This guide to California’s old-growth redwood and giant sequoia parks has photos and reviews of almost every public trail with a significant amount of old growth. Park campgrounds and nearby non-redwood trails are also covered.
Besides having the world’s tallest trees, California’s extraordinary coast redwood forests are an immensely enjoyable place to go for a walk. In the deep shade of these serene woodlands, sun-dappled, elegantly fluted tree trunks rise straight as an arrow into the sky over burbling streams, spectacular fallen trunks, and a lush layer of ferns and sorrel. Redwood trails are usually wide, smooth, and easy to walk, with a springy mud-resistant carpeting of needles, and bridges to span even minor obstacles. The forest is cool in the summer but rarely below freezing in the winter.
An overview of California’s ten best old-growth redwood trails.
A list of all old-growth redwood hikes and selected second-growth hikes.
A list of drive-in campgrounds in old-growth redwood parks.
Reviews of the trail campgrounds.
Redwoods grow in a 450-mile-long, 30-mile-wide strip of Northern California's coast, from the Oregon border to the Big Sur region south of San Francisco.
The remote northern groves are the lushest, most attractive, and have the biggest trees.
Southern groves are drier-looking, and a dense layer of shrubs often blocks views of the redwoods. But the weather is better and the area is more developed, so the groves take less time to get to and there’s more to do besides seeing redwoods.
See the following pages for more information about each region.
The biggest, tallest, and most scenic redwoods. If you can spend at least 3–4 days on a trip to the redwoods, this is the place to go.
The long, verdent Eel River Valley supports stands of massive redwoods with a dark, open, and expansive cathedral-like look.
This area only has a few tiny redwood groves, but they’re really nice.
A wide variety of scenery with parks that can be visited on a day trip. There are also a lot of shady second-growth redwood parks.
Small redwoods grow in the deep, narrow canyons of Big Sur’s coastal mountains. The hikes in this region tend to be very difficult.
The world’s largest trees by volume are related to redwoods and grow in isolated groves on the western edge of the Sierra Nevada mountains.
Coverage of non-redwood parks throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
Many of the redwood parks south of San Francisco are completely or partially closed due to damage from fires in 2020 and 2021. All redwood parks north of San Francisco are open as normal.
Most remaining old growth redwoods are in six large parks, but a lot of other parks have small old-growth groves that are very scenic. The best parks usually have the words “Redwoods State Park” in their names.
The flat bottoms of creek valleys have the biggest trees, since there’s plenty of water year-round and fires are less intense. Such alluvial flats host the spectacular, cathedral-like groves that redwoods are famous for. Somewhat unfortunately, they also tend to be where roads are built. Uplands have fewer big redwoods and more non-redwood trees, but are often quieter and more remote.
© 2010, 2022 David Baselt