Northern California has plenty of draw to bring tourists of all kinds. Urban explorers can eat their way through cities, wine-lovers can get lost in the vines at a staggering number of vineyards, while the Pacific Ocean calls to others. But there is nothing quite like the towering redwood trees, reaching higher and wider than you’d ever expect, to strike awe and wonder in California.
What’s the Big Deal With Redwoods?
A big tree? The coastal redwood groves in California are more than just trees so big you can drive your car through them –– but that is indeed impressive. Redwoods can stretch upwards of 300 feet tall and up to 30 feet in diameter. Standing in groves and growing together, these redwoods form an imposing and beautiful sight standing strong in the California wilderness.
They’re also ancient wonders. Redwoods have been around since before flowers –– around the time when dinosaurs roamed –– and have been in California for roughly 20 million years. Individual trees have a lifespan that stretches for more than 2,000 years. That’s 2,000 years of creating oxygen, offsetting carbon in the air, and providing homes to all kinds of wildlife. They are hardy and resilient against natural forces such as wildfires, but unfortunately, due to human activity, their numbers have been reduced drastically. We have to treasure the redwoods we have left so these giants of the forest are not permanently lost.
Where To See Redwoods in California
California is the best place to see redwoods because you can find so many different groves. While these trees naturally grow tallest in northern California and up into Oregon along the coastline, you can find redwoods and their slightly smaller cousins the giant sequoia trees as far south as Los Padres National Forest. Check out these national and state parks to get the best views of the official state tree of California.
Redwoods National and State Parks
Redwoods National and State Parks are actually four parks in very close proximity to each other that protect 45% of the remaining old-growth redwood forests in the area. The four parks are Redwood National Park, Del Norte Coast, Jedediah Smith State Park, and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park.
If you have limited time, this is the area to go to to get the most out of your time. There are eight scenic drives (paved and unpaved so do check ahead to ensure your vehicle can handle the trip) with plenty of pull-outs for photo opportunities or just getting out and marveling as you crane your neck up to try to see the tops.
You don’t even have to pull-out to enjoy some of these trees. Along U.S. Route 101 there are three trees that you can drive right through! Enjoy coastal views as well as lush forest views as you wind through the area. And when you’re ready to get even more up-close and personal, there are many trailheads for hikes to take you deeper into the area.
Stay at one of the park’s four developed campgrounds to make a homebase in the area. Large RVs and trailers however, beware! There is a maximum size limit to drive through many of the campground roads and not all sites can even accommodate RVs up to that size. It is always best to reserve your site in advance to ensure there is room for you.
Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
In the Santa Cruz Mountains south of San Jose, Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park has a 40-acre grove of old-growth redwood trees among the rest of the evergreen forest and even a Sandhills habitat. You (and your whole family) can step inside of the Fremont Tree to get a unique view of these behemoths and some really neat pictures.
Explore up to 30 miles of hiking trails, and don’t forget to bring a map with you as some of the trails can get a little complex. For an easy loop, try the Redwood Grove loop trail (0.8 miles) which is accessible and even has a guide to explain the history of the area in print or audio. For something a little more challenging, try the hike to the Cathedral redwoods or even the Four Crossings Trail that crosses the river four times with NO BRIDGES. No matter which trails you choose to take on, it will be a memorable experience.
Humboldt Redwoods State Park
Humboldt Redwoods State Park is located in Humboldt County and is home to the most famous scenic drive through the old-growth coast redwoods. Take in small scenic towns amidst the magnificent redwoods and enjoy the 31-mile long drive. When you’re ready to get out and take it all in on foot, you’ll be in the largest remaining redwood forest in the world.
There are plenty of campsites, but you will need a reservation to ensure you have one. If you’re not spending the night, there are beautiful day-use areas to stop and have a picnic. Or, take to the trails hiking, biking, or even horseback riding. With more than 100 miles of trails, you won’t have time to see it all, but it is a lot of fun trying.
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
This state park is an incredible place to see redwoods that are over 2500 years old. If there could only be one reason to visit this state park, it is for the hike to the falls. Head to the Waterfall Overlook Trail for a half-mile trek to an overlook over the Pacific Ocean with an unobstructed view of McWay Falls. This waterfall pours over 70 feet from a granite clifftop into a sandy cove unmarred by even footprints. It is truly an unforgettable sight. The coastal views lined with redwoods span for miles. If you’re up for a little longer hike, head into Tin House where you can see an abandoned tin house from 1944 with incredible views perched high above the fog.
Feeling Small Amongst the Giants
There are plenty of entry points along the band of redwoods that grow near the coast of California. The majestic redwoods are awe-inspiring and the lush forest groves provide a home to such interesting wildlife and birds. See one park or see several of them from the comfort of a small RV to maximize your time amid the world’s tallest, oldest trees.
With Cruise America, you can start your journey from one of over 20 locations in California alone. Or, rent a cozy home on wheels from a Cruise America location closer to you and hit the road for a cross-country road trip. No matter how you choose to enjoy RV living, camping surrounded by redwoods wider than even your vehicle is an experience for every nature lover. Get an RV rental from Cruise America today and start your adventure!