A man looks up at massive coast redwood trees in Jedediah Smith State Park's Stout Grove.

Adventure Guide to the Redwoods

Explore one of the world’s most unique ecosystems across four co-managed state and national parks.

The coastal stretch of Northern California is like no other place on Earth. Here, the world’s tallest trees stand in deep, verdant forests. Steep gorges plunge and salmon-rich rivers tumble. Grassy bluffs overlook the wild Pacific, sandy beaches extend for miles, and ferns blanket the walls of meandering canyons. This is redwood country, and the region’s unique combination of moist ocean air, elevation, and climate yield a one-of-a-kind ecosystem. Visiting here means experiencing one or more of the area’s four cooperatively managed parks: Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, and Redwoods National Park. All are within easy striking distance of towns throughout Northern California and southern Oregon (roughly two hours southwest of Medford, Ore.)

Come for the Trees

The redwood parks offer plentiful adventures, but most people come with one objective in mind: experiencing the trees. It’s no wonder; hiking under a canopy of redwoods will make you feel size and perspective like nothing else. The world’s tallest tree reaches several hundred feet in height—the tallest known redwood stretches 379 feet, which would tower over London’s Big Ben. These superlative trees regularly live many centuries, and some have stood more than 2,000 years. Coast redwoods are found only along a 450-mile-long stretch from southern Oregon through Northern California. Here, the conditions are just right: Rains and fog keep the trees moist year-round. 

Creature Features

Incredible wildlife make their homes under—and above—the redwoods. In 2022, California condors returned to the skies, part of a reintroduction effort led by the Yurok Tribe. These huge, bald-headed birds (they have a wingspan of 9 feet) were extinct in the wild by 1987, but a successful breeding program over the last few decades has brought them back. Another notable species—Roosevelt elk, a subspecies of the iconic Rocky Mountain ungulate—roams from the beaches to the higher-elevation forests. If you’re lucky, you might also spot black bears, river otters, Northern flying squirrels, bobcats, sea lions, and humpback whales.

Original Stewards

The redwoods region has been home to many Indigenous peoples for thousands of years. The major groups in the area were the Yurok, Tolowa, and Wiyot, though at least 15 different tribal groups lived there when the first Europeans began to arrive. These cultures built homes out of boards split from fallen redwoods, made complex dugout canoes to navigate the area’s rivers and the open ocean, and hunted and gathered salmon, acorns, berries, and sea mammals. As in many other North American regions, Europeans decimated the Indigenous population when they arrived.

Looking up on the Redwoods at Jedediah Smith State Park, Redwoods National Park, California

Visiting the Parks

The four Redwoods parks lie in close proximity to each other, so it’s easy to visit all of them in one trip. You’ll need a car to easily get around (and to enjoy the scenic drives); there are several electric vehicle chargers in the area, too. Besides a few rustic cabins located in some of the parks’ campgrounds, there’s no lodging inside the parks—but you’ll find options in the coastal communities nearby. 


This part of the world has a fairly mild, wet climate: Temperatures typically stay in the 40s to 60s (Fahrenheit) year-round. Late spring through early fall is the driest time to visit, though you’ll still experience plenty of the coastal fog that keeps the redwoods moist. From October to April, precipitation picks up considerably. It’s still a lovely (and less crowded) time to come—just pack your rain gear

Things To Do

Whether you’re into hiking, camping, backpacking, beach walking, tidepool exploring, scenic driving, or paddling, you can do it in the redwood parks.

Top day-hikes

The “Emerald Mile”/Tall Trees Grove

Tall Trees Grove is one of Redwood National Park’s most popular destinations, and rightly so. Here, a collection of mind-bogglingly giant redwoods grow over a lush canopy of ferns and other understory greenery, a stone’s throw from lovely Redwood Creek. But don’t stop there: If you continue hiking south along the creek, you’ll enter the “Emerald Mile,” a quiet, redwood-lined gorge that feels like stepping back in time. Reserve a free permit to enter the grove well ahead of time on the park website; this will grant you the combination to the gate on the access road. Total out-and-back distance: about 7 miles. 

Coastal Trail

This vista-packed route extends for 70 miles along the Pacific and connects several of the redwood parks. You can hike the whole thing, staying in the parks’ free backpacking sites along the way (permit required), or choose a section for a day-hike. One primo sampler: the 6-mile Last Chance stretch at Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, which climbs steeply through a forest of old-growth redwoods, Sitka spruce, and red alder when it’s not offering wide views of the Pacific. Take the short spur trail to Enderts Beach (check the tides ahead of time) to peer into tidepools and dip a toe in the ocean.  

The Boy Scout Tree Trail

This 5.5-mile (round trip) hike in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park gives you a great chance to wander among old-growth redwoods in the northern part of the parks. Highlights include the Boy Scout Tree itself, a behemoth redwood accessible via a short spur trail, and the gentle cascade of Fern Falls at the turnaround point. 

Car camping

The redwood parks have four developed campgrounds, ranging from a small beachfront spot to larger campgrounds under the trees. The smallest, Gold Bluffs Beach Campground, has 26 tent or RV sites and sits near a gorgeous beach and the popular Fern Canyon. Next largest is Elk Prairie Campground with 75 tent and RV sites; it’s near several hiking trails and great elk- and deer-spotting terrain. Jedediah Smith Campground, which sits on the Smith River, has 86 tent and RV sites. The largest, Mill Creek Campground, has 145 tent/RV sites under a mixed forest canopy. All campgrounds are extremely popular, so reservations are a must. 


The redwood beaches are spectacular destinations to gaze at sea stacks; watch for wildlife like whales, brown pelicans, and seals; and explore unique tidepool habitats. False Klamath Cove has several excellent tidepooling spots where you might find sea stars, limpets, mussels, crabs, and snails. Crescent Beach extends for miles just south of Crescent City, Calif., with an expansive overlook on the southern stretch. Gold Bluffs Beach is another long, sandy shoreline where you might see rare birds like snowy plovers (free permit required to drive there from May through September).

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.