Redwood National and State Parks

Jedediah Smith, Del Norte, Prairie Creek, and Redwood National Park


California

***** Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park *** Del Norte Redwoods State Park ***** Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park *** Redwood National Park

***** Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park

The magnificent, light-filled redwood forest of Jed Smith is the most scenic of all redwood forests. The forest is remarkably unspoiled, maybe too much so for hikers, since there's really only one dead-end trail that explores the interior of the park. Not surprisingly the biggest coast redwood by volume grows here, although its location is secret.

*** Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park

Del Norte is the only redwood park located on a high coastal bluff. Marine clouds that stream in from the ocean during the summer support a narrow band of impressive fogbound redwoods around the 1000-foot elevation. This park has much less old growth than its neighbors, and its band of really big trees is unfortunately split by Highway 101.

***** Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

In addition to a huge swath of the lushest redwood forest anywhere, this remarkable park has a scenic undeveloped beach and a herd of wild elk, plus the popular Fern Canyon. The park has an extensive network of trails, most notably the superb Miners' Ridge and James Irvine loop.

*** Redwood National Park

Redwood National Park doesn't have any really impressive old-growth redwood hikes like Jed Smith, Prairie Creek, and Del Norte State Parks. It does, however, have more of a wilderness feel, without the traffic noise that plagues many of the state park trails. The tallest tree in the world grows here, but it's inaccessible to all but the most determined bushwhacker.

Current trail conditions

See the National Park Service's Current Conditions page for a list of current and upcoming closures in Redwood National and State Parks. There is also a Twitter feed with more or less the same information. Also see the News Releases page, which may have more up-to-date information.

Printed trail maps of Redwood National and State Parks

Since I publish my own trail map of the park, this might not be the most objective listing. However, if you don't want to buy my map, the next-best option would be the Interpretive Association's maps of the state parks, plus (if you're going to be doing any serious hiking in Redwood National Park) the Trails Illustrated map.

  • Personally I think the definitive map of this region is the Trail Map of Redwood National and State Parks from Redwood Hikes Press. Of course I might be a little biased since I drew it. It's not waterproof, but if it rains just fold it up to show the trail you'll be hiking, then get a gallon-size Ziploc bag and seal the map inside. To see samples of this map, check out the individual hike pages on this website. Scale 1:25,000, two 25 x 39 inch sheets (each printed on both sides), 2009. $11.95 + tax and shipping if ordered from Redwood Hikes Press.
  • Trails Illustrated / National Geographic's Redwood National and State Parks is the most widely-available map of the park. You can view the entire map by clicking the magnifying glass icon on the National Geographic Maps site. Scale 1:70,000, 25.25 x 37.5 inches, waterproof; 2004. $11.95.
  • Earthwalk Press's California's North Coast includes Redwood National and State Parks as well as the Six Rivers National Forest. I find it hard to read, but at only $3.95 it's a bargain. Scale 1:62,500, 27 x 39 inches, not waterproof; 2001. $3.95.
  • The North Coast Redwood Interpretive Association publishes three maps, one of each of the three state parks: Prairie Creek, Jedediah Smith, and (sometimes) Del Norte. These maps are actually pretty good, and at $1 each they're the least expensive option. However, they don't cover Redwood National Park, and you have to buy them at the Prairie Creek visitor center or the well-hidden, and frequently closed, visitor center inside the Jed Smith campground; they aren't available at the Redwood National Park visitors' centers or online. Scale 1:25,000, 23.5 x 30 inches, not waterproof; 2009 (Prairie Creek), 1997 (Jed Smith). $1.00 each.
  • Free brochures or newsletters with maps are available for each park. The maps are OK for a visitor who's just driving through, but they aren't detailed enough for serious hiking. They can be downloaded online: Jedediah Smith · Del Norte Coast · Prairie Creek · Redwood National Park

Backpacking in Redwood National and State Parks

I haven't actually stayed at the campgrounds, but I've seen them all so can make a few comments:

Seven backcountry campgrounds are available for backpackers. Except for Redwood Creek I've never actually seen anyone camping in any of them, but if the official numbers are correct (see the table below) they must be pretty busy on summer weekends. Most of the campgrounds are on the Coastal Trail; except for Redwood Creek, the other campgrounds are mainly intended for equestrian use.

