Craving some tall tree adventures and looking for the best places to see redwoods near San Francisco? You’re in luck, because this post shares over 15 spots filled with the largest trees in the entire world (and yup, they’re all in California)!
Ancient and mysterious. Stately and powerful. Cool and dark and damp and pungent. I could go on and on with ways to describe these old-growth redwood trees. And luckily, despite SF being a major city and all, there are actually oh so many places to see redwood trees near San Francisco! Who would’ve known?!
I honestly never really got the appeal of redwoods. I mean, they’re just tall trees right?! It wasn’t until I spent some time (feeling super tiny) in redwood groves myself that I finally understood their beauty. And grandiose!
Over the past few months, I’ve definitely explored a bunch! I’ve wandered the trails of the Oakland Redwoods, went on a mentally (and physically!) challenging 12-mile hike in Big Basin State Park, drove through a redwood tree in Leggett, stood at the base of the Founders Tree in Humboldt Redwoods State Park (twice!), hiked through Muir Woods, and drove the 32 miles of the Avenue of the Giants (twice!).
To say I’ve taken for granted the fact that I’ve got so many groves of redwoods near San Francisco is a major understatement. And I’m finally getting out, exploring, and appreciating them!
I recently learned some pretty neat facts:
- They’ve got an average lifespan of 500-700 years, but can reach 2,000 years old!
- They’re most commonly found in the coastal forests of Northern California (meaning you shouldn’t have to search too hard to find redwood trees near San Francisco!)
- They can grow as tall as a 35 story skyscraper! Psst: that’s a third taller than Coit Tower (an icon of the city everyone should add to their San Francisco itinerary.
Also, fun fact → They’ve been around since the dinosaurs, meaning it’s likely dinosaurs walked among the towering redwoods (or at least relatives of them). Fossils tell us that the redwoods thrived in the Jurassic Era 160 million years ago — whoa, science, am I right?!
Unfortunately, logging has significantly decreased the amount of redwoods in our world, and we now only have ~4% of the two million acres we once had back in 1850. What a shame. 45% of this 4% is located within Redwood National and State Parks (and is thankfully protected), so promise me you’ll do your part and respect the beauty of our lands.
If you’re looking to head from San Francisco to the redwoods, I promise you’ll find this post extra helpful! Want my opinion and don’t feel like scrolling through the whole thing? The absolute best place to see redwoods near San Francisco is at Big Basin State Park. The second best place? Humboldt Redwoods State Park!
But before we get into exactly where to go, why not educate yourself on these massive giants?!
Where can you find Coastal Redwoods?
The Northern California coast! Yup, that’s it! You won’t find coastal redwoods anywhere else in the world. Actually, Coastal Redwoods are only found for a few hundred coastal miles along the Northern California coastline, oh, and the southernmost areas of coastal Oregon (okay fine, we’ll let Oregon share the redwoods; they do give us plenty of good donut chains).
And the boring, yet kinda interesting why:
Unsurprisingly, Redwoods need a specific environment to thrive (and California’s Northern Coast is the only environment that meets all it’s crazy longitude, climate, and elevation needs!).
The cool, moist air (from the Pacific Ocean) keeps the trees continually damp (yes, even when California see’s its frequent summer droughts). Fog actually helps the redwoods (which we see a lot of in summer), and acts as a natural cooling and moistening system.
And interestingly enough, fog is actually about 40% of the redwoods moisture intake! So even if it doesn’t rain for days, the redwoods thankfully have a means to survive.
Complex soil on the forest floor makes way for a healthy redwood forest (including massive Douglas-firs, tanoaks, madrones, western hemlocks, etc, plus tons of ferns and other greenery).
How to Spot a Redwood 101:
Until not too long ago, I couldn’t tell the difference between a redwood and any other tall tree. Yup, this girl right here who is writing AN ENTIRE POST about redwoods near San Francisco. Meaning, I had to figure this out real quick, at least for a bit of credibility, haha.
Psst → I recently tested my knowledge in Humboldt Redwoods State Park. I’m still a little rusty, but let’s just say I know A LOT more than I used to… :p I’m no botanist by any means, so let’s hope I explain everything correctly!
What to consider when deciding if what you’re looking at is actually a redwood:
- First things first, think about WHERE you are! Redwoods don’t grow everywhere (and actually ONLY on the Northern California coastline and the southernmost areas of coastal Oregon). So if you’re not in one of those two areas, you can be almost certain what you’re seeing are NOT in fact redwoods. (Wow, that was easy!).
- Next, take a look at the size of the tree (redwoods are ridiculously tall, like taller than tall, but so are a few other trees, so keep reading!).
- Trunk shape is next! Coastal redwoods have a base around the same thickness as the rest of the trunk. This means the width of the trunk won’t change too much as you look up.
- Other characteristics to be aware of: fibrous bark and cones tiny like olives (sequoia cones are much larger, like the size of a chicken egg)
Main difference between Redwoods and Sequoias:
Okay, now that you’re basically a redwood expert, we gotta make sure you can differentiate them from Sequoias! Because of course it’s kinda tricky!
