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6 Best Campgrounds in Redwood National and State Parks

Dec 1, 2017

Home to the tallest trees in the world, this incredible stretch of Northern California Coast is an outstanding area for camping. Campgrounds in the parks are strategically placed in beautiful locations, and campers can pitch their tents or set up their RVs in pure redwood forests, at the base of centuries-old trees. Spending a night under the towering redwoods, descendants of the same type of trees that lived during the reign of the dinosaurs, has a very primeval feel.

Redwoods in Elk Prairie State Park
Redwoods in Elk Prairie State Park | Photo Copyright: Lana Law
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The jointly managed parks, which include Redwood National Park, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, and Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, stretch out along the coast and are home to four organized campgrounds, as well as backcountry sites. Northeast of Jedediah Smith, along Highway 199, are a few quiet campgrounds in the Six Rivers National Forest. Alternatively, in the community of Klamath, conveniently located mid-way between but outside of the parks, is a privately run RV park.

Campsites in the park are a mix of reservable and first-come, first-served sites. All sites have picnic tables, fire pits, and bear lockers for storing food.

1 Mill Creek Campground

Mill Creek Campground
Mill Creek Campground | Photo Copyright: Lana Law
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Set among huge pines and giant stumps from the logging days of the 1920s, this unique campground in Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park offers secluded sites in a spectacular setting. Located two miles off the main highway (101), in a heavily wooded area, this is the largest campground in the Redwood National and State Parks. Despite its size, the campground is generally quiet, peaceful, and has a real backcountry atmosphere. Campsites are incredibly private, tucked in among the trees, ferns, and garage-size tree stumps. Many sites require a short walk from your car, sometimes up a set of stairs to a carved out area in dense forest, completely blocked off from the road and other sites.

Although the campground is located closer to the north end of the parks, it makes a good base. You can spend one day sightseeing and hiking in Jedediah and Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Parks, and the next day exploring Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park and Redwood National Park to the south. Sites can accommodate trailers up to 27 feet and RVs up to 31 feet.

2 Elk Prairie Campground

Elk Prairie Campground
Elk Prairie Campground | Photo Copyright: Lana Law
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Set just off the highway in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, to the north of Redwood National Park, Elk Prairie Campground is conveniently located for exploring all areas of the parks. The Prairie Creek area is also home to pure redwood forest and some fantastic hiking trails, which can be accessed right from the campground.

The campground offers a variety of sites. Closest to the highway, sites 71 to 76 are on the edge of an open field, looking across to the highway. While most people don't enjoy the proximity to the main road, elk frequent the field, and at night, you get an incredibly unobstructed view of the stars. Sites near the back of the campground, approximately 18 to 26, are set among huge, old redwoods. Curving around from here, the sites along Prairie Creek are also very nice.

This campground can accommodate tents, RVs up to 27 feet, and trailers up to 24 feet. Facilities include flush toilets and showers.

3 Gold Bluffs Beach Campground

Gold Bluffs Beach Campground
Gold Bluffs Beach Campground | Photo Copyright: Lana Law
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Set in the dunes and grasses behind the beach, at the base of a huge, pine-covered cliff, this oceanfront campground is completely different from all the others in the parks. Redwoods don't grow here, but if you are looking for a pleasant beachfront location to pitch your tent, this is one of the best places along this stretch of coast. Beautiful views extend out in both directions.

One of the main highlights in this area is the Fern Canyon Trail, at the bottom of the James Irvine Trail. A short, level trail leads along a riverbed, through a narrow and lush canyon with fern-covered walls. Many people exploring the park make the trip out here just to hike through the canyon.

This campground is not overly convenient for exploring the parks, and getting here requires a bumpy drive down a dirt road. It is centrally located within the park system, but the drive to get here is time consuming.

Most sites are fully exposed, with essentially no trees or shade. This is the perfect spot for sun lovers when the weather is nice, but it can be tricky in windy conditions. Campers should secure their tents. Gold Bluffs Beach Campground has only 26 sites and is suitable for tents or small RVs up to 24 feet. Trailers are prohibited. Facilities include flush toilets and showers, but no hookups or dump station.

4 Jedediah Smith Campground

Jedediah Smith Campground
Jedediah Smith Campground | Photo Copyright: Lana Law
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Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, at the north end of the park system, is the best area to see old-growth redwoods, and the campground is right in the heart of it. Campsites are nestled among the trees, and the campground is set along the Smith River. The area downstream is where the oldest and biggest redwoods are found, with trees up to 1,200 years old. Upstream are the "younger" trees, in the range of 150 years old. The best place to see and enjoy the redwoods around the campground is in the lovely day use area, right off the river. One common complaint with this campground is the noise from traffic along Highway 199, which runs alongside the campground.