The backcountry campgrounds in all North Coast state parks are permanently closed. Within Redwood National and State Parks this means that the three campgrounds along the Coastal Trail in Prairie Creek (Ossagon Creek, Miners Ridge, and Gold Bluffs) are closed. Instead, a backcountry campsite will be added to the Gold Bluffs Beach drive-in campground.

Beginning in 2012 all backcountry campgrounds are free but require a permit, which must be obtained in person at any one of the visitor centers the first day of your stay. There isn't any reservation system.

 
Campground Stays/yr Stays/site/yr
Redwood Creek 1038 (no defined sites)
Nickel Creek 775 155
Flint Ridge 697 77
Elam and 44 Camps 216 31
DeMartin 140 13
Little Bald Hills 69 26

Overnight stays per year in Redwood National Park backcountry campgrounds, 2000 - 2007.
Data from the Redwood National Park Trail and Backcountry Management Plan Environmental Assessment, Redwood National Park, April 2009

The Coastal Trail

The Coastal Trail is the most popular multi-day backpacking route in Redwood National and State Parks. A series of "primitive" or "environmental" campgrounds (i.e., no facilities, just some picnic tables and a pit toilet) are spaced at 10-mile intervals along this trail.

There are a few issues with the Coastal Trail, especially the fact that the hikers' campgrounds in Prairie Creek are closed.

There aren't actually a whole lot of redwoods on the Coastal Trail; the only section with redwoods is the stretch between Nickel Creek and DeMartin campgrounds. However, from Miners' Ridge and Redwood Creek you can leave the Coastal Trail for some excellent loop hikes into the redwoods. Also, it's possible to add some really nice redwoods by starting at Jedediah Smith Campground and hiking to Nickel Creek Primitive Campground, but then the first day would be a rather long 15 miles.

For more information, see the book Hiking the California Coastal Trail, Volume One, by Bob Lorentzen and Richard Nichols (2002). Also, "Fitpacking" conducts guided tours of the Coastal Trail, and you can check out their itineraries from 2006, 2007, and 2008.

  • Nickel Creek Primitive Campground to DeMartin Campground: Nickel Creek is the park's most popular primitive campground (excluding Redwood Creek). It has 5 sites and is located on an open hillside overlooking the ocean. The hike to DeMartin is 10 miles with some pretty nice redwoods along the way. DeMartin campground has 11 sites and is located in a small meadow surrounded by non-redwood forest. It gets some traffic noise from Highway 101. The Redwood Hostel, on Highway 101, unfortunately closed in 2010.
  • DeMartin Campground to Flint Ridge campground: 10 miles minimum, if you get a boat ride. Mostly coastal forest, which is pretty nice, but no redwoods to speak of. The Flint Ridge campground is pretty nice, with 11 sites in a small clearing; although it's near the ocean, there's no view.
    There's no easy way to cross the Klamath River. Some guidebooks suggest taking a boat ride across, but there's no organized service; you just have to go to boat docks on Mouth of Klamath Road and hope you find some guy with a boat who's willing to take you across. There may not even be anyone around. If you're hiking south to north you certainly won't be able to get a boat ride since there's nothing at all on the south shore. The alternative is to take a 10.3-mile detour, mostly on paved roads, from Requa, to Highway 101, to the Flint Ridge section of the Coastal Trail. The detour includes 3.3 miles of rather unpleasant walking on Highway 101.
  • Flint Ridge Campground to Gold Bluffs Beach Campground: 11.3 miles. You have to hike on Coastal Drive (a dirt road) for the first few miles, but the rest of the trail is on on a really scenic (and deserted) beach. The beach may not be passable at high tide, especially in winter. From Gold Bluffs Beach Campground you can hike some really nice loops through Prairie Creek's old-growth redwoods.
  • Gold Bluffs Beach Campground to Redwood Creek: 13.2 miles. Redwood Creek isn't part of the Coastal Trail, but this is an obvious extension of a Coastal Trail hike. See the Redwood Creek Trail page for more information.