Contrary to popular belief, sequoias are in fact a TYPE of redwood tree, but redwoods are NOT a type of Sequoia (confusing right?). They’re not the SAME tree, but they’re not exactly all different either.
Redwoods and Sequoias do share a common ancestry and have many similar characteristics, but are quite different as well! I’ll quickly highlight the two below in case you’re looking to up your redwood tree knowledge 🙂
- Coast Redwood: A type of redwood located on the Northern California coast and southernmost coastal Oregon, which can grow to 380 feet or more. They’re TALLER and have trunks that are more uniform in width.
- Giant Sequoia: A type of redwood located on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Central California, and can grow up to 315 feet. They’re WIDER on the bottom and have a CONE-LIKE shaped to the trunk.
So, sequoias have thicker trunks and coarser bark than redwoods, which have a more slender trunk. And if you really aren’t sure, just think about where you are. If you’re on the coast, it’s probably a Coast Redwood. And if you’re in the Sierras, you’re more than likely looking at some Giant Sequoias.
- Psst → there’s actually a THIRD type of redwood! Yup! It’s the Dawn Redwood, and these are located in Central China. They only grow up to 140 feet (so, much smaller than Coast Redwoods and Giant Sequoias). And NOT what you’ll ever find anywhere in California.
This post is primarily about the coastal Redwood, although I’ve included a few spots to see the Giant Sequoias in California as well, because yup, they’re pretty impressive too!
- Never leave fires unattended. And when I say never, I mean not even for a split second. Camping in a park or nearby? Stay close to your fires and barbeques. Northern California is prone to raging wildfires, especially in the dry summer and fall months.
- Leave only footprints and LEAVE NO TRACE. Leave with only what you came with, and leave nothing behind. This means, no collecting rocks, plants, geological features, artifacts → basically anything you find in nature needs to STAY IN NATURE. Learn more about the seven principles by checking out the official Leave No Trace website.
- Avoid inviting wildlife anywhere. Store all food and scented items when not in use, and dispose of garbage in receptacles provided.
- Keep your dog on a leash. Animals live in the forests, enough said. Also, I don’t care how well behaved you say your dog is, not everyone loves dogs coming up to them. Please think about this before letting your dog off leash.
FIRE SEASON IN CALIFORNIA
Fire season is a real thing here in California. Before moving to San Francisco, I had no idea it even existed. Unfortunately, since moving here only a few years ago, we’ve had a handful of treacherous fires all over the state. People have lost their homes, their loved ones, everything they’ve ever had → it’s really, really scary and so incredibly sad.
Do your part and NEVER smoke/make fires when the land is super dry. One tiny spark can unfortunately cause a huge blaze. Just so you’re well-aware, peak wildfire season is usually between July and November, when the land is dry and hot winds are most frequent.
Before traveling long distances to go hiking in the redwood trees near San Francisco, it’s best to do some research to make sure the air quality index (AQI) is safe.
Even More Fun Facts about Redwoods:
While researching the best redwoods near San Francisco for this post, I actually learned quite a ton about these towering trees (nerd alert)! And now I find them even more impressive! Come geek out with me (wow, I even sound super geeky saying that, haha).
- Coastal Redwoods grow from a seed no larger than a tomato seed (whoaaaa). Imagine that.
- They are resistant to natural enemies such as insects and fires (and unfortunately CA has seen it’s fair share of wildfires lately).
- Redwoods can regenerate, which is super, super unusual! They don’t rely on sexual reproduction like most other trees do. Basal burls (those hard, knotty growths you see on living trees) can sprout a brand new tree if the main trunk is damaged.
- They extend their roots more than 50 feet (which help them withstand powerful winds and intense flooding) and even intertwine their roots with redwoods nearby.
- The bark of a redwood is really thick, and can be up to 2 feet thick in mature trees!
- Coastal Redwoods are literally the TALLEST tree on Earth. I know I’ve said it about a million times so far, but let that sink in for a few minutes…
I’ve asked a bunch of SF locals (and some others nearby) for the best places to see redwood trees near San Francisco. I’ve been to a few, but not all!
Where exactly are these redwoods near San Francisco?
After doing a quick search, I’ve been able to find plenty of redwoods near San Francisco, that’s for sure. Plenty of these groves are less than 2 hours away, making for great day trips from San Francisco, while some others are best explored on an overnight trip. If you’re from the SF Bay Area, I promise it’s super easy to fulfill your fantasy of spending time along the towering redwoods.
*Due to the recent wildfires in Northern California, be sure to check on park openings and closures, as well as campgrounds, as some may be shutdown and/or temporarily closed for repairs. And always remember to practice fire safety. ALWAYS.
BUT WAIT! Before you leave the city, have you checked out the redwoods IN San Francisco itself?!
