Best Places to See Giant Redwoods in California: A Family Travel Guide

See giant redwood trees is an experience every family should have.
See giant redwood trees is an experience every family should have.
12/2/23 - By Gina Ragland

Seeing California redwood trees should be on every family's travel bucket list. These towering trees, many dating back thousands of years, are truly awe-inspiring. There are many places throughout Northern California where families can seek a serene escape into the heart of nature while viewing these colossal redwoods.

Ancient old-growth redwoods can be found in national parks such as Redwood National Park and Muir Woods, as well as in several other state and regional parks. Most of them have a small vehicle fee to enter, but some are free. All of them provide family-friendly hiking trails and breathtaking views, and some have extra activities for kids like playgrounds and museums.

Here are our favorite places to see redwood trees in California. For more outdoor adventures in the Golden State, from exploring Lake Tahoe to road tripping through the Sierra Nevada, check out our California Family Travel Guide.


Surround yourself with majestic redwood trees at Redwood National and State Parks. 

Where to See Redwood Trees Near Humboldt County

1. Redwood National and State Parks — Crescent City & Orick

When it comes to seeing redwood trees in California, Redwood National and State Parks should be at the top of the list. Stretching along the coast of Northern California, Redwood National and State Parks form a series of preserved forests, beaches, and grasslands near the Oregon border.

Redwood National and State Parks are unique in that they comprise four parks. From the south to the north, these include Redwood National Park, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, and Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. The parks span nearly 50 miles and protect 40,000 acres of old-growth redwood forests. A car is required to access them.

Redwood National Park is always free to enter. The other three state parks collect day-use fees.

May to September is the best time to visit these stunning redwood trees. Summer months tend to be the busiest, while spring and fall have fewer crowds. Avoid visiting in the winter, as that is the wet season.

Family-Friendly Hiking in Redwood National Park

Lady Bird Johnson Grove Trail is an easy 1.4-mile loop through an old-growth redwood forest that’s suitable for all ages. Other family-friendly trails include the 2.6-mile Trillium Falls Loop Trail and the 3.6-mile Tall Trees Grove Loop Trail. The Tall Trees Grove is better suited for older kids due to the higher elevation gain and longer distance. A free permit is required to hike Tall Trees Grove.

Family-Friendly Hiking in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

One of the most popular trails in all of Redwood National and State Parks is the 1.1-mile Fern Canyon Loop through a moss-covered canyon, where scenes from The Lost World: Jurassic Park were filmed. A permit and entrance fee are required for Fern Canyon from May 15 through September 15. Wear waterproof shoes for this one.

Another kid-friendly trek is the flat 2.5-mile Karl Knapp (previously named Prairie Creek) - Foothill Trail Loop. The trail begins at the Prairie Creek Visitor Center and contains educational panels along the way.

Family-Friendly Hiking in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park

The Stout Memorial Grove is an easy but rewarding 0.6-mile hike that leads to a redwood grove near the Smith River. Swimming and paddling in the river are popular summertime activities. Another short hike with a big payoff is the 0.8-mile Simpson-Reed Trail, which little legs will appreciate. Finally, the 1.7-mile (out and back) Grove of Titans hike will wow with its elevated boardwalk for optimal redwoods viewing.

More Things To Do with Kids in Redwood National and State Parks

Pick up a Junior Ranger activity booklet at one of the four visitor centers. Little nature enthusiasts can complete the activities in the book, then return to a visitor center to get sworn in as a Junior Ranger and receive their badge.

From June through August, ranger-guided programs allow children ages 7-12 to participate in hour-long crafts and games.

Trees of Mystery in Klamath is another enticing stop for kids with a gondola ride, a redwood canopy trail, and photo ops with a giant Giant Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox.

RELATED: 12 Best California Family Vacation Ideas Kids Love

Redwood forest
Hike family-friendly trails for amazing views of these giant trees. 

2. Humboldt Redwoods State Park — Weott

Humboldt Redwoods State Park, one of the largest state parks in the region, is a breathtaking expanse renowned for its magnificent old-growth redwood forests. Multiple easy and short hikes offer serene and enchanting settings. One must-visit trail is the Founders Grove Nature Trail, an easy loop that leads to some of the park's most impressive redwood trees. Other remarkable trails under one mile include the Gould Grove Nature Trail, the Stephen’s Grove Loop, and the Rockefeller Loop. Entrance and parking are free.

