45 MAJESTIC Places to See Redwoods in California [Ranked]

Reviewed by Elina Ansary
Last updated:

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There’s something uniquely magical about walking through a redwood forest. The dense treetops, the quiet paths, a prehistoric feeling that makes you feel like you might just be stepping back in time.

After an extensive logging history in California and the greater Pacific Northwest that reached its peak in the mid to late 19th century, there aren’t many of these gentle giants left in the world. Only 5% of the original redwood population still exists today, which is wild.

I grew up in Santa Cruz, next to some of the most popular redwoods in California, and spent my childhood and adolescence hiking through them. As an adult living in the Bay Area, I still make time to visit the redwoods whenever I can.

To say that I love redwood forests might be an understatement. Besides hiking and visiting as many redwood parks as possible in California, I have a tattoo of a redwood on my left ankle and I got married in a redwood forest in 2023. But I digress.

Because of my many years of first-hand knowledge, I wanted to create an all-encompassing article to help guide you through the best redwoods in California and to share my love for them.

All of these places deserve a spot on this “best of” list, but I organized them from the most impressive to not quite as impressive (but still worth visiting) in case you don’t have time to see alll of them.

Enjoy the redwoods and let me know which one is your favorite!

Note: this post contains affiliate links, which help run this site at no extra cost to you so I can keep providing free travel advice and tips.

redwood parks california

Table of Contents

California Redwood Parks Map

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#1 Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park

jedediah smith redwoods state park

Why it’s worth visiting: It has 7% of ALL the remaining old-growth redwoods in the world.
Region & Location: North Coast; Nine miles east of Crescent City on Highway 199
Prices:  $8 (entrance fee);  $35/night (camping fee)

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park takes its name after Jedediah Strong Smith, the first European to explore Northern California. 

Jedediah Smith is part of a network of north California redwood parks jointly managed as “Redwood National and State Parks.”

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park is famous for its dense, lush forest, enormous redwood trees, the Lady Bird Johnson Grove, and 20 miles of hiking trails. It was also a filming location for The Last of the Mohicans

Note: You can use the ‘America the Beautiful Pass’ at Jed Smith State Park.

#2 Redwood National and State Parks

redwood national and state parks

Why it’s worth visiting: See the lush Fern Canyon or hang out at Gold Bluffs Beach.
Region & Location: North Coast; Route 101 between Crescent City and Orick, CA
Prices:  Free (entrance fee);  $35/night (camping fee)

Redwood National and State Parks include Redwood National Park, Jedediah Smith State Park, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. 

These four parks and the surrounding area are some of the best places to see redwood groves in California because they preserve 45% of the old-growth redwood groves.

Redwoods National Park preserves hundreds of stands of coastal redwoods, but it also maintains a rugged coastline. 

Fern Canyon is a popular destination because of the steep, fern-lined walls, as is Gold Bluffs Beach.

Just be sure to snag a free permit before you visit either of these day-use areas.

#3 Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park

del norte coast redwoods state park

Why it’s worth visiting: 8 miles of rugged coastline plus 50% of the park is old-growth forest.
Region & Location: North Coast; 41.6708, -124.1172
Prices:  Free (entrance fee);   $35/night  (camping fee)

Getting 100 inches of rain annually, Del Norte Redwoods State Park grows some of the largest redwood specimens in California. 

Del Norte is one of the four parks in the Redwood National and State Parks group. 

While there is no beach access here, you can hike or bike the Coastal Trail, which runs along the park’s length.

Some of the enormous coastal redwoods are right along the road, and the Mill Creek Campground offers one of the best campgrounds in the redwoods.

#4 Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

prairie creek redwoods state park

Why it’s worth visiting: See herds of Roosevelt elk along the 19-mile bike loop.
Region & Location: North Coast; 127011 Newton B. Drury Scenic Pkwy, Orick, CA 95555
Prices:  $8 (entrance fee);   $35/night  (camping fee)

Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park is the last (but not least) state park in the Redwood National and State Parks group. 

If you were a fan of Jurassic Park like me, you’ll want to check out Fern Canyon, where some of the filming took place. 

Prairie Creek Redwoods offers 75 miles of hiking trails, herds of giant Roosevelt elk, a 19-mile bike loop, beach access, and cathedral-like redwood groves.

#5 Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park

Why it’s worth visiting: See scenes from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi
Region & Location: North Coast; 16949 CA-36, Carlotta, CA 95528
Prices: $8  (entrance fee);  $35/night  (camping fee)

Grizzly Creek Redwoods is perhaps one of the smallest California redwood parks. 

It’s a bit off the standard “redwood highway” (Route 101) and is just one square mile in size with five miles of hiking trails. 

The most famous of the redwood groves, the Cheatham grove, was the scene where they filmed the scooter chase scene in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.

There is a small 28-site campground next to the Van Duzen River with an intimate, family-friendly vibe.

