Where to See Redwoods in California [6 Recommendations]

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When planning a trip to California, many people wonder where they can see the Redwood trees the state is known for - the tallest trees in the world! There are several great places to experience the wonder of these magnificent trees, and this post will give you the information you need to complete your travel planning.

There are multiple places where travelers can experience the towering Redwoods when visiting California. Here are six such spots to consider when planning the itinerary. They are:

  1. Redwood National and State Park
  2. Big Basin Redwoods State Park
  3. Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
  4. Montgomery Woods State Natural Reserve
  5. Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park.
  6. Muir Woods near San Francisco

Where To See Redwoods In California [6 Recommendations]

Each of these offers a stunning Redwood experience, and there are individual reasons why each is a good option. However, one of the key factors in choosing which one is right for you will probably depend on the location of your trip.

California is a very big state, stretching for 840 miles along the Pacific Ocean. Choosing the best place to see the Redwoods will likely depend on which section of California you most want to visit.

1. Redwood National and State Parks

At the top of the state near the Oregon border lies the 131,983 acres that make up the Redwood National and State Parks.

Travelers will find visiting the park is easiest when flying into Crescent City, CA or Medford, OR. The drive to the park from San Francisco is around six hours, but it's a beautiful drive that takes you through more Redwood trees, so if you have the time, go ahead and make it!

Redwood National Park

The National portion of the park does not charge any entrance fees, which makes it a budget-friendly option.

There are plenty of things to do within the park including scenic drives, hiking trails, ranger-led programs, and bicycling opportunities.

In addition to the giant trees, visitors to the park will have the opportunity to see plenty of wildlife while traveling through the park. Animals commonly spotted include elk, seals, seabirds, and whales.

Read more: Explore Redwood National Park: A Must-See Guide with Breathtaking Photos!

1. Montgomery Woods State Natural Reserve

Heading south down the coast of California, you will reach the Montgomery Woods State Natural Reserve about 32 miles south of Mendocino, CA.

The reserve covers 2,743 acres of land which contain old-growth Redwood groves. In fact, it contains one of the tallest trees in the state clocking in at 367.5 feet tall.

Montgomery Woods State Natural Reserve

This park is one of the most remote places in the state for viewing the giant trees, and getting there can be a little more difficult. There is a hard-packed gravel road accessible from the nearby town of Comptche, but there is also a paved road for those coming west from the nearby town of Ukiah.

Montgomery Woods contains a mature Redwood forest as well as Douglas-fir groves. Other vegetation that can be found in the park include oaks, ferns, and huckleberries. There are also a lot of frogs and newts living within the preserve.

The reserve contains a two-mile loop that takes a few hours to hike in its entirety, but you will want to bring your sturdy hiking boots because it can get muddy after rain.

There is also a picnic area near the parking lot. Camping is not permitted in the Natural Reserve, and there is no visitor's center. Pets are not permitted on the trails.

3. Big Basin Redwoods State Park

The oldest state park in California, Big Basin Redwoods State Park contains trees that are more than 50 feet in diameter, and some of the trees are nearly as tall as the Statue of Liberty. Visiting the park, you will see trees that have stood there for over 1800 years.

Big Basin Redwoods

In addition to the amazing trees, there are other things to see, such as waterfalls, canyons, and expansive views of the Pacific.

During the summer months, there is a Junior Ranger program that was created to help educate kids aged 7 to 12. The park rangers run the program, and kids will receive badges for completing activities.

The nearest city is Santa Cruz which is about 25 miles northwest of the park, but San Francisco is only about 65 miles away. The roads leading into the park are curvy and should be driven cautiously. Be prepared for some white-knuckles driving stretches.

4. Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

Located less than 20 miles from Big Basin, the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park is famous for its 40-acre grove of old-growth trees, including the name that's aptly named "The Giant".

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

The Giant is over a thousand years old and 285 feet tall and is clearly marked in the park, so you can easily find it and take some cool pictures!

Park activities include hiking, horseback riding, swimming, camping, and picnicking. There is also the unique experience of stepping inside one of the trees large enough to fit an entire family.

Another popular experience is the Roaring Camp Railroad. This attraction offers trips through parts of the park on authentic steam locomotives from the late 1800s.

5. Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

Continuing south, you will find Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, located 37 miles from Carmel along the Big Sur coastline. The park has Redwood trees, panoramic views of the Pacific, and an 80-foot waterfall that cascades down granite cliffs and then plunges into the ocean.

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

Take the Ewoldsen Trail to hike through a lush canyon full of redwoods. There are other trails throughout the park that will give you views of trees, scenery, and the waterfall.

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park redwoods

Travelers to the park will find that there is plenty of wildlife and plant varieties to be explored. Including the Redwoods other trees that can be found include mixed evergreens, arroyo willows, and blue gum eucalyptus.

There are four seabird colonies active within the park, and the endangered Smith's blue butterfly calls the area home. If you're lucky, you may also come across bald eagles, California Condors, and even sea otters.

6. Muir Woods National Monument near San Francisco

Muir Woods National Monument is a special place near San Francisco where you can see amazing redwood trees. These trees are really tall and old, some even hundreds of years old! It's a peaceful place with boardwalk trails that make exploring easy.