Yup, the closest redwoods to San Francisco are actually in the actual city! I’ve highlighted those spots below:
1. Sigmund Stern Grove: By far the largest grove in the actual city, with a theatre, trails to Pine Lake, and a popular dog park (there’s TONS of off-leash pups here!). Most locals know the area for the yearly Stern Grove Music Concerts on Summer Sundays (the acoustics are just amazing, but make sure to get there early ~10am to secure a good spot!). Pick up some desserts in San Francisco (and of course some wine) and have a picnic in the redwoods – during the concert or any other time!
2. Salesforce Park: Baby redwoods were planted at the newly completed (and public!) Salesforce Park, although I’m not really sure what they’re gonna do when they get bigger, haha. Space is limited in SF. Definitely worth a look around the rooftop space (at seven stories above the city); it’s basically San Francisco’s version of NYC’s Highline (which I absolutely adore).
3. Transamerica Redwood Park: There’s a small grove near the Transamerica Pyramid, although I’ve never been there when the gate’s been opened! Bring a book and relax on one of the benches underneath the green oasis → you won’t even realize you’re surrounded by glass and steel skyscrapers!
And FINALLY, let’s get to it — the best places to see redwoods near San Francisco, from closest to farthest!
Redwoods Super Close to San Francisco (less than 1 ½ hours away)
- Distance from San Francisco: 20 minute drive (16 miles)
- Camping available: No
- Recommend hikes: The Scenic Redwood Loop, French Loop Trail
- Cost: Fees are only collected at the Redwood Gate entrance and only on weekends & major holidays between April and October. But just in case, it’s $5 per vehicle and $2 per dog. Or do what I do and just drive to a different staging area!
- Closest City: Oakland
Looking to take a stroll within lush groves of redwoods near San Francisco? — you luckily don’t have to go too far! The Oakland Redwoods are the closest redwoods to San Francisco you’ll find, and they’re only ~20 minutes away (depending on traffic, of course!).
Just minutes away from SF, tucked into a valley in the middle of busy Oakland, you’ll find some of the Bay Area’s oldest redwood parks. Dating back to the 1880’s, Oakland Redwood Regional Park and Joaquin Miller Park are technically two separate parks that connect to form a sprawling network of hiking trails that criss-cross through redwood-covered valleys.
Despite being minutes away from a major city, the parks are peaceful and quiet: you’ll feel like you left Oakland, stepped through a wardrobe, and emerged into redwood Narnia. Most hikes within the parks traverse over rolling hills, taking you from redwood-studded valley floors over gurgling streams and lush hillsides covered with ferns, climbing upwards to sunny ridge trails dotted with chaparral, Eucalyptus groves, and Manzanita trees, with sweeping views of the entire Bay Area!
Some trails, like the French Loop trail, traverse the canyon without ever summiting a ridge; while others stay on top of the sunny ridge trails without ever climbing back down into the redwood canyons. Pick your trail accordingly depending on how much sun you like, and stay at a lower elevation closer to the valley floor to soak up the shimmering sunlight filtering through the Bay Area’s best redwoods!
For more information about these hikes, check out Lia’s guide to the best hikes near San Francisco!
Contributed By Lia of Practical Wanderlust
Muir Woods National Monument
- Distance from San Francisco: 30-40 minute drive (12 miles)
- Camping Options: While Muir Woods doesn’t offer any campgrounds, Kirby Cove Campground and Bicentennial Campground are both popular options nearby.
- Recommended Hikes: Bohemian Grove Trail, Sun Trail, Ben Johnson Trail
- Cost: Park entrance is $15 for adults, free for kids 15 and under. Parking reservations are $8.50 per standard vehicle. Nearby campgrounds average $20-$30 per night.
- Closest City: San Francisco, CA
- Read Next: Muir Woods Hiking Guide (Everything You Need to Know)
Muir Woods is a beautiful, coastal redwood forest found just north of the Golden Gate Bridge in Mill Valley, and I’m almost positive you’ve heard of it before! It’s actually a National Monument (!!!) → Congressman William Kent donated the land in 1907 to protect it from the logging business (thank you congressman!). It makes for one of the most popular day trips from San Francisco, and one we’ve loved exploring whenever visitors come into town.
The redwoods in Muir Woods are between 500 and 800 years old, with one tree thought to be nearly 1,200 years old (whoa!). And while redwoods can grow to nearly 380 feet, the tallest tree in Muir Woods is 258 feet, so while it’s not the tallest tree in the entire world, it’s certainly pretty impressive.
The park is most famous for its main pathway, The Bohemian Grove Trail, an easy 2-mile scenic trail that is fairly level. Another popular attraction is Cathedral Grove known for having the “most pristine” section of redwoods. You’ll also find the final resting place of an 800-year-old redwood here. The nearly 200-foot tall and 12-foot wide tree caused no damage with its fall and thus was allowed to remain to provide nutrients to the soil.
Located just 12 miles north of the city, Muir Woods is an easy drive from San Francisco but could take you 30-40 minutes depending on traffic. Do note that parking is scarce, and visitors are now required to purchase a parking reservation in advance. Missed out on reservations? Opt for the shuttle!
Insider tip: Get there early to avoid the crowds. Tour buses begin showing up around 10am, so plan your visit accordingly. Also, be prepared for rain (bring along your favorite rain jacket) and limited to no cell service inside the park (make exact plans with friends/family beforehand).
For TONS more info, check out my guide to everything you need to know when visiting Muir Woods!
Recommended by Heather from Trimm Travels
Roy’s Redwoods Preserve
- Distance from San Francisco: ~1 hour drive (25 miles)
- Camping Options: None
- Recommended Hikes: Roy’s Redwoods Loop Trail, Meadow Trail
- Cost: Free! The preserve does not charge an entrance fee.
- Closest City: Nicasio, CA
I bet you’ve never heard of this preserve filled with redwoods near San Francisco. Roy’s Redwoods Preserve is only a short 35 minute drive away from the oh-so-popular Muir Woods, but it’s hardly even known (even to locals in SF!). And George Lucas even chose Roy’s for one of his movies (so you know it’s worthy of your time).
A small preserve, Roy’s Redwoods sits between San Rafael and Point Reyes in Nicasio, a census-designated town in Marin County. Roy’s Redwoods is just about 1 hour north of San Francisco (a total of 27 miles, however, while the distance is not big, the Bay Area traffic tends to increase time on the road).
- Insider Tip: Make sure to look out for “hippie trees” while wandering around the park. A commune used large hollowed-out tree trunks as their homes back in the 60’s!
The Roy’s Redwood Nature Trail is an easy hike that takes you around the preserve. However, if you want more challenge, try the Dickson Ridge Fire Road where you will get a great view of Mount Tamalpais.
If you are a movie buff, perhaps you might want to know that the scenic Meadow Trail within Roy’s Redwoods was used as a set for George Lucas’ The Ewok Adventure. And when you come here you will understand why: This place is unbelievably scenic!
Unlike more popular places such as Muir Woods National Monument, Roy’s Redwoods provides a more quiet space free of crowds and is perfect for outdoor activities such as hiking, mountain biking, jogging and picnicking. Yes, you can still enjoy the beautiful redwoods near San Francisco, all without having to share a trail with hundreds of other people! Visitors can also bring their dogs for a walk, however, a leash is required.
Recommended by Daria from The Discovery Nut
Butano State Park
- Distance from San Francisco: ~1 hour drive (50 miles)
- Camping Options: Yes! With flush toilets, dish washing station, water, and food lockers
- Recommended Hikes: Six Bridges Trail, Goat Hill Trail, Little Butano Creek Trail
- Cost: $10 for a day pass or $35/night for camping
- Closest City: Pescadero, CA
****As of August 2020, this park is currently closed due to wildfire until further notice. Find more information and updates here.
Located about 1 hour and 15 minutes south of San Francisco off of Highway 1 is Butano State Park. Often overshadowed by neighboring Big Basin Redwood State Park, Butano is a bit off the beaten path making it a great spot to hike under the Redwoods near San Francisco without the crowds.
Butano offers hikes of varying lengths and difficulties, so you could visit for a half or full day, or even camp overnight and still have plenty of hiking options.
For a short hike I recommend either the Six Bridges Trail or Little Butano Creek Trail. The Six Bridges trailhead is located right next to the Visitor Center parking lot, while you’ll have to walk into the park for about .5 miles to access the Little Butano Creek trailhead. Both are mostly flat with a handful of inclines and roughly 1.5 mile out and back, for a total of 3 miles. Both trails follow the creek and will carry you through gorgeous Redwoods.
However, if the creek water is low, it can be a little bit buggy so be sure to use bug spray! If I had to choose one, I would suggest Little Butano Creek Trail.
If you’re camping overnight I highly recommend the Goat Trail to Six Bridges. This hike starts next to campsite 16 and is a roughly 6 mile loop that starts in the redwoods, passes through a cypress forest, and returns to the redwood floor. It’s a mostly flat trail and is absolutely stunning.
Since Butano State Park is a bit of a hidden gem, you likely won’t see many other people on the trail so you can enjoy the beauty of the coastal Redwoods all to yourself.
After your hike, definitely check out Katie’s guide to some some of the best things to do in Pescadero. It’s a charming coastal town with awesome tacos, pie, and artichoke garlic bread.
Recommended by Katie from Just Chasing Sunsets
Portola Redwoods State Park
- Distance from San Francisco: ~1.5 hour drive (50 miles)
- Camping Options Available? Multiple campsites (Portola Redwoods and Slate Creek) nestled along Pescadero Creek
- Recommended Hikes: The Peters Creek Loop, Coyote Ridge and Shingle Mill
- Cost: $10 day use fee per car
- Closest City: Between San Jose, Mountain View, and Santa Cruz
****As of August 2020, this park is currently closed due to wildfire until further notice. Find more information and updates here.
Looking for redwood trees near San Francisco but wanna get away from the crowds? You’re in luck, my friend. Drive roughly an hour south of the city, and you’ll be rewarded with peace and quiet at Portola Redwoods State Park.
