Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park Camping

Sunbeam in Cowell Redwoods State Park
Ashley/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park has one of the prettiest campgrounds in the Santa Cruz area, sheltered under the trees. The surroundings are spectacular, but those sheltering trees are oaks and pines. But don't worry, the redwoods are nearby, the largest of them standing 277 feet tall (that's as tall as a 27-story building) and measuring 16 feet wide.

Lots of hiking trails leave from the campground.

In fact, it has access to almost 20 miles of them, and that's the major activity for people who stay here. On those trails, you can explore forests of old growth redwood trees and four distinct ecosystems. You might even come across a bright yellow banana slug or a bobcat.

Henry Cowell Campsites

Cowell Redwoods has 107 sites for RVs and/or tents. You can also camp in your car. It can accommodate camper vehicles up to 35 feet long and trailers up to 31 feet long, but it has no hookups. A small area is also set aside for bicycle campers and four sites are ADA accessible.

Campsites at Henry Cowell are within sight of each other, but not so close that you'll feel like you're sleeping with the people next door.

What Facilities Are There at Cowell Redwoods State Park? 

The campground has real restrooms with flush toilets and coin-operated showers. Each site has a picnic table and a fire ring, but no water spigot.

You can buy firewood at the park.

The park has no sewer or water hookups. Bring a container to carry water to your site. The two closest state parks that have an RV dump and water fill station are Big Basin State Park and New Brighton State Beach. 

What You Need to Know Before You Go to Cowell Redwoods State Park

  • Henry Cowell is a favorite place for many Santa Cruz and San Francisco Bay Area residents and the only serious complaint they have is about the poison oak. That's made worse by the state park policy to preserve the natural environment to the best of their ability. In other words, they don't try to get rid of it. If you don't know what it looks like, take the time to read the sign near the entrance, which shows photos of it in all seasons.  Or here's a good resource about how to identify and avoid it.
  • Alcohol is allowed in the campground, as long as the person drinking it is of legal drinking age. You can smoke at your campsite or on the paved road, but not on the hiking trails.
  • Sites are open seasonally and the campground closes in the winter.
  • Dogs are allowed in the picnic area, the campground, and on Pipeline Road, Graham Hill Trail, and Meadow Trail. You can't take them on any other trails or interior roads.
  • Reservations are a necessity on weekends and during the summer. You need to make them as much as 6 months in advance, and you need to be ready to jump on them when the reservation window opens. Learn about how to make California state park reservations.
  • Henry Cowell is only one of the places you can go camping near Santa Cruz. You can find more places to camp near the beach, more places to camp near town and some campgrounds in the nearby mountains if you use this guide to camping at Santa Cruz.

How to Get to Cowell Redwoods State Park Campground

2591 Graham Hill Road
Scotts Valley CA
Cowell Redwoods Website

Cowell Redwoods State Park is divided into two locations on either side of the town of Felton. To reach the campground traveling from San Jose, take California Highway 17 South toward Santa Cruz.

At Scotts Valley, turn right on Mt. Hermon Road. Follow Mt. Hermon Road to the end at Graham Hill Road, turn left and go about 2.5 miles. The campground entrance is on the right.

From Santa Cruz, the campground is a little over 3 miles from the intersection for Graham Hill Road and California Highway One.

The park is about 30 miles from San Jose and 75 miles from San Francisco. It's about an eight-mile 20-minute drive from there to the middle of Santa Cruz.