Redwood National Park is one of California’s top tourist destinations. These towering giants are some of the oldest trees in the world and offer a truly out-of-this-world experience.
When planning a trip from San Francisco to Redwood National & State Parks, a lot of travelers will only focus on the start and finishing points and forget that the drive in between can be an amazing experience as well!
From spectacular scenery to fun stopping points, this guide will tell you everything you need to know to make your drive between San Francisco and the Redwoods a trip you’ll never forget.
- Distance from San Francisco to Redwood National Park
- How Long Do I Need Driving From San Francisco To Redwood National Park?
- Best Time of Year to Drive from San Francisco to Redwoods National Park
- Best Stops on a San Francisco to Redwoods National Park Road Trip
- More Tips for Road Tripping from San Francisco to Redwoods National Park
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Distance from San Francisco to Redwood National Park
There are two primary routes between San Francisco and Redwood National Park. The fastest way is on US Highway 101, which is about 340 miles (547 kilometers).
The other route takes you right next to the coast along US Highway 1 for part of your journey, later rejoining the 101. This route is a little longer, but you get to experience some amazing coastal scenery.
Understanding the layout of Redwood National And State Parks
Unlike many US national parks with a defined entry point, the Redwood National Park, jointly managed with three state parks (and often collectively referred to as the Redwoods), occupies a sprawling 133,000 acres of the northern California coast, partially spreading into southern Oregon.
The “Redwood Highway” is considered the section of US Highway 101 from Leggett (where CA-1 – the Pacific Coast Highway ends) through to Crescent City. You will pass in and out of the national park during your journey, with plenty of fascinating stops along the way.
How Long Do I Need Driving From San Francisco To Redwood National Park?
The total driving time from San Francisco to Redwoods National Park on Highway 101 is about 6 hours, with few stops and good traffic conditions. Taking the Highway 1 route will be about 8 ½ hours of driving time.
Keep in mind that getting out of San Francisco can sometimes be tricky due to morning traffic, especially during peak tourist seasons.
There are also a lot of points of interest along the coast of Northern California between San Francisco and Redwood National Park, so depending on how much time you have to explore, it would be easy to break up this drive into several days of adventure.
Since most travelers drive to the Redwoods from San Francisco and back again, we’ll highlight some spots along both the Highway 101 and Highway 1 routes so you can pick which places to visit.
Travel Times Guide
To help you with exactly how long you need to make this road trip, we’ve included some different route estimates for you – these can be highly traffic and road conditions dependent!
|Drive Time Estimate
|San Francisco to Crescent City (direct)
|6 hours 30 minutes
|San Francisco to Fort Bragg
|3 hours 15 minutes
|Fort Bragg to Eureka
|2 hours 50 minutes
|San Francisco to Leggett
|3 hours 15 minutes
|Leggett to Eureka
|1 hour 35 minutes
|Eureka to Crescent City
|1 hour 40 minutes
|Crescent City to Avenue of the Giants
|2 hours 15 minutes
- Remember, there are some very windy mountainous roads involved, too. If you have motion sickness sufferers, be careful in your route selection and allow plenty of time if additional road side stops are needed.
Best Time of Year to Drive from San Francisco to Redwoods National Park
The mild coastal temperatures of Northern California make it possible to visit Redwoods National Park and San Francisco year-round. However, May to September is the least rainy time of year, which is best if you’re hoping to do some hiking.
Keep in mind, though, that May to September is also peak tourist season, so you’ll be dealing with more traffic and more crowds in the National park. If you want to miss the majority of the tourist crowds but still take advantage of good weather, then the “shoulder” months of April-May and September-October are the best time of year to visit.
Best Stops on a San Francisco to Redwoods National Park Road Trip
As we mentioned, you can tackle these sites in any order. We have suggested you start by joining the Pacific Coast Highway as soon as you leave Greater San Fran, making stops all the way up to Crescent City and the Oregon border, then coming back via Highway 101.
- You could also combine a Redwoods road trip with a greater loop of other California national parks – we share a complete 3 week California national park road trip itinerary here
1. Mount Tamalpais State Park
Exiting San Francisco on the US Highway 1 route, you’ll come across Mount Tamalpais State Park, practically right across the Golden Gate Bridge.
Escaping the crowded city streets of San Francisco, this park is a great place to stop for hiking and wildlife watching.
The park is known for its canyons, forest scenery, and incredible vistas. There are lots of trails of varying degrees of difficulty, so whether you’re looking for a short walk or a day of trekking, there are great routes to pick from.
During the summer, the Mountain Theater also hosts outdoor plays and performances, which can be a fun family activity during your trip to northern California.
2. Point Reyes National Seashore
About 1 hour from San Francisco on the coastal Highway 1, Point Reyes is an incredible place to visit both for the scenery and its historical importance.
The rocky headlands and huge ocean waves crashing on the shore make it a favorite spot for photographers or just an amazing place to stop for a picnic during your road trip to the Redwoods.
Park visitors can also see the iconic historic lighthouse, which was built in 1870 to prevent ships from crashing on the dangerous rocks in the area. The lighthouse now has a status of being in the National Register of Historic Places, and it makes a great spot to stop for photos.
Point Reyes has miles of trails through the scruffy grasslands and jaw-dropping cliffs along the shoreline. If you have time, you can take longer hikes to reach some incredible coastal waterfalls.
3. Bodega Bay
Highway 1 will take you right through the charming coastal town of Bodega Bay as you drive from San Francisco to Redwoods National Park.
It’s a great place to stop for lunch or maybe even spend a night at a bed & breakfast with a view of the shoreline.