While not as famous as the Big Basin Redwoods just two miles away, Portola Redwoods is that hidden gem that comes with a much undisturbed and quiet redwoods experience. When I visited last December, I rarely saw anyone in the whole park.
The easiest and the most popular hike is the “Old Tree” trail to meet the largest and oldest tree in the park, which is 300 feet tall and estimated to be about 1,200 years old. Another easy hike is the one to Tiptoe Falls. I would also recommend the Upper Coyote hike for spectacular canyon views.
If you love to camp, there are 55 family campsites available. I camped at the Ravine group campsite and really liked it.
There is no cellphone reception in the park, and the closest gas station is 14 miles away in Sky Londa. There is a $10 vehicle day-use fee. I believe there was a $5 park entrance fee as well. When you go, do not rely on GPS or cell phones. Better get directions before you head out!
Recommended by Deb from The Visa Project
Big Basin State Park
- Distance from San Francisco: ~1.5 hour drive (75 miles)
- Camping Options Available? Multiple campsites, $35/night
- Recommended Hikes: Redwood Loop Trail, Buzzard’s Roost, Berry Creek Falls loop, and any portion of Skyline to the Sea Trail
- Cost: $10 day use fee per car
- Closest City: Boulder Creek, CA
***Big Basin is closed indefinitely due to the August 2020 lightning fire. Find more information and updates here.
Big Basin Redwoods State Park is the oldest state park in California, and home to the largest area of ancient coast redwood trees south of San Francisco. Founded in 1902, Big Basin stretches from deep within the Santa Cruz mountains all the way to the Pacific Ocean, and features some of the largest coastal redwoods in the entire state.
Looking for a weekend getaway in the Santa Cruz area? Head to Big Basin! The air is crisp and cool, and the weather usually hovers around a perfect 60 degrees Fahrenheit (you’ll wanna wear layers). The many miles of hiking trails are perfect for all skill levels, and will take you through the forest to waterfalls and stunning views.
Editor’s Note: Big Basin is in my opinion the best place to see redwoods near San Francisco. Don’t miss Berry Creek Falls if you’re up for a day hike!
The largest redwoods in the park are visible from the Redwood Loop Trail, a flat and easy 0.6 mile hike that everyone should do. Along the loop you’ll find signs for the Mother of the Forest, the largest tree in the park, which stands over 300 feet tall. Near the visitor center you’ll also find the famous auto tree, which makes for a great photo spot.
The redwoods near San Francisco sit in a rainforest environment, making rain very common so pack a rain jacket. Because the park is incredibly popular, you’ll want to visit early in the morning, or during the week to avoid the crowds.
Contributed by Ale from Sea Salt & Fog
Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
- Distance from San Francisco: 1 ½ hour drive (75 miles)
- Camping Options: 107 reservable sites, NO sewer or water hookups. Campgrounds close in winter.
- Recommended Hikes: Redwood Grove Loop Trail, Cathedral Redwoods
- Cost: $10 parking fee for the day-use area and the campground
- Closest City: Felton, CA
While many tourists who want to see the redwoods from San Francisco head to the often overcrowded Muir Woods, a lot of locals recommend some of the state parks in the Santa Cruz Mountains instead. Granted this is a longer drive from San Francisco, but Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park is located in Felton not far from Highway 17 that runs between San Jose and Santa Cruz. It can be a great stop on your way down to the Monterey Peninsula.
This park has 34 different hiking trails as well as overnight camping but is best known for the .8 mile long Redwood Grove Loop Trail. This is a flat walk so easy that my grandmother did it in her 80s but it boasts trees up to 277 feet tall. There is also a tree that was hollowed out by fire where “pathfinder” John C. Fremont is reputed to have camped in 1846. Pick up a brochure for the loop trail which will help you identify different plants and will explain the life cycle of the redwood tree.
Henry Cowell has another bonus for people who like trains as you can walk from the parking lot of the state park into the grounds of the Roaring Camp Railroad. Roaring Camp is not affiliated with the park but offers visitors a stream train ride through the redwoods so many visitors will visit both sites together. Roaring Camp has a small touristy “town” with a general store, a picnic area, a couple of restaurants and often live music.
Recommended by Chris from Amateur Travel
Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve
- Distance from San Francisco: 1 ½ hour drive (80 miles)
- Camping available: None within the park itself, but nearby at Bullfrog Pond Campground and Schoolhouse Canyon Campground
- Recommend hikes: Pioneer Nature Trail, East Ridge Trail, Pool Ridge Trail
- Cost: $10 per car at the entrance
- Closest City: Santa Rosa
One of the less visited redwood parks to enjoy near San Francisco is Armstrong Woods. Located in the town of Guerneville in Sonoma County, you can float down the Russian River in the morning and then go exploring the redwood groves in the afternoon! Meaning, this is a super-easy park to tack on if you’re already in the area going wine tasting among other things!
