Redwood is a magical wonderland full of giant Redwoods, serene creeks, soft sand beaches, and incredible scenic vistas. This diverse scenery results in an offering of various outdoor activities from hiking to kayaking to stargazing.
The national park officially includes Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. So as you can imagine, there is a tremendous amount of ground to cover and many unmissable things to do in Redwood National Park. So to help you narrow it down, here are a few favorite things to do and see in this beautiful part of California.
What to Do in Redwood National & State Parks
This list of the best places in Redwood National Park includes iconic attractions like Trees of Mystery and Fern Canyon, but also some unexpected gems in nearby areas like Humboldt Cider House in Eureka.
But first: Don’t miss the other California national park travel guides, hiking, and more travel guides too!
Ride the SkyTrail through the forest
One of the most popular places to visit in Redwood National Park is Trees of Mystery in Klamath, just south of Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park. It’s recommended to visit this famous attraction to take the iconic gondola ride through the forest canopy.
SkyTrail will take you on a 1/3-mile ride through the treetops, ascending 1570-feet up the mountain. The ride lasts between 8 to 10 minutes and will give you a close-up view and a unique perspective of the giant redwood trees.
Aside from riding through the canopy in a gondola, you can also walk through the treetops. The canopy trail consists of suspended wooden platforms with aerial netting, 8 bridges, and 2 spiral staircases. If that makes you feel a bit queasy, don’t worry, as there are other trails on the ground, such as The Kingdom of Trees Trail.
Hike the Tall Trees Grove Trail
Tall Trees Grove is home to some of the tallest and broadest trees on earth, including the 379-foot tall Hyperion. There are around 350 Redwoods in this grove, which you can see on the popular 4-mile (6.4 km) hiking trail.
The route contains a total elevation change of 1,600 feet (487 m), making it a fair challenge for most. However, if it’s a hot day, you can stop to splash in the river at the halfway point before the path loops back through the woods. It’s suggested that you schedule around two hours to hike this trail and remember to stop at the Thomas H. Kuchel Vsitor Center to get a pass along the way.
Camp on Gold Bluffs Beach
Gold Bluffs Beach is a 10-mile deserted golden-sand beach in Prairie Creek and a popular camping spot. Spending the night at the campground here is an incredible experience, especially if you’re into stargazing.
The campground has 25 campsites with excellent amenities, including showers and fire pits. You’ll camp on the open grassy plain next to a deserted beach and under the redwood-topped bluffs, creating a genuinely tranquil camping experience.
If camping isn’t your thing, you should still stop by to visit this peaceful sandy shore during the day. But if you do decide to stay the night, make sure you book in advance.
Visit Fern Canyon
Another must-do hike in Redwood National Park is the prehistoric Fern Canyon. This natural wonder displays various primal ferns growing in a narrow 50-foot-deep walled canyon. Astonishingly, some of the ferns here date back to around 325 million years ago!
Upon arriving at this incredible attraction, you might think it looks like something out of Jurassic Park. Well, guess what? It is, as Fern Canyon was a filming location for Jurassic Park 2.
So how do you get there? Follow the short and easy 1-mile (1.8km) loop trail from the end of Gold Bluffs Beach in Prairie Creek. While you’re at it, why not combine this activity with Gold Bluffs Beach?
Look for whales at Klamath River Overlook
This scenic coastal viewpoint is between Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park and Prairie Creek. This spot is unique as it’s where the river meets the Pacific. As you look down at the rocky shore, you’ll see the Klamath River running across the sand and directly into the ocean.
While many people stop off for a few minutes to snap some photos, I recommend coming for lunch with a view. There are picnic tables by the parking lot where you tuck into your meal. You might also spot some sea life in the distance, as Gray whale, seal & sea lion sightings are frequent here.
After lunch, if you fancy a long afternoon walk, hike 4-miles of the California Coastal Trail, leading to Hidden Beach and Wilson Creek Beach.
Check out Trillium Falls
Trillium Falls is a pristine waterfall nestled in the lush redwood forests that looks like something out of a fairytale. This oasis in the woods is easy to get to as you can reach it via the 2.6-mile (4.2 km) trail.
The route has an incredibly peaceful ambiance and passes through old-growth redwoods, fir trees, maples, ferns, and trillium flowers. You’ll then arrive at the small but magical fall, where you’ll see the water gushing between moss-covered rocks. The trailhead for this hike is at the Elk Meadow picnic area, just off Davison Road in Berry Glenn.
Kayak through Smith River
Thanks to the many rivers, lagoons, harbors, and coves throughout Redwood National Park, there are many places to enjoy water sports like kayaking and white water rafting. A favorite place to go kayaking here is at Smith River in Jedediah Smith State Park.
Redwood Rides is an adventure company that offers kayaking guided tours in the crystal clear water of Smith River. You can choose between a half-day or full-day adventure; the latter includes a beach break and an organic picnic lunch.
Suppose you prefer to explore the area yourself. In that case, you can rent a kayak from Redwood Rides, including all the necessary equipment like a life vest. Paddleboards and bikes are also available, so you can create your own “DIY” adventure day.
Or, for those looking for something a bit more adrenaline-filled, book the full-day rafting tour. You’ll experience plenty of thrills along the seven miles of Class II/III rapids in Middle Fork Smith.
Do the Cathedral Trees Loop hike
One of the best hikes in Redwood National Park is The Cathedral Trees Loop starting and ending at Prairie Creek Visitor Center. The 3-mile (4.8 km) route takes you to the well-known 21-foot-diameter Big Tree and many other giant redwoods.
The trail is mostly flat, making for a gentle forest walk, but some parts may be a little overgrown. The initial part of the trail is pretty busy, as many people come to see The Big Tree and then return to the visitor center. However, the rest of the loop past that point is very peaceful.
Take the scenic Avenue of the Giants drive
Although not technically in Redwood National Park, I recommend giving your feet a rest from all the hiking and head south to Elinor. Here you can embark on the most scenic drive in the area (and one of the best road trips in California), Avenue of the Giants. This 31-mile route passes through the picturesque Humboldt Redwoods State Park, ending just after Phillipsville.
While the drive takes about 30 minutes each way, there are many decent stop-off points along the way. There are also several access points to Eel River where you can go swimming if you’re visiting during summer. The paved road is mostly flat with a few gentle curves, so it is easy to drive.
Sip a local brew in Eureka
Eureka is one of the nearby towns to Redwood National Park, approximately a 45-minute drive south of the park, which makes for an excellent stop on the way home. I recommend visiting two places here, Lost Coast Brewery and Humboldt Cider Company.
The award-winning Lost Coast Brewery has been brewing beer since 1990 and now produces over half a dozen styles. The brewery also has an adjoining restaurant where you can grab some dinner.
Humboldt Cider Company is a cozy tasting room where you can try their vast selection of cider flavors. Particularly adored are the fruity delights of the cherry and blueberry ciders. Whether you visit both these establishments or just one, a pit stop in Eureka is the best way to reward yourself after a long day in the Redwoods.