#6 Humboldt Redwoods State Park

humboldt redwoods state park

Why it’s worth visiting: Drive the 32-mile Avenue of the Giants
Region & Location: North Coast; 17119 Avenue of the Giants, Weott, CA 95571
Prices:  $8 for the Williams Grove Day Use Area (entrance fee); $35/night (camping fee)

Humboldt Redwoods State Park is one of the best places to see giant redwoods in Northern California because it has the largest plot of old-growth forest on the planet (17,000 acres of the 52,000 acres). 

You can explore much of Humboldt Redwoods State Park by car on the Avenue of the Giants, a stunning 32-mile drive adjacent to Route 101. 

At Humboldt Redwoods State Park, you can explore over 100 miles of trails accessible by foot, bike, or horse and stop at the massive (fallen) 362-foot Dyerville Giant tree or the Founder’s Grove.

#7 John B. Dewitt Redwoods State Nature Preserve

Why it’s worth visiting: Explore the Whittemore Grove of redwood trees.
Region & Location: North Coast; 40.2651, -123.8722 south of the Avenue of the Giants before Garberville
Prices: Free (entrance fee); N/A (camping fee)

Not far from Humboldt Redwoods State Park is John B. Dewitt Redwoods State Nature Reserve, which has two separate sections. 

The Holbrook grove is in the northern section, north of Redway, CA. The southern area has the Whittemore grove (the most famous) and O’Meara grove, west of Redway

John B. Dewitt is an enigma because even the California State Park website doesn’t have much helpful information about it. 

The preserve has no official hiking trails and was part of Humboldt Redwoods State Park until 2001.

#8 Richardson Grove State Park

Why it’s worth visiting: Explore 1,800 acres of California’s first redwood park.
Region & Location: North Coast; 1600 Route 101, Garberville, CA 95542
Prices:  $8 (entrance fee);  $35/night (camping fee)

Richardson Grove was one of the first California redwood parks. It was established in 1922 with just 120 to its name but has grown to over 1,800 acres since then. 

This forest preserve boasts many coast redwood specimens over 300 feet tall (considered REAL BIG in redwood language). 

It also has nine miles of hiking trails and the Eel River, a Wild and Scenic River.

#9 Smithe Redwoods State Nature Preserve

Why it’s worth visiting: Enjoy the South Fork of the Eel River in this former private resort
Region & Location: North Coast; Highway 101, four miles north of Leggett, CA
Prices: Free (entrance fee);  N/A (camping fee)

Smithe Redwoods State Nature Preserve was previously a private resort gifted to the California State Park system. The most famous of the redwood groves is the Frank and Bess Smithe Grove.  

You can also pick up California souvenirs at the walk-through tunnel tree used to frame the old gift shop. 

There aren’t official trails in Smithe Redwoods, so watch your footing and avoid walking on exposed redwood roots if you can.

#10 Standish-Hickey State Recreation Area

standish hickey state recreation area

Why it’s worth visiting: It’s the southern border of the “Redwood Empire,” which stretches from California north to Oregon
Region & Location: North Coast; 1.5 miles past Leggett, CA, on Highway 101 North
Prices: $8 (entrance fee); $35/night  (camping fee)

Standish-Hickey State Recreation Area is the first of the state parks along the Redwood Highway (aka the nice part of Route 101). 

See the 225-foot-tall Miles Standish Tree (over 1,200 years old) and possibly glimpse a river otter in the Eel River.

The Chandelier Tree is also just outside of Standish-Hickey. The Chandelier Tree is a drive-through tunnel, so it’s easy to pass through on your way to or from Standish-Hickey.

The recreation area has 10 miles of hiking trails that meander through canyons, old-growth forests, and second-growth forests.

#11 Sinkyone Wilderness State Park

sinkyone wilderness state park

Why it’s worth visiting: Experience the wilderness in the southern half of the rugged Lost Coast
Region & Location: North Coast; Briceland Thorn Road, Whitthorn, CA 95589
Prices: $6 (entrance fee);  $35/night (camping fee)

If you’re looking for an authentic, primitive California wilderness experience, try Sinkyone Wilderness State Park. 

Like all state parks, the land here once belonged to someone else, and in this case, the Sinkyone Indians lived here and thrived off the abundant rivers and sea life. 

Today Sinkyone Wilderness preserves 7,500 acres of true wilderness, including cliffs, beaches, and redwood trees. 

The campgrounds here are primitive, and there is no potable water or trash service (pack everything out).

#12 Admiral William Standley State Recreation Area

Why it’s worth visiting: It’s an easy stop between CA State Rt 1 to US Route 101
Region & Location: North Coast; Branscomb Rd, Branscomb, CA 95417
Prices: Free (entrance fee);  N/A (camping fee)

Admiral William Standley State Recreation Area is perhaps one of the least known redwood parks as it is a tiny roadside stop south of Branscomb, California. 

