Northern California has over 23 state and national parks with old growth redwood forests. While there are hundreds of trails throughout this part of the state, only a handful are home to these massive redwoods that visitors come to see.
The largest redwood trees are located within what are called “old growth forests”. These areas have been around for hundreds of years and survived the extensive logging activity of the early 19th and 20th centuries.
The Redwood National Park is actually the “Redwood National & State Parks”. Its entire area is made up of one large federal National Park, and three smaller State Parks that surround it: Del Norte, Jedediah Smith, and Prairie Creek. Humboldt State Park is just south of these four parks, and is not considered a part of the combined entity. However, we include it and a few other smaller state parks in this list because they are all extremely close to each other.
Each park has its own character and highlights.
Prairie Creek is known for its lush and green coastal forest, while Jedidiah Smith is filled with light and is the most photogenic of all the parks. Del Norte has a unique location on a prominent coastal bluff, while Redwoods National Park occupies a large and heavily-logged inland valley. Humboldt Redwoods is best known for its dark, dense, and flat lowlands. Of all the parks in Northern California, Jedediah Smith and Prairie Creek State Parks have the best preserved ecosystems and some of the most scenic hikes.
The largest trees within these parks are found in the flat bottoms of creek valleys, where the most water resides. These flat sections are called alluvial flats, and they host the spectacular, cathedral-like groves of redwoods that the parks are famous for. Redwood National Park has 27%, or about 19,000 acres, of its land as old growth. Humboldt has the next highest amount at around 17,000 acres. Jedediah Smith State Park has the highest percentage of old growth, with it being over 75% of its total land area.
All of the trails we’ve listed below have all or part of the trail going through an old growth forest. The point of these trails is to see some of the most magnificent trees in not only the US, but the world as well.
Short on Time?
Do you only have time for one trail per park? We have you covered. Here is the best hike (for sights and ease) for those that are only passing through the area and simply want to find an easy hike to see some massive trees.
- Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park – Stout Grove
- Del Norte State Park – Damnation Creek Trail. This is a long and difficult trail, so only explore about the first half-mile of it.
- Prairie Creek State Park – Foothill to Cathedral Tree Loop
- Humboldt Redwoods State Park – Founders Grove
- Redwood National Park – Lady Bird Johnson Trail
The Top 20 Redwood National Park Hikes
|Rating||Trail Name||Park||Effort||Miles||Elevation Climb|
|4.7||The James Irvine Trail & Miners’ Ridge Loop||Prairie Creek Redwoods SP||Difficult||11.4||1480′|
|4.7||Grove of Titans||Jedediah Smith Redwoods SP||Easy||1.3||200′|
|4.7||Boy Scout Tree Trail||Jedediah Smith Redwoods SP
|4.7||Brown Creek Loop & South Fork Trail||Prairie Creek Redwoods SP||Moderate||3.0||700′|
|4.7||Stout Memorial Grove Loop||Jedediah Smith Redwoods SP||Easy||0.6||40′|
|4.7||Simpson-Reed Trail||Jedediah Smith Redwoods SP||Easy||1.0||52′|
|4.7||Rockefeller Loop||Humboldt Redwoods SP||Easy||0.7||32′|
|4.7||Foothill to Cathedral Tree Loop||Prairie Creek Redwoods SP||Easy||2.2||150′|
|4.7||Damnation Creek Trail||Del Norte Coast Redwoods SP||Difficult||3.4||1190′|
|4.7||Fern Canyon Loop Trail (pass req’d)||Prairie Creek Redwoods SP||Easy, but getting there is Hard||1.1||120′|
|4.7||Bull Creek Flats||Humboldt Redwoods SP||Moderate||8.6||670′|
|4.6||Trillium Falls Trail (pass req’d)||Redwood NP||Moderate||2.8||440′|
|4.6||The Berry Glen & Lady Bird Grove Trail||Redwood NP||Difficult||6.0||1290′|
|4.5||West Ridge Trail||Prairie Creek Redwoods SP||Moderate||5.8||760′|
|4.5||Homestead and Big Trees Loop||Humboldt Redwoods SP||Easy||2.4||110′|
|4.5||Cheatham Grove||Grizzly Creek Redwoods SP||Easy||0.7||40′|
|4.5||Flint Ridge Section Trail||Redwood NP||Difficult||7.9||1770′|
|4.4||The Grieg-French-Bell Grove||Humboldt Redwoods SP||Easy||1.4||22′|
|4.4||Redwood Creek Trail||Redwood NP||Difficult||15.7||1130′|
|4.3||Moorman Pond Trail||Prairie Creek Redwoods SP||Easy||1||165′|
|4.2||Mill Creek Trail||Jedediah Smith Redwoods SP||Moderate||7.4||250′|
|4.2||Emerald Ridge and Tall Trees||Redwood NP||Moderate||5.5||700′|
- SP = State Park, NP = National Park
- The ratings are from AllTrails as of June 2022
- The trailhead’s location is linked to from the trail’s name
- All of these trails are within Old Growth forests except one (Fern Canyon Trail)