Two-Day Adventure Guide to Redwood National Park: An Ultimate Travel Guide

Redwood National Park | Introduction

Redwood National Park is located on the northern California coast, Redwood National Park is a long, narrow national park known for its vast expanse of nearly 34,000 hectares of gigantic California Coastal Redwood forests. California Redwoods are among the tallest trees on Earth, and the original redwood forests were said to have once covered an astonishing 800,000 hectares, stretching all the way into southern Oregon. However, only a mere four percent of the original forest remains today. Still, the remaining redwood forest offers a vast expanse with numerous forest trails to explore.

Note that the Coastal Redwoods in Redwood National Park are different from the Giant Sequoias in Sequoia National Park. Coastal Redwoods are slimmer and taller, with a lifespan of approximately 2,000 years, whereas Sequoias have thicker trunks but are shorter than Coastal Redwoods and can live up to 3,000 years.

Traveling through the Redwood National Park is not just about seeing countless giant trees. The park is situated along the coast. When you are driving from north to south or vice versa, you could also enjoy stunning ocean views along the way. If you want to add some variety to your experience, make sure to include coastal attractions in your itinerary.

The massive redwood forest is divided into several parks, including Redwood National Park, Prairie Creek Redwood State Park, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. When planning your trip, it is easier to consider all parks as one area since there is no actual boundaries of each park anyway. With a national park annual pass, you can access all the adjacent state park areas as well. If you look closely at the National Park Service's publications, you'll find them referred to this area as "Redwood national and state parks."

Redwood National Park | Itinerary & Accommodations

The entire Redwood forest area, including the national park and state parks, is divided into six major regions from north to south: the Hiouchi area, the Crescent city area, the Klamath area, the Prairie creek area, the Bald hills area, and the Orick area (see also NPS Map). These areas are intersected by scenic routes, making it quite convenient to explore by driving. In fact, you could fit most of the popular attractions in a day without embarking on long hikes. You could either prioritize the popular attractions in the Prairie Creek Area, Crescent City Area, and Hiouchi Area, or you can simply follow and drive through the scenic routes throughout the park. But if you want a more in-depth experience and pack in few hikes, having three days in the area would allow you to explore the area at a more relaxed pace.

For our trip, we scheduled four days around a long weekend to travel from the Bay Area to the Redwood National Park, also making a stop atHumboldt Redwood State Park along the way. So excluding the time spent driving and stopping at other places, we spent about two full days in the Redwoods National Park area. For day one, we focus on the southern half of the Prairie Creek Area. For day two, we visit the northern half of Hiouchi Area, along with some attractions in Crescent City Area. The detailed arrangement is as follows:

  • Day 1: Northern half of the Redwood National Park area. We passed through the Humboldt Lagoon in Orick Area to check out the view points, and then headed straight to Prairie Creek Visitor Center. Our first stop in Prairie Creek Area was the Fern Canyon , following by the Trillium Falls trail. In the afternoon, we drove along Bal Hills Road in thePrairie Creek Redwoods State Park and finish the day with the Lady Bird Trail.
  • Day 2: Southern half of the national park area. In the morning, we started at the Hiouchi visitor center, drove along Howland Hills Rd in the Hiouchi Area (the Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park) and hiked the Simpson Reed Trail. In the afternoon, we headed south along the coast to explore attractions in the Crescent City Area and did few short hikes.

We were able to explore most of the < 5-miles trails within two days. But if you have the flexibility, splitting it into a three-day itinerary would make for a more relaxed experience.

If you want to save on transportation time, you can consider staying a day in the southern part and another day in the northern part of Redwood National Park. If you're open to camping, there are many campgrounds in the area to choose from. Prairie Creek State Parks and Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park also offer cabins within the parks, but they need to be booked well in advance, especially during the summer when they are in high demand. If you prefer hotels, you can find accommodations more easily near Crescent City in the north and Eureka in the south, both of which offer plenty of good options.

Find a stay at Crescent City:

Find a stay at Eureka:

Redwood National Park | Attractions

The entire Redwood National Park are split into six regions that visitors can explore. These can be divided into the southern half and the northern half. The southern half includes the Prairie Creek area, Bald Hills area, and Orick area, while the northern half includes the Hiouchi area, Crescent City area, and Klamath area.

The Southern Half | Prairie Creek | Bald Hills

Most of the popular attractions in the southern half are concentrated in the Prairie Creek Area and Bald Hills Area. When driving north along Highway 101, past the Kuchel Visitor Center, you can head towards the coast to visit Fern Canyon/Gold Bluff Beach. Alternatively, you can go inland into the Bald Hills area to explore the popular Lady Bird Johnson Grove Trail. In this area, you'll also find the Redwood Creek Trail and Tall Trees Trail, all of which are excellent hiking trails for those who enjoy trekking.

The Prairie Creek Area is where you'll find the highest concentration of attractions. You can drive along the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway on Highway 101 to enjoy the towering redwoods, stopping at the points of interest that catch your eye. Popular stops include the Prairie Creek Visitor Center, Elk Meadow, Trillium Falls, and more.

Further south, there's also Humboldt Redwood State Park, which is not part of Redwood National Park. I'll provide information about that park in another article.

Fern canyon

During the summer season, access to Fern Canyon requires a reservation. This is my favorite spot in Redwood National Park. What makes it so special is that instead of the typical bare, rocky cliffs you might expect in a canyon, the walls of Fern Canyon are covered in lush green ferns. Walking through it feels like stepping into a magical primeval forest. You can find more details about this unique experience in this post:

Old State Highway Viewpoint

This viewpoint may not be very well-known, but the scenery is truly stunning. We first discovered it when we visited Redwood National Park for the first time. A ranger specifically advised us to make a turn at 120 miles to reach this hidden gem. At that time, there were no signs, and we only realized that most people wouldn't come this way after making the turn at 120 miles. It's a narrow road, and it used to be the old state highway, so the road conditions weren't great. However, when you reach the highest point, you can see the entire Humboldt Lagoon. Most people drive along the larger road below in the photos and enjoy birdwatching in the direction of the lagoon. But because we climbed to the highest point, we were able to enjoy the panoramic view of this area.

Trillium Falls Trail

The entrance to the Trillium Falls Trail is located south of the Elk Meadow Day Use Area, along a forested path. The trail is 2.5 miles in length. If you're only interested in seeing the waterfall, you'll find that it's just 0.6 miles from the entrance. Shortly after entering, you'll come to a fork in the trail, where you should take a right and head uphill. You'll reach the waterfall fairly quickly, but be aware that this section of the trail can be a bit more challenging. When we visited, the weather was cooler, and the soil was a bit moist, so it's advisable to wear hiking shoes for better traction.

This area is an Old Growth Forest, and the redwoods along the trail are towering and majestic. The humidity is higher here, so you'll often find green ferns covering both the trees and the sides of the trail, creating a wonderful atmosphere. When we visited during the summer, the waterfall had a slightly smaller flow.

Elk Meadow

Just north of the Trillium Falls trailhead is Elk Meadow. Here, it's quite easy to spot elk along the roadside. We saw them both during the day and at night as we drove through the area. Sometimes they travel in groups, crossing the road, while other times they can be seen grazing in the meadows.

Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

Continuing north, you'll arrive at the easily accessible Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. This area offers many gentle and easy-to-hike trails, starting from the visitor center, with plenty of route options to choose from. One of the most significant attractions is called "Big Tree," and you can see it by parking alongside the road and walking just 100 meters. In addition to Big Tree, there are trails like the Revelation Trail, Karl Knapp Trail, Foothill Trail, and more, all of which are suitable for families and can be completed in just half a day.

More details can be found in this post:

Lady Bird Johnson Grove

Lady Bird Johnson Grove is located on Bald Hills Road and is one of the most renowned trails in Redwood National Park. There's a 1-mile circular trail here that takes you through Lady Bird Johnson Grove. Because of its higher elevation, over 1,000 feet above sea level, it tends to be quite damp. When visiting this area, it's a good idea to bring waterproof outerwear, as walking on this trail can feel like strolling through a misty forest.

The redwoods in this area may appear slightly different from those in other places due to the humid environment, which gives them a lighter color. Besides the redwoods, you'll also find many Douglas Firs. Upon close observation, you'll discover many interesting things: Redwoods are incredibly resilient; we saw some that had endured wildfires, with their insides charred and hollowed out, yet they remained standing tall. Remarkably, some of these trees even managed to sprout new growth from their charred trunks.

Redwood national park, Redwood National Park 29

The Northern Half | Hiouchi Area | Crescent Beach Area | Klamath Area

The northern part of Redwood National Park includes the Hiouchi Area, Crescent City Area, and Klamath Area. This northern half offers a combination of mountains and coastline, each area having its own unique attractions, and you can easily plan to visit them all in a single day.

If you're driving down from the north and your primary interest is to see the redwoods, you can start by exploring the forested trails in the Hiouchi Area. Then, continue south on Highway 101, enjoying the beautiful coastal views at Crescent Beach and Enderts Beach in the Crescent City Area. Finally, in the evening, you can visit the Klamath River Overlook in the Klamath Area to watch the sunset over the mouth of the Klamath River. You can also take a scenic drive along the Coastal Drive route to soak in the coastal scenery.

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park

The highlights of the Hiouchi Area are primarily within the Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park. For visitors looking for an easier experience, at the very least, you can take a leisurely stroll on the Simpson Reed Trail, where you'll get to see classic old-growth redwood groves. If you have more time to spare, driving along Howland Hill Road will take you to fantastic redwood spots like Stout Grove and the Grove of Titans. You can find more details about these attractions in this post:

Battery Point Lighthouse

The Battery Point Lighthouse, built in 1856, is a historically significant small lighthouse. The interior of the lighthouse has been transformed into a museum that is open for visitors. The coastal area around the lighthouse is not only great for enjoying sea views but also an excellent location for observing the intertidal zone.

Crescent Beach Overlook

If you've had your fill of the forest, it's time to head to Crescent Beach for some ocean views. From the Crescent Beach parking lot, there's a short trail on the right-hand side that leads to the Crescent Beach Overlook. From this elevated vantage point, you can enjoy some stunning views of the ocean below.

Enderts Beach

Enderts Beach is located near Crescent Beach, and you'll notice the Last Chance Trailhead parking lot nearby. The trail is 1.3 miles one way and leads you down to the beach. Since you'll be descending from the hilltop to the beach, the return hike uphill can be a bit strenuous, making it of moderate difficulty. Even though it's summer, you'll still come across various wildflowers along the way, so visiting in the spring should be particularly beautiful with even more blooms.

Yurok Loop Trail

The Yurok Loop Trail, located near Lagoon Creek, is a segment of the Coastal Trail. It consists of two loops, an outer loop along the coastline and an inner loop along the Lagoon. If you enjoy ocean views, the stretch of trail along the coastline at the beginning offers some beautiful coastal scenery as well.

Klamath River Overlook

The Klamath River Overlook is accessed by turning off Highway 101 onto Requa Road, which leads towards the coast. From there, you'll need to drive a bit further to reach the overlook. This vantage point offers stunning views of the Klamath River's mouth. The scenery is indeed beautiful, but the weather can be quite changeable, often with heavy fog. When we visited, we were fortunate as we had clear skies and even saw a rainbow, providing us with a fantastic view of the river's mouth.

I met a small black bear on the way down. Encountering a black bear on your way down from the trail is indeed a rare and exciting experience. In the area, where bears are not very common.

Further reading

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