Map of Redwood National Park
Adventuring In Redwood National and State Parks
The first things you’ll read on Redwood National Park’s website is that the place is more than just trees. There’s prairie, riverways, and nearly forty miles of coastline, the website continues. However, when I think of the redwoods, my mind immediately goes to conservation. Because of Redwood’s unique journey toward national protection, its one of the most interesting parks in the country. Look at the map. What you’ll see is a patchwork of national park, national forest, state parks, and Native American reservation. A reason for this fragmentation resides in our tangled imperialist history of resource extraction vs. ecological protection—lumber and gold were powerful financial incentives when pillaging the area. Clearcutting went unchecked for several decades and, because of this, when groups like the Save the Redwoods League began advocating for protection in the 1920s, irreversible damage had already been done. Still, they managed to establish multiple state parks while continuing their efforts toward greater protection. Despite opposition (like Ronald Reagan, on his 1966 gubernatorial campaign, saying, “We’ve got to recognize that where the preservation of a natural resource like the redwoods is concerned, that there is a commonsense limit. I mean, if you’ve looked at a hundred thousand acres or so of trees—you know, a tree is a tree—how many more do you need to look at?”), national park status came in 1968. By this time though, almost 90% of the original redwoods had been logged. A little less than thirty years later, the NPS and Californian Department of Parks and Recreation decided to combine administrative efforts and form Redwoods National and State Parks.
Redwood National Park Route 101 Credit: Tyler Dunning
State At Jedidiah Smith Redwoods State Park
The trees that remain are spectacular, the tallest on the planet. My favorite place to experience them, which should come as no surprise to anyone who’s visited, is Jedidiah Smith Redwoods State Park—an area that contains seven percent of all the old-growth redwoods left on the planet. And I say “experience” opposed to “view” because the redwoods become more of a sensual experience than just the visual—you feel the boggy cushion of moss under each step; you smell the decomposition of rotting wood effusing the air. Everything from tiny mushrooms to monolithic trees are worthy of your observation.
Attractions Along Route 101
Redwoods and Route 101
Moving from Jedidiah Smith to other portions of the park, traveling up or down highway 101, you’ll start to notice the fragmentation of the park. You’ll dip in and out of public lands and onto private property, allowing for an odd mix off preserved nature and business enterprise. For example, you might come out of a stand of trees only to find a tourist attraction with a forty-nine-foot statue of Paul Bunyan. There is a romanticism to it all, yes, but also a disheartening reminder of the logging industry’s legacy on the landscape. While on the 101, it’s easy to surpass a lot of the splendor around you, especially with the trees getting all the attention. Be sure to set aside time for the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park and Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park to experience the breadth of the landscape. Here you’ll find much of the same dreary charm that has made the Oregon coast such a renowned destination. You might even be lucky enough to spot whales, seals, or porpoises while hiking the beaches.
Beach Access From Route 101
Redwood National and State Parks Are More Than Just Trees
This is all to say, I challenge you to think of this park (well, parks, technically) as more than just trees. Yes, the trees are enough and drive much of the park’s attractiveness, but it would be a mistake to frequent the region without first preparing yourself for the diverse opportunities that abound. GuideGap can certainly help you with that by connecting you with a local expert who will curate an itinerary just for you—from mighty redwoods to hidden trails to even Paul Bunyan, if your heart so desires.
Additional Reading On Redwood National and State Parks
Further reading: Mountaineers Books, through their “Hike the Parks” series, makes great pocket-sized, high-quality guides for the national parks and John Soares for the Redwoods is an excellent resource for day hikes, walks, and sights.
About The Author: Tyler
Tyler Dunning grew up in southwestern Montana, having developed a feral curiosity and reflective personality at a young age. This mindset has led him around the world, to nearly all of the U.S. national parks, and to the darker recesses of his own creativity. He’s dabbled in such occupations as professional wrestling, archaeology, social justice advocacy, and academia. At his core he is a writer. Check out Tyler’s website at: Tyler Dunning
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