Last updated: March 10th, 2023
The best places to see redwoods near San Francisco, from a local who grew up hiking through them.
Walking among coastal redwoods in Northern California is perhaps one of the most magical experiences you can have.
It’s damp, quiet, and peaceful, and you’re surrounded by some of the tallest and oldest trees in the world.
The California redwoods are special to me for several reasons, but most notably they’re special because they give me a strong feeling of being home.
I grew up in Santa Cruz, where weekends were either spent at the beach or hiking through the redwoods at Big Basin or Henry Cowell State Park.
Redwoods were a constant in my life from a young age.
As an adult, I’m now based in Bay Area where I’m still surrounded by beautiful redwoods that are perfect for a day trip from the city.
This is all to say that I love the California coastal redwoods and I’ve been to a lot of them throughout the state.
Because of this, I wanted to share my favorite California redwood tree parks that are within a two-hour drive from SF.
Here are nine of the best places to find redwoods near San Francisco.
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Table of Contents
Map of California Redwoods Near San Francisco
Click here for an interactive map of all the redwood destinations I list in this article.
Best Places to See Redwoods Near San Francisco
Muir Woods National Monument
Distance from San Francisco: 30 minutes
Price: Entrance fee – $15/person; parking – $9/vehicle; shuttle – $3.50/person
Named after the famous naturalist John Muir, Muir Woods National Monument is by far the most popular place to see redwoods near San Francisco.
At the park, you’ll find redwoods that are anywhere from 600 to 1,200 years old and that get up to 258 feet tall.
Muir Woods is just north of San Francisco and the closest place from the city to fully immerse yourself in a redwood forest.
However, the downside of Muir Woods being so close to the city is that it’s always crowded.
In fact, Muir Woods is the most popular redwood park in the world and welcomes over a million visitors every year.
This means that Muir Woods won’t be the best place to visit if you’re looking for a solo and quiet walk amongst the towering redwoods.
But if you’ve never been to Muir Woods, it’s worth visiting at least once.
And if you get to Muir Woods as soon as the park opens, you can avoid most of the crowds and still enjoy a somewhat quiet forest.
There are various easy trails that wind through the park. If you’re looking for a quick hike, the Bohemian Grove Trail (2 miles) is a good place to start.
How to get to Muir Woods National Monument
Because Muir Woods is such a popular place to see the redwoods near San Francisco, it takes some extra planning to visit the park.
If you’re driving to the park, you’ll need to book a timed parking permit ahead of time.
Marin Transit also operates a Muir Woods Shuttle that leaves from various pickup points in the North Bay.
The Muir Woods Shuttle is the best way to get to the park on public transit.
Just note that reservations are required for the Muir Woods Shuttle and they book up fast, especially on weekends and during the summer.
The last option for visiting Muir Woods is to hop on a Muir Woods tour with a local tour company.
However, this is the more expensive option and you usually only get 60-90 minutes at the park.
Another thing to note is that cell service is nonexistent in the park.
Plan accordingly and don’t expect to be able to call a Lyft or Uber to get back to San Francisco.
Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park
Distance from San Francisco: 30 minutes
Price: Day-use parking – $5; pets – $2/dog
Another popular spot to see the redwoods near SF (and much less busy than visiting Muir Woods) is Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park.
Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park is located in the East Bay, in Oakland to be exact, and is part of the East Bay Regional Parks District.
This park used to be the site of a huge logging operation in the 1880s, but it’s now where you’ll find the largest group of natural coastal redwoods in the East Bay.
These are second-growth redwoods, so only around 100 years old but still beautiful to walk through.
At Redwood Regional Park, it’s easier to experience a hushed walk through the redwoods and even some empty trails, especially if you go early in the day.
The 1,830-acre park features miles of trails, but a good one to start with to be fully immersed in the redwoods is The French Trail Loop (6 miles).
Local tip: There’s usually free parking on Skyline Boulevard and Redwood Road, just don’t leave anything valuable in your car because there are sometimes break-ins. Otherwise, you can go for one of the paid parking areas, such as Roberts or Canyon Meadow.
Samuel P. Taylor State Park
Distance from San Francisco: 1 hour
Price: Day-use parking – $8; camping – $35/night
Just north of San Francisco, you’ll find Samuel P. Taylor State Park in Marin County.
It’s a lush gorge filled with hundreds of acres of redwood trees and easy-to-moderate hikes.
If you’re looking for a quick day trip to see the redwoods near San Francisco, but don’t want to deal with the crowds of Muir Woods, this is an ideal spot.
