The Perfect 1 to 2 Days in Redwood National Park Itinerary

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by Sarah Dittmore

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Located along the coast of Northern California, Redwood National and State Parks are home to the tallest trees on Earth. With a 1 to 2 days in Redwood National Park itinerary, you will not only see these impressive giants, but have a chance to explore the rivers, woodlands, and prairies that cover the 40-mile coastline of this luscious park.

For day-trippers and weekend warriors alike, this route covers everything you need to know to plan the perfect visit.

California is known for a variety of breathtaking natural wonders. From white sand beaches to snow-capped mountains, it’s a state of incredible biodiversity with endless opportunities for the adventurous traveller to experience sites that will stop them in their tracks.

Even so, nothing compares to the towering presence of the ancient redwoods. So if you’re planning to visit Redwood National Park, follow this guide to ensure you don’t miss a thing.

How Many Days in Redwood National Park?

Compared to the other National Parks scattered across California (such as Joshua Tree, Yosemite, Death Valley or Sequoia), Redwood National and State Parks (RNSP) is much smaller and easier to conquer in a couple of days.

When trying to figure out how many days to spend in Redwood National Park, one or two days should be plenty. One day is perfect for people passing through Northern California or looking for a quick day trip, and one day is really all you need to immerse yourself in the trees.

However, if you want to see some of the other natural features that make up this beautiful park, you’re going to want 2 days in the park.

This will give you time to explore the redwood groves while also visiting the rivers, woodlands, and prairies that make up the rest of the 40-mile park.

Trees in Redwood National Park
Stunning Redwood National Park

Getting To & Around Redwood National Park

This coastal park is located just an hour south of the California-Oregon border off of US-101. If you’re coming along the coast, whether heading south or north, you’ll take US-101 to get there. It also makes for a great stop when driving from San Francisco to Portland or even from San Francisco to Seattle.

It’s worth noting, however, that the area actually encompassed a complex of parks in Humboldt and Del Norte counties, which consists of one national park and three California state parks. The latter three are Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park and Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park.

There are no formal entrance stations as it is free to enter, but once US-101 changes to Redwood Highway, you’re there. Coming from the east, you’ll take CA-299 W to Bald Hills Road, which will lead you straight to the park! You can also take Howland Hill Road from Crescent City. Regardless, this means there is no need to purchase a National Park Pass.

Navigating the area is fairly easy. The roads are well-marked and easy to find. The bigger challenge is making sure you have the right car for the job. Many of the roads are narrow, winding, unpaved roads that weave through the forest.

The unpaved roads are in pretty good condition and doable for most cars; it’s motorhomes, RVs, and trailers that need to be careful about which route they take. For many of the narrow, winding roads, motorhomes/RVs and trailers are prohibited, but even where they are technically allowed, they’re often discouraged.

If you’re driving a larger vehicle like this, make sure to research the roads you plan to take through the park and plan accordingly. The scenic drives covered in this Redwood National Park itinerary are not accessible to these kinds of vehicles, but most regular cars, SUVs, etc. will be fine.

If you need to rent a car for this trip, you can browse which aggregates prices across a number of companies.

Unpaved path in Redwood NP
Unpaved path in Redwood NP

1 to 2-Day Redwood National Park Itinerary

Whether you’re a day tripper planning one day in Redwood National Park or a weekender planning a 2-day vacation, there’s a ton to do in this park. Day one of this itinerary focuses on seeing the forest and exploring the giant redwood trees.

For those who have 2 days, the second day focuses on all the other things to do in Redwood NSP beyond the stunning forests of towering evergreens. 

Day 1 – Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway, Cal-Barrel Road & Gold Bluffs Beach

Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway

Whether you have one day or two, taking a scenic drive through the park is a great way to cover a lot of ground and take in the beauty and natural diversity of this stunning park.

The following route starts from the north-western end, but if you’re coming from the south or east, just flip the order! Coming down US-101 S, you’ll hit a turn-off called Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway. The name says it all: the scenery is incredible.

This 10-mile route runs alongside US-101 and takes at least 20 minutes (more if you plan to stop along the way). This route will immerse you in the towering trees as you take the gentle curves that wander past the old-growth redwood forests.

While the road itself doesn’t go into the groves, there are plenty of walking trails off the parkway that take you into the heart of these ancient forests. 

Hiking trail in Redwood National Park
Hiking trail in Redwood NP

Cal-Barrel Road

When you get off the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway, a short backtrack up US-101 N will take you up to Cal-Barrel Road.