Bodega Bay is particularly well known for the diversity of sea birds, which make their home in the area. Whether you’re a birder or just enjoy nature, the flocks of pelicans, gulls, and cormorants are incredible to witness.
You can visit some of the beaches in the area, like Doran beach, which has a protected spot good for swimming or wading in the water. Pony rides are also a popular activity on this beach, which makes for a memorable family experience.
Other iconic spots include Goat Rock Beach, known for its scenic rocky formations, and the Kortum Trail, where spring wildflowers cover the area in bright colors.
Bodega Bay is also full of quaint restaurants and tourist shops where you can stop to get a souvenir.
4. Mendocino Coast and Fort Bragg
Known for its stunning cliffs and access to Mendocino Headlands State Park, the Mendocino Coast is an incredible place to visit in northern California.
Kayaking, beach activities, and hikes along the trails in the state park are all perfect outdoor activities to include.
Make sure you check out Glass Beach, a beach covered in small bits of glass smoothed by the ocean waves. The glass was originally there from a trash deposit, and it’s a nice reminder of how nature has a way of turning even the ugliest things into something beautiful!
Fort Bragg is also known for its great shops, family dinners, and wine-tasting opportunities, so there’s something for everyone to enjoy. It’s about halfway between San Francisco and Redwoods National Park, making it a nice midway point to spend the night at one of the ocean-side bed and breakfasts.
In the heart of Humboldt County, California, Eureka has a great combination of history and natural beauty.
Eureka is known for its unique Victorian architecture, and a lot of the local bed and breakfast accommodations are housed in historic buildings to add a fun twist to your stay.
City activities in Eureka include farmers and artisan markets, great dining options, and fun seasonal events such as summer concerts and winter Christmas light displays.
The rugged coast of California and the towering Redwoods found on either side of the city ensure that you’ll have endless opportunities for outdoor adventures, from boating to hikes through the forest.
Eureka’s combination of culture, history, and amazing natural beauty make it one of the best places to visit during your drive to Redwoods National Park.
6. Crescent City
Crescent City lives up to its nickname of “where the redwoods meet the sea.” After a long day of driving, it’s a great place to stay for the night before going out to explore on a drive through the Redwoods the next day.
Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park is just outside of the town, which is home to some of the tallest redwood trees in northern California. Some of the trees are over 2,000 years old!
In the other direction, you have the stunning shoreline of Crescent Beach, where towering cliffs drop off to the mighty Pacific. There are lots of trails along the shore as well as opportunities for fishing, swimming, and horseback trails for all sorts of adventures.
Stay Overnight in Crescent City
If you’re not stopping to camp along the way in one of the many Redwood Campgrounds, then you’ll want to pull up sticks in Crescent City before you return journey (or, alternatively, you can carry this itinerary onward to Portland, driving along the Oregon Coast).
7. Avenue of the Giants
If you didn’t stop on the way north, your return journey south on the Highway 101 must include a journey through the Avenue of the Giants. Although considered part of the “Redwood Highway,” this incredible 31-mile road is not actually part of the Redwood National and State Parks.
You’re driving through an old section on Highway 101 in Humboldt Redwood State Park – encompassing some of the oldest redwoods known to man over 51,000 acres.
You pass several small towns along the way, including Myers Flat, Redcret, and Pepperwood – you’ll be bound to pick up some redwood souvenirs and find some local dining options.
You may also want to seek out the “drive through” trees, including the Shrine Drive-Thru Tree, the Chandelier Tree and Tour Through Tree Klamath (expect to queue in peak times, and pay a fee, they are all on private land). Cheesy, but definitely a memorable California road trip moment!
8. Santa Rosa and Sonoma County
Continuing along US Highway 101 route to drive from the Redwood National Park back to San Francisco, you’ll go right through Santa Rosa, in the heart of Sonoma County, an area famous for its wineries and landscape of rolling hills.
Sonoma County has over 400 wineries, many of which are located right along the Highway 101 route, making them great pit stops during your road trip in Northern California. It’s a great opportunity to enjoy delicious wine and a farm-to-table meal as you travel to the Redwoods.
Santa Rosa is about an hour and a half outside of San Francisco. It’s a fun city to explore with something for everyone, including trails in Annadel State Park and the fun Children’s Museum of Sonoma County.
More Tips for Road Tripping from San Francisco to Redwoods National Park
- Although spring-fall is typically considered the best time to visit Redwoods National Park, traveling in the winter means that you’ll have a greater chance of seeing the whale migration along the coast of California.
- Public transportation within San Francisco is good, so if you’re planning on spending a few days in the city, you can wait to rent a car until you’re ready to head out on your drive to Redwoods National Park.
- It’s completely free to drive the scenic routes and highways through Redwood National Park! A few areas will have a day-use fee for vehicles and overnight camping fees, but this is usually only $5-$15 depending on the time of year.
- Keep in mind that the Bay Bridge and Golden Gate Bridge charge tolls when coming into San Francisco; you won’t need to worry about this when you leave the city, but if you’re driving back to San Francisco from the Redwoods, make sure to have cash ready.
Where To Next in California?
If you’re looking to explore more of the incredible natural wonders of northern California, San Francisco is a wonderful place to base yourself. Up next in your road trip planning, we’d also suggest you learn more about:
- Fun Things To Do With Kids in San Francisco
- The Incredible Scenic Stopping Points Between San Francisco and Yosemite
- Incredible Detours on the Yosemite to Death Valley Drive
- Sensational Scenic Driving From San Francisco to San Diego
- Road Trip From San Diego to Joshua Tree
- heading north, you may also be interested in all the fun and fascinating road trip stops San Francisco to Seattle
© Family Road Trip