At Samuel P. Taylor State Park, you can stroll through the old-growth forest along Lagunitas Creek and take in one of the best views in Marin at the top of Barnabe Peak.
For an easy redwood hike, start with the 3-mile South Creek Trail that takes you along Lagunitas Creek.
The 2.7-mile Pioneer Tree Loop Trail is another popular and easy hike that takes you to a grove of old-growth redwoods.
If you’re looking for a more difficult hike that includes a mix of redwoods and good views, take the 7-mile Devil’s Gulch Trail to the top of Barnabe Peak.
Samuel P. Taylor State Park is an underrated spot that’s only made more attractive by the fact that it’s just an hour’s drive from San Francisco and conveniently nestled in the suburbs of Marin.
Butano State Park
Distance from San Francisco: 1.25 hours
Price: Day-use parking – $10, camping – $35/night
Established in 1957 to protect the redwoods from being cut down by local logging operations, Butano State Park is just over an hour from the city and another good place to hike in redwoods near San Francisco.
At Butano State Park, you can expect to find old-growth redwoods nestled in a peaceful canyon.
The park has 40 miles of hiking trails, dozens of campsites, creeks, wetlands, and diverse wildlife.
The best short trail to start out on is the Six Bridges Trail to Ben Reis Campground, which takes you to the heart of the redwoods in the park.
Currently, the trail ends at the third bridge, short of its full 3-mile length due to lasting damage from the 2020 CZU Lightning Complex fires.
Even so, it’s one of my favorite hikes because you’re surrounded by mesmerizing redwoods.
If you have more time, the 5-mile Año Nuevo and Goat Hill Trail Loop is another excellent option.
Portola Redwoods State Park
Distance from San Francisco: 1.25 hours
Price: Day-use parking – $10; camping – $35/night
Just a couple miles north of the popular Big Basin State Park, Portola Redwoods is an overlooked park just south of San Francisco.
Walking through this lush park, you wouldn’t guess that San Jose and the huge tech companies of Silicon Valley are just a short drive away.
With only 18 miles of hiking trails, Portola Redwoods is a manageable park to hike through if you only have a day or two to spend in the California redwoods.
And with over 50 campsites, there are plenty of options for pitching a tent at the park too.
You can expect trails to mostly consist of shady redwood groves (some with trees that are around 1,200 years old), creeks, huckleberries, ferns, and even waterfalls.
For a quick introduction to the Portola redwoods and the natural history of the area, start with the 0.6-mile Old Tree Trail.
If you’re feeling up for it, the 6-mile Slate Creek Loop offers a little more of a challenge.
Looking for more outdoor adventures near San Jose? Read our guide to the best San Jose hikes.
Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
Distance from San Francisco: 1.25 hours
Price: Day-use parking – $10; camping – $35/night
Located in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park is one of the most popular state parks in California that features towering redwoods.
It’s also the best place to find redwoods near Santa Cruz.
And redwoods aren’t all you’ll find at Henry Cowell Redwoods. The park is also home to Roaring Camp Railroad, which lets you ride through the redwoods on a historic 1880s steam train.
It’s a great thing to do with kids, but, honestly, I love hopping on a Roaring Camp train ride as an adult as well.
There’s no other place in California where you can surround yourself with redwoods via an open-air train ride. It’s a very cool experience.
With its scenic nature and a 40-acre grove of old-growth trees that are around 1,500 years old, this is the park that inspired some of California’s first redwood preservation efforts.
It was even admired by the likes of John C. Fremont and President Theodore Roosevelt back in the day.
And it’s easy to see why–there’s a lot of nature to appreciate at Henry Cowell Redwoods Park.
Some of that nature incldues 30 miles of hiking trails, over 100 campsites, a popular swimming hole called the Garden of Eden, and redwood trees that you can walk inside of.
While you’re at the park, don’t miss the 0.8-mile Redwood Grove Loop Trail for a good introduction to the history of the area and to step inside the popular Fremont Tree.
If you have more time, the 4-mile Cathedral Redwoods Trail is a good hike to be surrounded by a circle of redwoods and to take a detour to Cable Car Beach.
And the 5-mile Observation Deck Trail features expansive views and thick forests of second-growth redwoods, ponderosa pines, and the Santa Cruz sandhills.
Local tip: Keep your eyes peeled for the bright yellow banana slugs that often pop up on the trail after it rains. They’re UC Santa Cruz’s mascot and a beloved part of the redwoods near Santa Cruz.
