Whether this is your first time exploring California on a road trip to the redwoods (and discovering the Oregon Coast as well), or you live close enough to seek out adventures every weekend, chances are there are still plenty of amazing destinations for you to discover.
There is something simply awe-inspiring, even spiritual, when you first encounter the redwoods. One minute you are driving along in California, and suddenly the road is flanked with dense forests of gigantic redwood trees lining the road.
What is So Great About a Road Trip to the Redwoods?
The Coast Redwoods are THE tallest trees on earth. You will find them primarily in Northern California but also a few amazing groves along the Southern Oregon Coast (not more than 50 miles inland).
Why do these coastal redwoods grow best within 50 miles off the coast?
- They love fog
- They flourish best at 2,000 feet of elevation or less
- They grow well in areas where there is heavy rain in the winter months
- They thrive in moderate year-round temperatures.
Some of these amazing trees soar to heights well above 360 feet.
8 Must-See Trees on Your Road Trip to the Redwoods
1. Big Tree
Located in Redwood National & State Parks, Big Tree is 68 feet around. You can find it near the Prairie Creek Visitor Center along the Newton Drury Scenic Parkway. The tree is estimated to be 1,500 years old. Though it is called Big Tree, it does not hold the distinction of being the tallest tree.
2. Corkscrew Tree
Not too far from Big Tree is another interesting redwood tree that actually has four trunks intertwining together.
3. Shrine Drive-Thru Tree
Have you always wanted to drive through a tree? The Shrine Tree, along the Avenue of the Giants, was carved mostly by nature.
4. Christmas Tree – An Albino Redwood
Also along the Avenue of the Giants, you will find a rare albino redwood tree. It is in the Women’s Federation Grove near the grove entrance. The trail here is not marked, but you can ask for directions at the Humboldt Redwoods State Park Visitor Center.
5. The Star Wars Tree
Did you know that parts of Return of the Jedi was filmed in Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park? Cheatham Grove is the location where you might recognize the fallen trees and intertwining limbs of the giant trees featured in the movie where storm troopers on the big screen sped through the grove.
6. Tall Trees Grove
The current redwood “tallest tree” record holder is hidden in an undisclosed location; however, you can hike to this grove to view this beautiful grove. Pick up a free permit at the Orick Visitor Center.
7. Giant Tree
Does it seem as though they began to run out of titles for these magnificent redwoods? Tall Tree, Big Tree, and now Giant Tree.
Giant Tree’s distinction is that it wins for the most beautiful tree in terms of height, diameter, and crown spread. It may be considered the biggest redwood by mass. This tree is found in the Rockefeller Forest in Humboldt Redwoods State Park.
8. Dyerville Giant
Can you imagine the thunderous sound this giant redwood must have made as it crashed to the forest floor in 1991?
The Dyerville Giant is thought to have once stood 400 feet. Still, Dyerville Giant draws crowds to its uprooted trunk, roots and the huge crater left behind. You’ll find this tree off the Avenue of the Giants in Humboldt Redwoods State Park’s Founders Grove.
Highlights From a Road Trip to the Redwoods
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You may not have time to visit all of the named Redwood trees in one visit, but if you are looking for a few highlights, this guide should help.
You may even wish to pinpoint the 8 “must-see” trees on a map and plot your road trip to the Redwoods accordingly.
Please note that pets and bikes are not allowed on most trails in the Redwoods National Park.
Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park
To visit the Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, start your road trip to the redwoods about 9 miles east of Crescent City. Established in 1929, you will find a densely forested areas with giant ancient trees in this state park.
In fact, this park contains over 10,000 acres of California’s old-growth redwoods.
Did you know that this park is composed of seven percent of all the old-growth redwoods remaining in the world?
Some of the notable hikes and trails within the state park are:
Boy Scout Tree Trail
Follow this 5.5 mile path on the Boy Scout Tree Trail and you will also arrive at Fern Falls where the trail ends. Reach the trailhead via the unpaved and sometimes bumpy Howland Hill Road. Follow this old-growth trail and enjoy some of the world’s most pristine redwood scenery. Note * Parking at the trailhead may be limited.
Nickerson Ranch Trail
This trail is a nice add-on to the Boy Scout Tree Trail. While not as scenic as the Boy Scout Tree Trail. Nickerson Ranch trail is much less busy.
Mill Creek Trail
This trail is currently closed due to construction. It is in the same area as the Boy Scout Tree Trail and the Nickerson Ranch Trail
This 4.4 mile out and back trail begins in a beautiful redwood grove next to Stout Grove. You’ll see the best scenery at the beginning of the hike and then a mixed-species forest for the rest of the hike.
A 3.3 out and back hike with moderate traffic and moderate effort that allows you to explore redwoods on the South side of Hwy 199. The trail parallels the highway for much of the hike, so you will hear traffic noise
This is a short loop of less than a mile that circles close to the Smith River. In 2011, the start/end of the trail was moved away from Hwy 199 with signs that directed hikers to the new location. Once the most popular trail in the Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, it is now less trafficked as the trailhead is somewhat hidden off of Walker Road.
Leiffer and Ellsworth Loops
Close to the Simpson-Reed Trail, you will find the connected Leiffer and Ellsworth Loops. Access the Loop Trails off of Walker Road. Start off on the 1.o mile Leiffer Loop and add on the 0.5 mile Ellsworth Loop if you have time.
Be prepared for your hikes by making sure you have the 10 essentials for your best day hikes packed.
Stout Memorial Grove
Stout Memorial Grove is a beautiful, 44-acre grove of old-growth trees worth the side trip on your road trip to the Redwoods. It has a significant amount of downed trees along the 0.6 mile trail. The trail is easy to follow and well-marked.
The Stout Tree has a viewing platform built around it to help you get up close and personal with the tree while also protecting the area around the tree.
Prairie Creek State Park
Not only will you find the majestic coastal redwoods in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, but you will also find campgrounds, sandy beaches, and open meadows that are often frequented by herds of grazing elk.
There are many family-friendly trails in the park that are clearly marked. Be sure to add these trails to your itinerary for your road trip to the Redwoods.
- Cathedral Trees Trail – An easy to moderate 3.0 mile out and back trail.
- Foothill Trail – If you are hoping to visit Big Tree, you will find it along this trail. Foothill Trail, Cathedral Trees Trail, and Rhododendron Trail form one big loop
- Rhododendron Trail – If you happen hike to Rhododendron Trail and then continue on around the loop to the Foothill Trail, and your children are hiking with you, you may end up hiking a lot longer than they planned! Just saying. It is 8.6 miles and some children may consider it a moderate to challenging hike! Again, just saying. The best time to explore Rhododendron Trail when the flowers are in their prime would be late May to mid June.
- Fern Canyon Loop Trail – All skills levels should enjoy this popular 1.1 mile trail. If you happen to be camping at Gold Bluff, the trailhead isn’t too far away. Steven Spielberg featured this trail in Jurassic Park 2: The Lost World. Be prepared to get your feet wet.
Crescent City, CA
Crescent City is a natural stop on your road trip to the Redwoods as it only 10 miles from Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park.
A few things to do in and around Crescent City:
- Visit Trees of Mystery and take your picture with the larger-than-life Paul Bunyon and Babe the Blue Ox statue
- Visit Ocean World Aquarium
- Stroll along South Beach
- Explore the tide pools at Battery Point at low tide
- Visit Battery Point Lighthouse and Museum at low tide
- Watch for whales
- Enjoy a picnic lunch (a foldable cooler comes in handy)
Cabin in the Woods—a Cool Place to Stay on Your Road Trip to the Redwoods
The Fern Hook Cabin, not too far from the hamlet of Hiouchi, CA and Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, is a quaint find. This serene cabin in the woods can sleep up to 6 guests with two bedrooms, 1 bathroom, a fully-stocked kitchen, a living room, a front porch and free parking.
The cabin sits among the redwoods trees in a forest blanketed by ferns. The area is secluded but offers easy access to the highway.
If you happen to be visiting California on a road trip to the Redwoods along highway 101, check out the Fern Hook Cabins.
Why Squeeze in a Visit to the South Oregon Coast on Your Road Trip to the Redwoods?
Because you’re so close!
And… the Oregon Coast is a stunning complement to the majestic redwood forests nearby. The views along the Pacific Coast Highway can’t be beat and are worth extending your road trip to the Redwoods into Oregon.
It’s a good thing there are so many pull outs along the highway, because you’ll be drawn to the sandy beaches, crashing waves, and craggy rocks. Stop. The views are amazing.
And if you happen to visit at sunset, well… the horizon puts on quite a display.
From Brookings to Port Orford in Southern Oregon, “...the highway hugs some of the most dramatic and rugged coastline in Oregon, lined with sea stacks and rock formations. The Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor stretches for 12 miles with several viewpoints worth exploring. Don’t miss low tide at beautiful Harris Beach State Park, where large rocky areas become perfect for tide pooling.” TravelOregon.com
While the Oregon Coast is beautiful to visit in the Summer, it is just as lovely in the Fall or in the Spring (for Spring Break) as an off-season destination. You will want to be sure to dress for the cooler weather.
Just across the border of North California is the coastal town of Brookings. It is the first beach town you reach as you pass into Southern Oregon and continue your road trip to the Redwoods and beyond.
Some of the highlights of the Brookings area:
- Harris Beach State Park and Thunder Rock Cove Viewpoint
- Samuel Boardman Scenic Corridor and Spruce Island Viewpoint, Arch Rock, Natural Bridges, House Rock and Whalehead (to name a few of the rock formations)
- Mighty redwoods along the Redwood Nature Trail
Gold Beach, Oregon
Gold Beach, a small community in Southern Oregon along the coast, is framed by the Pacific Ocean, the Rogue River and the Siskiyou National Forest.
If you are looking for the perfect getaway destination, Gold Beach can’t be beat.
Jet Boat Tour on the Rogue River from Gold Beach
If you are visiting Gold Beach as a side trip to your road trip to the Redwoods, you really should book a Jet Boat tour along the Rogue River. Start before lunch and you’ll want to bundle up against the chill of the morning. By afternoon, shed your jackets and roll up your sleeves to enjoy the beautiful scenery.
Your driver narrates the experience with great info about local wildlife, the history, and the bridges along the river. He might even throw in some sharp turns here and there to spin the jet boat in the water.
You’ll stop at Agnes on the north side of the river for your first pit stop up the Rogue River. This is a great place for a restroom break and to buy a snack.
Be sure to bring plenty of water to drink throughout the day along with snacks. Pack up your backpack with Goldfish, trail mix, Zipfizz, peanut M&Ms, and maybe even some applesauce pouches. [affiliates]
To tide you over, consider packing Built Bar protein bars as well.
You will likely pass a lot of smaller boats coming down the river, lots of people camping along the river, and many groups just hanging out for a BBQ. Some groups, having experienced the jet boats before, may yell “spray us” as you pass.
The jet boat tour continues to Blossom Bar where the boat turns around.
On your return trip, you’ll stop for a late lunch around 4 pm on the South side of the river at Agnes at the Cougar Lane Lodge.
Be sure to wear sunscreen and dress in layers. As you return to Gold Beach in the evening, you’ll want to bundle up again against the crazy cold wind that blows off the ocean. In fact, you may wish for a puffy jacket, a fleece jacket, [affiliate] and a blanket! It gets that cold!
