Redwood National Park, California, was actually a latecomer to this area. Founded October 2nd, 1968, it joined three California State Parks in protecting some key groves of redwood trees, the tallest in the world, that grow only along a narrow strip of the California and Oregon coasts. Today, the area is jointly managed by the State of California and the National Parks Service. It showcases not only the giant redwoods, but also some postcard areas of rocky California coast and beaches.
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ILNP Park Review
In a Word “Towering”
“I will plant in the wilderness the cedar and the acacia tree, the myrtle and the oil tree; I will set in the desert the cypress tree and the pine and the box tree together, that they may see and know, and consider and understand together, that the hand of the Lord has done this” -Isaiah 41:19-20
Our Visit My wife and I took our 2-year-old son to Redwood NP in May as a “mini-vacation” within a trip to see family in Oregon. We stayed in Crescent City, CA (along US 101 between two of the state parks) for three days and had plenty of opportunities to explore each area of the Park.
Our Weather Varied. We had 60-degree weather all three days. It was sunny (if a little hazy) the first and third days. The second day was foggy and overcast (surprisingly enjoyable for this Park–read on).
Overall Impression This is a beautiful area of California, and the redwood trees are truly something to behold. Groves of trees are interspersed with glades of wildflowers and beaches, and there are plenty of trails and roads to explore it all. Busy US 101 runs right through the middle of the Park, so it doesn’t have the isolated feel of many National Parks, but the upside is quick and easy access to most areas of this 40+ mile long Park.
Favorite Spot standing in the fog on Damnation Creek Trail
Minimum Time Required about 1 hour. You can get a good feel for the Park simply by driving through on US 101, and it’s free. You’ll see plenty of redwoods and some great views of the coastline, particularly around the Del Norte State Park section. There are many unnamed pullouts along the highway to give you a better look. Your best bet for a quick jaunt through the redwood forest is the upper portion of Damnation Creek Trail. The trail starts right off US 101 and quickly drops into areas thick with large redwoods. One word of caution–the trail head is tricky to find! It’s just a small pullout on the west side of the highway with a small sign. The best way to find it is to count mile markers. It’s right at mile marker 16 just a few miles north of False Klamath Cove.
A Longer Visit You can see nearly all of the easily accessible areas of the Park in two full days. If you have just one day, plan on visiting one or two of the grove trails in the morning and spending some time along the coast in the afternoon or evening. On the south side of the Park, the 1-mile Lady Bird Johnson Trail takes you through a nice area of trees. On the drive to the trail, you’ll see dozens of huge redwood stumps along the road as a reminder of the recent logging in this area before the Park’s protection in 1968. The narrow central area of the Park offers several ways to explore the coast. The Coastal Drive offers great views, False Klamath Cove is a beach area right off the highway you can explore, and Lagoon Creek is a neat little area of inland water covered in lily pads. For those who prefer the solitude of hiking, there are miles and miles of coastal trails. As you drive along the coast, US 101 pops in-and-out of the Park, so there are plenty of little touristy things to do in the little towns like drive through a live redwood or see the giant Paul Bunyan and Babe statues if that’s your thing.
Between the Prairie Creek State Park area in the south and the Jedediah Smith State Park area in the north is Del Norte State Park. This section offers some the best views of redwoods from the highway and is resplendent with rhododendron blooms in late spring. One great way to experience the redwoods at the north end of the Park (Jedediah Smith SP area) is to drive the 10-mile Howland Hills Road and visit the Stout Grove via an easy 1/2 mile trail. Howland Hills Road is a narrow dirt road that winds through the redwoods. It’s fine for most cars (though fairly steep and bumpy in parts), but trailers and RVs are not advised. The road can be tough to find, so find a Crescent City map in a tourism guide to get your bearings. It’s off Elk Valley Road in the southeast section of town. A perfect way to top off your day in the north is to take the 1 mile round-trip hike down the cliffs to see the sunset from Enderts Beach, an area with tide pools and lots of great rocks right off the coast.
Suggestions Redwoods can be visited all year round, but winter is usually rainy. If you wake up and it’s sunny, you’ve got great weather for exploring the coast. If you wake up and its foggy outside, be excited because you’ve got the perfect day to hike through redwood groves. We got the full gamut of weather, and we explored the redwood groves in sun and fog. Fog just adds an extra layer of mystique to a hike because it makes the trees seem taller and makes everything a little quieter. Fog is also great for photographing redwoods because it adds an extra layer of depth and scale to photos (see photos this page). On many days, the fog burns off by late morning/early afternoon, so plan your trips to the groves for early in the day. Another great way to add scale to photographs is to always include objects such as people, cars, roads, etc to give perspective to the giant trees; otherwise, it’ll just look like a picture of your local woods. Don’t feel like you have to have a fancy camera, either. Every picture on this page was shot with a point-and-shoot digital camera with the only accessory being a mini 4″ tripod.
Spring and early summer are great seasons because of the wildflowers. The rhododendron are particularly great because they grow alongside the redwoods and add color to the forest floor. I found the best places to find rhododendron and redwoods together were often right off the road, so if you see something nice, look for a nearby pullout. US 101 allows easy access to the Park’s treasures, but never forget. . . this is a busy highway! Pay particular attention to how close the cars are behind you before slamming on the brakes to catch a pullout where rhododendron are growing. If you see a great photo opportunity whizzing by, take the next pullout where you can turn around safely.
Because the weather can be unpredictable in this area (our overcast and foggy day was “sunny” in the forecast), it’s helpful to find a hotel close to the Park. Crescent City makes a great base of operations with plenty of hotels and services just minutes from most of the Park. This will allow you to plan your specific outings around (or in) the optimal weather.
Nearby Towns Crescent City, Klamath, Eureka (California)
Other Nearby Attractions Crescent City Beach
Official NPS Website Redwood NP
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