This small recreation area is in a surprisingly dry-looking part of the state, so you’d be surprised to find redwood trees here. Nonetheless, they persist. 

Well, they try to. There’s a 2,500-foot ridge to the west that blocks that sweet, sweet summer fog the redwoods rely on to grow tall, but there are some medium-sized redwood trees here.

#13 Jug Handle State Nature Reserve

jug handle state nature reserve

Why it’s worth visiting: Walk the 2.5-mile Ecological Staircase Trail and see half a million years of natural history preserved in the wave cut-soils
Region & Location: North Coast; One mile north of Caspar, CA
Prices: Free (entrance fee);  N/A (camping fee)

Between Fort Bragg and Mendocino lies Jug Handle State Nature Reserve. 

In addition to spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean and northern California redwoods, they have a unique hiking trail called the Ecological Staircase Trail, which shows visitors half a million years of ecological history in the terraces exposed by the ocean waves.

#14 Russian Gulch State Park

russian gulch state park

Why it’s worth visiting: See the collapsed sea cave known as the Devil’s Punchbowl
Region & Location: North Coast; Two miles north of Mendocino, CA, on Highway 1
Prices: $8 (entrance fee);  $45/night (camping fee)

Russian Gulch is just north of Mendocino, California, and combines lush canyons, rocky headlands, and a mile and a half of gorgeous beaches. 

The Frederick W. Panhorst Bridge is a commonly photographed arched bridge that spans a gorge in the park. 

Wildflowers are common in the spring here, and you can check out the collapsed sea cave known as the Devil’s Punchbowl.

#15 Van Damme State Park

van damme state park

Why it’s worth visiting: Kayak in sea caves or dive for abalone!
Region & Location: North Coast; 3 miles south of Mendocino, CA, on Route 101
Prices: $8 (entrance fee);  $5/hike and bike, $45/standard, $160/group (camping fee)

Van Damme State Park has so much to offer. The Fern Canyon Trail is very popular and takes you on a meander next to the Little River; plus, you can launch kayaks from a cove on the beach. 

In addition to the redwood trees and hiking trails, this is perhaps one of the best state parks to understand the history of the redwood lumber industry.

#16 Mendocino Woodlands State Park

Why it’s worth visiting: It’s a year-round group camping facility
Region & Location: North Coast; 39350 Little Lake Rd, Mendocino, CA 95460
Prices: Free (entrance fee); Varies (camping fee)

If you’re looking for a place to have the next big family reunion, check out Mendocino Woodlands State Park. This environmental center nestled amongst towering redwoods offers lodging options for groups from 30-200 people. 

You’ll need to contact mendocinowoodlands.org for pricing information. I reached out to them, but they only give pricing on a case-by-case scenario.

The facility also hosts weekend workshops on topics like wilderness first aid and botany, or you can volunteer for the Friends of the Woodlands group and get a discounted weekend stay.

#17 Jackson Demonstration State Forest

jackson demonstration state forest

Why it’s worth visiting: Explore one of California’s living laboratories for sustainable forest management
Region & Location: North Coast; 802 N. Main St., Fort Bragg, CA 95437
Prices: Free (entrance fee);  $20/standard, $120/group (camping fee)

Ok, so, a demonstration forest is (usually) a state-owned forest used as a living laboratory to study and experiment with sustainable forest management. 

Jackson Demonstration Forest is the largest of Cal Fire’s ten demonstration forests, with almost 50,000 acres. Timber harvesting occurs here, but, according to the state website, more growth happens than harvesting. 

While the primary tree here is redwood, you’ll also see lots of Douglas fir. 

Jackson Demonstration Forest has 23 campgrounds, all available first-come, first-served. Camping is primitive, with no drinking water. 

There are 48 miles of hiking trails that you can bike and horseback ride on. Unusually, you can also hunt here.

#18 Montgomery Woods State Nature Reserve

montgomery woods state nature reserve

Why it’s worth visiting: Hike the Montgomery Trail through fern forests and redwood groves
Region & Location: North Coast; 15825 Orr Springs Rd, Ukiah, CA 95482
Prices: Free (entrance fee);  N/A (camping fee)

Montgomery Woods State Nature Reserve is just off Highway 101 near Ukiah, CA, and preserves 2,743 acres of forest. Being just off the beaten path, this is one of the redwood parks known for solitude, and there is no camping here. 

The Montgomery Trail is the premier feature of the park. This two-mile loop trail takes you through stands of coastal redwoods. 

A 367.5-foot tree in the park once held the title of the tallest on earth. However, the discovery of taller ones has since unseated it.

#19 Navarro River Redwoods State Park

navarro river redwoods state park

Why it’s worth visiting: Drive the 11-mile “redwood tunnel to the sea.”
Region & Location: North Coast; Hwy 128, Elk, CA 95432
Prices: $10 (entrance fee);  $35/night (camping fee)

Navarro River Redwoods State Park is certainly one of the drive-through redwood parks. 