3. Avenue of the Giants — Humboldt County

This iconic Northern California drive winds its way through the heart of Humboldt Redwoods State Park. The 31-mile stretch of Highway 101 offers a mesmerizing journey through towering groves of giant California redwoods.

Before entering Avenue of the Giants, grab an informational auto map for your epic journey. Consider making pit stops at the 2.1-mile Drury-Chaney Grove, the Eternal Tree House, and Bolling Grove. The Shine drive-thru tree has an admission fee but offers unique interactive experiences like driving (if you have a tiny car) or walking through a redwood. The visitor center is at about the halfway point and has some educational exhibits.

Where to Stay in Humboldt County

Eureka is the perfect home base when visiting Redwood National and State Parks and Humboldt Redwoods State Park. Kids will love the Sequoia Park Zoo, the two playgrounds nestled among giant redwood trees in Sequoia Park, and the interactive Redwood Discovery Museum.

Best Western Plus Humboldt Bay Inn is a great hotel option, with family-friendly amenities including a heated outdoor pool, a hot tub, and free breakfast. There’s even a stretch limo that will take you to dinner. The Red Lion Hotel Eureka is another option, with amenities like an indoor pool, an outdoor hot tub, and an on-site restaurant near the Sequoia Park Zoo.

RELATED: Top-Rated San Francisco Tours for Families: Alcatraz, Muir Woods, and More

Muir Woods National Monument
Hike the stroller-friendly Muir Woods Main Trail at Muir Woods National Monument. Photo courtesy of NPS

Where to See Redwood Trees Near San Francisco

4. Muir Woods National Monument — Marin County

There are endless things to do in San Francisco with kids, from historic sights like Alcatraz and Fisherman’s Wharf to an array of impressive museums. Taking a day trip to Muir Woods, just a 30-minute drive north, to see nearly 1,000-year-old towering redwood trees is another must-do.

Muir Woods is the most convenient place to see redwoods due to its proximity to the city, but it'll also cost you—there is an entrance fee of $15 per person in addition to a parking fee (paid parking reservations are required). But since Muir Woods is operated by the National Park Service, national park passes like the America the Beautiful pass will admit you for free. Take advantage of several free national park days throughout the year, too.

The stroller-friendly Muir Woods Main Trail, also known as the Redwood Creek Trail, is an out-and-back trail totaling 1.5 miles. One of the most popular paths in the park, it weaves through the main redwood forest and is mostly flat.

Like Redwood National and State Parks, Muir Woods has a Junior Ranger program.

5. Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park — Oakland

This regional park, renowned for its stately redwood groves, beckons with winding hiking trails meandering through picturesque redwood forests. The 1.7-mile Stream Trail is an easy, kid-friendly (though not stroller-friendly) trail that runs parallel to a stream and is near a playground. You can also check out the Chabot Space & Science Center, which has interesting space-themed exhibits. 

Joaquin Miller Park next to Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park offers more redwood trail options, a tot lot and playground, and free parking.

6. Roberts Regional Recreational Area — Oakland

Roberts Regional Recreational Area is adjacent to Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park. One of its main attractions is the Old Growth Redwood Heritage Viewing Deck and Interpretive Exhibit. Explore the redwood history of the Bay Area and see a colossal redwood tree stump that tells a tale of the forest's former grandeur before intensive logging in the 1850s-60s.

Other kid-friendly amenities at Roberts Regional Recreational Area include a “barrier-free” wheelchair-accessible playground, a baseball field, a sand volleyball court, several picnic areas, and an affordable and newly renovated public swimming pool.

Where To Stay in San Francisco

Hotel Zephyr is located in the Fisherman's Wharf area, making it a convenient base for exploring family-friendly attractions like Pier 39 and Ghirardelli Square. The hotel features nautical-themed rooms and suites, and amenities include a game room and an outdoor courtyard with firepits.

