Redwood Hikes

A guide to old-growth coast redwood trails

Questions? Comments? Please contact Dave Baselt at db@redwoodhikes.com
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** Siskiyou National Forest ***** Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park *** Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park ***** Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park *** Redwood National Park * Headwaters Forest Reserve *** Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park and Van Duzen County Park **** Humboldt Redwoods State Park ** John B. Dewitt Redwoods State Natural Reserve * Benbow Lake State Recreation Area *** Richardson Grove State Park *** Sinkyone Wilderness State Park * Smithe Redwoods State Reserve * Standish-Hickey State Recreation Area ***** Montgomery Woods State Natural Reserve **** Hendy Woods State Park * Mailliard Redwoods State Reserve ** Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve * Grove of the Old Trees ** Samuel P. Taylor State Park * Roy's Redwoods Open Space Preserve ** Muir Woods National Monument ** Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve ** Portola Redwoods State Park and Pescadero Creek County Park * Butano State Park *** Big Basin Redwoods State Park * Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park ** Garrapata State Park * Andrew Molera State Park *** Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park *** Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park ** Limekiln State Park *** Los Padres National Forest Redwood National and State Parks Southern Humboldt County Mendocino and Sonoma Counties San Francisco Bay Area Big Sur Giant Sequoia groves of the Sierra Nevada

This site is a guide to hiking California's old-growth coastal redwoods. It contains descriptions, photos, and maps of almost every trail that has a significant amount of old-growth redwoods and is open to the public. Some notable nearby trails without old growth are also covered.

There's also a page on the giant sequoia groves of the Sierra Nevada.

Top picks

In general, the further north you go, the better the redwoods. To really experience the redwoods I'd suggest visiting at least three parks:

Currently, the tallest tree in the world is the Hyperion Tree in Redwood National Park. The tree is not accessible by trail and its location is kept secret to prevent visitors from trampling the soil around the tree. The tree is on a hillside, not in the Tall Trees Grove.

Hiking the redwoods

California's redwood forests are famous for being home to the tallest living things on the planet, but there's much more to these extraordinary woodlands than the size of the trees. At their best, redwood forests are suffused with a sense of openness and serenity. Sun-dappled, elegantly fluted tree trunks shoot straight as an arrow into the sky, while below are burbling streams, spectacular fallen trunks, and a lush accumulation of ferns, sorrel, moss, and lichen. Many redwood trails are also a pleasure to walk because they're so well constructed: 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, and (except for Muir Woods) the parks are almost never crowded.

The Foothill Trail in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

Foothill Trail, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

California has six major redwood parks, each with its own character. Prairie Creek, for example, is an aggressively lush and green coastal forest, while Jedidiah Smith is filled with light and is the most photogenic. Del Norte has a unique location on a prominent coastal bluff, while Redwoods National Park occupies a large and heavily-logged inland valley. Humboldt Redwoods is best known for its dark, dense, and flat lowlands, and Big Basin has the mixed-species woodlands typical of southern redwood forests. Of these six parks, Jedediah Smith and Prairie Creek clearly have the best-preserved ecosystems and most scenic hikes.

At least 15 other parks have small old-growth groves and should not be overlooked. Many of these parks are just as enjoyable as the big parks and, in addition to outstanding redwoods, offer a wide variety of other scenery, from the dramatic coastal bluffs of Big Sur to the rolling farmlands of the Anderson Valley.

Total area of and amount of old growth in some of California's redwood parks

Within each park, the largest trees are normally found in the flat bottoms of creek valleys, where the soil moisture is the highest. These alluvial flats host the spectacular, cathedral-like groves that redwoods are famous for. Most redwood parks are centered around an alluvial flat that originally inspired the creation of the park. These alluvial flats, which usually aren't very big to begin with, are often the site of highways and parking lots, making it difficult to appreciate their unique and serene character. The most striking example of this type of forest is the Bull Creek area in Humboldt Redwoods State Park.

