Redwood National Park: Hiking Back To The Age Of Dinosaurs

How does it feel to walk under the tallest trees on Earth?

Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, CA, USA

The Redwoods of North California

“The redwoods, once seen, leave a mark or create a vision that stays with you always. No one has ever successfully painted or photographed a redwood tree. The feeling they produce is not transferable. From them comes silence and awe. It’s not only their unbelievable stature, nor the color which seems to shift and vary under your eyes, no, they are not like any trees we know, they are ambassadors from another time.”
(John Steinbeck)

This quote captures so perfectly how we felt hiking in the redwoods of North California.

Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, CA, USA

These gigantic trees made us feel that we are back in the prehistoric times and that a huge dinosaur can appear any time – they would match with the size of the redwoods perfectly.

These forests give home to the tallest known living tree on Earth: Hyperion, a coast redwood rises to 115.61 m (379.3 ft).

What does ‘the Northern Redwoods’ refer to exactly?

Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, California, USA

It means the Redwood National and State Parks in North California. This interesting park is both a national and a state park as the National Park Service and California State Parks manage these contiguous parks cooperatively.

It includes four parks:

  • Redwood National Park
  • Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park
  • Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park
  • Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

All of these parks offer so many fascinating hikes in the old growth redwood forests and on the wild ocean coast! And here’s where you can make a huge mistake: if you try to see everything and visit each of them.

The best way to explore

Fern Canyon, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

Of course, it depends on how much time you spend in this area altogether, but I doubt you can see everything. The good news is though that no matter how much time you spend here you can feel everything!

Choosing only a couple of spectacular hikes allow you to feel that unforgettable atmosphere of these parks.

We spent a weekend there and hiked in Prairie Creek and Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Parks and we got so much more than we expected during this short period of time. Time – as everything else – feels different in the redwoods.

Mystic James Irvine Trail to Fern Canyon

James Irvine Trail, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, California, USA

On our first day we hiked the James Irvine Trail to Fern Canyon and then further to Gold Bluffs Beach.

Even when we were on our way to the trailhead by car and reached the forest we felt so small. Then we started our hike in the morning fog. We barely saw the top of the trees in the fog and that made the old forest so mystic.

Then the first sunbeams appeared and reached the forest floor. We continued to Fern Canyon in the dense and peaceful silence. (Please notice tiny me in the below picture. :))

James Irvine Trail, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

Now Fern Canyon is actually a place where part of a Jurassic Park movie was filmed and even if you don’t know this fact it makes you feel like being in the Jurassic times.

Fern Canyon, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, California, USA

Hiking through Fern Canyon (hiking in the creek at some sections if there’s enough water) leads you to Gold Bluffs Beach. Guess what, it was mystic and foggy too. 🙂

Gold Bluffs Beach, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, California, USA

After taking a walk on the beach and getting our feet wet in the ocean (oh, it was damn cold!) we headed back to the visitor center in the gigantic and sunny forest.

Hiking essentials
  • Trailhead: Prairie Creek Visitor Center
  • Length: 12 miles round-trip (plus some additional walk on Gold Bluffs Beach)
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Gold Bluffs Beach and its camping is accessible by car as well

Hidden in the forest: Trillium Falls Loop

Trillium Falls, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, CA, USA

After getting back to James Irvine Trailhead we still had a couple of hours until sunset, so we decided to do another short hike.

This 3 miles loop is also in Prairie Creek and in addition to the old redwoods and the mossy rocks there’s a nice small waterfall, too.

And when we thought we are finished with the day we spotted bull elks fighting on the meadow next to the road – so this area is called Elk Meadow for a reason. 🙂

Hiking essentials
  • Trailhead: Elk Meadow Day Use Area
  • Length: 3 miles loop
  • Difficulty: moderate

Coastal Trail in Del Norte Coast

Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, CA, USA

For our second day we chose the Coastal Trail in Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park. This is a redwood forest along the amazing wild coastline.

Though we haven’t seen it in sunshine at all and it started raining 15 minutes after we started the hike, we still found it fascinating. And a little rain couldn’t stop us, of course, we had raincoats anyway.

Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, CA, USA

After like another hour it was pouring rain. So we hoped that because it was raining so hard, it will stop soon. No, it didn’t. So we turned back after we got completely soaked. (Yes, we were not very well prepared for the rain – it’s California after all.)

We got into the car, changed our clothes and headed to Humboldt Redwoods State Park which is south of the Redwood National and State Parks.

Hiking essentials
  • Trailhead: Crescent Beach Overlook
  • Length: 13 miles round-trip
  • Difficulty: moderate

Avenue of the Giants

James Irvine Trail, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, California, USA

Reaching Humboldt Redwoods State Park took about 2.5 hours by car and we really hoped that the weather will get better and we could take some short hikes there. But it was still pouring rain.

So we decided to visit only one part of Humboldt: the very famous and astonishing Avenue of the Giants. This 32-miles long scenic drive is in the heart of the redwood forest and driving through it is an unbelievable experience!

Even in that awful weather we were fascinated by only looking up to the trees next to the road and compare them to the huge SUVs.

No regrets

Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, California, USA

Though it was raining almost all day long on our second day, we still have such a unique and beautiful memory about our weekend in California’s Northern Redwoods. And we also have the desire to see them again and hike even more there!

What is the place you felt the most peaceful ever?



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By Beata Urmos

Bea is the co-founder of Our Wanders. She’s the writer and the trip organizer, and she’d love to help you plan your own amazing trips! She likes hiking, good novels and chocolate, as well. Her motto is: “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” (John A. Shedd)


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