Best Things to do at Redwood National Park

All pictures are my own unless otherwise noted/sourced; do not use without permission.

Imagine a beautiful, lush, serene forest. If it’s sunny, there will be rays of sunlight shining through the trees. On a foggy day, it will look or feel like it’s twilight. Here, you can truly feel the tranquility. There is nothing like the famous Redwood National Park.

The drive through Redwood National Park is gorgeous; also, fun because you will be driving through winding roads, showcasing the various angles of the beautiful and majestic redwoods.

Hike Tall Trees Grove

Tall Trees Grove is such a magical place due to its tall trees forest located in a secluded part of the Redwood National Park. Once there, you’ll experience abundant enormous trees, lush foilage, a serene river, wildlife (we saw plenty), and breathtaking views.

Please note that it can get muddy after recent rain.

redwood national park, redwoods, a path way through a forest with a fallen tree; redwoods
redwood national park, redwoods, a path way through a forest with a fallen tree; redwoods

Duration: 3-6 hours depending on your speed or how often you stop for pictures

Distance: 4.5 miles round trip

Difficulty: Moderate

Permit Required: Yes

redwood national park, redwoods, tree tunnel
redwood national park, redwoods, tree tunnel

Permit: Permits are required to hike the Tall Trees Grove trail. It is completely free. It exists to mainly manage traffic and avoid congestion. They only give out 50 per day. Permits are issued up to 24 hours in advance online. You can get it HERE.

If you don’t have time or didn’t apply for a permit for the Tall Trees Grove, an alternate is the Prairie Creek-Foothill Trail Loop (read about it more below).

Access: Give yourself one hour or so for driving from the nearest visitor center to the Tall Trees Grove trailhead. This includes driving seven miles on a dirt road. Once near the trailhead, there is a locked gate (you’ll need the code from your reservation).

Parking: There is only a small parking lot. It cannot accommodate RVs over 21 feet or vehicles towing trailers.

Restrooms: At the trailhead, there are two vault toilets, a shelter, and information panels.

redwood national park map, tall trees trail map
redwood national park map, tall trees trail map

sourced from: https://www.nps.gov/

redwood national park, redwoods, a dirt road and trees
redwood national park, redwoods, a dirt road and trees
redwood national park, tall trees trail; a group of cars parked in a parking lot
redwood national park, tall trees trail; a group of cars parked in a parking lot
redwood national park, redwoods, a small cabin in the woods
redwood national park, redwoods, a small cabin in the woods

Road to Tall Trees trailhead

Tall Trees trailhead parking lot

Restrooms at parking lot

redwood national park, redwoods, a sign board with a picture of tall trees trail
redwood national park, redwoods, a sign board with a picture of tall trees trail
redwood national park, redwoods
redwood national park, redwoods
redwood national park, redwoods
redwood national park, redwoods

Info at the trailhead

First tall redwood!

So beautiful every step of the way!

redwood national park, redwoods
redwood national park, redwoods
redwood national park, redwoods
redwood national park, redwoods
redwood national park, redwoods
redwood national park, redwoods
redwood national park, redwoods
redwood national park, redwoods
redwood national park, redwoods
redwood national park, redwoods
redwood national park, redwoods
redwood national park, redwoods

Hike Prairie Creek-Foothill Trail Loop

Alternate for Tall Trees Trail

redwood national park, redwoods
redwood national park, redwoods

The Prairie Creek-Foothill Trail Loop trail is an alternate to the Tall Trees Grove trail. This is an easy and rewarding trail for everyone; it is also flat and fully ADA accessible! How amazing is that? It's seriously easy and perfect for all ages. Additionally, this trail also showcases beautiful tall redwood groves, lush ferns and moss, excellent views, and you’ll be hiking along a creek. It is recommended to do this loop clockwise starting from the south.

Duration: 1-2 hours depending on your speed or how often you stop for pictures

Distance: 2.5 miles round trip

Difficulty: Easy

Reservation: No

Hike Fern Canyon Loop

redwood national park, redwoods, fern canyon
redwood national park, redwoods, fern canyon

Want to walk into what feels like Jurassic world? Then you’re at the right place! Fern Canyon trail was a filming location for Jurassic Park 2! Fern Canyon is exactly what its name states; it is an impressive, tall canyon with walls covered in moss and lush ferns (mainly five-finger maidenhair ferns). The trail itself winds along a creek bed through the lush canyon; the views are out of this world!

Duration: 1-2 hours depending on your speed or how often you stop for pictures

Distance: 1.1 miles round trip

Difficulty: Easy

Reservation: Yes, from May-September

redwood national park, redwoods, fern canyon
redwood national park, redwoods, fern canyon
redwood national park, redwoods, fern canyon
redwood national park, redwoods, fern canyon

Permit: Permits are required to visit the Fern Canyon Trail or Gold Bluffs Beach Day Use Area from May 15 through September 15. It exists to mainly manage traffic and avoid congestion as the summer can be very crowded as this is a very popular (and easy) trail.

There are several reservations or permits available: In-Advance Fern Canyon Trailhead, Day-Before Fern Canyon Trailhead, and Gold Bluffs Beach Day-Use (no parking at Fern Canyon Trailhead). Please note that the Fern Canyon reservations allow you to continue out to the end of the Davison Road straight to the trailhead where you can park and easily walk the 0.1 mile into the canyon.

They only give out 100 In-Advance and 50 Day-Before reservations PER DAY. You can get it HERE.

Here is a summary of the reservation types and availability, sourced from https://www.nps.gov/redw/planyourvisit/ferncanyonpermits.htm

redwood national park, redwoods, fern canyon
redwood national park, redwoods, fern canyon

When you reserve, you are required to pick a four hour time slot (example, 8am-12pm), but you can arrive any time between those four hours.

