If you’re looking to escape for the weekend, head for California’s best-kept secret: the Redwood Forest. It is the perfect ‘green getaway’ to recharge your batteries and feel fresh again! Redwood National Park is filled with majestic coastal redwood trees, many of them over 2,000 years old. It is the home to the world’s oldest redwood groves, as well as ferns and flora that will take your breath away. And there is even more beyond the forest, including gorgeous beaches and abundant wildlife. Everywhere you go, there is a sense of quiet and calm. It’s forest therapy at its best. But just like these giant trees, a weekend visit to Redwood Forest can be a little overwhelming. So here’s your perfect guide to make the most of it!
How to Get to the Redwood Forest
First things first: you’re going to need a car. Part of the magic in Redwood Forest National and State Park is the scenic drive into Redwood National Park. There are a few different routes to reach Redwood Forest, each with its own special features. Redwoods National Park is actually a string of state parks and other forests which essentially makes the Redwood Forest into its own road trip adventure.
Redwood Forest is found on the northern coast of California, about 325-miles north of San Francisco. It’s about a 6-hour drive along US Highway 101, with at least five information centres along the way. If you’re driving from the northeast, you enter from US Hwy 199. The main part of the Redwood drive is between Crescent City and Oric, so you can also fly to the region and hire a car for further exploring. The closest airports are Crescent City, Medford, and McKinleyville.
Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway is the scenic alternative to Highway 101. It’s a 10-mile drive through an avenue of old-growth redwood in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. Take a break and stop at the many trailheads through the forest, like 1500-year old Big Tree and the picturesque Christmas Tree in the Women’s Federation Grove. The Christmas Tree is one of only a handful of rare ‘Albino Wood’. Ask the Humboldt Redwoods State Park visitor centre for directions. While the Christmas Tree can be found near the grove entrance, there is no marked trail.
Make sure you plan ahead for your trip. On the first Saturday of each month from October to May, the Newton B Drury Parkway is closed to vehicles for Hike and Bike Day. The parkway closes 5.00 PM Friday before the event and reopens on Sunday morning. It’s a great opportunity to run, roll, skate, or any way you like to move through the old-growth redwoods! You can find more information here.
Perfect Accommodation in Redwood Forest
Gold Bluffs Beach and Campground | Davison Rd, Gold Bluffs Beach, Orick |
Located six miles off Hwy 101 on Davison Rd, there is a beautiful 10-mile stretch of golden beach and hardly another soul to be seen. Well, except for the few elk often seen roaming across the sand! The campground lies in the dunes and is part of Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. The sites provide for 24 RV and tents but no trailers or RV hookups are allowed on the unpaved Davison Rd. Dogs are allowed on a leash at the campground and adjoining beach but not on any park trails. There are solar showers and restrooms, bear-proof lockers, and fire pits to bring the band together. It’s a great spot for those looking to escape the city and get back to nature.
Motel Trees | 15497 US Hwy 101 N, Klamath |
If you’re looking to stay somewhere with a bit more structure, the Motel Trees is as close to the forest as you can possibly get. This is definitely an old-school 1950s roadside inn, across the road from Trees of Mystery, a small tourist attraction featuring canopy walks and cable cars through the trees. The Forest Cafe is located next door, providing lunch and snacks. Motel Trees is close to almost everything in Redwood Forest, including an easy half-mile trail to “Hidden Beach” near the northern end of the parking lot.
Things to Do in Redwood Forest
Fern Canyon Trail | Davison Rd to Gold Bluffs Beach |
Pack an extra set of dry clothes because you are going to get WET! To be honest, that’s one of the many charms about Fern Canyon Trail. When you gave up at the 50-foot-high canyon walls covered with lush ferns, you will understand why this location was perfect for filming Jurassic Park 2: The Lost World. Drive and park at Gold Bluffs Beach (or stay at the campground), and then take the easy 20-minute trail that loops through the steep Canyon. It can be quite wet and slippery after rain, so make sure you pack a sturdy pair of waterproof hiking boots. Choose between a quick return trip or continue on to a trail/stairway to climb out of the canyon. When you reach the top, follow the path left along the canyon rim and capture the stunning views into the canyon and forest. You can also reach Fern Canyon via a moderate five-mile hike on the James Irvine Trail, starting at the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park visitor centre (also a great place to check weather reports).
Trillium Falls Loop Trail | Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, Davison Rd |
The walk to the picturesque Trillium Falls is an adventure in itself. It starts off Hwy 101 next to where the old Arcata Redwood Company Sawmill used to be. The area has since been cleared and is now a grass-covered field named Elk Meadow, thanks to the elk who are regularly seen here. The trail is about five minutes from the southern end of Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway and is about three miles in length. It starts as an easy-going dirt path rising up over a hill and taking you into Redwood Forest. It’s a moderate difficulty level as you climb on switchbacks and follow the natural flow of the land. Take a moment to stop at the steel bridge and admire the beautiful rock-filled Trillium Falls. There is also plenty of different flora along the path, including the Western trillium and the giant trillium, both giving their names to this trailhead and the waterfalls. The area is perfect for nature lovers and photographers.
Redwood Creek Overlook | Bald Hills Road, East of Orick |
Nowhere else offers such a glorious vista across thousands of acres of old-growth forest. The view stretches from the forest to the Pacific Ocean. Even the fog rolling in adds a magical feel to the air. Check weather guides and the time of your visit for a magnificent sunset and star-studded night.
Places to Eat near Redwood Forest
Before you start your adventures in the Redwood Forest, make sure you are well-prepared with lunch and snacks. Orick is the closest town to many of the best hikes, however, the restaurants in Orick are often closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. It’s best to pick up some snacks or sandwiches from Eureka or plan to eat a late lunch in Trinidad on the way back.
You can order ahead online with Eureka Natural Foods and its sandwich menu. They have a selection of hot and cold classics or you can build your own sandwiches from a wide selection of bread, proteins, and organic ingredients. You can collect your packed lunch from either the Eureka store on Broadway Ave or the McKinleyville store on Central Avenue. The menu and order details are available on their website,
When you need to replenish on the way out, grab a table at Larrupin Cafe on Patricks Point Dr, Trinidad. You might be distracted by the artistic interior design but once the food arrives, you will be absolutely enchanted! They offer a myriad of menu choices, including seafood, steaks, vegetarian. The highlight is the Appetizer Board, with servings of delicious local food to complete your day. –
For a change of scenery from the Redwood Forests, head to Seascape Restaurant at the Pier in Trinidad. The amazing seafood menu is perfectly matched with the seaside view from the table. It’s been a popular choice with locals, travellers and fishermen since the 1950s. Known for some of the best clam chowders on California’s North Coast, they also offer fabulous homemade desserts made daily. –
If you’re looking for a quick meal, The Lighthouse Grill is a casual counter-service restaurant offering takeaway or a few tables and chairs to rest your weary feet. The burgers and fries are sensational! Or try a serve of Savory Mashed Potato Cones with your choice of gravy, bacon, and cheese. All of the food is locally sourced and made, keeping to the great community vibe here.
Redwood Forest is one of those essential ‘bucket list’ destinations. It will bring the natural world into perspective for you. The gentle giants of the forest will welcome you into their home and make you feel so relaxed and free. Make the most of it, check for travel updates, and enjoy the experience!