Redwood Creek

In summer there's some great camping along the creek upstream of the first seasonal bridge. This is the only place in the park where you don't have to camp in a campground; you can set up your tent anywhere you like along the wide gravel banks of the creek. A permit is required. Optionally, camp two nights and use the extra day for a 10-mile (depending on where you camp) out-and-back hike along Redwood Creek to the Tall Trees Grove, or perhaps even further, up the Dolason Prairie Trail. Camping here is not possible in winter since there's no way to get across the creek and the banks are often flooded. See the Redwood Creek Trail page for more information.

Battery Point Lighthouse, Crescent City

Lodging

Redwood National and State Parks and the surrounding area is refreshingly undeveloped and un-touristy. Unfortunately, that also means that lodging and dining choices are limited. Within the parks, the only places to stay are campgrounds; there's no park lodge, although one may eventually be built in the Mill Creek Watershed. Outside the parks, most of the nearby towns are a little on the seedy side and have surprisingly few places to stay and eat. The two exceptions are Arcata and Ferndale, and there are also some nice places to stay a few miles to the north, in Oregon.

By far the best place to stay is the ultra-liberal college town of Arcata, 40 minutes south of Prairie Creek and 1 hour and 15 minutes south of Jedediah Smith. Personally I think the extra driving is well worth it, because you can stay in a much nicer place, enjoy dinner at a much better restaurant, and shop for provisions at a real grocery store. This compact and colorful town is an enjoyable destination in its own right, offering an attractive setting, numerous festivals, and an active music and theater scene. Nearly all the businesses in central Arcata are locally-owned, adding to the town's character.

The self-described Victorian Village of Ferndale is also nice, although it's about 25 minutes further away from Redwood National and State Parks, so I haven't stayed there. The town, set on a coastal plain among strikingly verdent dairy fields, is a lot smaller than Arcata.

Lodging inside the parks

The parks have developed drive-in campgrounds and primitive walk-in (backcountry) campgrounds. For information on backcountry campgrounds see the backpacking section, above. There are no park-owned hotels.

  • The drive-in campgrounds are run by a concessionaire, and reservations can be made with ReserveAmerica. The best drive-in campgrounds are the Elk Prairie and Gold Bluffs Beach campgrounds in Prairie Creek, both of which are in very attractive settings within walking distance of spectacular old-growth hikes. Gold Bluffs Beach doesn't take reservations; you have to go to the campground around noon (earlier if it's a busy summer weekend) and hang around until someone leaves, then grab the spot and pay the attendant. Due to the state's budget issues the fee is now $35/night.

Under $50/night

  • There are quite a few RV parks on Highway 101 in Klamath and Crescent City. For example, check out the Mystic Forest RV park in Klamath, which is conveniently located and has both RV sites and tent camping sites. $25/night.
  • For a cheaper camping alternative near Jed Smith, check out Florence Keller County Park or Ruby Deventer County Park. These parks might not be quite as nice as the state-owned campgrounds, but they're often available when the state campgrounds are booked up, and they only cost $10/night. Florence Keller doesn't take reservations.
  • If you use Priceline to bid on a 3-star hotel in Eureka, you could get a room at the Red Lion for as little as $40/night. However, you'll end up paying an extra $10-$20/day for gas to drive up to the park.

$50 - $100/night

  • Sadly, with the closure of the Redwood Hostel, there are no longer any really cheap places to stay indoors near the parks. For single travelers, the best deal is the $50/night rate at Hiouchi Motel, on busy Highway 199 just down the street from the Jed Smith campground. However, they charge more for double occupancy ($65/night).
  • Orick, Klamath, and Crescent City have a lot of motels alongside Highway 101. They all cost about $70-$100, which seems a little expensive. The Ravenwood Motel, for example, is well-regarded and conveniently located halfway between Jed Smith and Prairie Creek on Highway 101. $75/night, max 2 people/room.

