

Redwood National Park | © Mike

Table of Contents
  1. Information About Redwood National Park
  2. What to See and Do in Redwood National Park
  3. When to Visit Redwood National Park
  4. Entrance Fees for Redwood National Park
  5. Traveling to Redwood National Park
  6. Lodging at Redwood National Park
  7. Advice and Recommendations for Visiting Redwood National Park
  8. Photos of Redwood National Park

Information About Redwood National Park

In addition to the Redwood National Park itself, the park encompasses Del Norte Coast Redwoods, Jedediah Smith Redwoods, and Prairie Creek Redwoods state parks. Altogether, the entire area spans 455.8 square kilometers.

The unification of all state parks into one national park took place on January 1, 1968. In 1980, Redwood National Park achieved another significant milestone when it was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. In 2021, the park welcomed 435,879 visitors.

The highest point in the park is the 970-meter-high Coyote Peak in the Bald Hills, whereas the lowest point is the Pacific Coast.

Dozens of mammal species call the park home. You can encounter black bears, beavers, river otters, black-tailed deer, elk, coyotes, red lynxes, American cougars, squirrels, and several different types of bats in the forests. In or near the ocean, you’ll find California sea lions, eared seals, harbor seals, and gray whales. Out of the 800 species of birds found in the USA, around 280 have been recorded in Redwood National Park. The forest is predominantly home to woodpeckers, owls, songbirds, jays, and thrushes.

The symbol of Redwood National Park is the evergreen redwoods, which often grow over 100 meters tall and can live up to 2,000 years. The park also boasts the world’s tallest tree, Hyperion, which measured 115.55 meters on August 25, 2006.

The park has even had its share of screen time in movies such as E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, and Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi.

What to See and Do in Redwood National Park

The quickest way to explore is to get in your car and take one of the eight scenic drives. These roads offer exceptional views, and you can easily stop along them to take in the sights.

Howland Hill Road

This mostly unpaved 9.94 mi road meanders through a forest of mature redwoods. It takes about 45 minutes to drive the entire length, including photo stops.

Enderts Beach Road

This short 2.17 mi road leads to the Crescent Beach Overlook. From here, you might spot a whale or moose in the Pacific Ocean, if you’re lucky.

Requa Road

Also 2.17 mi long, this road leads to the rival Klamath River Overlook, which rises 200 meters above sea level. At this point, the Klamath River flows into the ocean, having originated 249 mi further north in Oregon’s Cascade Mountains.

Coastal Drive

This narrow, 9.94 mi loop filled with sharp turns follows the coastline, offering plenty of views of the ocean and the aforementioned Klamath River. A highlight is a World War II radio station disguised as a farm.

Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway

This 9.94 mi road, which takes half an hour to drive, runs through the heart of the redwood forest. You can park your car along the way and walk one of the marked trails.

Cal-Barrel Road

This less than 1.55 mi road may be narrow, but it’s packed with sights. Some of the oldest redwoods in the park grow alongside it.

Davison Road

The 11-kilometer road runs past meadows where elk graze, through the second-oldest redwood forest, and past the nine-meter cliffs of Fern Canyon to Gold Bluffs Beach.

Bald Hills Road

This 16.78 mi road offers steep climbs, open prairies blooming with wildflowers in summer, and mature redwoods. It leads to Schoolhouse Peak at 944 meters.

Over 200 mi of hiking trails crisscross the entire Redwood National Park. The best time to hike is early in the morning when a light mist shrouds the forests, giving the place a mysterious aura.

Some trails allow cycling or horseback riding. However, you should always stick to the designated trails (refer to the brochures for maps, and the link to the brochures is at the end of this article).

Paddlers can also enjoy the park; during the summer, rangers conduct regular kayaking trips down the Smith River. Typically starting around 11:30 a.m., the 3.42 mi stretch takes about 3-4 hours to paddle. Beginning at the Hiouchi Information Center, this experience is free, although donations are appreciated.

When to Visit Redwood National Park

Redwood National Park is accessible 365 days a year. July is the best month to visit as it rarely rains, and daytime temperatures hover around a pleasant 68°F. At night, it usually drops to 50°F. The closer you get to the coast, the more likely you are to encounter dense, fog-like conditions.

Winter is not exceptionally harsh, with an average daily temperature in January of 54°F. However, with an average rainfall of 30 cm, it is the rainiest month.

The park’s weather can be unpredictable. Visitors are advised to prepare for unexpected changes and to pack several layers of clothing, a raincoat, and sturdy shoes with non-slip soles. It can get slippery in the woods after rain!

Average Temperatures and Visitor Numbers in Redwood National Park

The average temperatures in Redwood National Park are provided. The visitor numbers are based on a 2017-2021 average, and the data source is the National Park Service.

