Exploring Redwood National and State Parks

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redwood national forest

Year Established: 1968

Acres: 131,983

Annual Visitors: 400,000

Entrance Fee: $0

Established in 1968, the Redwood National and State Parks comprise three state parks—Prairie Creek, Del Norte Coast, and Jedediah Smith--and a national park located along the northern California coast. The parks are best known for their expanse of old-growth, coast redwoods, which are among the tallest and longest-living tree species on Earth, living an average of 600 years and up to 2,000 years. In fact, the parks protect 45% of the remaining coast redwoods in California. 

redwood national park pacific coastline

In addition to ancient redwoods, the parks help to preserve a wide variety of indigenous grassland prairies, expansive oak woodlands, wild river-ways, and almost 40 miles of Pacific coastline.

The parks’ variety of ecosystems, ranging from dense forests to vast prairies, have resulted in diverse wildlife, many of which are endangered as a result of human interference, like the decades of unrestricted logging in the area that took place beginning in the 19th century and continued until the lands were protected in the mid-20th century. 

endangered california brown pelican

The parks’ coastal regions are home to endangered California brown pelicans, bald eagles, otters, and sea lions, while the deep redwood forests host the likes of coyotes, bobcats, and Roosevelt elk. Today, Roosevelt elk are among the most commonly observed animals in the parks, which is particularly impressive given that they were on the verge of extinction before the parks’ lands were protected and preserved. 

redwood national park big tree wayside walk

Given the parks’ diverse wildlife, ancient trees, and beautiful scenery, spanning from sea cliffs and ocean beaches to majestic forests, it’s no surprise that they're home to plenty of things to do for every type of adventurer. The parks are a hiker’s dream, offering trails that can be as easy or as difficult as you want but never fail to greet you with stunning scenery. 

If you’re short on time, then you can explore the Big Tree Wayside Walk located in Prairie Creek. The walk begins with the aptly named Big Tree, located just 200 yards from the parking area, and leads you into a few short trails complete with detailed information on your surroundings via audio boxes. 

On the other hand, if you prefer to spend the whole day exploring the parks, then you can take advantage of any number of half-day or day-long hikes, such as the James Irvine Trail to Fern Canyon Loop hike. Among the longest hikes in the park, the 12-mile loop will take you through creeks and old-growth redwood forests all the way to Gold Bluffs Beach on the Pacific Ocean. 

redwood national park newton b drury scenic parkway

Not big on hiking? Then take a drive on the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway. The world-famous 10-mile drive leads right through the heart of the redwoods and offers some of the most beautiful scenery you'll find anywhere. Plus, you can easily stop along the way and explore the variety of easy trails peppering the road. 

If you’re hoping to spend more than a day at the parks (which we highly recommend), then you’ll need to plan on camping--there are no hotels or lodges in any of the four parks. Campers can choose from 11 formal campgrounds, including four developed campgrounds for those seeking an easy, straightforward camping experience, and seven backcountry camps, for campers that are really looking to rough it.  

Regardless of how you choose to spend your time there, you're pretty much guaranteed to have an unforgettable experience at the Redwood National and State Parks. 

Click here to learn more about all of the magic these parks have to offer. 



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