The Ultimate Guide to Camping in Redwood National Park

Camping in Redwood National Park

“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, Travels with Charley: In Search of America

Camping in Redwood National Park is an almost religious experience that should be near the top of every outdoor lover’s bucket list.

The towering trees create a primordial cathedral overhead that seemingly stretches forever into the heavens. Not only are these giants among the tallest trees on earth, but many are well over 500 years old with the oldest nearing 2,000 years old. Although a drive down the Avenue of Giants gives you a taste of this verdant northern Californian landscape, nothing beats an overnight stay in a Redwoods campground.

Here’s what you need to know to plan the best Redwood National Park camping trip.

Camping in Redwood National Park During Covid-19

Covid-19 Face Mask

Redwood National Park is currently open (as of publication on August 6th).

Camping at both developed campgrounds and backcountry campsites is available, although advance reservations are required for both. No walk-in first-come, first-served camping is currently allowed. Many of the campgrounds are open with limited capacity.

Currently, the Crescent City Information Center and Jedidiah Smith Visitor Center are both closed, although all other visitor centers are open, albeit operating on a modified system.

Do note, however, that a variety of visitor guidelines are in effect. Namely, social and physical distancing as well as wearing a mask in public outdoor settings where six feet distance cannot be maintained.

Stay up to date with the national and state park operating status here: What’s Opened and What’s Closed in the Redwoods. Make camping reservations at ReserveCalifornia and apply for backcountry permits ahead of time.  

We’ll update this section as any additional Covid-19 closures/reopenings take place.

Best Campgrounds in Redwood National Park

Tent Camping in Redwood National Park

Camping in Redwood National Park is my favorite way to experience all of the serenity and natural beauty it has to offer. That said, it’s important to note that while all four developed campgrounds are part of the Redwood National and State Parks complex, they are all managed by the state parks meaning they must be reserved through the California State Parks reservation system.

Here are the best campgrounds in Redwood National Park:

Jedidiah Smith Campground

Located in Jedidiah Smith Redwoods State Park, Jedidiah Smith Campground is an excellent choice for camping near Redwoods National Park.

Just a hop, skip, and a jump away from the national park, Jedidiah Smith is not only convenient, but it’s also well worth exploring in its own right. This state park is among the northern most of a stretch of parks home to giant redwoods on the California coast. Don’t forget to check out the stunning free-flowing Smith River during your visit.

As for the campground itself, Jedidiah Smith boast 86 campsites open to tent and RV campers alike, although no hookups are available. The campground is open year-round and has a variety of amenities, including restrooms with hot showers, an RV dump station, and much more. The RV length limit is 25 feet total.

In addition to camping, this Redwoods campground is close to ample swimming, fishing, paddling, and hiking opportunities.

Learn more about Jedidiah Smith Campground.

Mill Creek Campground

Camp close to Redwood National Park with a stay at Mill Creek Campground in nearby Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park.

Mill Creek Campground is a great homebase for exploring not only Redwood National Park, but also the other state parks that make up the complex. Its location is all but perfect near the point where these towering redwood trees meet the crashing waves of the Pacific coastline.

This California campground is quite large with 145 total campsites. Both tent and RV campers are welcomed, although the RV vehicle limit is 28 feet total and there are no hookups. That said, restrooms with hot shower and an on-site RV dump station are available. The campground is normally open from May 18 through September 30.

The Mill Creek area has countless activities to keep you occupied. Not only is it a great jumping off point for exploring this desolate section of Redwoods coastline, but Mill Creek itself is well worth a visit. Birding is another always popular Mill Creek activity.

Learn more about Mill Creek Campground.

Elk Prairie Campground

Elk Prairie Campground in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park is another top-notch place to camp near Redwoods National Park.

Roughly 50 miles north of Eureka, Elk Prairie Campground gets its name from, well, the abundance of elk that populate this area! You’re all but certain to see herds of beautiful Roosevelt Elk roaming the open meadows that intersperse the sandy beaches and coastal redwood trees.

As for the campground itself, expect 75 campsites open to tent campers and RV campers with rigs up to 27 feet long. No RV hookups are available, although on-site amenities do include restrooms with hot showers. This Redwoods campground is open all year-round.

Don’t forget to bring your hiking boots when camping at Elk Prairie. Although all of the Redwoods National and State Parks complex is crisscrossed with hiking trails, few areas have a greater selection of hiking trails than Elk Prairie State Park, which has over 70 miles of hiking (and biking!) trails total.  

Learn more about Elk Prairie Campground.

Gold Bluffs Beach Campground

For beach camping in the Redwoods, you have few better options than Gold Bluffs Beach Campground.

Also part of Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park (along with the above-mentioned Elk Prairie Campground), Gold Bluffs Beach is just minutes from some of the most stunning coastal scenery in all of northern California.