Over $100/night

Arcata has some really nice vacation rental properties that are my favorite option in this price range: for the same price as a hotel you can get your own house. The rentals listed below are operated exclusively as vacation rentals and are very well-maintained, so it feels more like staying at a tiny, private hotel than someone's house. Minimum stays are usually 2 nights.

  • Streamside Stay, one of several Arcata Stay properties, is a very nice and spacious two-bedroom apartment. Its location is a bit odd, within a little office building in a half-residential, half-industrial neighborhood, but inside it's comfortable, homey, and quiet. $189/night.
  • Parkside Cottage is in an attractive residential neighborhood. The little cottage is really well furnished and maintained, and generally quiet. A great value, especially in the off season. $125/night October-March, $145/night April-September.
  • The very popular C Street Studio is in a nice suburban neighborhood a few blocks from the center of town. The bright, modern studio is attached to the back of an older house, and is very quiet even though it's right in the middle of town. Its large (and drapeless) picture windows overlook a garden that's seemingly always in bloom and offer a pleasing view of a hillside residential neighborhood. The studio has a nice local character. $175/night.
  • The H Street Cottage is a lot like the C Street Studio and was in fact built by the same guy. It's newer and in somewhat better condition than the studio, but it gets more traffic noise. Great location a block from Folie Douce, Wildflower Cafe, and Japhy's. $140/night.
  • The owner of the C Street Studio also has a nice two-bedroom house available for $200/night. Unlike the studio, it does get a little freeway noise. Nicely furnished and well maintained.
  • A new and relatively secluded studio cottage is available in the hills above Arcata. I haven't stayed there yet. $175/night.

The following are regular inns, not vacation rentals:

  • BnB~Hiouchi, a 3-room bed and breakfast just outside Jedediah Smith Redwoods, has rooms for $100 (for single travelers), $130, and $160.
  • Redwood Adventures has a row of cabins on a strip of private land that pokes into Redwood National Park. I haven't stayed here, but the cabins look nice and they're the closest lodging to Redwood National Park and Prairie Creek. However, the cabins are right next to Highway 101, so traffic noise might be a concern. Also, there aren't any decent restaurants or grocery stores nearby, so stock up on food before you go. $229/night.
  • I haven't stayed there, but Requa Inn looks decent and has a great location right in the middle of the park. The inn overlooks the Klamath River, although the view is somewhat spoiled by power lines. The inn also sits right on Requa Road, and some reviews on TripAdvisor note that a lot of fisherman drive by your room early on summer mornings. Also, if the inn's restaurant happens to be closed, there aren't any other places to eat in the area. $99 – $169/night.
  • About 20 minutes north of Jedediah Smith park, TuTu'Tun Lodge is a top-notch accommodation on the banks of the scenic Rogue River. Dinners tend toward simple, home-cooked flavors and are served at large tables where you sit with other guests who always seem to be friendly and engaging. The only problem is that the inn is so popular that it's difficult to get a reservation. See the TripAdvisor reviews for more information. $235 – $365/night in summer for rooms, more for suites.
  • The Carter House Inns in Eureka is a very nice upscale hotel. There are several buildings, of which the modern Hotel Carter is the best. I enjoyed staying here until I found the Arcata properties listed above, which I think are a better value and are in nicer neighborhoods. $179 – $595.

View from Ted's Ridge, Trees of Mystery

Restaurants (Arcata)

Arcata, Eureka, and Ferndale have a nice collection of restaurants. Arcata in particular is a haven for independent restaurants with lots of character; the big chain restaurants are all relegated to the edge of town. Most restaurants in the area close by 9 pm, although that usually means you can arrive for dinner as late as 9, and not that you have to be finished by 9.