This narrow, 3.5-mile, unpaved road can be explored via foot year-round or car only in the summer. It also connects to lesser-known trails like Cathedral Tree Trail and Rhododendron Trail, but even if you choose not to hike, there is plenty to see on this short drive alone.

It’s very narrow and winding, but the reward for making the effort is a dense forest of lowland redwoods with a pristine, needle-covered trail.

Hike Near Gold Bluffs Beach

After these two routes, head over to Gold Bluffs Beach. The beach itself is a beautiful opportunity to see the California coast, but continue to the end of the road and you’ll find some easy and beautiful hiking trails that take you through the redwoods.

Fern Canyon Loop Trail is an easy 1.1-mile loop that takes you to Fern Canyon, a 50-foot-deep canyon filled with ferns straight out of Jurassic Park (literally; this was a filming location used for several scenes in Jurassic Park 2: Lost Worlds).

Another great trail in the area is Prairie Creek and Foothill Loop. This 2.4-mile loop trail will let you get up-close-and personal with the giant redwood trees.

Those looking for a longer, more challenging hike might enjoy the James Irvine Trail to Fern Canyon (9 miles), Friendship Ridge Trail to Davidson Trail Loop (8.5 miles), or Miner’s Ridge Trail, Clintonia Trail, and Gold Bluffs Beach Loop (7.1 miles).

Gold Bluffs Beach
Gold Bluffs Beach

Day 2 – Bald Hills Road & Crescent City

Bald Hills Road

One of the most popular scenic drives of Redwood National Park is Bald Hills Road. This mostly unpaved road is 31.7 miles long and offers chances to see elk, explore the redwoods, and check out the woodlands and prairies.

It takes about 1-2 hours to drive without stops (however, make sure to stop for a moment at the beautiful Redwood Creek Overlook) and crosses from the west side of the park to the eastern end. It’s a great drive to take on your way out of the park as it covers so much ground in such a beautiful environment.

If you’re heading west to return home, start on the eastern end and hit Crescent City on your way out. If you’re leaving via US-299, then flip this day 2 itinerary upside down and start with Crescent City, then drive the Bald Hills Road on your way out.

This incredible drive takes you past a ton of the historic sites and gorgeous hiking trails that make up Redwood National Park, such as Lady Bird Johnson Grove (an easy 1-mile loop trail through a ridgetop redwood forest), Tall Trees Grove Trail (a 3.6-mile loop trail through a remote part of the park that requires a permit to hike), Lyons Ranch Historic District (a 19th-century ranch with a wealth of history), and more.

Lady Bird Johnson Grove
Lady Bird Johnson Grove

Crescent City

Though not technically part of the National Park, if you have 2 days here, a visit to Crescent City is well worth your time. This coastal town offers tons of stunning views of the California coastline, complete with picturesque lighthouses and, depending on the time of year, a chance to see the local sea lions.

The Battery Point Lighthouse in Crescent City is both a historic lighthouse with stunning vistas and a fascinating museum where you can learn a ton about the area’s storied past.

Not far from the lighthouse is the harbor district. The sea lions come and go as they please but can often be found sunbathing on the seal docks visible from the Crescent City Harbor. While you’re here, you can also get some fresh, delicious seafood for lunch at Crescent Seafood.

From here, head about 15 minutes north to Point St. George. This rocky point is a great place to get views of the rocky bluffs that reach out into the ocean and the abandoned St. George Reef Lighthouse. You can see both California and Oregon from this point and, if you’re lucky, you might even spot some whales.

Battery Point Lighthouse
Battery Point Lighthouse

Where to Stay Near Redwood National Park

Lighthouse Inn – This centrally-located inn is an excellent base in Crescent City. They have a great location for exploring the town and Redwood National Park along with plenty of clean and comfortable rooms available. Breakfast is also included each morning.

Private Rental – Opting for a private vacation rental — such as this lighthouse-view beach cottage — is another great choice in Crescent City. There are tons of properties to choose from across a number of platforms.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more hotels in Crescent City!

Redwood National Park is a beautiful enclave in Northern California featuring the tallest trees in the world. But a visit to the redwoods is about more than just the ancient forests. With this itinerary, you can see the old-growth forests, sprawling prairies, stunning coastline, and more. 

Are you planning a trip to the redwoods? Have any questions about this itinerary? Let us know in the comments!

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Sarah is a writer for The World Was Here First. A California native, she loves travelling around her home state as well as visiting places further afield. She has spent over a decade travelling the world and writing stories inspired by the people and places she encounters along the way.

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