Navarro River Redwoods State Park is just a narrow strip of land on either side of Route 128, but it is a beautiful strip of land! The coastal redwoods form an 11-mile-long tunnel that takes you to the ocean. 

The park offers two campgrounds; the Paul M. Dimmick Campground and the Navarro Beach Campground at the mouth of the Navarro River. You can swim, kayak, and hike at this park.

#20 Hendy Woods State Park

hendy woods state park

Why it’s worth visiting: See the Big Hendy Grove of coastal redwoods
Region & Location: North Coast; 18599 Philo Greenwood Rd, Philo, CA 95466
Prices: $8 (entrance fee);  $40-$45/night  (camping fee)

Hendy Woods State Park is in the Anderson Valley wine region and boasts two redwood groves; Big Hendy Grove and Little Hendy Grove. 

Big Hendy Grove trail is wheelchair accessible and has trees over 1,000 years old and 300 feet tall. 

Hendy Woods has popular swimming holes in the summertime, plus kayaking in the shoulder seasons.

#21 Armstrong Redwoods State Nature Reserve

armstrong redwoods state nature reserve

Why it’s worth visiting: It has an ADA-accessible Pioneer Nature Trail
Region & Location: North Coast; 17000 Armstrong Woods Rd, Guerneville, CA 95466
Prices: $10 (entrance fee); N/A (camping fee)

Armstrong Redwoods State Nature Reserve offers a redwood forest near San Francisco, California (1.5 hrs away) with hiking trails, a visitor center, and picnic areas. 

In addition to the ADA-accessible Pioneer Nature Trail, you can check out the tallest tree, the Parson Jones Tree (310 ft), and the oldest tree, the Colonel Armstrong Tree (1,400 years old).

Another unique redwood is the Icicle Tree, which is famous for its giant burls, or growths.

#22 Bothe-Napa Valley State Park

Why it’s worth visiting: Hit up wine country and redwood groves in one trip.
Region & Location: North Coast; 3801 St. Helena Hwy, Calistoga, CA 94515
Prices: $10 (entrance fee);  $43/night (camping fee)

You can check wine country off your list AND one of California’s fantastic redwood parks in one blow by heading to Bothe-Napa Valley State Park. 

As the name implies, it’s in lovely Napa Valley, California. The park offers camping, picnicking, swimming, and hiking trails amongst coast redwoods. 

This park’s amenities are what I consider “luxe,” perhaps appropriate for the setting. There’s a swimming pool open in the summer and camping cabins and yurts reservable on reservecalifornia.com.

#23 Klamath Tour-Through Tree

klamath tour through tree

Why it’s worth visiting: You can drive your car through it.
Region & Location: North Coast; 430 CA-169, Klamath, CA 95548
Prices: $5 (entrance fee);  N/A (camping fee)

Ok, so this isn’t a park per se, but drive-thru redwoods in California were/are tourist attractions, and if this appeals to you, it’s an easy stop off Route 101 as the highway passes the Klamath River. 

Most “tunnel trees” become weaker thanks to the hole cut in their bases, so they don’t usually stay upright for long afterward. 

At this point, since redwood trees are on the endangered list, there won’t be any new tunnel trees made, so catch this one while it’s still standing.

#24 Sonoma Zipline Adventures

Why it’s worth visiting: You can zipline through the redwoods
Region & Location: Bay Area; 6250 Bohemian Highway, Occidental, CA 95465
Prices: $139 weekdays; $159 weekends (entrance fee);  N/A (camping fee)

Alright, this isn’t technically a park, but it is an opportunity to zipline in the California redwoods. 

Sonoma Zipline Adventures offers all sorts of zipline experiences, from short excursions to multi-hour eco-tours.

#25 Samuel P. Taylor State Park

samuel p. taylor state park

Why it’s worth visiting: You can camp right under the redwoods.
Region & Location: Bay Area; 8889 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Lagunitas, CA
Prices: $8 (entrance fee); $35/standard, $7/hike and bike (camping fee)

If you’re exploring Point Reyes National Seashore and have more time to burn, check out Samuel P. Taylor State Park. 

There’s much to do with 2,882 acres of shaded forest, Lagunitas Creek, and hikes to the top of Barnabe Peak. 

Camping in Samuel P. Taylor is a charming experience on hot summer days because of the dense, lush redwoods and greenery.

#26 Mount Tamalpais State Park

mount tamalpais state park

Why it’s worth visiting: See the Farallon Islands from the top of Mount Tam
Region & Location: Bay Area; 3801 Panoramic Hwy, Mill Valley, CA 94941
Prices: $8 (entrance fee); $25/night  (camping fee)

Mount Tamalpais, or Mount Tam, as the locals call it, offers fantastic views of the ocean and the outlying Farallon Islands. Mount Tam State Park is just north of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

In addition to redwood trees, it has grasslands, oak forests, and chaparral, an ecosystem unique to California. 

Check out the Mountain Theater for outdoor plays and night sky programs and watch for fancy cars driving around, as this is a popular spot to film car commercials.

#27 Muir Woods National Monument

muir woods national monument

Why it’s worth visiting: Easy trails through redwood groves alongside the picturesque Redwood Creek
Region & Location: Bay Area; 1 Muir Woods Rd, Mill Valley, CA 94941
Prices: $15/person (entrance fee); $25/night (camping fee)

Muir Woods National Monument is just north of San Francisco, California. It is extremely popular, so they’ve instituted a parking permit system and recommend that visitors take public transportation to the park. 

Muir Woods has been a protected park since 1908 when President Roosevelt signed a declaration to protect the old-growth redwood groves. 

It has six miles of hiking trails that connect it to nearby Mount Tamalpais State Park. Redwood Creek runs through the park, crossing many trails via a bridge.

Note: You need a parking permit before visiting Muir Woods.

#28 Roy’s Redwoods Open Space Preserve

Why it’s worth visiting: See the filming location for The Ewok Adventure by George Lucas
Region & Location: Bay Area; Roy’s Redwoods Open Space Preserve, Woodacre, CA 94973
Prices: Free (entrance fee);  N/A (camping fee)

Marin County outside San Francisco has some of the most open green space per capita than any other county in the US. 

Enjoy Roy’s Redwoods Open Space Preserve, one of Marin County’s gems. Roy’s Redwoods Preserve is 293 acres of forest overlooking San Geronimo Valley. 

At Roy’s, you can check out the Meadow Trail, the filming location for The Ewok Adventure, and see the “hippie trees,” which were hollowed out by a hippie commune in the 60s as shelter.

#29 Indian Tree Preserve

Why it’s worth visiting: Explore the Big Trees Trail on your way to overlook Stafford Lake
Region & Location: Bay Area; Indian Tree Open Space Preserve, Novato, CA 94947
Prices: Free (entrance fee);  N/A (camping fee)

Indian Tree Preserve is another one of Marin County’s redwood parks. It’s located just west of Novato, CA, and includes 242 acres. 

The most popular trail here is the Big Trees Trail, which is a grated trail taking you through stands of coast redwoods to views of Stafford Lake.

#30 Reinhart Regional Redwood Park

reinhart regional redwood park

Why it’s worth visiting: Enjoy large picnic areas and a children’s playground near downtown Oakland
Region & Location: Bay Area; 7867 Redwood Rd, Oakland, CA 94619
Prices: $5 (entrance fee); $35/night (camping fee)

Reinhart Regional Redwood Park outside Oakland preserves 1,833 acres of second-growth coast redwoods and features several large, reservable picnic areas and a children’s playground. 

Fishing is not allowed inside the regional park, but those interested in fish ecology will be interested to learn about the history of rainbow trout in the park. 

You can check out Historical Landmark #970 to learn about the historic fishway, a stream device constructed to assist fish with their upstream migration.

Note: Since this is a regional park, you book campsites on ReserveAmerica.com.

#31 Joaquin Miller Park

joaquin miller park

Why it’s worth visiting: It’s a green oasis in the heart of the Bay Area
Region & Location: Bay Area; 3300 Joaquin Miller Rd, Oakland, CA 94602
Prices: Free (entrance fee); N/A (camping fee)

Joaquin Miller Park is an oasis in the busy city of Oakland, just outside San Francisco. 

This 500-acre park features redwood trees and dog-friendly hiking trails. Horseback riding, biking, hiking, and picnicking are popular here. 

While dogs must be on-leash on the trail, there is a fenced-in dog park where they can run off-leash.

#32 Portola Redwoods State Park

portola redwoods state park

Why it’s worth visiting: See one of the most remote groves in the area: Peter’s Creek Grove
Region & Location: Bay Area; 9000 Portola State Park Rd, La Honda, CA 94020
Prices: $10 (entrance fee);  $35/night (camping fee)

I love Portola Redwoods. Within driving distance of the south bay/San Jose, Portola Redwoods offers an excellent, quiet escape from the city. 

The 2,800-acre park is dotted with redwood groves and provides 18 miles of hiking trails in addition to its 55-site campground. 

If you ask me, the visitor center at Portola Redwoods is one of the state parks’ gems. It’s filled with a big fireplace, comfy couches, and great interpretive displays. 

You can also explore the most scenic grove–Peter’s Creek Grove.

#33 Butano State Park

butano state park

Why it’s worth visiting: Find a sense of quiet just outside San Jose
Region & Location: Bay Area; 1500 Cloverdale Rd Pescadero, CA 94060
Prices: $10 (entrance fee); $35/night  (camping fee)

The quiet, serene Butano State Park is between San Jose and the Pacific Ocean. Unlike some crowded California state parks located in the Bay Area, Butano is off the beaten path enough to maintain a semblance of peace. 

Butano was established in 1957 to protect redwood trees. It has 4,000 acres of land, several campgrounds (closed as of September 2022), and 40 miles of trails.

#34 Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve

purisima creek redwoods open space preserve

Why it’s worth visiting: See Purisima Creek Canyon and views of Half Moon Bay
Region & Location: Bay Area; Purisima Creek Redwoods Preserve, Half Moon Bay, CA 94019
Prices: Free (entrance fee); N/A (camping fee)

Purisima Creek Open Space Preserve is 5,400 acres of second-growth redwood trees. 

Unfortunately, Pioneers cut all the old-growth redwoods for lumber. Now the forest is about 100 years old and offers fantastic views of Half Moon Bay. 

Check out the giant stumps along the Purisima Creek Trail to see the remnants of the old-growth forest.

#35 Big Basin Redwoods State Park

big basin redwoods state park

Why it’s worth visiting: See the ecological recovery process as the park regrows from wildfire.
Region & Location: Bay Area; 21600 Big Basin Way, Boulder Creek, CA 95006
Prices: $8 (entrance fee); N/A (camping fee)

Sadly, many California State Parks, and their beloved coastal redwoods, have been badly damaged by wildfire in recent years. 

Big Basin Redwoods State Park is one of those parks. A wildfire devastated this beloved park outside San Francisco two years ago, which consumed 97% of the park, including almost every structure. 

As of July 2022, Big Basin has reopened for a limited number of visitors a day. You can get a reservation. It can still be worth seeing the park, just set your expectations to “crispy!”

#36 Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

henry cowell redwoods state park

Why it’s worth visiting: See the unique ancient dune ecosystem!
Region & Location: Bay Area; 101 Big Trees Park Rd. Felton, CA 95018
Prices: $10 (entrance fee); $35/night (camping fee)

Henry Cowell State Park is just outside Santa Cruz. In addition to preserving 40 acres of old-growth forest, it maintains an additional 4,600 acres of grasslands, rivers, and a unique ancient sandhill ecosystem. 

Millions of years ago, when the ocean was a bit farther inland, Henry Cowell State Park *was* the beach. 

Now the dunes are covered in oak chaparral and redwood trees, but you’ll notice sandy outcroppings here and there.

#37 The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park

the forest of nisene marks state park

Why it’s worth visiting: Enjoy 30 miles of trails in this semi-wilderness area near Santa Cruz.
Region & Location: Bay Area; Go four miles north on Aptos Creek Road from Aptos, CA
Prices: $8 (entrance fee); N/A  (camping fee)

The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park gets its name from a woman named Nisene Marks, who loved nature and whose children donated 9,700 acres of land to the state on the condition that the land stays undeveloped. 

The Forest of Nisene Marks provides a space for the previously logged area to regrow as nature intended. 

Today, you can see the healing forest and enjoy many miles of hiking trails from sea level to about 2,600 feet.

#38 Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

julia pfeiffer burns state park

Why it’s worth visiting: See the photogenic McWay Falls
Region & Location: Central Coast; 52801 CA-1, Big Sur, CA 93920
Prices: $10 (entrance fee); $35/standard, $50/premium (camping fee)

Julia Pfeiffer Burns was a well-liked and prominent pioneer woman for whom this state park takes its name. 

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park features a campground and coastal redwoods plus oaks, madrone, and chaparral which extend from the ocean to 3,000 feet up the Santa Lucia Mountains. 

The most photogenic feature at Julia Pfeiffer State Park is McWay Falls, an 80-foot waterfall that plunges into the ocean. It looks like the lagoon in Peter Pan where the mermaids live (IMO).

Note: Some of the cliff trails in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park are closed or off-limits. Entering closed areas will result in a fine and *arrest* due to the hazardous rescue operations that would be needed to save your sorry butt!

#39 Limekiln State Park

limekiln state park

Why it’s worth visiting: See the historic limekilns and learn about their place in redwood logging history
Region & Location: Central Coast; 63025 CA-1, Big Sur, CA 93920
Prices: $10 (entrance fee); $35/night  (camping fee)

Limekiln State Park is another California redwood park that preserves redwood trees and the history of their logging. 

Much of the old-growth redwoods were used to stoke kilns to manufacture lime, which factories used in industrial applications. 

Today you can see the giant old limekilns in the second-growth redwood forests, plus you get amazing views of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

#40 Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

pfeiffer big sur state park

Why it’s worth visiting: Camp along the scenic River or stay at the Lodge
Region & Location: Central Coast; Pfeiffer Big Sur Rd, Big Sur, CA 93920
Prices: $10 (entrance fee); $35/standard, $50/premium  (camping fee)

Pfeiffer State Park, also named after Julia Pfeiffer Burns, is one of the most popular California redwood parks. The park is on the west side of the Santa Lucia Mountains. 

