California's redwoods are among the state's greatest treasures.
If you're looking to explore the redwood forests of Northern California, you can easily make weekend trips from San Francisco and the Bay Area. Or, if you really want to get away, pack them into a five-stop road trip for backpacking, hiking, swimming, and sleeping beneath the trees. We promise, it's epic.
Redwoods Road Trip, Stop 1: Muir Woods National Monument
You don't even have to leave the Bay Area to begin your redwood adventure. If you can swing it, start your road trip on a weekday when there will be fewer crowds.
Muir Woods is a perfect trip for families and out-of-town guests with multiple loops and hiking options for groups of all fitness levels. While there are other, less crowded redwood groves in the Bay Area (though, a newish requirement for reservations is helping to limit crowds and preserve the land), Muir Woods National Monument is easily one of the best. It is a beautifully maintained site, with wooden footpaths meandering between towering redwoods that are between 600 and 800 years old. It's home to some true giants, with its tallest trees reaching over 250 feet tall.
Redwoods Road Trip, Stop 2: Camping at West Marin's Samuel P. Taylor State Park
Spend the night under redwoods at Samual P. Taylor State Park, where campsites border Lagunitas Creek and offer close access to Devil's Gulch Trail and Barnabe Peak. The campsites are dog-friendly with a maximum occupancy of six people each. There are also six group campsites that can accommodate 10-50 people.
These West Marin campsites are often overlooked. It does get busy during the summer, but take the rest of the year to explore this state park. Barnabe Peak is a nine-plus mile hike that has roughly 1,400 feet in elevation gain. The top of Barnabe Peak offers up panoramic views of Marin County. Is nine miles too long? Head to Devil's Gulch for a four-mile out-and-back hike with just about 150 feet of elevation gain.
Redwoods Road Trip, Stop 3: Avenue of the Giants, Humboldt Redwoods State Park
The Avenue of the Giants is a scenic 31-mile-long highway surrounded by 51,222 acres of giant redwood trees in the Humboldt Redwoods State Park. This road, which runs through many small towns with tons of tourist attractions, offers amazing views of the redwoods.
The pull-offs along the road allow easy access to many different hiking trails, and there are many different trails that will lead you to various swimming holes and fishing spots along the Eel River.
Redwoods Road Trip, Stop 4: Backpacking at Redwood National and State Parks
If you want to spend a couple days surrounded by redwoods, this backpacking adventure allows you to explore some of the tallest trees in the world, get amazing starlit views, and potentially run into Sasquatch...he's out there, somewhere.
Before heading up, you'll want to check with the rangers station for the best camping opportunities. Off of the main road, there are side streets with access to the beaches. If there are openings, you can pull into one of these areas and camp where the river meets with the ocean. If this isn't feasible, there is plenty camping available along the route to Tall Trees Grove.
Redwoods Road Trip, Stop 5: Camp Along the Mendocino Coast
Russian Gulch Campground—with 27 secluded campsites with clean bathrooms and showers—offers a beautiful 5.4-mile hike to a 36-foot waterfall and multiple sea caves to explore.
Just two miles north of Mendocino, you'll find this well-maintained park that features a little bit of everything, but the park is best known for the heavily forested Russian Gulch Creek Canyon, and a headland that features the Devil's Punch Bowl (a large, collapsed sea cave with churning water). The nearby beach has swimming, tide pool exploring, skin diving, and rock fishing. Inland, of course, is the waterfall and miles of hiking trails. There is also a paved three-mile bicycle trail for those of you looking to explore on two wheels.