I'm trying to plan a 10 day trip to California this summer. My options are LA - SFO or Portland - SFO. We would really like to see the Redwoods and they are a fair distance north of SF. Now I'm from Canada and driving a distance is no big deal, however, would it be enough time to drive up from SF one day, stay at say Eureka, then come back the next day? If I went all the way up to Crescent City, would that be doable over night? I'm trying to figure out the best way to see the Redwoods, give them justice, and appease the family at the same time. (Not all revel in tons of hiking). Thanks
If you just want to see Redwoods, the easiest thing to do is to go to Muir Woods National Monument, which is only about 15 mi/25 km north of San Francisco, so very easily done in a day and by far the closest option to San Francisco. (Do note that advance parking/transit reservations are required, so check out the website if you are interested.)
Farther north, my favorite redwoods drive is Avenue of the Giants in Humboldt Redwoods State Park, but that's at least a 4-hour drive north of SF (and Eureka is about 5). Given that Muir is so close, I don't think it's worth it to drive so far north for one night if you don't have concrete hiking plans farther north you are specifically looking for.
Have you checked the Muir Woods? It's an easy morning trip from San Francisco. I've also thought of going further but Muir seems to satisfy the itch until I can dedicate 2 or 3 days.
I'm curious that you have a connection to SFO from Calgary. WestJet has direct flights. I think United does as well. If you are going to change planes, Portland is a nice airport.
Thanks Andrew, but I was wondering one really needs to see the "big " trees further up north, or if Muir would be just as impressive to us.
Allan, WestJet is awesome! From Calgary, we can get pretty much everywhere direct - even Rome this year!!
The tallest tree at Muir is 258 ft (78 m), whereas farther north the tallest trees can reach 379 ft (115 m).
It's up to you whether you think it is worth it, but for first-time redwood viewers where it doesn't sound like this is the primary goal of the trip, I think Muir is a perfectly lovely place to check out the redwoods. I personally would not drive 8-10 hours round-trip within two days to see them for one night, but YMMV!
I will say, if you do decide to go up north -- I would choose to stay in Arcata or Eureka over Crescent City. Having stayed there on a Portland-to-San Francisco drive, I did not find Crescent City to be very scenic at all, contrary to what you might think from a seaside town.
From Canada, I would land in LAX, rent a car and drive to Sequoia National Park — 4.5 hrs one way. Perhaps have a campsite reservation. From Sequoia, I would head to San Francisco, visit Muir Woods among other attractions, return a car and fly out of SFO. If you choose to go strait to San Francisco and it’ll be the first-time rendezvous with redwoods, schedule your visit to Muir Woods as early in the morning as possible. If you choose to do roundtrip to Eureka, factor the bay area traffic.
Much of the drive from SF up to the Redwoods Highway is very boring, several hours of boring as I remember. Muir Woods National Park is very lovely, much much closer to SF, about 20 minutes from the Golden Gate Bridge, but can be very crowded with tourists and tour groups. The park is fully equipped for tourism, meaning restaurant, pretty large gift shop, visitor center, etc. If you go there by car, I suggest you go early, as the limited parking can get very full. Another option is the Armstrong Redwoods State Park outside of Guerneville, about 1 hour 15 minutes from the Golden Gate Bridge. It is much less crowded and developed than Muir Woods. With either Muir Woods or Armstrong, you can easily include Sausalito or other spots in Marin County in your day, or in the case of Armstrong, you could include Santa Rosa and a Sonoma County winery or two.
Have you considered at one way road trip SFO to PDX (or PDX to SFO) touring the Oregon Coast, Redwoods and California Coast with a one way rental? Check one way rental drop-off charges to see if it is better to drive north or south. The one way premium is biased against the popular direction of one-way travel.
That said, the Redwood NP is worth a full day's visit (two nights). Besides the big trees, Fern Canyon is spectacular but either a high clearance vehicle to drive to the sight or a long hike.
Of course if you believe in the "you've seen one tree you've seen them all" thinking, Muir Woods is a short jump from SF.
I am abit confused by your "options". Are you deciding between flying into LA or Portland? And then younwould drive to San Francisco from either?
If you fly into Portland, you could drive through the Redwoods on your way to San Francisco. The faster route from Portland would be I-5 to Grants Pass, then 199 over to the coast, picking up 101 at Crescent City. Or you could drive down the Oregon Coast but would need to allow an extra day.
I find the Redwoods along Drury Parkway the best---there are some nice short walks you can do from parking spots along there.
Stop for the night in Trinidad rather than Arcata or Eureka. I hate to say it as I have family in the area, but both those towns have a homeless/drug problem, with a high risk of car break-ins. And neither is particularly scenic or charming. Instead, stop for the night in Trinidad. We like the View Crest Lodge if we are not camping ( which is our usual mode for that area):
That would work if you choose to drive up from San Francisco as well.
I honestly cannot say if Muir Woods is an adequate substitute for the Redwoods farther north. I have only been there once, and found it very crowded ( that was before they started the parking reservation system, so maybe it is better now).
And be very careful with your car in San Francisco as well. Do not leave anything in sight when it is parked, whether on the street or in a lot.