  • Wildflower Cafe and Bakery is the local vegetarian hangout and is without doubt the most fitting place to eat after a day of hiking the redwoods. Quintessentially Arcata, this ultra-casual restaurant serves very satisfying dinners. They also serve great breakfasts (eggs are apparently considered vegetarian). 9 am-3 pm and 5:30 pm-9:30 pm Thu-Sun, Wed 9 am-3 pm.
  • Japhy's Soup and Noodles is another quintessential Arcata institution. The unconventional menu features noodle salads, soups, and bowls of Thai chicken curry. Unfortunately it's closed on weekends and is often closed for weeklong breaks throughout the year. 1563 G Street, Arcata. Mon-Fri 11:30 am-8 pm.
  • Naan of the Above is a food truck permanently parked a few blocks from the Plaza. The menu is limited, and the food tends to be more aromatic than is normal for Indian food, but it's still pretty good. The curries are huge. Wed-Mon 11:30-8, closed Tue.
  • Folie Douce is Arcata's fanciest restaurant. This being Arcata, it's still pretty casual, with an open kitchen, brown butcher paper on the tables and customers in t-shirts. The menu is short; they mainly serve pizzas and grilled meats, made with locally-grown organic ingredients. This is a great choice if you want a really nice place to eat after a long hike. Meals run about $50 without wine. 1551 G Street, Arcata. Tue-Thu 5:30-9 pm; Fri-Sun 5:30-10 pm; closed Mon.
  • Big Blue Cafe is a breakfast diner on the plaza. It's a nice place, similar to but nicer than Wildflower Cafe, and they open an hour earlier. However, I still like the food at Wildflower better. 8 am-3 pm every day.
  • Pho Hoang is a new Vietnamese restaurant. Besides pho they have spring rolls, barbeque dishes, and stir-fried noodles. The food tends to be high in salt and MSG, but they must be doing something right because it's one of the most popular restaurants in Arcata. Tue-Sun 11:30 am-8:45 pm; closed Mon.
  • Hunan Plaza's atmosphere isn't be the greatest, but the food is excellent and very satisfying. It's a great place for takeout. Tue-Thu 11 am-9:15 pm, Fri 11 am-9:45 pm, Sat noon-9:45 pm, Sun noon-9:15 pm, closed Mon.
  • Szechuan Garden used to be Hunan Garden. I haven't eaten here since the change, but it looks a little nicer than Hunan Plaza. 752 18th Street, Arcata. Mon-Fri 11 am-9 pm, Sat-Sun 12 pm-9 pm
  • The wildly popular Tomo Japanese Restaurant serves robust Japanese food including great sushi. Go early to avoid the crowds. 708 9th Street, Arcata (on the plaza; enter through the Hotel Arcata lobby). Mon-Sat 11:30 am-2 pm, 4 pm-9 pm; Sun 4 pm-9 pm.
  • Just down the street is Sushi Spot, which is also very popular. The focus here is on sushi and there's only a limited selection of other dishes. 670 9th Street, Arcata. Tue-Thu 4 pm-9 pm, Fri-Sat 4 pm-10 pm, closed Sun-Mon. Open on most holidays.
  • Renata's Creperie serves really tasty crepes and big bowls of soup in a funky coffeehouse setting (bare wooden tables with mismatched chairs, local art on the walls). Lots of local character. Perhaps reflecting the restaurant's orgin as a lunch truck, the crepe fillings tend to be simple, based on cheese, egg, and ham. They're open for breakfast (the menu is the same). At up to $30 per person, a full meal can be a bit expensive, but it's good. 1030 G Street, Arcata, just north of the plaza. Tue-Sun 8 am-3 pm, Fri-Sat 5 pm-9 pm, closed Mon.
  • Cafe Brio: on the plaza, Arcata. Mainly serves pastries and sandwiches; more expensive dinners served Wed-Fri. Sat-Sun 8-7; Mon-Tue 7-4; Wed-Thu 7-7; Fri 7-9. Breakfast dishes available from 9 am.
  • La Trattoria is a small mom-and-pop place serving updated Italian food with an emphasis on fresh, natural flavors. The web page makes it look a lot fancier than it is. The menu is limited (6 pasta dishes, 1 non-pasta dish, 3 appetizers, a salad, and a dessert) and changes daily. As post-hike food I find that it's not quite satisfying enough, but it's perfect if you want a light dinner. 30 Sunnybrae Center, Sunny Brae. Take the Samoa / Sunny Brae exit of Highway 101 toward Sunny Brae. Turn left at the second traffic circle, then pull into the strip mall on your left. La Trattoria is in the little building off to the side of the main building. Thu-Sun 5:30-9 pm; closed Mon-Wed.
  • After 10 pm there's not much open in Arcata except Humboldt Brews, which has burgers and sandwiches. 856 10th Street, Arcata. Mon-Wed 11:30 am-midnight, Thu-Sat 11:30 am-2 am, Sun 11:30 am-9 pm.
  • Kebab Cafe is a typical burger/kabob joint in a nondescript shopping center at the northern edge of town. They serve kabobs, gyros, falafel, and burgers. The food is OK but I thought the kabobs were kind of dry. 5000 Valley West Blvd #19, Arcata. Mon-Fri 11 am - 8 pm, Sat 12-7 pm, closed Sun. They stop taking orders well before closing time.
  • Mazzotti's seems to be really popular and has been voted best Italian restaurant by readers of the Times-Standard. To me, the food here seems mass-produced. South side of the plaza in Arcata; also in Old Town Eureka. Mon-Thu 11:30 am-9 pm; Fri 11:30 am-10 pm; Sat 3:30 pm-10 pm; Sun 3:30 pm-9 pm.

