From San Francisco to Redwood National & State Parks: 4 Best Ways to Get There

Written by Lisa Alexander
Jan 27, 2023
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A trip from San Francisco to Redwood National and State Parks allows you the incredible opportunity to marvel over the world's tallest trees and enjoy fabulous hiking in an awe-inspiring natural environment.

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park
Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park

Redwood National and State Parks rank among the best places to visit in California and include four nature sites: Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, and Redwood National Park.

Nearby Towns: For trip-planning purposes, keep in mind that Eureka is the main town of Humboldt County. Other tourist-friendly towns near the parks are Crescent City, a picturesque coastal town, and Trinidad, an idyllic seaside village that offers splendid ocean views and plenty of outdoorsy things to do.

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park and Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park are closest to Crescent City, while Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park and Redwood National Park are closest to Trinidad. Eureka is the main transportation hub for travelers who take the plane or train.

Travelers should first decide which parks to visit and then choose where to stay and how to get there. The best form of transportation depends on your travel preferences and vacation itinerary. For instance, those who do not like long road trips should opt for taking the plane or train. On the other hand, travelers with plenty of time may prefer to drive, so that they can make stops along the way.

1. From San Francisco to Redwood National & State Parks by Plane

Rainbow over Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park
Rainbow over Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park

The fastest and most convenient way to get from San Francisco to Redwood National and State Parks is by taking a short flight (about 80 minutes) from SFO airport to Eureka airport in Humboldt County. This saves several hours of travel time (the drive takes at least five hours) and makes it possible to easily visit for a weekend getaway or quick trip.

Sometimes flights are quite expensive, especially when booking at the last minute. So it's best to plan as far ahead as possible. Booking airline tickets in advance usually ensures a better price and allows travelers to choose the most affordable fare within their window of travel.

From SFO, United provides the most frequent flights to ACV (Eureka) airport, with at least two flight options daily. On peak travel days, United offers four different flight options.

Once travelers arrive at Eureka airport (the main airport in Humboldt County), they can pick up a rental car from National Car Rental or Enterprise Car Rentals, or use a taxi service: Cab Louie, City Cab, and Plaza Cab.

The Door-to-Door Airporter runs a shuttle service from Eureka airport, and Redwood Transit System offers public transportation.

Where to Stay in Eureka: Travelers can choose from a wide variety of places to stay while visiting Redwood National and State Parks. The town of Eureka has many historic houses that have been converted to upscale hotels, such as the Carter House Inns and The Inn at 2nd & C in a Victorian-era mansion. Eureka is 47 miles south of Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park and 32 miles away from the Humboldt Redwoods State Park.

Where to Stay in Arcata: Near Eureka, quiet and laid-back Arcata is considered one of the best small towns in California because of its pleasant downtown that brims with locally owned shops and restaurants. Arcata is 40 miles south of Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. A favorite place to stay in the area is The Lady Anne bed-and-breakfast hotel.

Where to Stay in Ferndale: The quaint Victorian village of Ferndale packs plenty of boutiques, caf├ęs, and restaurants into its well-preserved main street. Ferndale is 20 miles south of Eureka and has many bed-and-breakfast hotels, so it's a good base for visiting the forests of Humboldt County. Top hotels include the Victorian Inn, at the heart of the downtown, and The Gingerbread Mansion Inn, known for its sumptuous interior decor.

Where to Stay in Trinidad: Another wonderful place to stay is the picturesque coastal village of Trinidad, which enjoys a gorgeous seaside setting by Trinidad Bay and along the Pacific Ocean. Trinidad boasts one of the best beaches in California. Another tourist draw of Trinidad is that many hotels, such as the Lost Whale Inn and the Trinidad Bay Bed & Breakfast Hotel, feature sweeping ocean views. Trinidad is just 20 miles away from Redwood National Park.

2. From San Francisco to Redwood National & State Parks by Car

Lady Bird Johnson Grove in Redwood National Park
Lady Bird Johnson Grove in Redwood National Park

Even though this is about a 5.5-hour drive at a minimum, many visitors prefer to drive to get from San Francisco to Redwood National and State Parks. Driving gives travelers the freedom to depart at any time, and the convenience of being able to pack plenty of outdoorsy gear. And you will need a car to see the parks once you get to the area.

If you want to spend time sightseeing along the way, there are plenty of interesting places to stop.

Recommended Stops: Having a car also allows travelers to stop along the way at beautiful beaches, spectacular oceanfront lookouts, and delightful coastal towns. Not to be missed are the Victorian village of Mendocino, with its charming downtown and abundance of state parks, and the old industrial/logging town of Fort Bragg.

Mendocino is the ideal halfway stopping point, about three hours north of San Francisco. Fort Bragg is just 20 miles north of Mendocino.

Rental cars are available at the San Francisco Airport Rental Car Center, as well as at agencies in downtown San Francisco. Downtown San Francisco is the most convenient area for tourists who are relying on public transportation to get around.

3. From San Francisco to Redwood National & State Parks by Bus

Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park
Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park

The bus provides an affordable alternative to a plane fare or car rental (plus gasoline costs), both of which can be quite expensive. For budget-conscious travelers, the bus is the best way to go.

Greyhound operates a bus service from San Francisco to Eureka, with direct routes once daily from Thursday through Monday. This route takes seven hours and 25 minutes, departing from San Francisco Bus Station (425 Mission Street) at 12:15pm and arriving in Eureka (Bus Station at 1603 4th Street) at 7:40pm.

The return bus route is available daily from Friday through Tuesday. This route takes seven hours and 10 minutes, departing from Eureka Bus Stop (1603 4th Street) at 9:05am and arriving in San Francisco (Bus Station at 425 Mission Street) at 4:15pm.

4. From San Francisco to Redwood National & State Parks by Train

Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park
Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

Taking the train from San Francisco to Eureka actually takes slightly longer than the bus ride because of the connections. However, the advantage of train transportation is the availability of travel options on a daily basis.

Amtrak offers at least two (and up to five) different train routes every day. The three-segment routes (with combined bus and train service) take between eight hours and 10 hours, with transfers in Emeryville and Martinez.

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