How Long Does It Take to Drive Through Redwood National Park – Essential Timings and Tips

Traveling through Redwood National Park is a journey through an ancient landscape dominated by some of the tallest trees on Earth. Driving through the park offers you a chance to experience the majestic redwood forests up close.

The time it takes to drive through this scenic area can vary widely depending on your starting point, the route you choose, and the number of stops you plan to make along the way to take in the views and explore the trails.

While the park has no road that cuts directly through its entirety, you can utilize Highway 101—also known as the Redwood Highway—which skims the park’s eastern edge. This route provides access to various park highlights and visitor centers.

To get to your destination without any detours, you can take the highway that runs alongside the park. This route is relatively swift. However, adding in time for short hikes or picnics could extend the journey significantly.

You should note that Redwood National and State Parks encompasses over 112,000 total acres, with 39,000 acres of ancient old-growth forests. On your drive, you’re not merely passing through another stretch of road but traversing a globally significant natural heritage site.

The pace at which you choose to experience the park is up to you, but regardless of speed, the experience is unparalleled, with views of enormous, ancient coast redwoods and lush ecosystems housing various plants and wildlife.

Planning Your Visit to Redwood National Park

When planning a trip to Redwood National Park, we focus on the best time for the visit, understanding entrance stations and fees, and exploring accommodations and amenities.

Best Time to Visit

The majestic redwoods of Redwood National Park, towering along the northern California coast, have earned it a renowned reputation.

The best time for you to embark on a drive through the park is from May through September. These months provide you with a blend of pleasant weather and full access to all the park’s offerings, from Crescent City to the Oregon border.

Though the national park and accompanying state parks are open year-round, summer provides the most favorable conditions for sightseeing and exploring without the heavy rainfall typical of the autumn and winter months.

Entrance Stations and Fees

There are no entrance fees to visit Redwood National Park; this makes it unique among the USA’s national parks. However, day-use fees apply if you decide to visit the adjoining California state parks like Jedediah Smith, Del Norte Coast, or Prairie Creek Redwoods State Parks. These fees are used to maintain and preserve the natural beauty of the parks.

It’s important for you to check the latest fee information before setting out, as prices can vary for different services, such as camping or using RV facilities.

Accommodations and Amenities

While lodging options within Redwood National Park are limited to camping, there are various accommodations just outside the park. You can choose from hotels in nearby towns, Airbnb rentals, or well-equipped campgrounds for tents and RVs.

Towns like Crescent City and others along the scenic route to San Francisco provide you with ample choices for restaurants and other amenities. For those of you looking to stay amidst the serene redwoods, the park offers multiple campgrounds, some of which can accommodate RVs.

Redwood National Park’s grandeur is accessible through a series of roads and byways, carefully crafted to embrace the majesty of the towering trees and the stunning coastline. We’re here to guide you through the best routes and considerations for your journey.

Main Access Points and Highways

Highway 101, also known as the Redwood Highway, is the primary route that you’ll use to access Redwood National Park. This highway spans from Oregon to California, offering numerous entry points into the park.

The northernmost entrance is near Crescent City in Del Norte County (Del Norte Coast), while the southern access is from Humboldt County. Highway 199 intersects with Highway 101 and is one of the major connectors leading you into the heart of the park’s towering forests.

Scenic Routes and Drives

Aerial View of Giant Redwood Trees on Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway road in Redwoods State and National Park

You shouldn’t miss the opportunity to drive the scenic Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway as you navigate. This 10-mile stretch that can be driven in 20-30 minutes bypasses Highway 101 through the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, showcasing pristine old-growth forests.

Howland Hill Road in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park in Northern California

For a rugged, more intimate experience, Howland Hill Road offers a narrow, unpaved route brimming with redwood encounters, but it’s best suited for smaller vehicles due to its close quarters with nature, taking approximately 45 minutes to drive.

California’s Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1) doesn’t directly traverse the park, but it connects with Highway 101 and is an iconic seaside route if you approach from the south, adding a breathtaking coastal element to your journey as you drive along the California coastline.

RV and Trailer Considerations

When traveling with motorhomes or trailers, you must consider the park’s road limitations. Many scenic drives, including Howland Hill Road, are unsuitable for large RVs or trailers due to narrow lanes and tight turns.

You should use designated routes like Highway 101, as it can accommodate larger vehicles and provide broader access to the park’s facilities and developed campgrounds.