Gold Bluffs Beach Campground stretches across a section of coastal dunes. Some campsites have peekaboo views of the ocean but most views are obstructed by the long grass and sand dunes. There are 26 campsites total (RVs are limited to 24 feet and no trailers are allowed). No hookups are available. Solar showers, restrooms, and wind shelters are located on-site. This Redwoods campground is usually open year-round.

The biggest draw of Gold Bluffs Beach is the beach itself. This stretch of remote beach is quite isolated which means you’ll have plenty of privacy for your exploring. In addition to the beach, towering redwood trees as well as open meadows filled with grazing Roosevelt elk are both close at hand.

Learn more about Gold Bluffs Beach Campground.

Backcountry Camping in Redwood National Park

Redwood National Park Coastline

Backpacking in Redwood National Park is an excellent way to get away from the hustle and bustle of developed areas and envelope yourself in the serenity of nature.

Several options for backcountry camping are available whether you prefer a night listening to the waves on the coast, wrapped in the shadows of Redwood giants, or in an open clearing with views of incredible starlit night skies.

200 miles of backpacking trails are available with seven designated backcountry areas. Permits are required for all overnight stays in the Redwoods backcountry.

Remember that this is bear country so proper food storage and bear safety are important. And, as always, remember to follow the 7 Leave No Trace principles (including how to properly go to the bathroom in the woods) to best minimize your impact on this beautiful natural area.

Learn more about backcountry camping in Redwood National Park.

Best Lodging in Redwood National Park

Redwood National Park

Not everyone likes to camp in a tent or an RV. For those that prefer a roof overhead and solid ground below, a stay at one of Redwood’s cabin rentals just might be in order. Or, if you prefer more luxurious lodging, look just outside the park’s borders in nearby towns like Crescent City, Eureka, Klamath, and more.

Here is the best lodging in Redwood National Park:

Elk Prairie Campground Cabins

Four basic cabin rentals are available at Elk Prairie Campground. These are the perfect way to stay in Redwood National Park if you prefer a roof over your head at night. Although the cabins do have electricity, including heat, none of them have kitchens or bathrooms.

Learn more about the cabins at Elk Prairie Campground.

Jedidiah Smith Campground Cabins

Another option for lodging in Redwoods National and State Parks is the cabin rentals at Jedidiah Smith Campground. Four cabins are available and are much like the ones offered at Elk Prairie Campground. They do have electricity and heat but none have private bathrooms or kitchens.

Learn more about the cabins at Jedidiah Smith Campground.

Best Things to Do in Redwood National Park

Road in Redwood National Park

Camping is just one of many activities to do in Redwood National Park that make it such a great destination for visitors of all ages.

  • Scenic Drives – Taking a scenic drive is one of the most popular ways to enjoy the Redwoods. Most scenic loops are relatively short and can be completed in under an hour, making them perfect for overnight campers and day visitors alike.
  • Hiking – Few activities allow you to see the Redwoods in their full glory like taking a hike. Redwoods hiking trails range from a mile or less on a paved path to a dozen miles (or much longer) in the woods. Backpacking is another option. There are even dog-friendly trails available in the neighboring state parks!
  • Bicycling – Tens of miles of challenging bicycling trails make the Redwoods an ideal destination for bike exploration!
  • Horseback Riding – Select Redwoods trails are open to horses and other pack animals. Serious adventurers might even consider horse camping!
  • Paddling – Smith River is a fantastic place for paddling. Choose from Ranger-led programs, local tours, or bring your own kayak!
  • Wildlife Viewing – A trip to Redwood National Park isn’t complete without viewing wildlife! Roosevelt elk, the largest member of the deer family, are an all but certain sight while lucky visitors might even see gray whales off the coast. For those exploring Redwoods beaches, tidepooling and birding are also a must!
  • Ranger Programs – Choose from a wide range of ranger programs, including guided kayak tours, tidepool walks, campfire programs, nature walks, and, of course, junior ranger programs!

Learn more about the best things to do in Redwood National Park.

Final Thoughts

Elk in Redwood State Park

Standing in awe beneath some of the tallest trees in the world is an incredibly humbling experience.

But these magnificent coastal redwoods are just one of many reasons why a Redwood National Park camping trip is so rewarding. Jaw dropping coastal views, a rich abundance of plant and animal life, and a network of hiking trails also call to outdoor lovers.

For more information on planning your Redwood camping trip, check out our guide to the best camping in California and the best glamping in California.

Our additional best state camping guides and national park camping guides (including nearby Pinnacles National Park and Sequoia National Park) are also valuable resources to plan your trip.

Other great camping resources include our camping gear guides and camping food and recipes as well as our RV rental tool if you decide RV camping is the way to go on your next California camping trip.

And, if you have any additional questions about Redwoods camping, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us in the comments below.

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