Are you planning to visit California’s famous redwoods? If you want to experience the giant trees to their fullest you need to know the best redwood trails. And if you are starting your adventure in the Bay Area, it will be helpful to know which parks offer the best redwood hikes near San Francisco.
In this guide we have collected the absolute best redwood hikes near San Francisco. Some of the trails were picked because they have the biggest and best old growth redwoods. Some we picked due to their flat and accessible trails. Others we picked for their proximity to San Francisco. We will explain why we picked each trail so you can pick the best redwood hike for your trip.
For those coming from San Francisco, we have organized the trails in this article by distance from the city, beginning with the closest. While proximity is a huge perk, and there are several redwood hikes near San Francisco that make a perfect day trip from San Francisco, we encourage you to plan a two- or three-day trip out of the city to experience the absolute best redwood forests.
Finally, at the end of this article we will go over a couple of the most frequently asked questions about visiting the redwoods, from when to visit the redwoods to what to wear on the trail. But first – let’s lace up our hiking boots and hit the redwood trails!
- Best Redwood Hike near San Francisco: Stream Trail and French Trail Loop – Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park
- Bohemian Grove Trail/Main Trail – Muir Woods National Monument
- Peters Loop Trail via Bear Creek Trail – Portola Redwoods State Park
- Redwood Grove Loop Trail – Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
- Pioneer Nature Trail – Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve
- Homestead and Big Trees Loop – Humboldt Redwoods State Park
- Tuolumne Grove Trail – Yosemite National Park
- Big Trees Loop Trail – Mariposa Grove – Yosemite National Park
- The Congress Trail + General Sherman – Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park
- West Ridge and Karl Knapp Trail – Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park
- Stout Grove Trail and Grove of Titans – Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park
Best Redwood Hike near San Francisco: Stream Trail and French Trail Loop – Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park
Distance from San Francisco: 18 miles
Length: 6.4 miles
Did you know there is a redwood trail system in Oakland, CA? Just right across the Bay, a 20-min drive from downtown San Francisco, lies the popular Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park.
We picked this park’s Stream and French Trail Loop as one of the best redwood trails due to its proximity to San Francisco, making it one of the best Redwood hikes near San Francisco. If you are staying in the Bay Area and want to easily spend some time amongst the trees, without going to the crowded Muir Woods (below), Redwood Regional Park is a great choice.
Do keep in mind that the redwoods here have been logged, so they are all relatively small, second growth redwoods. The evidence of logging is well hidden here, and the trees are lovely, but you will not find the massive redwood trees you may be expecting.
Reinhardt Redwood Park is a maze of trails that makes it easy to get “lost” amongst the redwoods. Every local has their favorite route, but we suggest you combine the Stream Trail and French Trails into a loop that shows off the best of what the park has to offer.
Depending upon which trails you use to connect the two trails, you can make this hike different lengths. Make sure you have either a physical or digital copy of this Reinhardt Redwood Park Map so you don’t get turned around!
For a 6.4-mile moderate hike, begin at the fishway interpretive site and start out on the Bridle Trail. Connect to the Stream Trail after 1.5 miles. Follow the Stream Trail across a couple bridges and onto the Tres Sendas Trail. Turn onto the Sunflower Trail and gain some elevation before taking a left onto the French Trail. Follow the French Trail through the uplands until you reach the Orchard Trail. The Orchard Trail will take you back down to Bridle Trail where you began the loop.
Bohemian Grove Trail/Main Trail – Muir Woods National Monument
Distance from San Francisco: 17 miles
Length: 2 miles
The main trail in Muir Woods wins the award for the most crowded redwood trail, but it is easy to see why. Muir Woods offers a stunning old growth redwood forest just 30 minutes from San Francisco. It was easy to award the Bohemian Grove Trail a spot in our list of the best redwood hikes near San Francisco.
