, Bay Area expert | Published on: February 1st, 2024
Most think of Muir Woods when it comes to seeing redwoods near San Francisco.
But just a few miles from downtown Oakland lies one of the best hidden redwood parks in the Bay Area: Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park.
This lush, 1,833-acre park transports you into a primordial world, with about 40 miles of trails, many of which feature fern-filled dense redwood forests.
The redwoods here mostly date back to the early 20th century after loggers destroyed the redwoods in the area following the 1906 earthquake. Yet these second- and third-growth giants are still impressive.
If you visit in the winter, an additional draw is the ladybugs that arrive by the tens of thousands, blanketing trees and shrubs in spots of red and black.
I’ve visited Redwood Regional Park three times now since moving to the East Bay, most recently in January 2024.
Having spent hours hiking most of the trails in the park, I’ll share the highlights so you can make the most of your time.
By the end, you’ll know everything worth knowing before visiting Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park.
Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park Map
Why it’s worth visiting
Towering second-growth and third-growth redwoods, only a few miles from downtown Oakland, and the ladybugs that take over the park from Nov-Feb
7867 Redwood Road Oakland, CA 94619
5 AM – 10 PM
$5/vehicle, $4/trailer, $25/bus; $2/day for dogs [fees only if you park at the Canyon Meadow Staging Area; free parking at the Skyline Gate Staging Area]
See current trail closures here
Yes [see FAQs below]
Redwood Regional Park Video
A video of a recent winter visit to Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park, including some ladybug spotting!
Parking at Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park
There are various entrances and parking areas at Redwood Regional Park, but the two main parking areas are Canyon Meadow Staging Area and Skyline Gate Staging Area.
These two parking areas are located on opposite sides of the park, so deciding on which one to park at depends on which trails you’re planning to hike.
I prefer parking at the Skyline Gate Staging Area since there’s no fee, and I’ve never had an issue finding parking there. The parking lot fills up quickly on weekends, but there’s plenty of street parking.
I also like the scenery more on the northwest side of the park, where the Skyline Gate Staging Area is.
You just can’t beat the beautiful redwood grove that’s only five minutes down the Stream Trail from the parking lot.
Also, this side of the park is where you’ll find one of my favorite areas to be surrounded by redwoods–at the intersection of the Stream Trail and Tres Sendas Trail where you’ll find Redwood Creek.
From there, walking the Starflower, French Trail, and even the Redwood Peak Trail are all beauties.
With that said, the Canyon Meadow Staging Area offers a lot of great trails, too–although you will have to pay $5 if you park in the lot.
The West Ridge Trail isn’t anything special, but the French Trail from this side of the park is a beautiful spot for redwoods.
To decide where to park, I’d plan which trails you want to tackle for the day [see my recommendations below!] and then park wherever is closest since there are plenty of parking areas around the outskirts of the park.
Main Parking Areas
- Canyon Meadow Staging Area & Redwood Gate [$5 fee, official entrance to the park]
- Skyline Gate Staging Area [no fee]
Other Parking Areas
- Skyline Boulevard Parking
- Waterloo Staging Area
- Moon Gate
- Redwood Bowl Staging Area
- Roberts Regional Recreation Area
- Big Bear Staging Area
- MacDonald Gate Staging Area
- Pinehurst Staging Area
Local tip: Some guides say to not park at the free parking areas like Skyline Gate Staging Area or along Skyline Boulevard due to car break-ins. However, I’ve never had an issue with this and I’ve always taken advantage of the free parking. Car break-ins are a constant issue in the Bay Area as a whole, but you should be fine as long as you’re not leaving valuables in your car or a lot of things visible.
Best (and Worst) Trails at Redwood Regional Park
There are nearly 40 miles of trails to choose from at Redwood Regional Park, so plenty of options whether you’re looking for an easy hike or something more strenuous.
The prettiest trails at Redwood Regional are the Stream Trail, French Trail, Tres Sendas Trail, and Redwood Peak Trail.
These also happen to include most of the redwoods at the park. So, if you include at least one of those, you should have a beautiful day at Redwood Regional Park.
Below is my favorite hike in the park, with some options for variations depending on what you’re looking for.
Stream, Mill, and French Trail Loop
Trail Map | 4.3 miles | 931 elevation gain
The Stream, Mill, and French Trail Loop is my top pick simply because it’s the perfect introduction to the park’s main features and some of my favorite trails.
I linked to the AllTrails route above. The only change I would make is going in the opposite direction on the Stream Trail first and then ending with the West Ridge Trail since it’s a prettier route.
Some side trails that are worth exploring if you have the bandwidth:
- Tres Sendas Trail [+0.6 miles out-and-back] – the super lush and prehistoric-feeling part of the trail starting from where the Stream and Tres Sendas trails intersect and going to the French Trail and back.
- Redwood Peak Trail [+1 mile out-and-back from the French Trail] – This is the trail that adds more elevation gain to get to the peak, but it’s fun getting to the top of the park and the redwoods here are just as gorgeous as what you’ll find on the French Trail (but less crowded). There’s a random archery range you’ll pass by on the way to the peak as well. If you want to add this, I’d recommend going up to the peak from the French Trail and returning the same way. If you go on the Madronas Trail, you can make it into a loop, but the Redwood Peak Trail is SO much prettier than the Madronas Trail [which I’m not a big fan of].
- French Trail, Bridle, and Stream Trail Loop [+3 miles] – If you really want to go all out, you can do almost the entire length of the park with this trail, which ends up being around 7.3 miles total and an additional 300 feet in elevation gain [1,292 total].
Trails I DON’T Recommend
- The Madrone Trail – A steep climb without much scenery or trees, and it’s where we ran into aggressive crows that tried to drop pine cones on our heads. This trail is more dusty than lush, and it’s a lot of effort for little reward.
- West Ridge Trail – You’ll likely do part of the West Ridge Trail at the start or end of one of the other trails. However, it’s not that worth doing the whole West Ridge Trail on its own, especially from the Canyon Meadows Staging Area. It’s a wide and accessible path, which is basically the only thing it has going for it. Otherwise, it’s crowded, a bit boring, and doesn’t offer much natural beauty. It’s a combination trail for bikers and hikers, and I’d recommend it for bikers much more than I would for hikers.
Local tip: Although the park’s main site says there’s little to no cell reception, I’ve always had perfect cell reception throughout the park with Verizon.
Camping at Redwood Regional Park
There are a few group campgrounds at Redwood Regional Park: Girls’ Camp, Fern Dell, and Trail’s End. However, these are only open from May 16th to October 31st each year.
You’ll need to call the park’s reservations department to reserve a spot. When I tried to book via Reserve America, it told me I needed to call the park directly to book.
This is the number and hours to call: 1-888-327-2757, option 2 [9:00 AM – 4:00 PM, weekdays only].
Another thing to note is that all of these are hike-in campsites. They’re not too far from the parking areas, but you should plan to walk around a half mile for each [or around a mile for the Trail’s End campground].
- Girls’ Camp – 9-50 people; ~0.40 miles to hike in from the Skyline Gate Staging Area
- Fern Dell – 9-50 people; ~0.32-0.51 miles to hike in from the Canyon Meadow Stagings Area, depending on where you park.
- Trail’s End – 9-25 people; ~0.89-1.12 miles to hike in from the Canyon Meadow Stagings Area, depending on where you park.
Unique Features of Redwood Regional Park
Below are some of the unique features of Redwood Regional Park that make it worth visiting.
The biggest draw to the park is in its name: the redwoods!
Redwood Regional Park is where you’ll find second and third-growth coastal redwoods. There’s nothing more magical than walking through a redwood forest, so it’s no surprise that this is a main feature of the park, and why I recommend hiking one of the trails that highlight the redwoods.
Since this was the site of extensive logging up until the early 1900s, the redwoods here are primarily second and third-growth, meaning many are 100-150 years old.
The main difference between second or third-growth vs old-growth redwoods is that the younger redwoods have less girth and aren’t as tall.
Honestly, though, there’s not that much of a difference between these trees and the old-growth trees you’ll find at Muir Woods, and they’re still very impressive to go see.
I actually found the redwoods at Redwood Regional Park to be on par or even better than Muir Woods since the trees are almost as impressive but with much fewer people on the trails.
Redwood Regional Park also has a more lush and prehistoric feel, and the redwood forest is denser than Muir Woods.
Another unique draw to Redwood Regional Park is the tens of thousands of ladybugs that make the park their home between November and February each year.
Suneel found the clusters [or “aggregations” as they’re officially called] of overlapping ladybugs disgusting, but I thought it was pretty cool to see so many ladybugs in one area.
You sometimes really have to look to spot them. A friendly group of hikers pointed them out to us on the Stream Trail, about 10-15 minutes from the Skyline Gate Staging Area.
But once you see them, you can’t unsee them. They’re everywhere! A good hint is if there are a bunch of black spots in the leaves of the trees and plants, you know the ladybugs aren’t far.
Scientists believe they end up in the Oakland Hills each year and Redwood Regional Park, in particular, due to a dwindling food supply in the winter.
The ladybugs take off to find food, and they’re blown into the park. This is also their mating season.
Redwood Bike Route
This 8.8-mile loop encircles all of Redwood Regional Park via fire trails. There’s a manageable 5% average grade, so it’s an ideal route for beginner mountain bikers.
This is another unique way to see the park and a popular bike trail to tackle in the East Bay.
Roberts Regional Recreation Area
Nestled within the northwestern side of Redwood Regional Park, you’ll find a separate park called the Roberts Regional Recreation Area.
The main draw to this 82-acre park is its playground surrounded by redwoods. What a beautiful place for kids to play! It also has a good picnic area, a swimming pool, a volleyball court, and an archery range.
