Hiking in Redwood National Park: Coast

While the park may be famous for its towering redwoods, the coastal section has a beauty all its own and definitely should not be missed. In truth, it was probably my favorite part of the park. The trees are incredible, no doubt, but as a Southern CA girl, my heart always lies with the ocean.

We started our visit to the coast with a stop at the Klamath River Overlook, which is supposed to have awesome whale watching. We were not fortunate enough to see any whales, but the views of the coast and the Klamath River sure were beautiful! (This was just a drive up and park overlook- no hiking or walking required. And there were quite a few picnic tables available… Maybe a nice picnic spot?).

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After the whale watching fail, we took a sunset hike to the beach. We did the Yurok Loop Trail, which is a fairly easy, 1-mile loop, and is technically listed as part of the North section of the park (not the Coastal section), but I included it here because it leads to, well, the coast.

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The spur trail to get down to the beach was a little bit challenging to find. It actually may not have even been a real spur trail, but enough people have used it that it sure looks like one. I am glad we found it though, because the beach was AMAZING!

We were super lucky and arrived at low tide (tide charts are available in the ranger stations and visitor centers, in case you want to ensure your arrival at low tide), and the tidepools were super cool! The sea stars were gigantic…bigger than your hand, and a really pretty purple color.

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The colors from the setting sun did beautiful things to the water, and it was one of those moments where nature leaves you in absolute awe. Like Forrest Gump says, “I couldn’t tell where Heaven stopped and the earth began.”

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Towards the end of the loop, when you are almost back at the parking lot, there are more wild berry bushes with tons of blackberries. Now for some reason the park ranger we spoke with did not recommend this trail, and said it wasn’t very good. Maybe my standards are lower, or maybe she is just crazy, but I thought it was the best trail in the whole park.

The Yurok Loop Trail can be found on the park’s hiking guide for the North section, but for a listing of all the official Coastal section trails, click here.

Hiking in Redwood National Park: South

For our second full day in the park, we headed South to Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. The trail guide for the South section of the park is ginormous, and would take days to do it all! And just like the North guide, the trail distances are listed one-way, not round-trip (unless it is a loop), so keep that in mind when planning your adventure.

Since we didn’t have much time to work with, we decided to choose a variety of shorter trails so we would see a more diverse sampling of the park. We started our day with the Fern Canyon Loop Trail, a 0.7 mile loop. Most of this hike is very easy, but there is some stream crossing, as well as a bit of climbing over fallen trees. Exiting the canyon requires some uphill hiking, making the trail maybe more moderate, but those wishing to avoid hiking uphill can simply hike into the canyon, and then straight back out instead of completing the loop.

The canyon was awesome. 30′ tall canyon walls completely covered in ferns, with waterfalls, streams, and fallen trees blocking the trail, making it feel like a jungle gym for adults. Fun!!

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We also hiked the Circle Trail, which was an easy, 0.3 mile loop. And this one was definitely easy. Short and flat.The trail takes you through redwoods, and leads to the Big Tree, the biggest tree in the Prairie Creek section of the park.

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The last trail we did in the South section of the park was the Trillium Falls Trail, which was a moderate, 2.5 mile loop. The falls were cool, but the best part of the trail? Berry picking!!

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Right at the beginning of the trail were tons of wild berry bushes with lots and lots of ripe berries for picking (we visited the park in mid-August, for reference). Park visitors are allowed to pick one gallon per person, per day. But we got nowhere close to that. We just grabbed a couple handfuls to snack on while we hiked. Super fun and tasty!

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The falls! It is only a 10′ waterfall, so not super breathtaking. But the trail was a lot of fun, and the berry picking was awesome.

11949436_10206140642129045_257115995191626401_nIn talking to the park rangers, we learned that the South section of the park was a more recent addition to the park, and had suffered a great deal of forestation prior to being put under park protection. So as a result, it is significantly less impressive to see than the North section. It may have more hiking trails, but if your time in the park is limited, I would recommend focusing your attention on the North. It is a kind of far drive to get to the South half, and there isn’t as much worth seeing there. Yet.

For a complete listing of trails in the South section of the park, click here!

Hiking In Redwood National Park: North

Redwood National Park is sort of an odd park to navigate. The park originally started out as a handful of state parks, and then was taken over by the National Park Service and merged into one park. However, because they were all separate parks, they are still divided by stretches of towns and non-park territories. No matter which way you attempt your park visit, there will be a lot of driving involved!

The park is comprised of Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, and then additional land that was added to the park designated as Redwood National Park. But on the official park website, the park is divided into North, South, and Coastal, which is how I will do it here!

We planned a full day of hikes, but discovered that the trails on the park website are listed as one-way mileage, not round-trip, so our plans sadly had to be altered. But we ended up with a really awesome selection of hikes, and I feel like we saw a cool variety of sites within the park.

After setting out from our campground in the Del Norte Coast section of the park (Mill Creek Campground), we headed to the Jedediah Smith section and started our day with the Simpson-Reed Trail, which was an easy, 1-mile loop.

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This hike packed a lot of beautiful redwoods scenery into a short distance, and would be an excellent choice for anyone pressed for time.

After that, we headed to the Stout Memorial Grove. This hike was also an easy, 0.5-mile loop. The trail was crowded, but leads hikers through a grove of colossal redwoods. Also a good choice for the time-pressed visitor.

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We then spent the remainder of our afternoon hiking the Boy Scout Tree Trail, which was an almost 6-mile, moderate hike. This was a very pretty trail, and takes you through hundreds of redwoods and ferns. Everything about this park feels very prehistoric, and this trail is an excellent way to get away from the crowds and really feel like you went back in time. You half expect to see a dinosaur jump out around every corner.

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To get to the Boy Scout Tree, you have to take a ridiculously steep spur trail off of the main trail near the very end. It almost doesn’t even look like a trail- it looks more like something hikers created to get off the beaten path. But it is indeed a real trail, and leads to this awesomely huge double redwood.

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Staying on the main trail leads you to Fern Falls. Once you get that far into the hike, it really doesn’t take that much more time to get to the falls from the Boy Scout Tree (or vice versa), so I recommend seeing both. Cause both sites are pretty darn cool.

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Also hiked this day (but not pictured), is the Trestle Loop trail, which is a non-level, some steep grades, 1-mile loop. We did this hike because it was located within our campground and said there was berry picking on the trail. But honestly, the hike wasn’t very scenic compared to the other hikes, it was fairly strenuous in some parts, and there were hardly any berries. So this trail can probably be skipped. There was better berry picking elsewhere in the park.

Click here for a complete listing of trails in the North section of the park!