Big Basin Redwoods State Park
Note: Big Basin Redwoods partially reopened on February 21, 2023 after closing temporarily due to damage from an atmospheric river storm in January. Some trails remain closed and the forest is still healing from the 2020 CZU Lightning Complex fires.
Distance from San Francisco: 1.5 hours
Price: Day-use parking – $6/vehicle + $2 registration; camping – $35/night
Not too far from Henry Cowell Redwoods Park, you’ll find Big Basin Redwoods State Park.
Established in 1902 and located in the thick redwood forests of the Santa Cruz Mountains, this is California’s oldest state park.
At Big Basin, you’ll find a 1,800-acre park full of old-growth redwood trees that are anywhere from 1,000 to 1,800 years old, ocean views, waterfalls, and a fascinating history.
One thing to note is that the CZU Lightning Complex wildfires engulfed 97% of the park in 2020.
This means that visitors today will experience a healing forest, different from a few years ago.
Thankfully, the same old-growth redwoods that we’ve loved for generations still stand tall and a resilient undergrowth is rapidly regrowing.
Just make sure to pack your sunscreen since more sunshine reaches the forest floor now than it did before.
You can also still witness one of Big Basin’s most famous claims to fame, which is having the “largest continuous strand of ancient coast redwoods south of San Francisco.”
One of the most popular Big Basin hikes that’s still open is the 0.6-mile Redwood Trail Loop.
This trail is a good introduction to the park and features some of the biggest trees at Big Basin.
Although currently closed, another trail that shouldn’t be missed once it re-opens is the 4.7-mile Skyline to the Sea and Meteor Trail Loop.
And if you’re looking for a more strenuous hike, the partially re-opened 6.3-mile Dool Trail features large coast redwoods, ocean views, and a 1,496-foot elevation change.
For more information about this park, read my complete guide to Big Basin Redwoods State Park.
More Places to See Coastal Redwoods Near the Bay Area (More Than Two Hours Away)
Humboldt Redwoods State Park
Distance from San Francisco: 4 hours
Price: Day-use parking – $10; camping – $35
If you’re up for the drive from the San Francisco Bay Area, one of the best places to see redwoods in California is Humboldt Redwoods State Park.
Humboldt Redwoods State Park spans over 55,000 acres, which is twice the size of SF!
It features a lot of old-growth trees and there are over 100 miles of hiking trails.
The damp weather and cooler temperatures on this part of the California coast are perfect for an old-growth forest of coastal redwoods.
Since the early 1900s, there have been continuous conservation efforts focused on saving the redwoods in this area.
As a result, Humboldt Redwoods State Park has the largest redwoods near San Francisco.
Humboldt Redwoods Sate Park is also where you’ll find some of the densest redwood forests in the state, as well as some of the best redwood-lined drives.
If you’re interested in seeing redwoods from the comfort of your car, this is the park where you’ll find California’s most famous redwood drive–the Avenue of the Giants.
Make sure to pick up an auto tour brochure at the Humboldt Redwoods Visitor Center so you don’t miss the best features of the Avenue of the Giants drive.
One favorite hiking trail along the drive is the 0.6-mile loop hike called the Rockefeller Trail, which takes you to the largest contiguous old-growth redwoods in the world.
Redwood National and State Parks
Distance from San Francisco: 5.5 hours
Price: The national park as a whole has free admission, but Jedediah Smith, Del Norte Coast, and Prairie Creek Redwoods state parks are $10 each for day-use parking. Camping is $35/night.
Another popular place to see the redwoods north of San Francisco, Redwood National and State Parks is where you’ll find the tallest redwood trees in Northern California.
Because it’s at least five hours to do the San Francisco to Redwood National Park drive, this is a great spot for a weekend trip from San Francisco.
Redwood National Park and State Parks is a group of parks that are along 40 miles of rugged California coastline, just south of the Oregon border.
These redwood parks include Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park.
And if you’re looking for scenic redwood drives, this is another good area to see the redwoods from your car.
A few redwood drives around the national park include Howland Hill Road, Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway, Cal-Barrel Road, and Davison Road.
In terms of hiking through a forest of coastal redwoods, don’t miss the 0.5-mile Trillium Falls Trail, the 1.5-mile Lady Bird Johnson Loop Trail, the 1-mile Simpson-Reed Trail, or the 2.5-mile Prairie Creek Foothill Trail Loop
If you want to tackle an all-day hike, the 12-mile James Irvine Trail to Fern Canyon Loop is one of the most beautiful trails in the area and will give you a diverse look at the natural beauty of the parks.