While the reserve is not as large as some other parks, Armstrong Redwoods still holds some pretty impressive trees! Don’t miss the Parson Jones Tree — the tallest tree in the park, at a whopping 310 feet high. And get this – it’s actually longer then the length of a football field! AND it’s only 0.1 miles from the park entrance. Double win.
The Colonel Armstrong Tree takes the cake for the oldest tree in the park, estimated to be over 1,400 years old. It’s named after a lumberman who helped to preserve this park in the 1870s. Finally, there’s the Icicle Tree, showcasing the unusual burl formations (weighing a whopping few tons!) typically found on redwood trees.
Visitors can opt for any of the trails the reserve offers – from the simple Pioneer Trail (a one mile trail from the entrance to the theater area and back), the popular East Ridge Trail (a moderate 2.2 mile hike with a decent 400 foot climb), to a more strenuous combination of both the East Ridge Trail and the Pool Ridge Trail (with gorgeous views of the valley and grove from above.)
If you are visiting more of Sonoma county, check out Noel’s guide to more things to do besides wine tasting.
Contributed By Noel of Travel Photo Discovery
Redwoods Near San Francisco (2-3 hours away)
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park
- Distance from San Francisco: 2 ½ hour drive (150 miles)
- Camping Options Available? Yes! Camping options available inside the park. Best camping outside the park: Ventana Big Sur Campground.
- Recommended Hikes: Buzzards Roost Trail, Valley View Overlook, Big Sur River Gorge Trail, Liewald Flat, Manuel Peak Trail, and Big Sur Nature Trail (wheelchair accessible)
- Cost: Park entrance $10/ car. Camping $30-$50/ night
- Closest City: Monterey
An hour south of Monterey, CA sits Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, an 821-acre area filled with thousand-year-old redwoods situated along the Big Sur River. Nicknamed a “mini Yosemite,” the park offers several hiking trails that showcase spectacular views of the Big Sur Valley, the Big Sur River Gorge, and the Pacific Ocean. Hiking, biking, and RV riding are popular along the park’s roads and trails. The location offers a variety of trails for every skill level, including a wheelchair-accessible trail.
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is named for homesteader John Pfeiffer who settled there in 1884. In the early 1930s, Pfeiffer became angered by Los Angeles developers offering to buy his land with hopes of building a subdivision. In 1933 he decided to instead sell the land to the state of California in order to preserve it… and Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park was born!
The Park also offers multiple lodging options, including a large campground, space for RVers, and 62 rustic cottages in their Big Sur Lodge. A word of warning, reservations fill up as early as 6 months in advance, so planning ahead is essential. And since you’re in the area, make sure to check out some other things to do in Big Sur!
Contributed By Jenn of Sick Girl Travels
Chandelier Drive Thru Tree Park
- Distance from San Francisco: 3 hour drive (185 miles)
- Camping Options: While the Drive Thru Tree Park doesn’t offer any campgrounds, there are options nearby, such as the Standish-Hickey State Recreation Area and the Redwoods River Resort.
- Recommended Hikes: There are trails to walk within the park, but besides the ones included with admission the Standish-Hickey Trail is a relaxing and easy hike
- Cost: The cost for entry into this day-use park is $10 per car and $5 per motorcycle
- Closest City: Mendocino, CA
Located just off of Highway 101 and an hour and a half north of Mendocino, the Chandelier Drive Thru Tree Park is truly a sight to see. Since 1937, this family operated park has been allowing visitors the chance to drive through a 315-foot Coastal Redwood. Yup, you can DRIVE STRAIGHT THROUGH A REDWOOD HERE (hence the name of the park, haha)!
For $10 per car or $5 per motorcycle, guests can explore the day use park from 8:30 am until dusk, weather permitting. The Chandelier Drive Thru Tree Park welcomes families, as well as their furry friends; yes, you are free to bring your dog along on the adventure, just as long as it stays on its leash.
Once inside the park, gravel roads wind their way through the forest landscape, leading towards the spectacular centerpiece that has drawn people from all over the world, the Chandelier Tree. The Chandelier Tree is believed to be approximately 2,400 years old and is named for its chandelier-like branches that hang down from the top.
While there is no camping allowed in the park, there is plenty of space for picnics and exploring. Next to the tree is a large meadow, trails, a duck pond, and gift shop with public restrooms. Throughout the park, visitors will also see chainsaw carvings that have been created in fallen trees.
With so much beauty in one area, it’s no wonder that folks have been driving through this tree for over eighty years.
Contributed By Wendy of Wendy in the Wind
Redwoods Further Away from San Francisco (3 ½ hours and beyond)
Humboldt Redwoods State Park
- Distance from San Francisco: 3 ½ hour drive (215 miles)
- Camping Options: The park has three family campgrounds available for use (Albee Creek, Hidden Springs, and Burlington).
- Recommended Hikes: Founders Grove is a must, and driving the Avenue of the Giants is highly recommended.