Beach House Retreat on Gold Beach
If you are looking for an amazing place to stay just steps from the Pacific Ocean, Marbella is a beautiful home that sleeps six with three bedrooms. It makes a perfect stop in Oregon for your road trip to the Redwoods.
The amenities include 2.5 baths, laundry facilities, amazing partial views of the ocean, a full-size kitchen, a garage, and a hot tub. It is the perfect getaway for families or a group of friends just outside of the town of Gold Beach.
As you continue your road trip to the Redwoods and drive up the Pacific North Highway to Bandon, pay a visit to Coastal Mist Chocolate Boutique. The boutique is located in Bandon Old Town. Stop for the chocolate and then wander around the Old Town looking for the perfect memento or a place along the water for lunch or dinner.
Are you a collector of Life is Good® t-shirts as you travel? You’ll surely find them in the tourists shops in Bandon.
Adjacent to the town of Bandon is the Coquille River; Bandon is also distinguished by the iconic and photogenic Coquille River Lighthouse. If you are a lighthouse hunter, you’ll enjoy a stop here. Explore the jetty to see people fishing, dozens of seagulls, and crashing waves.
Battle Rock City Park in Port Orford, Oregon
A prominent seaside feature near Port Orford is a beach with an isolated mound known as Battle Rock City Park. The beach is lovely and somewhat protected from the wind. The sand is warm for sinking your toes in even when the temperature is 60 degrees.
You can climb up on a big haystack rock but will want to give heed to the warning, “Don’t touch the poison oak.” Hmm, that would make for a not-so-fun trip.
Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
A detour off the Pacific Coast Highway to Crater Lake National Park is a must. It takes you a little inland on your road trip to the Redwoods and the Oregon Coast, but it really is an amazing destination.
Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States.
Formed from an ancient volcano, the panoramic views of this turquoise-colored lake are stunningly brilliant. Can you say a lake is photogenic? ‘Cause this one certainly is.
Depending on the time of year that you visit, trails are open to descend from the visitor center and parking area down to the edge of the lake.
This is a popular destination. If you already have an America the Beautiful National Park Pass, great. Get in line to enter the park.
What to Bring on a RoadTrip to the Redwoods and to The Oregon Coast?
simplyjolayne also recommends:
- Good walking/hiking shoes
- A visor or hat
- Light jacket
- Camelbak hydration reservoir
Frequently Asked Questions
How many days do you need to visit the Redwoods?
You could definitely plan a one-day itinerary to the Redwoods and still get in some scenic drives as well as a hike and still be awed by the majesty of the mighty redwoods. Do yourself a favor though and plan a longer stay.
What is the best time of year to visit Redwood Forest?
You’ll find the coastal climate of Redwood National Park to be fairly mild and temperate all year long. If you want to avoid the rainy season and enjoy a few hikes in the park, May through September is an optimal time to visit.
How long does it take to drive through the Redwoods?
There are a number of scenic drives within the Redwoods National and State Parks. You could enjoy driving through ancient forests or along rugged coastline, in the upland prairies or through oak woodlands. Whichever routes you choose, you’ll want to plan enough days to see them all or schedule a return visit.
Which is better to visit, Sequoia National Park or Redwood National Park?
How far is San Francisco from Redwood National Park?
The fastest route takes approximately 5.5 hours driving 315 miles along Highway 101. The more scenic route along the Pacific Coast Highway 1 takes 8.5 hours (~350 miles).
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Final Thoughts on Awesome Stops on a Road Trip to the Redwoods and the Oregon Coast
Your first encounter with redwood trees on your road trip to the Redwoods and the Oregon Coast will most certainly be memorable. The height of these trees is almost dizzying as you stand at the base and look up and up and up. It is amazing to think that some of these trees have been alive for over 2000 years.
As you continue into southern Oregon, the stunning beauty of the coast will pull you in. You simply have to stop and explore each beach, listen to the crashing waves, and dig your bare toes into the sand.
Pretty sure you’ll say, “That trip was awesome!”