NO PERMIT? No problem! You can still access Fern Canyon by starting at the Prairie Creek Visitor Center and hiking the 10 mile roundtrip James Irvine Trail. This makes for a longer hike (and day), so make sure you’re prepared.

Access: The Fern Canyon loop trail is located at the end of the Davison Road, past Gold Bluffs beach. However, the 10-mile Davison Road is unpaved with lots of potholes, and can be more difficult after rain. It’s a good idea to check with the Visitor Center for road conditions before attempting (unless you have a high clearance vehicle).

On the drive to the Fern Canyon parking lot, you will have to drive through two stream crossings.

What we did in the past was park at the Gold Bluffs Beach Day Use area, and walk the mile to the canyon. We did this because it had rained recently and the streams were too high for our small car to go through.

Parking: There is a parking lot at the Fern Canyon parking area.

Restrooms: Vault toilets are located at the Fern Canyon parking area.

Beach Access: available from the Fern Canyon parking area.

Note: there are picnic tables available in the Fern Canyon parking area.

This hike through fern canyon involves walking through steams so if you don’t want to get wet feet the whole trip, consider waterproof shoes or sandals. Sometimes some spots will have water levels as high as the knees.

redwood national park, redwoods, fern canyon
redwood national park, redwoods, fern canyon
redwood national park, redwoods, fern canyon
redwood national park, redwoods, fern canyon
redwood national park, redwoods, fern canyon
redwood national park, redwoods, fern canyon
redwood national park, redwoods, fern canyon
redwood national park, redwoods, fern canyon

We parked at Gold Bluffs Beach parking lot.

This is one of the streams crossing... it was deep.

Fern Canyon parking lot

Hike from Fern Canyon parking lot

redwood national park, redwoods, fern canyon
redwood national park, redwoods, fern canyon
redwood national park, redwoods, fern canyon
redwood national park, redwoods, fern canyon
redwood national park, redwoods, fern canyon
redwood national park, redwoods, fern canyon
redwood national park, redwoods, fern canyon
redwood national park, redwoods, fern canyon
redwood national park, redwoods, fern canyon
redwood national park, redwoods, fern canyon
redwood national park, redwoods, fern canyon
redwood national park, redwoods, fern canyon
redwood national park, redwoods, fern canyon
redwood national park, redwoods, fern canyon
redwood national park, redwoods, fern canyon
redwood national park, redwoods, fern canyon

Drive the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway

redwood national park, redwoods, fern canyon
redwood national park, redwoods, fern canyon

Visiting Redwood National Park is not complete without driving the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway and admiring the stunning redwoods.

This drive is definitely a MUST-DO if you are short on time!

This area is located in the heart of the Prairie Creek State Park; this scenic parkway will take you through a ton of old-growth redwood wilderness. There are also many trails and pull-outs should you want to stop for a break or pictures. It is recommended to do this drive both ways. The views are just incredible! Keep an eye out for wildlife!

See the Roosevelt Elk

redwood national park, redwoods, fern canyon
redwood national park, redwoods, fern canyon

Within Redwood National Park, there is an abundance of wildlife. Spotted often are the Roosevelt elk. They’re spotted often around the Fern Canyon and Gold Bluffs Beach area, and along Highway 101, but can be spotted throughout Redwood National Park.

We did not see them at all really; except for getting scared by one on our hike, haha.

IMPORTANT: Keep your distance and do not approach them. From May to early June is calving season so the female elk are extremely protective of their baby elk, and might attack those who gets too close. Then from August through October is rut season, where the male elk are irritable and can attack if they feel threatened or challenged. It’s best to keep your distance!

Best Time to Visit

Redwood National Park has coastal climate so it is nice year-round. However, it can be cooler in the winter / early spring, and there might be more rain. From late spring to summer is best for lush greenness. When we went in late November, it was still beautiful but some of the trees and ferns were kind of brown.

Where to Stay

When it comes to accommodations, there are options: hotels, airbnbs, or campgrouds.

Campgrounds

$35 fee required at the campgrounds below. Also, reservations must be made at least 48 hours in advance (online or 1-800-444-7275). To make reservations online, click HERE.

Hotels

Inside Redwood National Park, there are no hotels so you’ll have to stay either in the north (Klamath or Crescent City) or south (Trinidad, or Arcata / Eureka).

North of Redwood National Park

Klamath:

Crescent City and up north a bit more

South of Redwood National Park

Trinidad:

Arcata / Eureka:

Cost

Going into Redwood National Park is FREE! There are no entrance stations.

However, the California State Parks collect day-use fees at entrance / visitor stations. This includes Jedediah Smith, Del Norte Coast, and Prairie Creek Redwoods. BUT, you can use your “America the Beautiful” or “California State Parks” passes here.

I highly suggest getting the America the Beautiful National Park Pass in advance. It is ONLY $80 and is good for 12 months from month of purchase. This also gives you access to the many national parks, including access to Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park! You can buy it HERE.

america the beautiful, annual pass, national park pass
america the beautiful, annual pass, national park pass

Tips

  • Download offline Google maps (reception might be spotty or none at all)

  • Get the “America the Beautiful” National Park Annual Pass HERE.

  • Check current trail / road conditions HERE before going.

  • Fill up on gas before going into Redwood National Park

  • There are no restaurants inside the park, so bring food or snacks and enough water.

  • If you’re hiking Fern Canyon Loop trail, bring extra socks or shoes to change after (because the shoes you wear there will definitely get wet). Maybe bring an extra change of clothes just in case.