Your Definitive Guide to the Redwood National Forest

Paying a visiting to the Redwood National Forest is like stepping into a fairy tale.

The giant tree trunks, rising taller than skyscrapers, seem better suited for sci-fi movies than real life. The air is clean and thick, the soil spongy underfoot. The experience of visiting these natural wonders carries with it a childlike sense of disbelief and wonder. And the best part? A trip to the redwoods is only a plane trip or car ride away—no passport (or space suit) required.

Here’s how to optimize the Redwood National Forest experience possible while visiting these amazing, natural wonders.

Be ready for emergencies.

These are the woods, not a museum. And if a family gets separated, there won’t be any helpful security guards waiting to reunite parents and children. It’s best to have everyone’s cell phones fully charged and in working order before heading out into the wilderness.

Mobile chargers that can get batteries up to snuff while hiking can be found at one of the many AT&T Stores in California and are worth the trip. No one wants a drained battery upon arrival at the Avenue of the Giants! Besides needing to reach each other or place an emergency call, visitors will also need plenty of battery space to take stunning photos.

Study up on must-see spots.

The Redwood National Forest is part of the United States’ National Parks Service system of protected lands. There is a lot to see! Not having a game plan before going in could mean missing some of the best spots—or getting turned around and spending more time driving than taking in the sights.

Especially worth noting is the Simpson-Reed Grove in Jedediah Smith Redwoods Park, which is an easy loop trail that’s only a mile long. There, visitors can enjoy the redwood canopy without getting lost or needing to turn back. Other hotspots are Howland Hill Road, Stout Grove, Newton B. Drury Redwood-Scenic Parkway, and the Ladybird Johnson Grove, which is one of the largest outcroppings of redwood trees along a beach.

That’s just for starters, of course. There’s plenty throughout the forest for a week (or more!) worth of exploration.

Find lodging that suits your needs.

Before heading out on a trip to the redwoods, it’s worth perusing the various lodging options in the area. For budget-conscious and adventurous travelers, there are plenty of camping options nearby. Those seeking more comfort can find plenty of bed and breakfasts and vacation rentals throughout the park. Klamath, Calif., at the northern end of the park, boasts every kind of lodging (as well as the iconic Paul Bunyan statue on Highway 101).

Most important is finding a location that is close enough to the trees so time isn’t wasted traveling back and forth. It’s worth the extra few bucks to stay as close to the main attraction as possible.

Check in at visitor centers.

Visitor centers are worth dropping in on in any national park; and the redwoods are no exception.

Visitor centers will have up-to-date information on current dangers like fire risk, flooded paths, road closures, downed trees, or animal sightings. There are also often free maps, hiking tips, and other useful information—as well as knowledgeable rangers and fellow visitors. It’s always wise to touch base with the experts before setting out alone in the woods.

The Redwood National Forest can be one of the most rewarding vacation experiences of a lifetime. Once visitors arrive in the world’s best-loved forest, it’s easy to forget about planning and itineraries. That’s why it’s essential to plan ahead and be ready for anything. Then, the experience can unfold on its own under the enchanted, towering majesty those ancient trees.