State


California

Region

Mendocino
& Sonoma Counties


Parks in this region

*****
Montgomery Woods

****
Hendy Woods

***
Armstrong Redwoods

*
Grove of Old Trees

*
Navaro River

*
Mailliard Redwoods

*
Standley


Parks in this region

*****
Jedediah Smith RSP

****
Del Norte Coast RSP

*****
Prairie Creek RSP

***
Redwood National Park

 

Redwood National and State Parks

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


California

***** 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.

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:

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.

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.

Under $50/night

$50 - $100/night

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.

The following are regular inns, not vacation rentals:

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.

Memorial Lighthouse, Trinidad

Restaurants (Eureka and Ferndale)

Grocery stores

Other stores

Entertainment

Weather

Current satellite images

National Weather Service pages for Orick

Weather Channel pages for Orick

Wilson Beach

 


 

© 2005–14 David Baselt