Redwood National Park and the Redwoods State Parks, managed cooperatively by the National Park Service and the California Department of Parks and Recreation, protect nearly 40,000 acres of the original Redwood forests -- almost half of the total remaining. Less well known are the parks’ prairies and oak woodlands, the coastal and marine ecosystems, and the herds of magnificent Roosevelt Elk. Along the northern "Redwood coast," the national and state parks form a mosaic in which areas of the larger national park are interspersed with the three state parks along roughly 50 miles of California’s northern coast.
REDWOOD NATIONAL PARK
The largest section of the park, in the south, includes the world’s tallest trees. The tallest Redwood (almost 368 feet) is in Tall Trees Grove on the banks of Redwood Creek. It can be reached via a steep, 1 1/4-mile trail or by an 8 1/2-mile trail along Redwood Creek with camping allowed along the way. The Lady Bird Johnson Grove has a 1-mile trail through an ancient forest. The park also has magnificent stretches of coast. Enderts Beach, in the north, a sandy strand bordered by tall bluffs, has a rocky tidepool at its southern end. Nearby Crescent Beach Overlook is a good whale-watching point.
JEDEDIAH SMITH REDWOODS STATE PARK
This 9,500-acre park, the northernmost of the three state parks, is mostly old-growth Redwood forest. It can be explored by walking the 1/2-mile Simpson-Reed Discovery Trail or by driving along Howland Hill Road, a narrow, 7-mile gravel artery that winds through stands of Western Hemlock, Douglas Fir, and Tanoak. The head of the trail to Stout Grove -- with its 1,500- to 2,000-year-old Redwoods -- is also along this road. Much of the length of Howland Hill Road follows the course of the Smith River, which has good runs of Chinook Salmon and Steelheads.
DEL NORTE COAST REDWOODS STATE PARK
Best known for its spectacular coastline, this 6,400-acre park south of Jedediah Smith offers stunning views of False Klamath Cove, picturesque offshore rocks, and tidepools. Damnation Creek Trail winds northward 2 1/2-miles along the coast through forests of Redwood and Sitka Spruce. The trail ends at a wild, rocky beach with sheer cliffs, sea stacks, and a small natural arch.
PRAIRIE CREEK REDWOODS STATE PARK
In addition to preserving a number of old-growth Redwood groves, this 14,500-acre park just north of the largest part of Redwood National Park has extensive coastal prairies where herds of Roosevelt Elk graze. These huge, handsome animals can be seen at the Elk Prairie campground and Gold Bluffs Beach. The Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway, a bypass for U.S. 101, has many stopping places, and offers access to trails to two notable Redwoods named Big Tree and Corkscrew Tree. Driving along the gravel Cal-Barrel Road makes for a leisurely tour through the forest. Magnificent, steep-sided Fern Canyon, filled with Giant Horsetails, mosses, and ferns and populated by the Banana Slug, is at the beginning of a 7 1/2-mile loop trail.
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