Remember, as you plan your drive through Redwood National Park, California’s winding roads demand cautious driving, and every twist and turn brings another awe-inspiring view of these ancient giants. That is why the exact timing for driving through the park can vary widely based on individual preferences for stops and sightseeing​.

Must-See Destinations Within the Park

Exploring Redwood National Park offers you an array of awe-inspiring sights, from towering trees to rugged coastal landscapes. It’s your chance to witness some of the tallest trees on Earth and enjoy the serenity of ancient forests.

Famous Groves and Tall Trees

Hiking trails at the Lady Bird Johnson Grove Trail in California Redwoods National Park and State Parks

On your journey, you’ll go through Lady Bird Johnson Grove, a stunning old-growth forest named in honor of the former First Lady. This area provides you with a peaceful hike surrounded by lush ferns and towering redwoods.

Giant Redwood trees in Tall Trees Grove, Redwood National Park, California

The Tall Trees Grove is home to some of the tallest trees in the park, including a tree that was once considered the tallest until taller trees were discovered in a remote area.

Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park stands out with Prairie Creek and Big Tree, a notable coalescence of the primeval and majestic. Similarly, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park encapsulates the grandeur of the old-growth forest with a dense canopy of coastal redwoods.

The Stout Grove, accessed via a short scenic drive from Jedediah Smith, offers you an intimate encounter with monumental trees.

Beaches and Coastal Areas

A camping tent at Gold Bluffs campgrounds in Redwoods National Park

Your coastal tour isn’t complete without a stop at Gold Bluffs Beach, an expansive stretch of sand fringed by the vivid greens of the prairies. It’s an idyllic spot for picnicking or simply inhaling the briny ocean air.

Klamath River end at the Pacific Ocean, viwe form the Klamath overview in Klamath, California

The Klamath River Overlook delivers a breathtaking vista of where the Klamath River meets the Pacific, and it’s also excellent for spotting migrating gray whales.

Trails and Hiking Opportunities

For those ready to lace up hiking boots, the James Irvine Trail offers an enchanting trek through the park’s diverse ecosystems. Your sense of adventure heightens as you navigate through Fern Canyon, an intimate chasm with the walls draped in vibrant ferns.

The park’s Coastal Trail also provides sweeping views of the azure Pacific, presenting you with a challenge and a chance to experience the untouched coastline.

The Rhododendron Trail in Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park dazzles during spring with its namesake blossoms, and year-round, it’s a quintessential hike to immerse in the enchantment of the redwood forests.

For a more expansive view, the routes throughout Mill Creek afford a look at various ecosystems, from aquatic habitats along streams to dense canopies overhead.

You find that Redwood National Park’s network of trails and scenic drives unveils natural wonders at every turn, ensuring that whether you are on foot or behind the wheel, your explorations are steeped in the grandeur of the redwoods.

Wildlife and Nature Conservation

As you explore the captivating terrain of Redwood National Park, it’s vital to recognize the delicate balance of its ecosystem. Your journey brings you close to ancient trees and scenic beauty and immerses you in a hub of biodiversity and conservation efforts.

Redwood Ecosystem and Biodiversity

The coast redwoods are the tallest trees on Earth, creating a unique ecosystem within Redwood National Park. Housing abundant species, from the mighty Roosevelt elk roaming the open prairies to the varied aquatic life in the Smith River, the biodiversity here is truly special.

edediah Smith Redwoods State Park in Northern California near Crescent City

The Jedediah Smith and Elk Prairie Campgrounds offer a closer look at the wildlife inhabiting the woodlands and riversides while the consistent rain sustains the lush undergrowth that supports an intricate food web.

Wildlife Viewing

Scenic drives along the Oregon coast and through Northern California’s famed park yield diverse wildlife sightings. Ironic as it may seem, your slow-paced drive through the park allows for encounters with local fauna in their natural habitats.

You may see herds of elk in the Bald Hills Road or signs of woodpeckers in the forest canopy. The National Park Service provides guidance to ensure that such wildlife viewing is conducted respectfully and at a safe distance.

Park Conservation Efforts

The Redwood National and State Parks are a testament to conservation triumphs, with the National Park Service and California state parks working harmoniously to protect these natural wonders.

Restoration projects run throughout the park, aimed at preserving the coast redwoods and the diverse ecosystem they support. You witness the historical impact of human activity and now play an active role in the ongoing conservation and biodiversity efforts to ensure the health and longevity of this irreplaceable region.