Chabot Space & Science Center
The Chabot Space & Science Center is a short distance from the Roberts Regional Recreation Area and is another fun place for kids (and adults) to visit.
They have a parking lot, but you can also access it via the West Ridge Trail if you want to add it to your day of hiking.
The center features interactive exhibits, a Planetarium, and an Observatory where they host telescope viewings.
Weather at Redwood Regional Park
I’ve visited the park in three different seasons, including winter, and have only needed one layer with a jacket–it’s usually pretty temperate.
Like most of the Bay Area, Redwood Regional Park enjoys temperate weather year-round.
It’s the perfect place to hike on a hot day since there are plenty of shaded trails, and the redwood forest is always cooler in temperature.
The only time you might want to avoid the park is during heavy winter storms that feature high winds since you risk falling trees.
It can also get pretty muddy up to a week or two after heavy rain since the forest stays so damp.
History of Redwood Regional Park
Established in 1939, Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park was the site of extensive logging for many years–from 1840 to 1860 and after the 1906 earthquake.
After this second bout of logging, efforts were made to protect the park and its redwoods, most notably by Dr. Aurelia Reinhardt, a well-respected botanist, conservationist, and the president of nearby Mills College.
Redwood Regional Park was one of the first parks to be established after the East Bay Regional Parks District was created in 1936 to preserve the East Bay’s most treasured nature areas.
In 2019, the park was renamed Dr. Aurelia Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park to honor the person who helped save its redwoods.
Redwood Regional Park Photos
Here are a few more photos of our visits to Redwoods Regional Park to give you a feel for what the park looks like.
FAQs About Redwood Regional Park
What is there to do in Redwood Regional Park?
The main attraction at Redwood Regional Park is the redwoods, of course! So, that’s the number one thing to do at Redwood Regional Park: hiking through trails that feature redwoods.
You could also bike the almost nine-mile Redwood Bike Route that circles the park, have a picnic, or go camping at one of the three campgrounds.
For families, stop by the Chabot Space & Science Center or take your kids to swim and play at the Roberts Regional Recreation Area.
Finally, if you’re visiting from Nov-Feb, search for the ladybugs! Try to spot the clusters of ladybugs found along the Stream Trail. It’s definitely a sight to behold!
What is the easiest trail in Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park?
The easiest trails in Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park are the Stream Trail and the West Ridge Trail.
These are both relatively wide and flat trails that are easily accessible from the main parking areas.
They’re ideal for people looking for a leisurely stroll through nature–whether you’re hiking with kids, have mobility issues, or just don’t want much elevation gain.
The Stream Trail would be my pick out of these two since it’s more lush and better for seeing redwoods.
How big is Redwood Regional Park?
Redwood Regional Park is 1,833 acres and offers almost 40 miles of hiking trails.
Are dogs allowed in Redwood Regional?
Yes, Redwood Regional is a very dog-friendly park. Dogs are welcome on all trails, although they must be leashed on some trails–like the Stream and Bridle trails.
They must also be leashed in developed areas like parking lots, picnic areas, etc.
Where should I start in Redwood Regional Park? Which part of the park is best?
I prefer starting from the northwest side of the park at the Skyline Gate Staging Area on the Stream Trail. The Stream Trail is an easy trail that immediately takes you to a beautiful redwood grove on the left within five minutes.
The intersection of the Stream Trail with the Tres Sendas Trail and Redwood Creek is also a magical place with towering redwoods.
From there, you can take various trails depending on how much time you have and then easily loop back to the Skyline Gate Staging Area.
The southeast side of the park is nice, too, especially the French Trail, but I like the northwest side for how quickly you can see redwoods and the fact that it offers free parking.
The northwest side is also where I spotted thousands of ladybugs when I visited in the winter. Although they can probably be found on the southeast side as well, I saw them directly off the Stream Trail during my visit, about 10-15 minutes from the Skyline Gate Staging Area.
What types of animals can be found in Redwood Regional Park?
There are a lot of different animals that can be found at Redwood Regional Park.
Some of the most notable are Golden eagles, Alameda striped racers, deer, raccoons, rabbits, squirrels, mountain lions, crows (that can be a little aggressive with dropping pine cones!), rainbow trout, California newts, and thousands of ladybugs in the late fall and winter during their migration.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Founder & Editor-In-Chief
Born and raised in California, Mimi McFadden initially started The Atlas Heart in 2013 to write about her adventures abroad. But since 2019, The Atlas Heart has become a love letter to the Golden State. Mimi enjoys sharing her first-hand knowledge and expertise with the places she knows so well in California and making the most comprehensive travel guides possible. When she’s not hiking and exploring new places in her home state, she loves to travel abroad, read in her cozy chaise lounge, play basketball, and connect with friends and family over board games. Over her 28 years in California, she has lived in Santa Cruz (18 years), San Diego (5 years), and the San Francisco Bay Area (5 years), where she currently resides.
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