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 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.
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 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.
Backpacking in Redwood National and State Parks
The Coastal Trail is the only multi-day backpacking route in Redwood National and State Parks. Between Del Norte Coast Redwoods and Prairie Creek the trail has a series of "primitive" or "environmental" campgrounds (i.e., no facilities, just some picnic tables and a pit toilet) spaced at 10-mile intervals. The trail mostly runs through quiet, remote areas, with occasional road crossings and developed areas. It doesn't actually have a whole lot of redwoods, although there are a lot of nearby side trips with excellent redwoods.
The hikers' campgrounds in Prairie Creek are currently closed, so the only place to camp in Prairie Creek is a busy car campground on the beach.
"Fitpacking" conducts guided tours of the Coastal Trail, and you can check out their itineraries from 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013. They usually add a day in the Redwood Creek area near Orick, which is one of the more remote and backpacking-friendly parts of the park.
Here's a brief description of the Coastal Trail, from north to south, with links to my individual hike pages:
Last Chance Section. This section has the best redwoods of the Coastal Trail. The very popular Nickel Creek Primitive Campground is near the northern end of this section and has 5 sites on an open hillside overlooking the ocean. From Nickel Creek to the next campground, DeMartin, is 10 miles.
DeMartin Section. The DeMartin section starts in old-growth redwoods and descends to coastal spruce forest. The DeMartin Campground, in the middle of this section, has 11 sites 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.
Hidden Beach Section. This section doesn't have any redwoods, but it's a nice, isolated trail along high bluffs.
Klamath River gap: There's an unfortunate gap in the Coastal Trail at the Klamath River: you either have to take an unpleasant 4-mile detour on the shoulder of Highway 101, or arrange for a private boat owner to take you across the river. It's 10 miles from DeMartin to Flint Ridge campground if you get a boat ride; 20 miles if you walk on Highway 101. There's no organized boat service; you just have to go to docks on Mouth of Klamath Road (preferably first thing in the morning) and hope you find someone with a boat who's willing to take you across. There may not even be anyone around. If you're hiking south to north, there's nothing at all on the south shore. An alternative would be to break up the 20 mile hike by staying at a privately-owned campground or hotel in Klamath; the Klamath Camper Corral, Klamath River RV Park, and Kamp Klamath offer tent sites. As a last resort, you could bypass the entire area by calling a taxi from Requa.
Flint Ridge Section. The Flint Ridge Trail has some nice redwoods. The Flint Ridge campground isn't in the redwoods, but it's pretty nice, with 11 sites in a small clearing; although it's near the ocean, there's no view.
Coastal Drive. The 11.3 mile hike from Flint Ridge to Gold Bluffs Beach campground starts with a quiet section of Coastal Drive, a dirt road that's now closed to cars and is reverting to a trail. It's pleasant but not the most exciting section. No redwoods.
Carruthers Cove. The trail descends the coastal bluffs to a really scenic and deserted beach. You can walk along the beach to the now-closed Ossagon Creek Campground. No redwoods.
Gold Bluffs Beach Section. This is an enjoyable and fairly popular section. The only place to camp between Flint Ridge and Redwood Creek is the Gold Bluffs Beach campground, a busy car campground with a site reserved for backpackers. The Coastal Trail doesn't pass through any of Prairie Creek's spectacular redwood forest, so a side trip on the James Irvine and Miners' Ridge loop is highly recommended.
Skunk Cabbage Section. After some more walking on the beach, the trail turns inland again, passing through a dense spruce forest. This section doesn't have any redwoods.
Redwood Creek. This isn't part of the Coastal Trail, but makes a nice add-on. It's 13.2 miles from Gold Bluffs Beach to Redwood Creek. In summer you can camp 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 rocky banks of the creek. The banks are mostly 3–6 inch river rock with some small sandy patches that make good spots for tents. There isn't any shade so it can be a little unpleasant on hot summer days; fortunately, those aren't very common. 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. The Redwood Creek Trail to the Tall Trees Grove is mostly second-growth redwood.
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 a two-map set, which allows for much more detail than other maps of the parks. Each map is printed on both sides on waterproof plastic. 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, 2016. $18.95 + 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; 2014. $11.95.
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.
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.
Drive-in campgrounds can be reserved through the parks' ReserveCalifornia website. 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 only takes reservations in the summer; at other times you have to go to the campground around noon 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.
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.
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 quiet and well furnished and maintained. A great value, especially in the off season. Fri–Sat $165/night, Sun–Thu $145/night.
The H Street Cottage is very nicely built and funished, and it has a great location a block from Folie Douce, Wildflower Cafe, and Japhy's. It's does get some traffic noise, though. $140/night.
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:
Opened in 2014, the Holiday Inn Express is the hotel part of the Redwood Hotel and Casino in the roadside town of Klamath, just off Highway 101. It's right in the middle of Redwood National and State Parks (although it's not part of the park) and is the only full-service hotel in the area. There's also a mini-casino and a pretty nice restaurant. $135 – $145/night. TripAdvisor · Yelp
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 – $289/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. $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/night.
View from Ted's Ridge, Trees of Mystery
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.
Folie Douce is Arcata's fanciest restaurant. This being Arcata, it's still pretty casual, with an open kitchen 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. It's not cheap, though; three courses can cost $50 – $60 without wine. 1551 G Street, Arcata. Tue-Thu 5:30-9 pm; Fri-Sun 5:30-10 pm; closed Mon.
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 generally light fare such as 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.
Cafe Brio: on the plaza, Arcata. The North Coast's nicest bakery. Mainly serves pastries and sandwiches during the day; dinners served Wed-Sat. Sun 8-4; Mon-Tue 7-5; Wed-Fri 7-9; Sat 8-9. Breakfast dishes available from 9 am.
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.
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 Arcata's Vietnamese restaurant, with noodle soup, 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.
Szechuan Garden has decent and satisfying Chinese food. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Humboldt Music website has the most complete list of upcoming music events.