A Guide to the Parks: Redwood National Park


If this was a podcast I would ask you to close your eyes and imagine with me, but it’s not, so do your best to block out the distractions around you and just pretend with me. Start with the ground around you. You’re standing on a dirt path. It’s tinted red and there are roots occasionally impeding the path so you must be aware of your every footstep, no time to worry about work or the daily grind. Focus. This trail is winding and uneven, but not strenuous. Now, around the trail as far as you can see are ferns.  Some ferns are mature, their leaves fanned out wide reaching for glimpses of sunlight. Other ferns are still curled up like a tight coil, waiting for the right time to open.  To break up the sea of ferns add some Redwood trees. Some are tall and thin, leaning on a neighboring tree perhaps and some are as wide as 3 people with their arms stretched out fingertip to fingertip. The trees form a canopy above you, sunlight just peeking through the gaps. You aren’t exposed to the harsh sun but protected in your own little ecosystem. Are you there with me? As Bob Ross would say, “take a step back and look”. It’s a place you can feel alone but not lost. This is Redwood National Park. Located in northern California, it is one of my favorite national parks because of the peace it offers. This blog is for those are planning or are simply interested in visiting the park.

A winding trail through the Redwoods by Shelly Osborne Photography

Redwood National Park is home to some of the oldest and tallest redwood groves in the world. If you haven’t visited the park or perhaps never heard of it, you’ve probably seen it in movies, like, Star Wars or Jurassic World. The park offers endless trails through the forest, stunning views of the California coastline, and incredible scenic drives. We visited the park when our boys were 4 and 5 and they still talk about the big trees and fallen logs they were able to climb on. Below you can read about our itinerary and tidbits we learned along the way.

My son next to one of many impressive Redwoods

Where to Stay

This is a big one. Before booking a place to stay you truly need to consider what you want to see and how willing you are to drive to see those things. If you’re only looking to drive through and maybe get out to snap a few pictures then I would recommend staying on the southern end of the park near Eureka. Staying in Eureka you can do the drive through the Avenue of the Giants and experience the Redwoods with a tour guide (I’ll explain this down below in “What To Do”). If the plan is to hike and explore the Redwood NP then I would recommend staying up on the northern end in Crescent City. For our trip we decided to stay in Crescent City because most of the hikes we wanted to do were on the northern half of the park. We were driving up from Los Angeles area so we were still able to do the scenic drive through the Avenue of the Giants but our family that drove down from Washington didn’t because it was about a 2-hour drive from Crescent City to the start of the road and we didn’t want to spend a full day in the car.

Crescent City Beach

We chose to rent a home in Crescent City, it was a block away from the Walmart in town so it made getting groceries a breeze. We were also right off the highway so in the mornings we were able to get up and go and not battle the city traffic too much. Crescent City allowed us to enjoy the ocean and the forest with ease. There is a beautiful lighthouse in Crescent City and we made a spontaneous decision to tour the lighthouse during one of our days and it was amazing. One of our kiddos was afraid when it came time to climb to the top and look out, but everyone else enjoyed the tour. The city itself also has beautiful beaches and very delicious restaurants.  10/10 would recommend staying in Crescent City.

Tide Pool Crab in Crescent City

Things to See

The whole point of visiting National Parks is to experience the views and wonder that make the parks so famous.  Unlike Yosemite and the infamous tunnel view, the Redwood NP is just known for its massive trees and serenity. Thankfully, every visitor can experience that without even needing to step out of their vehicle (although I do highly recommend getting out). No matter what trail you wander or road you traverse you rarely feel crowded because there are so many trails. Now, Redwood NP does have some very popular sights, like: Fern Canyon (as seen in Jurassic Park), Lady Bird Johnson Grove, Big Tree, Tall Trees Grove (watch out for Ewoks for all you Star Wars fans), and Stout Grove. All of these are hikes that offer jaw dropping sights of ancient trees that have stunned the world for over 50 years.

