Visiting Redwood National Park? Here are five things to do when visiting Redwood National and State Parks. Whether you are into hiking, scenic drives, walking among the trees or visiting the beach, Redwood has something for everyone.
Hiochi Visitor Center
Redwood National and State Parks is a large park stretching for more than 40 miles along the coast of Northern California. The park is jointly managed by the California Department of Parks and Recreation and the National Park Service. There are three state parks that make up the park boundaries and there is a lot to see and do inside the park.
As an avid national park visitor, I always recommend starting your adventure in the visitor center. The Hiochi Visitor Center offers a variety of ranger programs and an informational video on the park.
If I hadn’t visited the visitor center, I would not have known to check out the tide pools, to look out for the banana slugs, or which of the scenic drives to add to our itinerary.
Last Chance Coastal Trail & Tide Pools
One of the coolest things we did at Redwoods (apart from the the trees) was visiting the tide pools. We live in a landlocked state and don’t get a lot of time by the ocean, so wanted to take advantage and visit the beach. A ranger at the visitor center said not to miss the tide pools.
The Endert’s Beach tide pools are about 15 minutes south of Crescent City. To get to the pools, you’ll need to drive down Endert’s Beach Road off Highway 101 and park in the lot at the end of the road.
If you’re lucky, you may run into the local herd of Roosevelt Elk on the way to the tide pools. Make sure you go the speed limit down this road and keep an eye out for the elk in the early morning and at dusk. The herd had us stopped along the road for 10 minutes.
Park in the Endert’s Beach parking lot at the end of the road. From the lot, it is about a 1-mile walk to the beach. The walk has a moderate to steep decline, so make sure you are comfortable walking back up the hill after.
Once on the beach, head north on the beach for another half mile (you should end up under the parking lot). Once at the pools, you can view sea stars, sea anemones, and sea cucumbers. The day we visited we were the only people on the beach.
Before you go
Pick up a tide pool guide at the Hiouchi Visitor Center. You’ll need to look up the low tide times at the visitor center or check online. Plan to walk down to the beach at least an hour before the low tide time hits.
The national park service offers guided tide pool walks during the summer. Check the Redwood National Park calendar for the schedule. We weren’t able to join one of the guided walks, but the pamphlet we picked up helped us identify some of the sea life in the pools.
Another great stop in Redwoods is Fern Canyon. This is an easy walk/hike through a beautiful, lush canyon.
The walk is relatively flat, but the ground is uneven, sandy and rocky. You’ll be walking in and along the shores of the canyon, which has a flowing stream.
Wear boots or other waterproof shoes. While you won’t be wading through any deep water, there is a stream that is flowing that you’ll need to walk through. It’s not very deep, but nobody wants wet feet.
Fern Canyon is located in Prairie Creek State Park off Highway 101, 12 miles north of the Thomas H Kuchel Visitor Center. The road to this part of the park is narrow and winding, and you cannot tow an RV down the road. The parking lot often fills up and only a certain number of people are let into the park at a time. You could end up waiting in a line outside the park for 30 minutes to 2 hours once it’s full.
The key to avoid the crowds is to go early. We arrived at 9 a.m. and didn’t have to wait to get into the park, but did get one of the last parking spots. When we left at 11, the line of cars to get into the park was 100 deep.
Howland Hill Road & Stout Memorial Grove
There are a variety of great scenic drives in Redwood. We checked out several, but Howland Hill was one of our favorites and offers you a chance to see some of the old growth redwoods in the park. While on the drive you can stop by the Stout Memorial Grove to walk among the Redwoods.
Howland Hill Road is a dirt road that winds for 10 miles through Jedidiah Smith Redwoods State Park. The road is not recommended for RVs and trailers, but is fine for 2WD cars. We drove from the south side in the morning and only saw two other cars on the road.
We stopped at Stout Grove for a short walk through the trees. The trail is short and offers great, close-up views of the Redwoods. We spent about two hours meandering through the grove, taking photos, and staring in awe at these giant wonders. Though this spot was moderately crowded, it was one of our favorite spots to get close to the redwoods. The lush forest absorbed a lot of the noise and allowed for a peaceful walk through the grove of trees.
Tall Trees Grove
If you are looking for a longer hike that is more isolated, I recommend Tall Trees Grove. This moderate-strenuous hike will reward you with a semi-private walk through an old-growth redwood forest that is off the main path.
I say semi-private, because you’ll need a permit to do this hike; only 50 permits are handed out a day. You can pick up a permit in person from the Thomas H Kuchel visitor center. We arrived at 8:45 to get in line for the permit (the visitor center opened at 9 a.m.). Once you have your permit, you’ll receive a code for the padlocked gate to get to the parking lot and trail.
The hike is considered strenuous. From the parking lot you descend 800-feet down a trail of switchbacks to get to the grove. Once in the grove, you are rewarded with a short loop through an old-growth forest without many other visitors around.
The National Park Service says the road is rough and recommends a 4WD vehicle, but I think any small SUV, even without 4WD will do just fine.
There are so many wonderful things to do in Redwood National and State Parks, but these five things were our favorite and offered us a chance to see a variety of things in the park. Have you been to see the Redwoods before? What are your favorite spots?
Resources on visiting Redwoods
If you’re looking for a place to stay while visiting Redwood National Park, check out my campground review of Mill Creek Campground.