There are technically three different California state parks located in the National Redwood Park system. The furthest north is Jedediah Smith State Park, and from most of Oregon it’s a 3-5 hour drive.
Crescent City is the closest town to Jedediah Smith Park and also the closest place to stay from parts north. Plus there are plenty of camping options.
Explore the Northern California Redwoods in 24 Hours: Three Can’t-Miss Options
- Crescent City Overlook — FREE!
A 5 minute drive south on 101 from Crescent City. The overlook is worth the drive, but (shhhh!) the little 1/2 mile hike down the well marked trail to Enderts Beach below is a fabulous secret! Carry in a lunch and explore the tidal pools tucked in behind a natural stone arch.
- Klamath Drive Thru Tree —$5
There are only three drive thru trees left, and none of them are in preserved parks. You pay between $5 and $10. Park rangers will tell you it’s not worth it, but how can you say you’ve visited the Redwoods if you don’t drive through a tree? The town of Klamath is about a 20 mile drive south of Crescent City down highway 101 and the drive alone revealed breathtaking groves of Redwoods!
- Find the Boy Scout Tree & Fern Falls — FREE!
I wanted to experience the trees and forest and undergrowth in a real way, not from my car window and not from a parking lot. The Boy Scout Trail is just under 6 miles roundtrip and I would call it a mild hike easy enough for a 5 year old to handle. The trails has some inclines but the trail is well marked and you are guaranteed the most amazing scenery and examples of Redwood Forest undergrowth and trees.
Directions to the Boy Scout Tree:
Inside Jedediah Smith State Park there is a 5 mile unpaved stretch of road running east-west called Howland Hills Road (check driving conditions daily). The trail head is located only a few miles east of Crescent City off Elk Valley Road, once you start on the dirt road the trailhead for the Boy Scout Trail is 2.5 miles. It is marked well enough but there is very little parking.
PARKING TIP: Begin looking for good pullout spots along the road by about 2.3 miles down the road.
The Boy Scout Tree is only 5 minutes from the end of the trail, which ends at Fern Falls. However, it isn’t marked from the trail, the trail forks slightly to the right. Take this right fork up only a few yards to see this gigantic tree! Pictures will not do it justice, so plan to simply sit down and marvel at something that was standing long before Columbus sailed the ocean blue! For a very helpful description of the trail see Redwoodhikes.com/JedSmith/BoyScout.
Fern Falls is the perfect spot to stop for a picnic, we grabbed sandwiches at a Subway in Crescent City before the hike for an easy lunch. Overall the whole hike including our stop for lunch and the Boy Scout Tree took 3 hours.
- Accommodations in Crescent City
There are several hotels and motels, including budget friendly and a few more luxury options. Super 8, Best Western and Quality Inn to name a few chains. We stayed at the Super 8 and it was clean if not very updated. However, expect to have smokers nearby as they offered cigarette depositories just outside the rooms. If it hadn’t been a packed weekend we would have chosen a different hotel just for this reason. During a peak weekend (4th of July) the Super 8 charged $150 per double bed room.
- Restaurants in Crescent City
There are very few restaurants. If you came to this part of the Redwoods for high cuisine you probably won’t find it. Chains like Taco Bell, Subway & McDonald’s plus a couple pizza places are all there like you would expect (stay away from Pizza King—bad food, bad service). We followed a suggestion to try out a little seafood restaurant called Chart Room, but with a long wait on a busy weekend and a tiny dining room; we weren’t willing to wait that long with a family of 5. There are several mom & pop diners perfect for a quick breakfast before you head out to see the giants!
My family and I were not compensated in any way on this trip.
It was a lifelong bucket list of mine to see the Redwoods up close and personal. CHECK!
Check out other articles by Carissa on West Coast Beaches: