Tips for Redwood National and State Parks
• Summers are usually the busiest time for national parks across the US. But the consistent mild temperatures in Redwood National and State Parks allow for visiting any time of the year.
• It is completely free to visit Redwood National and State Parks!
• The diverse environment in Redwood National and State Parks includes vast stretches of prairie land, oak woodlands, wild riverways, and 40 miles of coastline.
• There are more than 200 miles of hiking trails in Redwood National and State Parks. The trails are well maintained and lined with compacted gravel. Few are paved, which means that depending on the weather, trails may be wet, muddy and slippery.
• Check on weather reports and trail conditions before attempting a hike in Redwood National and State Parks. Heavy rainfall, flooding and strong winds may cause large trees to fall, which could result in trail closure.
• Between June and October, wooden foot-bridges are constructed across some waterways in Redwood National and State Parks. Such trails are not wheelchair accessible.
• While vault toilets are available at some points of interest, I recommend carrying your own food and drinking water when visiting Redwood National and State Parks.
Explore 9 miles (round-trip) of rugged coastline with panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and Klamath River estuary. The whole thing takes about 45 minutes to complete, and is must-do in Redwood National and State Parks, especially if you haven’t really driven the Pacific Coast Highway (California State Route 1). It starts off with lush greenery and forest cover, which soon gives way to a narrow road with steep grades and sharp curves. As you drive along the high bluffs, you can see the turbulent surf crashing on the shore. Great vantage point for nature photographers!
If you’re lucky you may spot migrating whales, maybe even a couple of sea lions. I didn’t see either of these marine mammals, but I did run into a herd of Roosevelt elk. I am not sure if they are completely wild, because there are a couple of elk farms around Redwood National and State Parks.
Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway
The Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway is definitely the most popular auto touring route in Redwood National and State Parks. The 10 mile long route takes you through the old-growth redwoods and is elk country. It’s a bit longer than the Coastal Drive, taking around an hour to complete. That is, if you are not constantly slowing down to admire the Redwoods.
I absolutely loved this drive in Redwood National and State Parks. The redwoods are indescribable in their majesty. The trees are so huge, they look like imposing red Goliaths passing you by. No lie, you really feel dwarfed and a bit intimidated by their sheer stature. For all our fancy gadgets and inventive technology, we are truly insignificant in front of all powerful Mother Nature.
Fern Canyon Loop Trail
Fern Canyon is a popular summer destination. While Redwood National and State Parks is free for visitors, there is a small day-use fee ($8, cash only) to enter Fern Canyon. It is an honor-based system, which means that no one will be standing there to ensure you pay the fee. Just do the right thing, and don’t be a moron about it.
Once you pass this fee station, the drive up to Fern Canyon’s parking lot off Davison Road can be a bumpy ride. Be wary of potholes! By the time we were done with Fern Canyon, it was dark and I had to guide my husband so that our car wouldn’t get stuck somewhere. At one point, our car took a deep dive, with the bumper making a screeching noise. But when we inspected the front later on, there were no scratches or dents. So it was all good. But like I said, just be careful of the potholes.
The Fern Canyon Loop Trail is a pretty short and easy hike in Redwood National and State Parks. The 0.7 mile loop takes hikers over level ground. This includes a gravel path, muddy sections that can be slippery, crossing tiny streams over make-shift wooden planks, jumping over tree logs or bending under forest growth. Also note that I was traveling in September and wearing a jacket, since the air in the canyon was humid and cool.
The highlight of this trail are the ancient ferns clinging to the damp canyon cliffs. The plant species can be traced back 325 million years, and come in different forms such as five-fingered ferns, delicate lady ferns and dark green sword ferns. Winter floods are common in the canyon, so be sure to check with park rangers of Redwood National and State Parks or the NPS website.
*Vault toilets are available at the beginning of the hike.
Tall Trees Trail
For this hike, you will need a permit from the Redwood National and State Parks Visitor Center. Permits are limited, but never really run out except during the summer. The permit has to be displayed on the windshield of your car. At the road entrance to the Tall Trees Trail, there is a gate with a padlock. This is to regulate vehicle traffic and preserve the natural integrity of the Tall Trees Grove. Your permit will have a number combination with which you can open the padlock. Just remember to lock the gate when you pass through.
This trail of Redwood National and State Parks is 4 miles round-trip, and can be strenuous for some people. It includes nearly 800 feet of elevation change, and can take around 2 hours to complete. In addition, it is super hot and humid. I was sweating buckets by the time I was done, and probably reeked even with my antiperspirant on. There are 3-4 benches on the trail, and hikers can also rest on fallen tree trunks. However, there is no drinking water available, so bring your own.
The trek downhill is obviously faster, so I suggest you complete this portion as quickly as you can. Once you reach the bottom, the trail flattens out. At this point, you have entered the Tall Trees Grove, an alluvial flat by the Redwood creek. The grove’s Libby Tree once held the title for world’s tallest tree. While that is no longer true, the Tall Trees Grove is a treat to the senses to all who visit Redwood National and State Parks.
It was nearing sunset during my hike, and the evening sun played spectacular colors on the reddish bark, the dense green foliage, and the flowing water. The only sounds I could hear was the calm waters of the creek, and the leaves crunching under my shoes. As a solitary traveler, your greatest pleasure is to silently commune with the rest of the universe. It’s a mesmerizing experience, and one I would recommend everyone to make time for when they visit Redwood National and State Parks.
*Vault toilets are available at the beginning of the hike.