- Cost: no entrance fee (although day use fees are charged at Williams Grove Day Use Area – $8)
- Closest City: Eureka, CA
This wouldn’t be a complete list of redwoods near San Francisco without including the largest remaining old-growth redwood forest in the world. Yup, you read that right — in the entire world! Believe it or not, some of the coast redwoods at Humboldt Redwoods State Park are thought to be about 2,000 years old. Crazy talk! They’re definitely not the closest redwoods to San Francisco you’ll find, but 110% worthy of the drive (I promise!).
The park boasts more than 100 miles of trails (rated easy to strenuous), with one of the most popular hikes being Founders Grove. This super-easy short nature trail leads visitors to one of the most expansive redwood groves in all of California, and of course, the Founder’s Tree!
The magnificent Dyerville Giant is another not-miss (within the Founders Grove) → it’s actually fallen down but was once standing at an impressive 362 feet high. Dyerville was considered the tallest tree in the park before it’s fall in 1991. The redwood’s crash actually caused the ground to move so much that it was recorded on a nearby seismograph! How crazy is that?!
Don’t feel like doing much hiking? Drive the scenic 32 miles of the Avenue of the Giants and see the highlights of the park along the way. We’ve driven this road a few times en route to Eureka up north! It runs parallel to the modern 101, so you’re not really going out of the way. Don’t miss the Shine Drive-Thru Tree, Chimney Tree, One-House Log, and the BigFoot Museum!
- If you’re a biker, you’ll be glad to know the paved roads and multi-use trails are suitable for biking!
Humboldt Redwoods State Park sees about 80inches of rain (that’s a lot!) between October and May, which gives the area it’s lush-ness and greenery. This environment is perfect for all the trillium, fairy lanterns, and calypso orchids growing nearby, which you’ll see while galavanting around the park and driving down the Avenue of the Giants.
Humboldt Redwoods is by far the best place to see redwoods near San Francisco if you don’t mind driving a few hours. I went twice in 2 weeks, that’s how much I loved it the first time around!
Mariposa Grove (within Yosemite National Park)
- Distance from San Francisco: ~4 hour drive (215 miles)
- Camping Options: Wawona Campground
- Nearby Hikes: You’ll find numerous trailheads located right in Wawona Campground, from Wawona Meadow Loop, an easy 3.5 mile loop, to the strenuous 12 mile round trip Alder Creek hike, which provides access to Alder Falls, an off-the-beaten-path 100-foot cascade.
- Cost: At the time of publication, Non-Electric Tent Only, Standard, and RV sites fee runs $26.00 per night, Non-Electric Group site fees cost $50.00 per night, and Non-Electric Equestrian campsite is $30.00 per night.
- Closest City: Wawona, CA
Arguably one of the most iconic natural landmarks in the world, Yosemite National Park is most known for its towering granite cliffs that form the faces of El Capitan and Half Dome, majestic waterfalls that seem to thunder down from the heavens, and its expansive, hypnotic valley. These all inspired John Muir to reflect, “Nowhere will you see the majestic operations of nature more clearly revealed beside the frailest, most gentle and peaceful things.”
I bet you didn’t know that America’s 3rd oldest national park is also home to some of the largest and oldest redwoods in the world → Mariposa Grove!
Mariposa Grove is nestled in the southernmost region of Yosemite and boasts over 500 mature giant sequoias, also called the sequoia or Sierra redwood. For an all-abilities hike, begin the Big Trees Loop Trail at Mariposa Grove Arrival area, a relatively flat 0.3 mile loop walk that winds its way past the famous Fallen Monarch. You can also take the more strenuous Mariposa Grove Trail hike past famous sequoias such as the Faithful Couple and the Clothespin Tree. This mostly smooth, wide trail ushers you the historic Wawona Point panoramic overlook.
Looking to camp in Yosemite? You’re in luck! Wawona campground is located at the southern end of the park, 27 miles from Yosemite Valley and just a short drive from Mariposa Grove. This lush area is skirted by the gentle South Fork of the Merced River and sprinkled with the pleasant canopy of manzanitas, white firs, cedar, and ponderosa pine trees.
Contributed By Jennifer of Family Camping 411
Sequoia National Park
- Distance from San Francisco: ~ 4 hour drive (235 miles)
- Camping Options Available? Yes, Lodgepole Campground
- Recommended Hikes: General Sherman, Congress Trail, and Moro Rock Trail
- Cost: $35 for a 7-day pass into the National Park, $25/night at the campground
- Closest City: Fresno
Sequoia National Park is the perfect destination for those looking to get outdoors and enjoy California’s many big trees and redwoods near San Francisco.
While Sequoia may not have the traditional Redwoods you’d find near the California coast, it is home to thousands of giant Sequoias, which are closely related and have similar characteristics.
This popular park was established on September 25, 1890 in order to protect the expansive groves of giant Sequoias. Today, it remains one of the oldest national parks in the United States and is home to some of the largest and oldest trees on the planet.
Sequoia National Park is most famous for its General Sherman tree, the largest known single stem tree by volume on Earth at over 52,500 cubic feet (whoa!). If that’s not impressive enough, General Sherman is 275 feet tall and approximately 2,000 years old.
Visitors planning a trip to Sequoia are encouraged to arrive early and make the General Sherman tree their first stop. This way you can avoid the crowds and instead enjoy a peaceful walk among these beautiful trees. Once the crowds arrive, head out to explore less visited areas of the park.
Contributed By Eden of Rock a Little Travel
Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park
- Distance from San Francisco: 5 ½ hour drive (320 miles)
- Camping: Tent and cabover camping is available at Gold Bluff Beach Campground, while tent sites and RV sites are available at Elk Prairie Campground. Reservations are required.
- Recommended Hikes: The Big Tree Loop is a must-do, of course. In addition, don’t miss the lush greenness of the Fern Canyon hike.
- Cost: Free, except for an $8 fee to access Davison Road or to park in the overflow lot at the Elk Prairie Campground.
- Closest City: Crescent City, California
If you’re heading to the redwoods, you’ll no doubt want to see big trees, and one of the biggest still-living trees you’ll find among the redwoods of California is in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park.
Appropriately dubbed “Big Tree,” this is the main reason most people pull off into the parking area for Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park during a redwood forest road trip since it’s conveniently located a short distance off Highway 101 near the town of Orick.
And it’s impressive all right! Big Tree is estimated to be over 1,500 years old and comes in at a whopping 286 feet high and 74.5 feet in circumference. Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park is more than just the Big Tree, though. It’s also home to 75 miles of hiking trails, three scenic drives, a 19-mile bike loop, and even gorgeous oceanfront beaches.
Parts of the park, including the super-popular Fern Canyon trail, were even used as filming locations for Jurassic Park, which helps to attest to its verdant beauty and expansive fauna.
Contributed By Gina of Evergreen & Salt
Redwood National Park
- Distance from San Francisco: 6 hours (340 miles)
- Camping Options: While Redwood National Park doesn’t offer any campgrounds, there are options at the nearby state parks.
- Recommended Hikes: Tall Trees Grove, Lady Bird Johnson Grove, Enderts Beach, Trillium Falls Loop
- Cost: Free! The national park does not charge an entrance fee. Nearby state park campgrounds are $35 per night.
- Closest City: Trinidad, CA
Redwood National Park is famous for, well… it’s redwoods! I bet you could’ve told me that. But it’s also a famous filming location – you may even recognize it from the Star Wars franchise (!!!).
This national park was founded in 1968 and partners with nearby state parks to form Redwood National and State Parks. Here you’ll find solitude amongst the endlessly tall trees on quiet, scenic day hiking and backcountry trails.
Redwood National Park is home to the world’s tallest tree, Hyperion (yes, the tree has a name!). Hyperion stands at 379 feet tall – that’s taller than the Statue of Liberty! While the exact location within the park is kept a secret to avoid over-tourism, you’ll be able to spot plenty of tall trees from the hiking trails.
The best hike in Redwood National Park is Tall Trees Grove, a moderate trail that takes you through a dense grove of coastal redwoods. To keep the trail quiet and private, Tall Trees Grove requires a free permit which can normally be picked up day-of at the Kuchel Visitor Center. Due to COVID-19, this process has moved online. Hikers can now apply for permits to Tall Trees Grove 2-7 days in advance.
If you’re looking for another short hike through the lush redwoods, head over to Trillium Falls. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a rainforest!
Redwood National Park offers coastal views too! Explore the rugged shoreline at Enderts Beach and try to spot sea urchins and starfish in the tidepools.
Contributed By Julia of Well Planned Journey
Jedediah Smith State Park
- Distance from San Francisco: 6 ½ hour drive (350 miles).
- Camping Options: Jedediah Smith Campground
- Recommended Hikes: Stout Grove, Jedediah Smith River Trail
- Cost: Free in most places, $8 Day Use Fee at Smith River Parking
- Closest City: Crescent City
Phew – the farthest spot on our list of redwoods near San Francisco! Okay, so over 6 hours away isn’t necessarily close to SF by any means, but hey, if you’re looking to make a trip from San Francisco to the Redwoods, Jedediah Smith State Park should be a top contender!
Living within this state park are some of the oldest living things on our planet. Many of these old growth redwoods have over 1000 years of stories to tell!
While you will experience a sample of the beauty that lies within, those wishing to truly immerse themselves in these ancient wonders should set their GPS for a detour to the Stout Grove trailhead.
There are a handful of small trails and various parking options along the way, but the Stout Grove Trail is the one I recommend. On your walk, you will come face-to-foot with the ancient giants that call Jedediah Smith Park home.
Looking to make a drive? Choose Highway 199 (aptly named the Redwoods Highway). It’ll take you to the coast through the incredible redwood forest that is Jedediah Smith State Park.
And if you’re in the area looking for more things to do, why not make your way to the Southern Oregon coast? It’s less than a 30 minute drive away!
Contributed By Sophie and Adam of We Dream of Travel
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