Muir Woods National Monument

To get to Muir Woods, you need to plan ahead. You have to make a reservation for parking or a shuttle ride. The shuttle runs from places like Larkspur Landing and Sausalito on weekends and holidays and on some weekdays in the summer.

The park is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. from April to October, and it's a bit less busy early or late in the day or on rainy days. You'll find 6 miles of trails inside, and some connect to Mount Tamalpais State Park for more adventures. But remember, dogs can't come to Muir Woods, so leave your furry friends at home.

Muir Woods is named after John Muir, a famous nature lover. It's one of the only places left with old-growth coast redwoods. A guy named William Kent saved these trees over 100 years ago by giving the land to the government. Thanks to him, we can enjoy these tall, amazing trees today!

Where are the tallest Redwoods?

If you are looking for the tallest Redwood, then you will want to make your way to the Redwood National & State Parks, while the record-holder for the tallest tree is undisclosed. You will find a visit to Big Tree worthwhile. You will find this monster on the Newton Drury Scenic Parkway not too far from the Prairie Creek Visitor Center. It is estimated that it has been around for 1500 years, and the circumference of Big Tree is 68 feet.

You can also head a little north of Big Tree and find Corkscrew Tree. This one actually has four tree trunks intertwined in a corkscrew pattern that is fascinating to people of all ages. You will also want to spend some time in the old-growth forest near the Orick visitor center while you are exploring the Redwood National & State Parks. Tall Tree, the previous record-holder, can be found in this grove.

Where are the nearest Redwood groves to San Francisco?

If you are planning to spend the majority of your trip in the San Francisco area, there are several places where you can experience the Redwoods in addition to the ones listed above (Big Basin, Montgomery Woods, and Henry Cowell.) Here are a few more spots near San Francisco that would be good to explore:

  • Samuel P. Taylor Park: There are 600 acres of old-growth Redwood forest to see here, take the Pioneer Tree Trail for a good view.
  • Portola Redwoods State Park: This park contains 2,800 acres of Redwood forests just outside of Silicon Valley, and there are 18 miles worth of trails to explore.

Where are the nearest redwood groves to Los Angeles?

For those staying in Los Angeles, you will have to make quite a drive if you wish to see some Redwood trees during your vacation. The closest park would be Sequoia National Park, however, the trees here are Sequoias and not Redwoods.

Sequoias and Redwoods are in the same family, but they are not the same kind of tree. Redwoods grow closer to the Pacific, and Sequoias tend to grow closer to the Sierra Nevadas. The foliage of the plants is different as well. Sequoias more closely resemble a juniper with scale-like foliage, and the Redwoods more closely resemble a hemlock.

The Giant Sequoia is considered the largest tree due to the immense size of its trunk. However, the Redwood is the world's tallest tree. Sequoias have a reddish-brown bark, and Redwoods have a richer brown colored bark.

If you truly want to see Redwoods while in L.A., you will need to head to either Henry Cowell or closer to Big Sur.

Where are the nearest redwood groves to San Diego?

San Diego is in the southernmost part of the state, and therefore, the surrounding areas are more arid and desert-like. The closest park for viewing big trees is the Sequoia National Forest, but again, these are Giant Sequoias and not Redwoods.

You can find Redwoods on the Big Sur side of the Los Padres National Forest. Either way, you are looking at a drive of at least six hours. Most people opt for a visit to Joshua Tree when in the San Diego area instead of making the trek up to the more northern areas of the state.

When traveling to California, it is always a good idea to keep the size of the state in mind. There are nearly 800 miles in between the northern and southern borders.

Visiting the Redwoods

As you can see, there are plenty of great areas in California where you can experience the Redwood trees. These five are our top picks because of their varied locations and offerings. Whether you simply want to stand in awe of these giant trees or partake in a plethora of outdoor activities,  you will find that one of these five parks has exactly the experience you are looking for.

Where To See Redwoods In California [6 Recommendations]

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  1. Head further north, just past Garberville in Southern Humboldt County and drive the Avenue of the Giants, parallel to hwy 101.

  2. For those visiting the Santa Barbara area, there is a small stand of coast redwoods called Stow Grove Park in the city of Goleta. Though not as grand as their sisters to the north, it is still awesome to stand among them!

  3. In Orange County we are fortunate to have a small 3 acre grove of coastal redwoods. They are located in Carbon Canyon Park in Brea, CA. They will never grow to be as grand and majestic as the ones in the state parks, but it’s nice to have them close by.

    • There is a small grove of redwoods on the UCLA campus. A creek runs from Stone Canyon through the school, most of it channeled underground and covered with landfill, but in two spots the native riparian landscape is intact.
      At the north end of the campus sits the University Elementary School, part of the grad dept. of education. The creek runs through the site and provides an ideal environment for the redwoods, which have thrived there for about 70 years. They are not huge yet, but still impressive, and loved by the kids who play beneath them. More redwoods grow in the Botanical Garden in the SE corner of the campus where the creek re-emerges in a steep, shady canyon. This a small garden, but very peaceful and quiet, filled with a fascinating collection.

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