The Big Sur River Gorge and River are popular natural features. 

This area has many amenities, including the Big Sur Lodge and the Ewoldsen Nature Center, which is open on weekends.

Note: There is no beach access from this park. Pfeiffer Beach (another of Julia Pfeiffer Burns’ namesakes) is not part of the state park system and charges a separate entrance fee.

#41 Calaveras Big Trees State Park

calaveras big trees state park

Why it’s worth visiting: Explore the North and South Grove of giant sequoias
Region & Location: High Sierra; 1170 CA-4, Arnold, CA 95223
Prices: $10 (entrance fee);  $35/night (camping fee)

Calaveras Big Trees State Park is north of Yosemite and south of Tahoe. 

It has been preserving two groves of giant sequoias since 1931. Today the park has a visitor center, walking trails, two campgrounds, and a warming hut for winter exploration.

#42 Yosemite National Park

yosemite national park

Why it’s worth visiting: See the biggest grove of giant sequoias, the Mariposa Grove
Region & Location: High Sierra; Route 41, Fish Camp, CA 93623 (South Entrance)
Prices: $35 (entrance fee, year round) + $2 reservation fee (summer months);  $20/night (camping fee)

Do I even need to say anything about Yosemite?? It’s Yosemite! 

Yosemite protects the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, initially set aside as President Lincoln’s first national monument in 1864. 

While there are several other groves of giant sequoias (Merced Grove, Tuolumne Grove), Mariposa Grove is the most famous, with nearly 500 mature trees.

Note: Yosemite has a reservation system in place from May-September. You must buy a reservation online before arrival and pay your day-use fee. The reservation is $2.

#43 Kings Canyon National Park

kings canyon national park

Why it’s worth visiting: See the second largest tree on earth, the General Grant Tree.
Region & Location: High Sierra; Take Route 180 past Miramonte, CA 93641 (Big Stump Entrance)
Prices: $35 (entrance fee also valid for Sequoia NP); $20/night  (camping fee)

Kings Canyon is just north of Sequoia National Park and makes an easy stop on your visit. 

The Grant Grove area of the park preserves the General Grant tree, the second largest tree on earth.

#44 Giant Sequoia National Monument

giant sequoia national monument

Why it’s worth visiting: Explore one of 33 giant sequoia groves
Region & Location: High Sierra; Northern section is along Highway 180 and 198 toward Kings Canyon. The southern section is at the end of 190, north of Sequoia.
Prices: $5-10(entrance fee); $26/night (camping fee)

Between Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks is Sequoia National Forest, which, since 2001, has been partially converted into Giant Sequoia National Monument. 

The new national monument preserves 328,315 acres of new and old-growth forests, including 33 giant sequoia groves. 

Note: Check here for current closures due to the KNP Wildfire in 2021.

#45 Sequoia National Park

sequoia national park

Why it’s worth visiting: See the biggest tree on the planet, the General Sherman tree
Region & Location: High Sierra; Take Route 198 past Three Rivers, CA (Ash Mountain Entrance)
Prices: $35 (entrance fee also valid for Kings Canyon NP); $20/night (camping fee)

Sequoia National Park is famous for protecting sequoias, and the Giant Forest area is truly spectacular. You can visit the General Sherman tree, the biggest tree on the planet by volume. 

The trail to the Sherman tree leads you to a quieter part of the Giant Forest, which I recommend. 

Note: When I visited, I saw dozens of people crossing fences labeled “keep out” to get a selfie. Sequoias are an endangered species, and walking on the roots damages them. Please stay on the trail when you visit!

Tips for Visiting California’s Redwood Forests

tips for visiting the californias redwood forests

Cell Service is Spotty

This is totally #firstworldproblems, but I’m always surprised when I can’t get cell service in nature. Especially when it’s somewhere near “civilization,” but this is the case in many national and California state parks. 

Most of the old-growth forests I’ve visited (north coast, Bay Area, and High Sierra, have not had cell service).

Save Money with a Parks Pass

Both the National Park Service and California State Parks have an annual pass which will save you money on entrance fees if you plan to visit several parks.

Buy the America the Beautiful Pass to gain entry to the national parks, or the California Explorer Vehicle Day Use Annual Pass for the California State Parks, including state beaches.

Planning to hit up multiple national parks? Consider a National Park Passport!

Stay on the Trail

Giant sequoias are an endangered species, and California’s redwood trees are threatened but on the brink of endangerment too. 

Both of these trees have very shallow and delicate roots. Walking over these roots can damage them, so staying on the trails is essential!

Know the Fire Restrictions

Fire is the biggest threat to our big trees, so be sure you know the fire restrictions in your park. 

