Redwood National Park
Home of the world's tallest tree
This page only covers the federally-owned lands of Redwood National Park; for the neighboring Jedediah Smith, Del Norte, and Prairie Creek state parks, please see the Redwood National and State Parks page. Confusingly, the name "Redwood National Park" is sometimes used to refer to all four parks together.
The main body of Redwood National Park is a huge swath of the Redwood Creek basin, in the middle of which is the iconic Tall Trees Grove. When the park was created in the 1960s, one of this grove's trees was, at 368 feet tall, the world's tallest known tree, a fact that helped motivate the creation of the park. Although taller trees were later found in other parks, in 2006 the Redwood Creek basin once again became the site of the record holder when the 379-foot-tall "Hyperion" tree was discovered. Unfortunately, Hyperion's location is kept secret since even slight root damage from visitors would likely result in its top dying off.
Redwood National Park is dramatically different from the three neighboring state parks. The state parks have most of the really spectacular old growth because they were opened in the 1920s, when the area's forests were by and large pristine and unlogged. The pace of logging accelerated dramatically during the housing boom of the 1940s, and by the time Redwood National Park was opened in the 1960s most of the North Coast's prime old growth had either been logged or added to the state parks. In addition, changing attitudes toward park preservation made it much harder to build wilderness old growth trails. As a result the national park's trails tend to be located in small remnant patches of old growth, in second growth, or in areas that don't have any redwoods.
The national park does, however, have much more of a wilderness feel than the state parks. While the state park trails often run within earshot of busy roads, many of Redwood National Park's trails have no traffic noise whatsoever and few other hikers. Providing a wilderness experience was one of the goals of establishing the park, and in that regard the park has been very successful.
The Orick Horse Trails
West of Redwood Creek and south of the town of Orick is an extensive network of equestrian trails. The northern half of this trail network, between the Orick trailhead and Elam Camp, has been minimally affected by logging and contains endless miles of singletrack trail through attractive alder groves, with a few small patches of old-growth redwoods that are surprisingly nice. The network's southern half, between Elam Camp and the Tall Trees Grove, still has some enjoyable singletrack but is mostly made up of monotonous logging roads through dismal second-growth redwoods. Throughout the area, the horse trails are mostly in good condition and easy to hike, but a few are faint. In places it's easy to get lost since there are intersections with other logging roads that aren't shown on most trail maps, and the trails are usually signed only with a horse icon and an arrow, not the name of the trail. A GPS receiver is really useful here.
I wouldn't recommend the Orick Horse Trails for first-time visitors to Redwood National Park, especially for those who come mainly to see the big trees. However, if you want to see another side of the park, check out the Ridge or McArthur Loop trails, or the old-growth redwood grove above Elam Camp.
Old-growth redwood hikes
*** Emerald Ridge and Tall Trees (length 5.5 miles; climbing 700 feet)
*** The Lady Bird Johnson Grove Nature Trail (length 1.4 miles; climbing 100 feet)
*** The Berry Glen Trail (length 7.2 miles; climbing 1270 feet)
*** The Coastal Trail, Flint Ridge Section (length 9.5 miles; climbing 1520 feet)
*** The Trillium Falls Trail (length 2.8 miles; climbing 440 feet)
*** The Tall Trees Grove (length 3.9 miles; climbing 690 feet)
*** The Dolason Prairie Trail (length 10.4 miles; climbing 2490 feet)
** The Redwood Creek Trail (length 15.4 miles; climbing 500 feet)
** The McArthur Creek Loop (length 14.1 miles; climbing 1400 feet)
** The Coastal Trail, Hidden Beach Section (length 7.8 miles; climbing 1390 feet)
** The Coastal Trail, Skunk Cabbage Section (length 7.6 miles; climbing 1050 feet)
* The Lost Man Creek Trail (length 22.0 miles; climbing 3100 feet)
* The Mill Creek Horse Trail (length 10.4 miles; climbing 1970 feet)
* Coastal Drive (length 6.0 miles; climbing 590 feet)
* The Lyons Ranch Trail (length 4.5 miles; climbing 750 feet)
* The Yurok Loop (length 1.2 miles; climbing 100 feet)
Getting to Redwood National Park
Except for the equestrian trails, all trailheads in the Redwood Creek basin are off Bald Hills Road. From Arcata, drive north on Highway 101 about 40 miles. Just north of the run-down little town of Orick is the well-marked Bald Hills Road / Lady Bird Johnson Grove turnoff.
Kuchel Visitor Center, on the beach just south of Orick, serves as the main visitor center for Redwood National and State Parks. It's open from 9 am - 5 pm except in winter (November - February), when it's open from 9 am - 4 pm.
There's no charge to visit Redwood National Park, but the Tall Trees grove requires a permit from Kuchel Visitor Center.
Lodging and Restaurants
For recommended lodging and restaurants, see the Redwood National and State Parks page.
© 2007-11 David Baselt