I’m going to reign it in and try not to sound too “gushy,” but y’all. Redwood National Park is DREAMY. And if you think it’s just more big trees, and not worth the epic effort it takes to drive all. the. way. up to far Northern California (almost Oregon) I have to tell you that it’s 100% worth it!
One of the really different things about this national park is that it sits along the interstate highway, and therefore really easy to pop in and out of for a hike. But also different, and not in a good way, is that there are exactly zero places to eat in the park. This means you have to plan ahead and bring food with you, or plan to take about a 30-45 minute drive for lunch.
While visiting Redwood National Park, we stayed in an AirBnB near McKinleyville. It was a comfortable place to call home, and convenient for getting on and off the highway.
Just north of McKinleyville is Trinidad, a charming little village by the sea. We found wonderful places to eat there, and enjoyed prowling around and peeking in shops. (Seascape Restaurant had delicious fish and chips, and Beachcomber Cafe was a great place to buy sandwiches for lunch in the park.)
The first hike we did in Redwood National Forest was an easy 1.5 mile walk to Lady Bird Johnson Grove. The road up to the trailhead is quite bumpy and narrow, but there was plenty of parking and the trail wasn’t overly crowded. I easily did the hike in my Chaco’s; the trail is wide and smooth, with the odd root here and there. There are inclines, which make the trail inaccessible to wheelchairs, but I didn’t find them too strenuous.
Our hike through Lady Bird Johnson Grove took us under an hour, but it was the perfect introduction to Redwood National Park.
Early the next morning, we drove up into the park, in hopes of seeing wildlife along the way. We were not disappointed.
We arrived at the Prairie Creek Visitor’s Center early and found a shaded spot to park. (Since we visited in summer, we preferred returning to a car that was moderately warm instead of blazing hot after a day of hiking.) We popped into the visitors center and had a long talk with a ranger about our plan for the day. I really recommend ALL hikers stick around for that conversation, since trails can be tricky to navigate. (See one of my other posts: Hike Like a Lady for additional tips.)
Our hike took us from Prairie Creek Visitor’s Center through some of the most beautiful forest we had ever seen. It looked almost prehistoric and untouched, even though we were walking on a man-made trail.
Shafts of light streak through the canopy, and the cool air seems to blanket the forest in complete silence. The only sounds we heard were birds fluttering in the undergrowth. Many times we stopped along the way just to take in the awesome beauty of that place.
The beginning of the trail includes a bridge with lookouts, but truly it got even better once we passed all of the obvious visitor spots.
I think most people must take a short walk into the forest, turn around and go back to the visitor’s center, but we continued on into the quiet and solitude.
The path throughout was fairly level and wide. There were some narrow places, but all in all I would say the trail to the Corkscrew Tree is an easy one to hike. Filling a backpack with water and snacks allowed us the opportunity to go slowly and relish each moment as we were not in a hurry to finish before lunch.
The Corkscrew Tree is exactly what you think it is…but it was impressive none the less.
We continued on, crossing the main road to the other side where we saw Big Tree.
This hike took us all morning and into the early afternoon. After the coolness of the morning burned off, we were glad we made an early start, because it did get rather warm. As we stepped off the trail by Prairie Creek Visitor’s Center, we were surprised by how full and busy the place was. Cars, vans and buses were moving through the parking lot, and crowds of people with cameras to their eye were milling about. We gave up our shaded parking spot to a happy family and drove south to our AirBnB for a nap.
One could spend weeks in Redwood National Park, exploring all the trails. We absolutely plan on returning, but this trip only gave us two and a half days to get to know this jewel of a National Park. It’s out of the way, and seemingly benign as it sits along the highway, but step onto a trail, and you’ll be drawn into it’s wild beauty!