Updated: Jul 8, 2019
Redwoods National and State Park are a combined effort to protect the last remaining Redwoods in the country. If not for the numerous National and State Parks in this country, these areas would be mined, built on, or in this case, chopped down. It's no surprise, we are huge National Park Geeks and visiting this one in our T.A.R.D.I.S. was a no brainer. There’s nothing like seeing how tiny we really are in the face of such giants.
The park is well spread along the coast of Oregon and California, giving you long stretches of beautiful coast line. I've always enjoyed the southern Oregon coast much more due to its massive rocky outcrops, huge cliffs, and rocky beaches. Of course, there are still some sandy beaches, but for the most part it's as if the mountains rose out of the sea, leaving behind some pieces just offshore.
This trip was a spur of the moment one. We originally planned to go to Eastern Oregon, but the temperatures were so high across the state, reaching 100 degrees on some days, so we decided to head to the coast and down to the Redwoods. I hadn't been there since a child, and remembered little of it. After spending a night at a casino in Florence, we went south along US-101 through the southern Oregon coastline, reaching the upper half of the Redwoods National and State Park, near Jedediah State Park. There were three campgrounds in the area, on US-197, that were less than 10 miles from some old growth Redwoods. The first campground you come upon is Panther Flats Campground. There are 39 sites, with most of them reservable. The price is great at $15/night. They have water stations around the camp, full flush bathrooms, and showers priced nicely at $0.50 per 3 minutes. The day use side has great access to the Smith River. Sites are nicely spaced and feel secluded from others.
We should have planned better because all sites except one were taken. Luckily, we fit into the last slot. It was on a big slant, so we had to drop the jack down as far as it would go in order to make us semi-level. The refrigerator worked, which was all we cared about. The site was gorgeous, giving us a spot right next to our very own Redwood! We drove around to the other two campsites down the road from this one (Grassy Flat & Patrick Creek) and found that we could only fit into one or two slots of one of them (Patrick Creek). This makes Panther Flats the place to stay if you have any RV.
Where to go & What to do:
Hiouchi Visitor Center & Howland Hill Road Old Growth:
Here is where you go to get information about the secret places to go. This visitor center is located in the northern most part of the Redwoods, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. They will give you a secret route map to Stout Grove on Howland Hill Road (RVs and Trailers not advised--at all). This spot is located 2 miles from Hiouchi Visitor Center. You'll turn on South Fork road and head down the best scenic roads of old growth Redwoods you'll ever see. The road is not paved, super bumpy, and narrow at times. It is around 6.5 miles long and you'll get some amazing pictures of huge Redwoods through here.
Crescent City Coast & Lighthouse:
From US-101, take Washington Blvd West to the coastline and turn South. You'll follow one of the most beautiful rocky coastlines around. There are lots of turn out spots, which are more accessible coming south. The stretch ends near the Battery Point Lighthouse, a privately run and operated facility that you can pay to tour.
Prairie Creek Visitor Center, Elk, & Big Tree:
Ok, here is where the iconic Redwoods images are from. If you get off at exit 765, you'll take this beautiful scenic parkway through some old growth Redwoods on your way to the Prairie Creek Visitor Center. If you're lucky, you'll see the elk out in the fields eating away with massive antlers.
From the Prairie Creek Visitor Center, you'll have access to dozens of hikes from nature trails, long hikes, easy hikes, and access to the campground there. We did the nature trail hike and the foothills loop, which was around 3 miles. Stopping at the Big Tree was fun. There were so many "Big Trees" it became difficult to separate them. The hikes are incredible, full of shade and salmon berries. This park is loaded with trails.
Fun Redwood Information:
Redwood National and State Park is truly a wonder to behold, making you appreciate time. Redwoods live for thousands of years and have such thick bark that protects against fire and a protective chemical layer that keeps out pests. They are truly a super tree. When they die, new trees and life grow out of them. We saw this on all the trails. They also become natural barriers against erosion, keeping silt from washing into the creeks and rivers, which helps fish. Keep protecting these trees and they will continue to inspire future generations.
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