Fern Canyon in July

My absolute favorite hike we did was Fern Canyon. Pictures will never do it justice because it truly is remarkable. Now, I will say, we went in July when everything was lush and green, a year later though, I went at the end of April and it was not as green. This canyon is, as described, lined with ferns that cascade from the top of the canyon down 50ft to the rocky ground. There is a stream in the middle that offers that river-running white noise effect. I could’ve stayed in the canyon for hours. The hike to the canyon is less than a half mile and its very easy to maneuver. We chose to walk through the canyon and finish the loop and we all enjoyed it. There were bridges and beautiful views along the trail, but down in the canyon was by far the best. To get to the parking lot you do have to cross two streams. In July they were very small and we didn’t even flinch crossing them, but in April they were flowing pretty good and I chose to park the car and just walk to the trailhead. A few things to keep in mind if you want to visit the canyon is that you have to make a reservation in the summer months and it does cost a fee to drive in. The fee can be waived with an America the Beautiful Pass or a campground reservation, but if you don’t have a reservation, you will be out of luck.

Fern Canyon

My second favorite trail was Stout Memorial Grove Trail. This trail also offered a bridge, a river, massive trees, and a fairly easy walk. The Stout Grove isn’t as long as the fern canyon loop, but it does offer larger trees than the Fern Canyon loop. The one thing we were not prepared for was the mosquitos. Again, we went in July so while the temperatures weren’t torturous, the mosquitos were pretty thick in some areas, so be sure to pack the bug spray or walk with some bracelets!

Things to Do

Yes, I consider things to do different than things to see because one feels like an adventure and the other feels like a sightseeing thing. Plus, it’s an easy way to break this blog up! So, things to do…Trees of Mystery, Drive the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway, visit Elk Meadow, and drive Avenue of the Giants. We hadn’t planned on going inside the Trees of Mystery but our crew loved every bit of it. We were driving past after just visiting Fern Canyon so I’ll be honest, I figured it would be lame after being in such an amazing place, but I was wrong. Trees of Mystery offers canopy tours, a gondola ride, and plenty of history. My boys loved walking in the canopy of the trees and the gondola ride was incredible. I would happily go in again just to experience it all once more.

Trees of Mystery path

The Avenue of the giants is also a great option because you could easily spend a whole day driving the 30 miles and pulling off as many times as you’d like to hike and see some amazing trees. One of the great parts about this drive is that it comes with an auto tour. If you open this up and start your drive at Franklin K Lane Grove you can be guided through the many trails along the road and learn about the history behind each. The Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway is very similar to the Avenue of the Giants because you can choose to just drive it and soak in the sights or you can pull over at any trailhead and choose to walk around. 7 years ago, we drove through Redwood NP and on our way out we decided to drive the Avenue of the Giants. We chose to use the auto tour and we got out a few times and walked some of the trails but we mostly just drove through it. 2 years ago, when we went, we chose to drive the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway and we got out and hiked whenever we saw an empty pull out. We found some truly amazing sights and stunning wooden bridges (the photographer in me couldn’t get enough of it). In a place like Redwood NP, you can’t be afraid to pull over for an unplanned stop because odds are, you won’t be let down.

Avenue of The Giants by Shelly Osborne Photography

Things to Keep In Mind

There are not a lot of options for food or bathrooms. Pack plenty of snacks, throw in a loaf of bread and the PBJ fixing and be prepared to snack all day long because there are no food options unless you reach the next city. They do have restroom facilities throughout the park and they were relatively maintained, but they were still outhouses so bring your hand sanitizer and extra toilet paper just in case. The last thing you need to keep in mind is that while it’s free to drive through the park, some areas do require permits or have a fee so before arriving, please make sure the hike you are looking at doesn’t require a reservation.

Stairs Lost in the Ferns by Shelly Osborne Photography

Final Thoughts

The Redwood NP is in the top 3 for me of the parks we have visited. It’s beautiful, it’s quiet, it’s mysterious, and it’s an adventure that all should take. We have many photographs up on our walls from Redwood NP because the images always remind me of how calm and weightless I felt during that trip. To be walking amongst the tallest Redwood trees and breathing in the fresh air, it’s indescribable but also addictive.


  1. Thank you for this beautifully written guide to Redwood National Park, Shelly. Your vivid descriptions transported me right into the heart of the forest, making me feel like I was walking those winding trails surrounded by towering Redwoods and lush ferns. The tips on where to stay and what to see are incredibly helpful, especially for planning the perfect trip to such a serene and majestic place. I especially appreciated the detailed insights into Fern Canyon and Stout Memorial Grove—both sound like must-visit spots. This guide is a gem for anyone looking to explore the natural wonders of Redwood NP!


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