If you prefer to stay in Oakland, Homewood Suites by Hilton Oakland-Waterfront provides spacious suites with kitchens, a complimentary hot breakfast, and an outdoor pool.

Where to See Redwood Trees Near Santa Cruz

7. Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park — Felton

Nestled in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park showcases the monumental beauty of coastal redwoods in California. Encompassing over 4,600 acres, a highlight of the park is the 40-acre grove of old-growth redwood trees. The popular 0.8-mile Redwood Grove Loop Trail can be done in an hour and is stroller-friendly. You can even step inside the iconic Fremont Tree, but bring a flashlight!

Roaring Camp Railroad is nestled adjacent to Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. After you walk among the giants, see the redwood trees in a new way by climbing aboard this vintage steam train that winds through the exquisite redwood forest.

RELATED: Road Trip on the PCH: Where To Stop and What To Do with Kids from LA to San Francisco

The short Redwood Loop Trail at Big Basin Redwoods State Park is a perfect hike for families. 

8. Big Basin Redwoods State Park — Santa Cruz County

Big Basin is the oldest state park in California and is home to some of the tallest and most majestic trees on Earth. Some of these ancient redwoods date back over 2,000 years. Due to the popularity of Big Basin, parking reservations are encouraged.

The 0.6-mile Redwood Loop Trail is short and easy, perfect for families with young children. It winds through a grove of ancient redwoods, allowing for a close-up experience with these towering giants. Some of the tallest trees in the park are on this trail, including Mother of the Forest, Father of the Forest, and The Chimney Tree. Another notable attraction at Big Basin is the alluring Berry Creek Falls.

Family-Friendly Things To Do in Santa Cruz

From beaches to museums, Santa Cruz is full of entertaining things to do with kids. Amusement rides await at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, and kids will be scratching their heads trying to figure out the optical illusions at The Mystery Spot. The Santa Cruz Children's Museum of Discovery has plenty of hands-on exhibits, and the renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium is just a short drive away.

Where To Stay in Santa Cruz

The Dream Inn offers a beachfront experience on Cowell Beach with family-friendly accommodations. The hotel has a pool and spacious rooms and is within walking distance of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. For families who enjoy camping, the Santa Cruz / Monterey Bay KOA has a family-friendly campground with luxury amenities like a pool and a playground.

Where to See Redwood Trees in Sonoma County

9. Armstrong Woods State Natural Reserve — Guerneville

Sonoma County might be better known as wine country, but a gorgeous grove of redwood trees is located just a 30-minute drive from Santa Rosa. The 805-acre reserve is the perfect way to introduce kids to colossal coastal redwoods while leaving plenty of time in the day to discover more gems.

The popular one-mile Pioneer Trail is a flat, dirt, stroller-friendly path that starts at the park entrance and goes out and back. Walk past iconic trees like the Parson Jones tree (the tallest tree in the grove), the interestingly formed icicle tree, and the Armstrong tree (the oldest tree in the grove).

Family-Friendly Things To Do in Sonoma

After you’ve trekked through the reserve, have more outdoor adventures at the gorgeous Sonoma Coast State Park in Bodega Bay or hit up a kid-friendly winery. Or, head back to Santa Rosa to explore Peanuts history at the Charles Schulz Museum, enjoy a train and carousel ride at Howarth Park, or go on an epic animal journey at Safari West.

Where To Stay in Sonoma County

The Hyatt Regency Sonoma Wine Country provides a family-friendly atmosphere with comfortable features like spacious rooms, a pool, and outdoor areas. For more rustic options, glamp at Safari West or camp at Sonoma Coast State Park.

Know Before You Go to See Redwood Trees in California

  • Dress in layers, as temperatures tend to be cooler in redwood forests.
  • Bring appropriate footwear like hiking boots, because the terrain can be uneven and muddy in wet-weather conditions.
  • Pack your own food—the majority of redwood groves and parks do not offer food options.
  • Arrive early, as popular redwood forests get busy, especially during peak summer months and holidays.
  • Bring plenty of water to stay hydrated when hiking on the trails.

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Unless noted, photos courtesy of Canva

Places featured in this article:

Muir Woods National Monument

Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve