A Nature Lover's Guide to Redwood National Park Camping
Brian Baer/California State Parks
National Parks

A Nature Lover's Guide to Camping in Redwood National and State Parks

Immerse yourself in the world of the California coastal redwoods.

In Redwood National and State Parks, everyone comes to see how they measure up to the tallest trees in the world. Growing to nearly 370 feet tall, coast redwoods live up to 2,000 years old in northern California and southwest Oregon coast. And the 40,000 acres of ancient redwoods in these four parks—Redwood National Park, Prairie Creek State Park, Del Norte State Park, and Jedediah Smith State Park—account for 45 percent of the world’s last old-growth redwoods. They’re just one part of the protected, diverse ecosystem here, which stretches from the rugged Pacific Ocean to the heights of the coast range. 

There are no large lodging facilities within the parks’ boundaries, but those who come to enjoy the serenity of sharing space with the trees have a variety of camp sites to choose from—whether it’s for a quick weekend jaunt or a longer opportunity to reconnect with nature. From when to visit to when to book, use this guide for camping in and around Redwood National and State Parks.

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Camping in Redwood National and State Parks immerses travelers among the giant trees.

Jordan Siemens/Getty

What to know before you go

Redwood National and State Parks are a combination of four parks encompassing 133,000 acres. There are no formal entrance stations, and it’s possible to drive completely through the parks without realizing you’ve done so.

When to go

Year-round temperatures in this region are consistently in the mid-40s to low-60s Fahrenheit, so any time is possible. That said, spring to early summer is the best time to visit, when the forest is lush and green, and pale pink blossoms of native rhododendrons look like cotton candy puffs floating above wildflowers at the edge of trails. The coast redwoods are shrouded in cool fog in summer, but that weather also brings the most crowds. Mild winter conditions with the meditative sound of rushing creeks make colder months a sleeper hit—at least, when the weather cooperates.

How far in advance to book

Campgrounds at Redwood National and State Parks are extremely popular and may be full at any time of year, so reservations are strongly recommended. The four developed campgrounds in the state parks offer reservations up to six months in advance through ReserveCalifornia. For all of the seven backcountry campsites in the parks, free backcountry permits are required and can be requested (online only) up to 180 days in advance.

Download park information before you visit

The region is known more for its tall trees than for its cell service, so download trusted park sources like the National Park Service Mobile App before your trip. Most digital navigation systems have misdirected visitors, so use your pre-digital navigation skills like reading road signs and the park map to safely get around.

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park

Brian Baer/California State Parks

The best Redwood National and State Parks campsites

There’s nothing like sleeping underneath magnificent redwoods. Be kind to the trees, and refrain from setting up hammocks here, which can mutilate the trees’ bark.

Drive-in campsites

The four developed campgrounds in the parks have 332 campsites total. With hot showers, a campfire center, and ADA-accessible restrooms, three of them are great choices for families and first-timers. Tucked in an old-growth redwood grove on the banks of the wild and scenic Smith River, the Jedediah Smith Campground is close to hiking trails, swimming sites, and fishing spots. Sleep among towering maples, alders, and young coast redwoods in the Mill Creek Campground, with access to Mill Creek and miles of hiking trails. Grazing Roosevelt elk and black-tailed deer are frequent visitors under the ancient redwoods of the Elk Prairie Campground, where you’re also close to more than 70 miles of hiking and biking trails. 

Set up camp on the wild Pacific coastline at the Gold Bluffs Beach Campground, with easy access to a secluded stretch of beach and Fern Canyon. Here, you’re roughing it only a little more, relying on solar showers and restrooms that are not ADA-accessible. While all four campgrounds can accommodate RVs, size limits differ and restrictions are enforced, so confirm RV and trailer details when you’re making reservations. 

Walk-in and hike-in campsites

All seven backcountry sites in the parks require a walk or challenging hike. North of the Klamath River, climb through old-growth forest to open prairies fringed by fir and pine trees at Little Bald Hills Camp—a 3.3-mile walk with a gradual 1,800-foot rise in elevation from the closest parking. Hike through old-growth forests to three of the camp locations south of the Klamath River, which have limited accessibility in winter months due to high-water levels on Redwood Creek. The Redwood Creek Gravel Bar is the only area in the parks where dispersed camping is permitted, and you’ll need to bring your own bear canister.

Camping outside the parks

Campgrounds—both primitive and developed—abound in the nearby Six Rivers National Forest and Smith River National Recreation Area. The Panther Flat Campground, the most popular in the Smith River NRA, is on a flat shaded by trees about 50 feet above the Middle Fork of the Smith River. Two short paths lead from the picnic area to river swimming holes. 

If you’re yearning for more amenities, Redwood Meadows RV Resort and Redwood Coast Cabins & RV Resort have tent and RV sites that are ideal for families. The parks have wide-open space, laundry facilities, hot showers, games, and dog parks—plus, they’re close to a variety of restaurants.  

A small selection of nearby tent and yurt glamping options is available through Airbnb, like this canvas bell tent near the Smith River in Gasquet and this roomy yurt in Arcata.