Never start a campfire if it’s not in an established metal fire ring, and pay attention to whether charcoal or wood fires are allowed. 

Charcoal fires are permitted when wood fires aren’t because they don’t spark as much as wood fires.

Love the nostalgic smell of campfires but don’t want to risk a wildfire? Consider a fragrant campfire spray and keep the forest safe from flames.

Be Crumb Clean!

Many State Parks located in California have a “Crumb Clean” campaign to help protect the endangered Marbled Murrelet bird. 

Some parks even require visitors to watch a video about keeping their campsites clean. 

Check out the video here:

Bring Layers

Many coastal redwood groves are in rainy areas, and most giant sequoias are at high elevations. Bring a rain jacket and a warm coat if you visit a big tree area.

Best Time to See the California Redwoods

best time to see the california redwoods

My favorite time to see California’s redwood trees is spring and fall. 

The summer months are extremely popular, but I usually like to have quiet experiences in nature, so shoulder season is the best, in my opinion.

FAQs About the California Redwood Trees

faqs about the california redwood trees

Sequoia vs. Redwood: What’s the Difference?

Sequoias (Sequoiadendron giganteum) and coastal redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) are closely related but are technically different species. 

Coastal redwoods live along the California coast, taking advantage of the moisture from the Pacific Ocean. 

Redwood trees are the tallest trees in the world and, despite their name, actually have a brownish color bark. 

When you visit the coastal redwood parks, you might notice that they might have a billion little sprouts coming out of the base of the trunk. The sprouts form barriers between campsites in campgrounds.

Coastal redwoods are one of the only conifers that can reproduce by sprouting (I think that’s neat, but I’m a #plantnerd). They can also live for 2,000 years or more! 

Giant sequoia trees are the biggest plants in the world when you measure the volume of the trunk.

These trees grow only about 4,000-8,000 ft on the west side of California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains. They have gorgeous reddish bark and can live for 3,000 years.

What is the best redwood park in California?

If you’re looking for the best redwood parks in California, go for the parks named after redwood trees, such as Redwood National and State Parks.

Which national parks in California have redwood trees?

Redwood National and State Parks (the only national and state park that are jointly managed) and Muir Woods National Monument have redwood groves. 

Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia National Parks are famous for giant sequoias, which are a different species.

Curious about national parks? Check out our guide to all the national parks in California.

What is the best part of Redwood National Park?

Of course, the best part of any park is in the eye of the beholder, but in my opinion, the best part of Redwood National Park is the Lady Bird Johnson Grove. 

Visit the Lady Bird Johnson Grove for the majestic old forest that lines the easy, flat trail.

Where in California are the giant trees?

Coast redwoods in California live almost exclusively along the California coast. 

Giant sequoias, a similar but different species, live on the west side of the Sierra Nevada between 4,000-8,000 ft of elevation.

Where is the famous redwood tree you can drive through in California?

There are three redwood trees and one giant sequoia you can drive through in California. 

The three redwood trees are the Chandelier Tree (Leggett, CA), Shrine Drive Through Tree (Myers Flat, CA), and the Klamath Tree, aka the Tour-Through Tree (Klamath, CA). 

You can also drive through the giant sequoia Tunnel Log in the Giant Forest in Sequoia National Park. 

There were more drive-through trees in the past, but many of them have since fallen. Some of these you can still walk through. 

These include the California Tunnel Tree in the Mariposa Grove in Yosemite, the Tunnel Tree in the Tuolumne Grove in Yosemite, and the Pioneer Cabin Tree in Calaveras Big Trees State Park.

Where are the biggest trees in California?

The biggest tree in the redwood family is the General Sherman tree in Sequoia National Park, followed by the General Grant tree in Kings Canyon. 

Many other parks have giant redwoods too. Check out the Big Tree in Redwood National and State Parks, with a circumference of 68 feet.


author bio - Meredith Dennis

Meredith Dennis

Meredith is a biologist and writer based in California’s Sierra Nevada. She has lived in six states as a biologist, so her intel on hiking and camping is chef’s kiss next level. One of her earliest camping memories was being too scared to find a bathroom at night on a family camping trip. Thankfully, she’s come a long way since then and she can help you get there too!

Planning a California redwood trip? Check out these related articles below!

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Redwood National Park Guide

Places to See Redwoods Near San Francisco

Best Big Basin Hikes & Campgrounds

Best Hikes in Sequoia National Park & Kings Canyon

Best Big Sur Hikes

Best Camping in Kings Canyon National Park

Epic California National Parks Road Trip

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Hi, I'm Mimi! I'm an outdoorsy Californian who has spent over 28 years immersed in the incredible natural beauty that California has to offer. My goal is to inspire others to get out and find their next adventure in California. Whether it’s escaping to an alpine lake in the Sierras, finding peace among the giant redwoods, or road tripping down the PCH, there’s always more to explore in this beautiful state.


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