Watch the video below to experience a glimpse of just how magical this park is and why it’s worth a visit.
Read our guide to Redwood National and State Parks, as well as the best things to do in Redwood National & State Parks, and how to road trip from San Francisco to Redwood National and State Parks.
Other Redwood Forests to Visit in California
- Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve – you can plan your own excursion, or join this tour, which also includes two wineries and a Golden Gate Bridge photo op!
- Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park – read our guide to Big Sur camping and hiking
- Smithe Redwoods State Natural Reserve
- Mailliard Redwoods State Natural Reserve
- Hendy Woods State Park
- Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve
- Sanborn County Park
How Far are the Redwoods From San Francisco?
There are various redwoods near San Francisco, but the closest ones are in Muir Woods in Marin and Redwood Regional Park in Oakland.
Both are about a 30-minute drive from the city and are perfect for a self-guided tour of the redwoods.
If you’re planning a weekend camping trip, you’ll find the most famous giant redwoods at Humboldt Redwoods State Park, which is about four hours away by car.
Are There Coastal Redwoods in San Francisco?
Yes, although the redwood groves in San Francisco won’t be as impressive as the redwoods just outside of the city.
These are the two most popular places to see redwoods in San Francisco.
Transamerica Redwood Park
Designed in 1969, San Francisco’s Transamerica Redwood Park is a half-acre park and popular lunch spot for people who work in the Financial District or Union Square.
It’s a quiet area full of benches and a fountain dedicated to Mark Twain, who once lived nearby and wrote at this site.
Heroes Grove in Golden Gate Park
As the largest green space in the city with various San Francisco attractions, Golden Gate Park should already be on your list of places to visit in the San Francisco Bay Area.
And even more so because Golden Gate Park is home to its own redwood grove, called the Heroes Grove.
This grove is named in honor of the people who lost their lives in WWI.
Looking for more outdoor adventures in the city? Read our guide to the best urban hikes in San Francisco.
What is the Best Time of the Year to Visit the Redwoods Near San Francisco?
Because coastal redwoods grow in temperate climates, they can be visited at any time of the year.
With that said, since redwood parks tend to be on the cooler side, it’ll be a warmer hike if you visit them in the spring, summer, or fall.
The winter is probably the worst time to visit the redwoods because trails are damper and there’s a risk of winter storms.
Are Redwoods Only in California?
Old-growth coastal redwoods are native to California and the West Coast of the US in North America.
This means the only places you’ll find native and natural redwoods are in California, Oregon, and Washington.
What is the Difference Between Redwoods and Giant Sequoias?
Redwoods and sequoias are both behemoth trees that live for a long time–so what’s the main difference between them? Aren’t they both just huge trees? Not quite.
The main difference is that giant sequoias are the biggest trees in the world (by volume) with thick trunks.
Redwoods are the tallest trees in the world and tend to be more slender.
So, they’re both big trees, just in different ways. Another difference between the two is where they tend to grow.
A redwood tree tends to grow along the Pacific Coast, hence why they’re called coastal or coast redwoods.
A sequoia is more likely to be found in higher elevations, such as the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains and its national parks (Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are good examples).
The tallest tree in the world is a redwood called Hyperion in Redwood National and State Parks at 379 feet tall.
The largest tree in the world is a giant sequoia called General Sherman in Sequoia National Park at 52,500 cubic feet in volume.
Looking to explore California’s sequoia trees? Read our guides to the best things to do in Sequoia and Kings Canyon, as well as the best hikes, where to stay, and the best camping in Sequoia and Kings Canyon.
Which Redwood Forest is Closest to San Francisco?
Maybe you’re short on vacation days and wondering, “How far is the redwood forest from San Francisco?”
Lucky for you, Muir Woods National Monument and Reinhardt Regional Park are both only 30 minutes from SF, making them the closest places to see redwoods near San Francisco.
Either of these parks are the perfect day trip from San Francisco to escape into the wilderness in a short amount of time.
Where are the Giant Sequoias Near San Francisco?
If you’re after giant sequoias near San Francisco, pack the snacks because these giants grow on the west side of the Sierra Nevada mountains in California.
It’s about a 4.5-hour drive from San Francisco to the sequoias.
There are roughly 40 different sites to choose from, including the Giant Forest and Muir Grove (not to be confused with Muir Woods National Monument).
Some giant sequoias are inside parks such as Sequoia National Park and Yosemite National Park, while others are under the care of the National Forestry Service.
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