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Best hikes in Redwood National Park: from tall trees to rugged coastline

A hiker on a trail in redwood national park
Coastal redwoods are an evergreen tree that lives 1,200 to 2,200 years or longer and reach up to 379 ft in height and 29ft in diameter. (Image credit: © Allard Schager)

California is well known for its outstanding natural beauty, much of which is preserved in famous National Parks such as Yosemite, Joshua Tree and Death Valley. While these three parks alone attract millions of visitors every year, a drive further north takes you to the relative solitude of Redwood National Park, where you can wander among the hulking trunks of the tallest living trees on earth. The best hikes in Redwood National Park take you among temperate rainforests, ancient fern-lined canyons, waterfalls and even along rugged coastline. 

Redwood National Park is located in northern California, close to the border with Oregon, and uniquely, it is part of a partnership with four state parks to form Redwood National and State Parks which encompasses about 139,000 acres and protects almost half of all remaining old-growth coastal redwoods.

A hiker on a trail in Redwood National Park

The best way to experience these magnificent trees is to walk amongst them on a visit to Redwood National and State Parks (Image credit: Carmen Martínez Torrón)

Coastal redwoods are an evergreen tree that lives 1,200 to 2,200 years or longer and reach up to 379 ft in height and 29ft in diameter. These trees are also among the oldest living organisms on Earth. Before commercial logging began in the 1850s, these giant trees inhabited millions of acres of coastal California.

The best way to experience these magnificent trees is to walk among them on a visit to Redwood National and State Parks. Unlike Yosemite, where many of the popular hikes involve steep, challenging climbing, the walks here are generally on flat terrain and rated easy or moderate. Redwood also sees far fewer visitors – about 500,000 in 2019 compared to Yosemite’s whopping four million – as it is miles from any metropolitan area. Due to its temperate climate you can hike here year-round, even though summer months when the weather is dry are often busier.

If you’re seeking a peaceful and memorable experience walking on the soft earth among the silent majesty of these fine trees, we recommend you grab your hiking boots and a waterproof jacket and check out these awe-inspiring trails.

Woman standing among giant sequioas

Redwood also sees far fewer visitors – about 500,000 in 2019 compared to Yosemite’s whopping four million – as it is miles from any metropolitan area (Image credit: Getty)

Tall Trees Grove Loop Trail 

A hiker walks on a fallen tree at redwood national park

Tall Trees Grove is home to Hyperion, the tallest tree in the world (Image credit: Cavan Images)

Park: Redwood National Park
Distance: 3.3 miles
Difficulty: Moderate

Hyperion, a resident of Tall Trees Grove holds the title of tallest tree in the world, towering at 379 feet, so it’s a great place to start if you can’t wait to get your eyes on a big tree. That said, the remainder may pale in comparison so there’s also an argument for leaving it to the end. This lovely loop takes you into a bend of Redwood Creek.

Stout Grove Loop  

A woman stands in the sunlight between giant trees

For a glimpse of the oldest trees in the Park, Stout Grove is the best trail (Image credit: Christopher Kimmel)

Park: Jedediah State Park
Distance: 0.7 miles
Difficulty: Easy

For a glimpse of the oldest trees in the Park, Stout Grove is the best trail. This short trail visits trees that are hundreds, even thousands of years old, which means they’re often over 300ft tall. The trail is next to the Smith River where you can swim on a warm day.

Fern Canyon 

A woman stands on a log in fern canyon

If you’ve seen Jurassic Park 2, you’ve seen Fern Canyon (Image credit: photo by Kris Wong. www.kriswong.com)

Park: Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park
Distance: 1.1 miles
Difficulty: Easy

If you’ve seen Jurassic Park 2, you’ve seen Fern Canyon as portions of the movie were filmed here, but the movie still can't really prepare you for reality. This short walk entails a long adventurous drive and delivers an almost surreal display of ancient ferns in its narrow, vertical walled canyon. You’ll be walking through the creek bed so waterproof shoes may be helpful. This trail connects with the James Irvine trail so it can be turned into a bigger adventure, and it’s also close to the beach.

James Irvine Trail 

A sun dappled forest trail

You can hike in Redwood National Park year-round, though the summer months are drier (Image credit: Nazar Abbas Photography)

Park: Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park
Distance: 10.4 miles
Difficulty: Moderate

This is one of the few long distance hikes in the park and starts from the Prairie Creek Visitor Center and ends at Fern Canyon, taking you along hillsides and through some of the best redwood groves in the park. It’s an out and back trail so go as far as you want. 

Lady Bird Johnson Grove Hike 

A giant redwood

Coastal redwood trees are among the oldest living organisms on Earth (Image credit: DonNichols)

Park: Redwood National Park
Distance: 1.3 miles
Difficulty: Easy

Almost as soon as you set foot on this trail, you will be in old-growth Redwood Forest, as opposed to second-growth forest which is common on many other trails. This family-friendly loop takes you through thick forests, rhododendrons and wildflowers and is often shrouded in an atmospheric fog owing to its higher altitude.

Trillium Falls Trail 

A waterfall in redwood creek

A lovely feature of this trail is a small waterfall near the beginning (Image credit: stevedunleavy.com)

Park: Redwood National Park
Distance: 2.6 miles
Difficulty: Moderate

A lovely feature of this trail is a small waterfall near the beginning. Afterwards, you’ll walk through an attractive wood of well-preserved giant trees and discover a pleasing grove of big redwoods at about the halfway point. 

Damnation Creek Trail 

California coast near redwood national park

It’s an astonishing sight to emerge from the forest to see the glittering ocean spread out in front of you (Image credit: Peter Unger)

Park: Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park
Distance: 3.4 miles
Difficulty: Hard

This is the only hike on our list that’s rated as hard and it does involve a strenuous climb along a creek. The reward at the end of the tree and wildflower-lined path, however, is the rugged California coastline and it’s an astonishing sight to emerge from the forest to see the glittering ocean spread out in front of you.

Redwood Creek Trail 

The sun glints through the trees in redwood national park

This beautiful trail takes you along a creek surrounded by old-growth redwoods and ends at the Tall Trees Grove Trail (Image credit: Westend61)

Park: Redwood National Park
Distance: 15.7 miles
Difficulty: Moderate

This is another longer distance trail that can make a great backpacking trip as it is the only place in the Park where camping is allowed outside a campground. This beautiful trail takes you along a creek surrounded by old-growth redwoods and ends at the Tall Trees Grove Trail if you want to combine the two hikes and see the world’s tallest tree.

Julia Clarke

Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Adventure.com. She is an author, mountain enthusiast and yoga teacher who loves heading uphill on foot, ski, bike and belay. She recently returned to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland after 20 years living in the USA, 11 of which were spent in the rocky mountains of Vail, Colorado where she owned a boutique yoga studio and explored the west's famous peaks and rivers. She is a champion for enjoying the outdoors sustainably as well as maintaining balance through rest and meditation, which she explores in her book Restorative Yoga for Beginners, a beginner's path to healing with deep relaxation. She enjoys writing about the outdoors, yoga, wellness and travel. In her previous lives, she has also been a radio presenter, music promoter, university teacher and winemaker.