Guide to Redwood National and State Parks

They are the tallest trees in the world, American icons, and on the bucket list for many to see in their lifetime. Redwood National and State Parks is vast and unlike any other place on earth, how can you make the most of your time with the forest? The park is a partnership between California and the US government to protect the groves of these majestic giants with parks spread through the northern portion of the state.

We had one and a half days to explore, and Crescent City was home base. On the first day after stopping by the Jedediah Smith Visitor Center [1600 US-199, Crescent City, CA 95531] to get a map and talk to the rangers, it was off to Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. The drive on scenic Howland Hill Road was a true pleasure; even if you aren’t a hiker you can get a redwood experience simply with this cruise. Stout Grove is renowned as the most beautiful grove of redwoods in the world. It is a short loop trail only .6 mile long, but when basked in the afternoon light the wonder of this space is unparalleled.

Looking for more of a hike, further down the road is the Boy Scout Tree trail 2.8 miles in length (an out and back). With the fog settling in this trail became otherworldly.

Daylight was waning so we were eager to finish the drive on the narrow darkening road. In town we settled into the beach view parking lot of Brother Jonathon Park to catch a glimpse of Battery Point Lighthouse

and the setting sun.

The next morning after passing by a group of grazing elk,

we were at Thomas H. Kuchel Visitor Center [119441 US-101, Orick, CA 95555] just as it opened to obtain the required Tall Trees trail permit, a quick and free process.

Don’t even think about skipping this part, because you’ll need the combination for the gate. Also note it is a 45 minute drive to the trailhead, so plan your day accordingly. The hike is a 4 mile roundtrip lollipop with 800 elevation change, you won’t see impressive redwoods until you get to the loop at the bottom.

This trail was once home to the tallest living thing in the world, however the tree lost its crown during a storm and no long holds the record. The grove is still an amazing place, and we had it all to ourselves early in the morning. After the hike was complete we drove down towards the Avenue of the Giants another extremely scenic drive which makes you feel as though you are hiking through the woods. The roads throughout this park are simply incredible. We stopped to hike around Gould Grove which was beside a great information center and then went on to Shrine Drive Thru Tree [13708 Avenue of the Giants, Meyers Flat, CA 95554]. We just had to do this kitschy tourist trap on our grand American roadtrip!

If you go make sure to pop into the redwood tree house, complete with bookcase!

This was the end of our day and a half redwood roadtrip, and from here we took off to Reno. However, this was not my first encounter with magnificent redwood trees. On my first trip to California years ago I visited San Francisco and took a side trip to Big Basin State Park [21600 Big Basin Way, Boulder Creek, CA 95006]. If you have a limited amount of time to explore the state and can’t make it way up north, this is a great alternative. The park has some seriously monstrous trees, most notably on the .6 mile Redwood Nature trail.

Also it was here where I was lucky enough to find the most photogenic creature of the forest: the banana slug!

There are many different ways to behold the tallest creatures in the world, the redwood trees, whether you are looking for a serious hike, a walk in the park, or just a drive down the road.

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