Max Temp Min Temp Precipitation Days Visitors Popularity
January 55°F 41°F 13.2 20 689 🟩
February 55°F 43°F 12.4 17 836 🟩
March 55°F 43°F 12.8 26 728 🟨🟨
April 57°F 45°F 8.6 32 944 🟨🟨
May 59°F 46°F 4.8 52 764 🟧🟧🟧
June 63°F 50°F 2.2 66 492 🟧🟧🟧
July 63°F 52°F 0.7 70 756 🟧🟧🟧
August 64°F 52°F 0.7 57 236 🟧🟧🟧
September 64°F 50°F 2.2 51 697 🟧🟧🟧
October 63°F 46°F 6.2 38 826 🟨🟨
November 57°F 45°F 12.3 22 149 🟩
December 55°F 41°F 13.7 22 770 🟩

Entrance Fees for Redwood National Park

There are no entrance fees if your visit is confined solely to Redwood National Park.

The America the Beautiful pass, for $80, provides free access to all USA National Parks, including the aforementioned parts of Redwood National Park, for a year.

Traveling to Redwood National Park

The most convenient method of reaching the park is via a rental car. The nearby U.S. 101 freeway runs along the coast from Seattle to San Francisco. For your convenience, I’ve included routes and drive times from several neighboring cities:

From / To Distance Driving Time Route
San Francisco 309 mi 6 hours View Route
Seattle 495 mi 8 hours 40 minutes View Route

A car is essential for navigating the park, which is crisscrossed by a network of mostly unpaved roads. Many of these roads offer breathtaking views of the ocean, and you can park at will along them, as well as at visitor and information centers.

Lodging at Redwood National Park

🏨 Hotels

For budget-friendly lodging, consider driving a few kilometers south on Highway 101 to the towns of Arcata and Eureka. Higher competition for hotels in these areas often results in lower prices. Well-known chains such as Travelodge, Days Inn, Best Western, Motel 6, Comfort Inn, and of course, the Super 8 motel chain are all available here.

⛺ Campsites

Alternatively, you can stay at one of the four campgrounds in the park. The rate for a campsite per night is $35. Reservations are recommended, especially between the national holidays of Memorial Day and Labor Day.

  • Jediah Smith Campground
    This year-round campground is situated in the same park, amidst a grove of mature redwoods, and also near the Smith River. It has 86 tent sites, hot water showers, picnic tables, and fire rings.
  • Mill Creek Campground
    The campground at Del Norte Coast Redwoods Park is open from mid-May through the end of October. It accommodates up to 145 sites, with amenities including hot water showers, picnic tables, and fire rings.
  • Elk Prairie Campground
    Located in Prairie Creek Redwoods Park, this campground’s easy access to 110 kilometers of trails makes it a perfect choice for hikers. Open year-round, amenities include everything from hot water to food lockers.
  • Gold Bluffs Beach Campground

    This smaller campground, located in the same park but near the beach, accommodates 26 sites. Amenities include good access to hiking trails, solar-heated showers, and picnic tables for evening barbecues.

Advice and Recommendations for Visiting Redwood National Park

ℹ️ Visitor Center

I suggest beginning your tour of the park with a visit to the visitor center. In the case of Redwood, there are five centers to choose from due to the park’s size. All of them provide current information about the park, can help you plan your stay, and offer maps and souvenirs for purchase.

  • Crescent City Information Center
    Open year-round, the Information Center is located in Crescent City at 111 Second Street. It’s open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closes at 4 p.m. during the winter). Additionally, it houses exhibits about the park’s history, and you can get a stamp confirming your visit.
  • Thomas H. Kuchel Visitor Center
    Located in the village of Orick off Highway 101, the center is open daily year-round from 9 a.m. It closes at 4:00 p.m. in the winter and 5:00 p.m. the rest of the year. The exhibits here focus on the evergreen redwoods; those who want to learn more about them should head to Orick!
  • Hiouchi Information Center
    This smaller information center is open only during the summer, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It’s located off US Highway 199 in the small village of Hiouchi.
  • Jediah Smith Visitor Center
    The visitor center is also located in Hiouchi and is open from noon to 8:00 p.m. during the summer. Every evening, it organizes interesting ranger-led programs around the campfire.
  • Prairie Creek Visitor Center
    This information center, primarily dedicated to the park of the same name, is located near the scenic road Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway. It is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the summer, and only from Wednesday to Sunday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., during the off-peak season.

👍 Good to Know

Even if you’re just passing through the area, I highly recommend stopping by the park. You can witness some of the tallest trees in the world in just a couple of hours. If you’re traveling on Highway 101, you can replenish your supplies at the Walmart in Crescent City (north of the park) or Eureka (south of the park).

Before you leave, I also recommend downloading brochures with guides and maps from the park service onto your phone or tablet. You don’t have to print them out, but they could be helpful reading material during car rides.

Photos of Redwood National Park

Redwood NP | © Greg Schechter

Damnation Creek Trail | © Mike

NP Redwood | © Sumit Chachra

Redwood National Park | © Mike

Fern Canyon | © Mike

Redwood National Park | © Mike

Wapiti in Redwood National Park | © Redwood Coast

US National Parks

  1. List of US National Parks
  2. America the Beautiful Annual Pass
  3. Timed-Entry Reservation for US National Parks

Travel Guides to USA National Parks

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