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6 Best Campgrounds in Redwood National and State Parks, CA

Written by Lana Law
Jun 8, 2020

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.

See also: Where to Stay when Campgrounds are Full

Redwoods in Elk Prairie State Park | Photo Copyright: Lana Law

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 midway between but outside 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.

For complete details and ideas on where to go, see our list of the best campgrounds in Redwood National and State Parks.

1. Mill Creek Campground

Mill Creek Campground | Photo Copyright: Lana Law

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.

Sites can accommodate trailers up to 27 feet and RVs up to 31 feet. Reservations can be made up to six months in advance on a rolling date basis. If you plan on camping during the summer months, it's best to have a reservation.

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.

2. Elk Prairie Campground

Elk Prairie Campground | Photo Copyright: Lana Law

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. Sites can be reserved up to six months in advance on a rolling date basis.

3. Gold Bluffs Beach Campground

Gold Bluffs Beach Campground | Photo Copyright: Lana Law

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 to camp 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 with steep, twisty sections. 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 | Photo Copyright: Lana Law

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. Sites can be reserved up to six months in advance on a rolling date basis.

5. Mystic Forest RV Park

Mystic Forest RV Park | Photo Copyright: Lana Law

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.

Official website: http://mysticforestrv.com/

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

Grassy Flats Campground | Photo Copyright: Lana Law

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 coin-operated 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. Road noise can be an issue, as the campground is just off the main highway

Beyond here is Patrick Creek, with a more lively atmosphere than the others. A few sites at this campground have river views. This is a historic campground: many of the facilities were built in the 1930s by the Civilian Corps of Engineers. 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. Sites at all three campgrounds are available on a first-come, first-served and reservation basis. Reservations are accepted at all three campgrounds and can be made up to six months in advance.

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

When is the best time to camp in Redwoods National and State Parks?

The best time to camp in Redwood National and State Parks is June through September. You'll find mild, but certainly not hot, temperatures and sunnier days. Daytime highs are in the high 60s to low 70s Fahrenheit.

When packing your camping gear remember this is a coastal climate, which means it can also be damp and cool at any time. Bring rain gear, tarps, and warm clothing. Dense fog in the summertime is a frequent occurrence.

Crowds peak in July and taper throughout August. Consider early summer or spring as an option to catch the rhododendron blooms.

Explore More of California's Best Outdoor Destinations

Visiting the Big Trees: 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.

Lake Tahoe and Yosemite: 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. If you haven't been to to Yosemite, be sure to include this park on your itinerary. Hit Yosemite's hiking trails and then discover where to camp in Yosemite. If you're looking for more ideas on sightseeing and activities, see our article on Things to Do in Yosemite.

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