Muir Woods is in my backyard, it is as impressive and magnificent as the redwoods in northern California imo.
There’s also Armstrong Woods State Park in Sonoma County (all redwood trees), by the Russian River which are also impressive and wonderful.
There’s also a beautiful grove of redwoods in the heart of SF, in the Botanical Gardens in Golden Gate Park.
The Redwoods NP and vicinity is a food desert. Bring picnic provisions.
Trinidad is worth a stop overnight or not. We enjoyed dinner at The Lighthouse Grill.
Unless LA is important for this trip, I'd be inclined to fly into Portland and drive to San Francisco. You have time to see much of the beautiful Oregon and Northern California coast and also to explore some of the redwood areas. The Oregon redwoods trail near Brookings OR, the Avenue of the Giants, or Redwoods Nat'l Park in Northern CA. If you want to drive through a redwood tree, you have to do the Northern CA route. You can google 'drive through redwood trees' to see where they are.
I lived along the Avenue of the Giants and I agree with those who suggested Muir Woods or Armstrong Woods State Park. If you do decide to go further north I suggest you stay in Ferndale, a picturesque Victorian town near Eureka.
Armstrong Woods is a great place yo see redwoods and less crowded than Muir Woods
Lots of great suggestions here. Muir Woods, yes, but be aware it can be heavily oversubscribed. Parking can be a problem. The CA state park system has lots of options. Big Basin, Prairie Creek (where Fern Canyon is, and also has wild elk) Richardson Grove are closer to SF. Jedediah Smith is up near Crescent City. I have lived in the Bay Area my whole life and have been to all of these. Some of these may be technically within the boundaries of Redwood NP, but the NP is not like Yosemite where it’s a focused hub of ecotourism. Much of the redwoods are both federal and state, look at the Redwood National Park site to understand it better, I find it confusing myself. You can also see tall redwoods in Palo Alto (but it’s definitely worth a drive to see whole groves!) I almost think the giant sequoias are even more spectacular than the coast redwoods. Both are great in their own way. But the ones in the sierras will make your jaw drop in awe at their girth. When you consider that the top of a coast redwood is the better part of a football field away, there may be diminishing marginal utility of each foot in height.
If Redwood National Park( RNP) is what you want, then I think it is preferable to fly into Portland and drive south. (The reverse would work as well if you fly into SF and out from Portland)
Going to RNP from SF is at least a 6 hr drive each way. In the summer with motor homes and trailer homes on a two lane highway, and a lot of 'no passing' zones it will be a not fun drive. And doing it twice in 3 days...UGH.
My suggestion boils down to 'go one way'.
I seldom see Big Basin Redwoods State Park mentioned as a place to see redwoods near San Francisco, because its harder to drive to. Its only 2 hours south of San Francisco, but Hwy 236, the old wagon road in and out (now paved), is a very winding road. BUT, with fewer visitors I prefer these giants to the smaller trees at Muir Woods National Monument. California protected many redwoods at the turn of the century and Big Basin was a state park 60 years before the Redwood National Park was created.
If you are connecting to reach SFO or LAX anyway, be sure to research costs (incl car) to smaller California airports like Sacramento, Monterey, Santa Rosa, San Jose, Santa Barbara. It’s nice to not start at a behemoth airport surrounded by traffic. When I priced out starting a one way trip at Monterey vs SFO last October, the airfare was the same but the rental car half the cost (there were no cars at SFO under $90/day even months in advance).
L.A. - SFO or PDX - SFO? I have driven both routes multiple times. They are very different! The southern route is made for driving in a sports car with the top down. The northern route is truck country. Both are going to be crowded with motor-homes during the summer. And the Oregon Coast route hits a number of small towns that live off speeding ticket revenues. But it's a fantastic drive, and if the Redwoods are your prime point of interest that's the route I'd choose. Be advised that there's not a lot of services on some stretches between Coos Bay and Eureka.
If you choose L.A. as your starting point, you can easily drive from S.F. to the Redwoods in a day. I used to do a weekend drive from Napa through Marin and up the coast to Eureka then to I5 to Clear Lake and then back home. That can be done in a day, but I always ended up cursing campers. Fantastic roads in the right car though.
As one person noted Eureka is a better place to stay if you overnight, but it can easily sell out of hotel rooms in the summer.
Often overlooked (up in the Redwoods) is Jedediah Smith State Park, just outside Cresent City. I love that place.
It would help to know what your plan is for the trip. Are you planning a one-way drive or just renting a car for 2 days to see the redwoods? How are you getting to/from SFO?
As a side note, I think San Francisco is the worst city in the US to drive in. Added to that, getting in/out by car, especially going north, can be miserable if you don't know when to avoid rush hour traffic. And do NOT plan to drive into the city on Sunday afternoon/evening - worse than rush hour.
Muir Woods is AMAZING, and IMO just as impressive as the redwoods proper. YMMV, of course.
Be sure to check the guidelines for visiting Muir Woods BEFORE you think about visiting. If I read the website correctly, they have restrictions now about parking and such. We decided to simply go with a tour group on our last visit as I hate driving in San Francisco.