Money Saving Tips for Visiting Redwood National Park

Redwoods forest
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Redwood National Park is one of those unique places a budget traveler would visit at high prices. The trees in this park are thought to be the tallest on earth, growing to heights of 250-350 ft. The average age of these giants is about five centuries, but a few could be up to 2,000 years old.

Fortunately, it's possible to experience the grandeur of this place without so much as paying an admission charge.

If you plan carefully, there are additional savings possible. Much of your expense will involve getting here.

What follows is a brief directory of planning-related facts that should start you on a path to one of the most unique and majestic travel destinations on earth.

Nearest Major Airports

San Francisco, 347 miles; Oakland, 348 miles; Portland, 362 miles.

Budget Airlines to Shop

AirTran, Frontier, Southwest, Spirit (San Francisco); Frontier, Southwest (Portland); Southwest (Oakland).

Nearby Cities with Budget Rooms

Redwood National Park is actually a series of smaller parks located along about 40 miles of the Northern California coastline. The largest city in the area is Eureka, which is south of most of the parks. a quick hotel search for Eureka shows a number of budget chain offerings starting at about $60/night. If you'd rather look at bed and breakfast options in the area, they start at about $100/night.

Camping and Lodging

There are four developed campgrounds in the Redwood National Park area, three of which are in the forest and one along the coast: Jedediah Smith, Mill Creek, Elk Prairie and Gold Bluffs Beach. Although camping here is a great experience, you'll pay for the privilege, with fees running $35/night per vehicle.

Bikers and hikers pay $5/night and the day-use only fee is $8. The parks are operated through the state park system. (These prices were up to date at time of writing, but always check for recent price changes before making your trip budget.)

Although each of these campgrounds is operated on a first-come, first-served basis, reservations are taken at all but Gold Bluffs Beach. It is strongly recommended that you make reservations during peak season, which is May 27-Sept. 4. Make your reservation at least 48 hours in advance.

Backcountry camping is a popular and rewarding way to see the area, but it does require some arrangements in advance. A permit is required, but it comes at no cost. You'll be expected to leave every site the way you found it (or better). Pay attention to online warnings that might change your backcountry plans. Sometimes, rock slides or fires can cut off roads and trails you would use to access this type of site. These alerts typically appear at the top of the home page.

Unlike many national parks, Redwood National Park does not offer any lodges onsite. The nearest hotels are off the park property in Crescent City, Eureka, Klamath, and Orick.  . 

Top Free Attractions in the Park

Hiking in the park is a major attraction, but you'll also be able to take some excellent scenic drives.

Some take you through spectacular coastal scenery, while other narrow paths lead through the ancient forests. Some of these roads are unpaved and unsuitable for larger vehicles, so ask for advice before you start out in an SUV.

Ranger walks at Redwood National Park include campfire talks and exploration of tidal pools. These are hosted at the developed campgrounds.

There also are free kayak tours designed to show off the geology of the area. Although the program is offered at no charge, rangers do accept gratuities that are used to replenish equipment and train guides.

Parking and Ground Transportation

Unless you're an avid hiker willing to trek many miles a day, Redwood National Park best lends itself to exploration by car. For those who can't make it here, Muir Woods National Monument near San Francisco is an alternative that is much closer to urban transportation hubs.

The park headquarters is on the northern end, in the town of Crescent City.

Driving Distance (in miles) from Major Cities

San Francisco, 347 miles; Seattle, 502 miles, Los Angeles, 729 miles

Other Attractions with which to Combine a Visit

San Francisco, Yosemite National Park