Staying at this campground leaves you well positioned for driving the scenic Howland Hill Road and hiking the Boy Scout Tree Trail. It's also close to the town of Crescent City, where you can pick up groceries and other supplies.

The campground has 86 sites and can accommodate tents and RVs up to 36 feet, or trailers up to 31 feet. Facilities include flush toilets and showers.

5 Mystic Forest RV Park

Mystic Forest RV Park
Mystic Forest RV Park | Photo Copyright: Lana Law
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If you can't find camping within the park, or if you are looking for more conveniences, the Mystic Forest RV Park is a great alternative. Midway through the park system, five miles from the village of Klamath, this RV park offers an incredibly convenient location, as well as hookups and some pull-through sites. In addition to the 30 RV sites, the park also has 14 tent campsites. On the grounds are a gift shop and grocery store, club house, laundry facilities, as well as showers and flush toilets.

Close by is Trees of Mystery, an outdoor attraction with a gondola, hiking trails, a museum, and huge wood carvings.

6 Campgrounds in nearby National Forest Lands: Panther Flat, Grassy Flats, Patrick Creek

Grassy Flats Campground
Grassy Flats Campground | Photo Copyright: Lana Law
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On Highway 199 (Redwood Highway), northeast of Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, in Six Rivers National Forest, are three very nice campgrounds. All of these are set along the Smith River, but none of the campsites are actually riverfront. Closest to Jedediah Smith, about 30 minutes from Crescent City, is Panther Flat. With 38 campsites, this is the largest of the three and can accommodate trailers up to 40 feet. The campground has flush toilets and showers and is open all year-round. Next is Grassy Flat, a smaller, primitive campground with vault toilets. Sites are relatively large but can only accommodate trailers up to 30 feet. This campground is only open from spring until fall. Beyond here is Patrick Creek, with a more lively atmosphere than the others. A few sites at this campground have river views. Facilities include flush toilets but no showers. Maximum trailer length here is 35 feet.

These campgrounds are good alternatives if you can't find camping in the parks and are best if you are planning to visit Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, about 30 minutes away. To reach Redwood National Park to the south can take about two hours from these campgrounds, depending on traffic.

All of these are well treed and offer plenty of shade. Reservations are accepted at all three campgrounds and can be made up to six months in advance. However, outside of peak times, which include summer weekends and holidays, it's usually possible to find a site upon arrival.

Where to Stay when Campgrounds are Full

If you can't camp, the best places to base yourself for exploring the parks are in Crescent City, to the north of the parks, or in Arcata, to the south.

  • Hotels in Crescent City: The best options in Crescent City are the Lighthouse Inn and the Ocean View Inn & Suites. Both of these are quality mid-range properties and offer large rooms or suites and complimentary breakfast. For travelers on a budget, the pet-friendly Motel 6 offers basic but comfortable rooms. All of these properties are within walking distance of restaurants.
  • Hotels in Arcata: Two of the nicest properties in Arcata are the Best Western Arcata Inn and the Hampton Inn & Suites Arcata, CA. The Best Western has an indoor/outdoor pool, offers a free breakfast, and is a pet-friendly property. The Hampton Inn also offers a complimentary breakfast and pool, along with a fitness room and coin laundry. The best budget options are found in Crescent City, but if you are serious about staying at the south end of the parks and want to pay less for a room, try the Super 8 Arcata.

Explore More of California's Outstanding Outdoor Destinations

Rubicon Trail at Lake Tahoe
Rubicon Trail at Lake Tahoe | Photo Copyright: Lana Law
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If you've come to see the redwoods, there is no better way to experience them than by hitting the hiking trails in the Redwood National and State Parks. Once you've visited the redwoods, it's hard not to wonder about a visit to the giant sequoias. If you have the time, it's definitely worth taking a couple of days and driving to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, both of which are home to sequoias, as well as other fascinating sites. For camping options in these areas, see our articles on Best Campgrounds in Kings Canyon National Park and Best Campgrounds in Sequoia National Park.

Other must-see outdoor destinations in this region include Lake Tahoe and Yosemite National Park. Explore Lake Tahoe with our articles on the Best Hikes near South Lake Tahoe and Best Campgrounds near South Lake Tahoe. Hit Yosemite's hiking trails and then discover where to camp in Yosemite. If you're looking for more ideas, see our article on Things to Do in Yosemite.

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