The Pfeiffer Falls Trail, Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

Pfeiffer Falls Trail, Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

Uplands tend to have fewer big redwoods and more trees of other species. The difference is more pronounced in drier and hotter parks like Big Basin and Humboldt Redwoods. On the other hand, in Prairie Creek, Del Norte, and Jedidiah Smith parks, large redwoods can cover the hills right up to the ridgelines. Uplands can make great hiking because the hills make the trail more interesting. A great example of redwood uplands is the Miners' Ridge Trail in Prairie Creek State Park.

Redwood forests generally get more scenic as you go north. The northernmost parks tend to have the biggest trees and the lushest, healthiest appearance. The southern parks tend to be drier, have less greenery and more dead tanoak leaves on the ground, and often have a a dense layer of shrubs that obstructs views of the redwoods. On the other hand, the southern parks have better weather and there's more to do after the hike.

The tallest redwoods are found in Redwood National Park, Humboldt Redwoods, and Montgomery Woods, but their exact locations are not public knowledge. For the most up-to-date list of the world's tallest redwoods, see Michael Taylor's Landmark Trees website.

When to visit

Park visitor count is from the National Park Service
Climate data is from the Western Regional Climate Center

All the redwood parks can be visited year-round.

Most people visit in summer, which is understandable - it hardly ever rains, all the trails are open, and with the long days you can spend more time outdoors. And although the campgrounds fill up most summer weekends, none of the parks (except Muir Woods) ever get crowded, even on major holidays. However, keep in mind that the same fog that rolls in through the Golden Gate 300 miles to the south also keeps the North Coast parks cloudy and under 70 degrees for most of the summer.

Fall is also a good time to visit. The weather doesn't turn really rainy until mid-November and there are fewer visitors and fewer cloudy days than in summer. Although it's not quite New England, Humboldt County gets a little fall color as the maples turn yellow, usually from mid-October to mid-November.

For sheer scenic beauty, winter is the best time to visit the redwoods. If you're willing to take a chance on the weather, the payoff can be a truly special experience; all of my best visits to the redwoods have been in the winter. The rain washes the dust off the foliage, the woods are filled with the sound of rushing creeks, and when it's sunny, the light has a sweet, gentle quality because the sun is always low in the sky. When it's not sunny, the frequent mist, fog, and drizzle really enhance the scenery. And although the parks aren't really that busy in summer, there's a certain serenity that you can only get in winter when you have the park practically to yourself. However, even if it's not raining during your visit, trails and roads can sometimes be closed due to wind or water damage.

Spring is best known for rhododendron blooms. The rhododendrons don't all bloom at the same time; maybe I haven't been timing my visits right, but I've yet to see any trail with more than a few isolated trees in bloom. Trees in warmer locations, such as by the side of the road, seem to bloom a few weeks before the trees under the old-growth canopy. The blooms start in mid-May and can sometimes be seen in cooler locations like the Lady Bird Johnson Trail as late as early July.

List of coast redwood trails · List of giant sequoia trails

Click on the links below to view the regional, park, and hike pages. Parks are listed from north to south. Each park and trail has been rated from one to five stars based on how enjoyable it is overall, with an emphasis on redwoods.

Key to table colors

Park names
 Old growth redwood hikes 
Other hikes

 

Overall Rating Distance, miles Climbing, feet Trail name
Oregon
* * Siskiyou National Forest
* * 1.1 290 Redwood Nature Trail
* 1.7 280 Oregon Redwoods Trail
Redwood National and State Parks
* * * * * Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park
* * * * * 5.3 750 Boy Scout Tree Trail
* * * * * 0.6 40 Stout Grove
* * * 7.4 250 Mill Creek Trail
* * * 4.3 360 Hatton Trail
* * * 0.9 20 Simpson-Reed Trail
* * * 2.1 330 Leiffer and Ellsworth Loops
* * 9.8 1600 Little Bald Hills Trail
* * 4.4 420 Hiouchi Trail
* 1.5 470 Wellman Loop Trail
* * * Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park
* * * 4.0 1170 Damnation Creek Trail
* * 12.6 2370 Coastal Trail, DeMartin Section
* * 13.0 2810 Coastal Trail, Last Chance Section
* 15.8 2000 Crossover Road (Mill Creek Watershed)
* 7.0 1260 Hobbs Wall and Saddler Skyline
* 3.1 70 Picnic Road (Mill Creek Watershed)
* * * * * Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park
* * * * * 11.6 1350 Miners' Ridge and James Irvine
* * * * 5.8 760 West Ridge and Prairie Creek
* * * * 3.5 540 Brown Creek loop
* * * 3.2 190 Big Tree loop
* * * 3.5 710 Ten Taypo Trail
* * * 8.7 1050 Rhododendron and Foothill
* * * 7.7 1433 West Ridge and Rhododendron North
* * * 8.0 960 Friendship Ridge Trail
* * 5.1 730 Rhododendron and Cal Barrel
* * 0.6 40 Ah Pah Trail
* * 1.0 110 Nature Trail
* * 2.2 580 Carruthers Cove
* 3.6 730 Ossagon Trail
* 2.8 210 Elk Prairie Trail
* * * Redwood National Park
* * * 9.5 1520 Coastal Trail, Flint Ridge Section
* * * 7.2 1270 Berry Glen Trail
* * * 5.5 700 Emerald Ridge and Tall Trees
* * * 3.9 690 Tall Trees Grove
* * * 2.8 440 Trillium Falls Trail
* * * 1.4 100 Lady Bird Johnson Grove Nature Trail
* * * 10.4 2490 Dolason Prairie Trail
* * 15.4 500 Redwood Creek Trail
* * 14.1 2600 McArthur Creek Loop
* * 7.8 1390 Coastal Trail, Hidden Beach Section
* * 7.6 1050 Coastal Trail, Skunk Cabbage Section
* 22.0 3100 Lost Man Creek Trail
* 10.4 1970 Mill Creek Horse Trail
* 6.0 590 Coastal Drive
* 4.5 750 Lyons Ranch Trail
* 1.2 100 Yurok Loop
Southern Humboldt County
* Headwaters Forest Reserve
* 10.7 1460 Elk River Trail
* * * Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park and Van Duzen County Park
* * * * 0.7 10 Cheatham Grove
* * * * Humboldt Redwoods State Park
* * * * 2.4 110 Homestead and Big Tree Loop
* * * * 0.6 10 Big Tree Area
* * * * 0.7 20 Rockefeller Loop
* * * * 0.3 10 Grieg-French-Bell Grove
* * * 10.0 300 Bull Creek Flats
* * * 4.1 560 Canoe Creek
* * * 3.0 280 High Rock Trail
* * * 2.4 30 Drury-Chaney Loop
* * * 1.3 20 Founders' Grove
* * * 0.7 30 Stephens Grove Loop Trail
* * 2.3 790 Allens Trail
* * 3.4 450 River Trail
* * 1.8 70 Children's Forest Trail
* * 0.7 10 Gould Grove Nature Loop Trail
* * 0.4 20 F.K. Lane Trail
* * 0.4 40 Kent-Mather Loop Trail
* * 10.5 2870 Peavine Ridge spur
* 3.0 750 Dry Creek Horse Trail
* 16.2 3200 Grasshopper Summit and Johnson Camp
* 16.9 3650 Squaw Creek Ridge and Grasshopper Summit
* 15.5 3170 Grasshopper Peak Trail
* 13.4 2610 Look Prairie and Peavine Ridge
* 2.5 580 Addie Johnson Trail
* * John B. Dewitt Redwoods State Natural Reserve
* * 0.3 50 Whittemore Grove
* 0.6 20 Holbrook Grove
* Benbow Lake State Recreation Area
* 5.5 640 Thrap Mill and Pioneer Trails
* * * Richardson Grove State Park
* * 2.4 340 Lookout Point Trail
* * * Sinkyone Wilderness State Park
* * * 10.6 2330 Bear Harbor to Wheeler
* Smithe Redwoods State Natural Reserve
      Park has no trails
* Standish-Hickey State Recreation Area
* 1.7 130 Taber Nature Trail
Mendocino and Sonoma Counties
* * * * * Montgomery Woods State Natural Reserve
* * * * * 2.0 220 Montgomery Grove Trail
* * * * Hendy Woods State Park
* * * * 1.4 20 Big Hendy
* 2.7 270 Hermit Huts and Little Hendy
* * Mailliard Redwoods State Natural Reserve
      Park has no trails
* * * Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve
* * 1.3 50 Colonel Armstrong Tree loop
* Grove of Old Trees
* 0.6 50 Grove of Old Trees
San Francisco Bay Area
* * Samuel P. Taylor State Park
* 2.7 190 Pioneer Tree Trail
* * 10.6 1200 Bolinas Ridge
* * 5.8 1340 Barnabe Peak
* Roy's Redwoods Open Space Preserve
* 3.0 400 Roy's Redwoods Loop Trail
* * Muir Woods National Monument and Mount Tamalpais State Park
* * * 8.5 2080 Willow Camp and Steep Ravine
* * * 4.7 930 Sun Trail
* * * 3.9 890 Dipsea and Steep Ravine
* * 5.2 1100 Ben Johnson Trail
* * 2.0 120 Main Trail
* * * 0.6 30 Dad O'Roarke's Bench
* * Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve
* * * 9.1 1600 Purisima Creek and Whittemore Gulch
* * Portola Redwoods State Park and Pescadero Creek County Park
* * 0.5 80 Heritage Grove
* * 11.5 1820 Peters Creek loop
* * 5.8 1100 Coyote Ridge and Tarwater Loop
* * 4.6 880 Mount Ellen Loop
* 13.1 2434 Butano Ridge Loop Trail
* 10.6 1270 Tarwater - Pomponio - Brook - Canyon
* 6.0 990 Heritage Grove Trail
* Butano State Park
* * 11.7 1700 Canyon Rim Route
* * * Big Basin Redwoods State Park
* * * 10.0 2150 Berry Creek loop
* * * 0.6 10 Redwood loop
* * * 2.9 560 Sunset-Skyline Short Loop
* * 25.0 1710 Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail
* * 5.4 680 Slippery Rock
* * 8.0 1060 Hollow Tree and Meteor trails
* 3.0 360 Blooms Creek loop
* 3.0 500 Creeping Forest loop
* 4.7 320 Sempervirens Falls
* * * 9.4 2450 West Ridge Trail
* * 12.0 1860 Basin Trail
* * 4.8 1200 Buzzard's Roost
* Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
* * 0.8 20 Redwood Grove Loop Trail
* * * 6.6 1360 Four Crossings
* 7.0 1480 Truck Trail and Fall Creek
* 8.2 1760 Big Ben and Fall Creek
Big Sur
* * Garrapata State Park
* * * 4.7 1750 Rocky Ridge and Soberanes Canyon
* Molera State Park
* * 7.5 1300 Ridge, Panorama, and Bluffs loop
* * 3.2 1390 East Molera Trail
* 4.1 140 River Trail
* * * Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park
* * 2.2 560 Pfeiffer Falls and Valley View Trails
* * 9.4 3050 Mount Manuel Trail
* * * Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
* * * * 5.1 1450 Ewoldsen Trail
* * * 6.3 1980 Tan Bark Trail
* * Limekiln State Park
* * 2.1 480 Limekiln, Limekiln Falls, and Hare Creek Trails
* * * Los Padres National Forest
* * * * 10.8 2360 Vicente Flat Trail

Redwood sorrel in Rockefeller Grove, Humboldt Redwoods State Park

Disclaimer

Trails are rated for scenery, not safety. The fact that a trail is discussed or shown on a map on this site does not imply that it is safe for all visitors, even under ideal conditions. Furthermore, trails may not be well-maintained and may have become impassable since the last time I walked them. Notices may not posted at the trailhead when this happens, so always ask about trail conditions at park headquarters before your trip.

About the maps

Trails and some roads were mapped with a handheld global positioning system (GPS) receiver. The GPS tracks are overlaid on 7.5 minute (1:25,000 scale) USGS digital line graphs with hillshading derived from 1/3 arc second USGS digital elevation models. Roads outside of park boundaries are mostly derived from the digital line graphs and are therefore more likely to be outdated or contain inaccuracies.

Map legend

 


 

© 2006-12 David Baselt