Memorial Lighthouse, Trinidad

Restaurants (Eureka and Ferndale)

  • Marcelli's Ravioli and Sausage Factory in Eureka doesn't have the greatest ambiance, but its classic Italian-American fare is perfect comfort food after a long hike. Mon-Sat 11 am-8 pm.
  • Restaurant 301, in the Hotel Carter, is the area's fanciest restaurant. The food really is good, although personally, after a day of hiking I usually prefer a more down-to-earth setting.
  • Pho Thien Long: A surprisingly good Vietnamese soup noodle joint. They mostly serve spring rolls, soup noodles, and barbeque dishes. The "bun" bowl is great - thin strips of barbequed pork, shrimp, and egg rolls over rice noodles that you drizzle with sweet fish sauce, chili sauce, and hoisin sauce. 615 F Street (near town hall), Eureka. Mon-Sat 10 am-8:30 pm; Sun 10 am-7 pm.

Grocery stores

  • No visit to an old-growth redwood park can properly begin without first getting provisions from a hippie grocery store, and Arcata's North Coast Co-Op is one of the best, with such redwood hiking essentials as grilled tofu sandwiches and fresh-baked vegetarian hot pockets. The bakery also makes good pastries and pies. There's a larger branch in Eureka. 6 am-9 pm, 7 days a week; bakery closes at 7 pm.
  • Wildberries has a more yuppie-ish ambiance. There are fewer backpack-friendly foods to be found here than in the Co-Op, but the Ramone's Bakery counter inside the store (open until 9 pm) has ham-and-swiss croissants and excellent pastries. The late hours are a godsend for travelers. 7 am-midnight, 7 days a week.

Other stores

  • A great store for outdoor gear is Adventure's Edge. 630 10th Street, Arcata (well-hidden a block north and east of the plaza). Mon-Sat 9 am-6 pm, Sun 11 am-5 pm.

Entertainment

  • The Humboldt Music website has the most complete list of upcoming music events.
  • KHUM's Good Time Guide is another list of upcoming concerts and plays.

Weather

Current satellite images

National Weather Service pages for Orick

Weather Channel pages for Orick

Wilson Beach

 


 

© 2005-14 David Baselt