The Bohemian Grove Trail, also called the Main Trail, is a 2-mile accessible loop trail that is either boardwalk or pavement along its length. It follows along both sides of the beautiful Redwood Creek and underneath impressive groves of coastal redwoods.
If you are looking for a longer hike that will take you away from some of the crowds, we suggest a loop hike combining the Dipsea, Ben Johnson and Bohemian Grove Trails. This is a moderate 5.2-mile loop hike that, in the counterclockwise direction, gains some elevation up a grass-covered hill before descending into upland redwoods and ending on the famous Bohemian Grove Trail.
The worst part about visiting Muir Woods is dealing with the parking reservations and other logistics. Read this article to learn all you need to know about how to get to Muir Woods. Or make your visit entirely stress free by joining a Muir Woods Tour. These tours take care of everything for you so you can just enjoy the amazing trees. These tours to the redwoods even include a visit to wine country or charming Sausailto. You really can’t go wrong.
Peters Loop Trail via Bear Creek Trail – Portola Redwoods State Park
Distance from San Francisco: 51 miles
Length: 11.5 miles
Since the 2020 CZU lightning fire ravaged Big Basin Redwoods and Butano State Parks, Portola Redwoods State Park provides one of the last pristine old growth redwood hikes near San Francisco.
Portola Redwoods State Park is a quiet and uncrowded park with a must-visit Visitor Center. It offers short and easy hikes like the Old Tree Trail, but to see the best grove of redwoods, you need to hike to Peters Grove, an 11.5-mile strenuous day hike.
To get to Peters Grove, take the Slate Creek Trail to the Bear Creek Trail and on to Peters Grove. Within Peters Grove is a gorgeous loop trail amongst the ancient old growth redwoods. Unfortunately, the hike to and from Peters Grove is a bit less inspiring, but if you are up for the trek, you will be well rewarded.
Redwood Grove Loop Trail – Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
Distance from San Francisco: 72 miles
Length: 0.8 miles
If you are in the Santa Cruz area, don’t miss this quick hike in Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. This park is not exactly wilderness. In fact, you will probably hear a train horn while hiking on the trail from the nearby Roaring Camp Railroad tourist train.
But the Redwood Grove is still worth a visit. It is a beautiful stand of southern coastal redwoods interspersed with lush deciduous trees. The Redwood Grove Loop is an easy 0.8-mile mostly flat walk.
Beyond the Redwood Grove, Henry Cowell includes the Big Ben and Fall Creek Trails that suffered major damage from the 2020 CZU lightning fire. The 8.2-mile loop trail is now a glimpse into how an upland redwood forest changes after a major fire.
Pioneer Nature Trail – Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve
Distance from San Francisco: 77 miles
Length: 1.2 miles
In Sonoma County, an hour and a half drive North of San Francisco, lies Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve. This park is heavily visited, due to its location next to the Russian River Valley and Geurneville. While it is a small park, it offers easy access to lovely old growth redwoods.
The best redwood hike in Armstrong Redwoods is the short loop that combines the Pioneer Nature Trail, Armstrong Trail, and Discovery Trail. While that sounds like a lot, it adds up to just over a mile of flat and easy trails. Along the route you will get up close and personal to two of the tallest trees in the park: Parson Jones and Colonel Armstrong, both estimated at over 1,300 years old.
Homestead and Big Trees Loop – Humboldt Redwoods State Park
Distance from San Francisco: 233 miles
Length: 2.4 miles
Now we are pushing the distance from San Francisco you could easily go in a day. We recommend, for the most part, the rest of these recommendations be done in a 2 or more day adventure from the city. The good news is that what you give up in proximity, you make back tenfold in incredible redwoods. The trees here are truly massive, and worth the extra drive.
Humboldt Redwoods State Park is the park many picture when they imagine giant redwoods, even if they don’t know it. Those instagram photos of the meandering road through enormous trees were taken here. You will notice a theme with roads right next to all the best trees in Humboldt. While this makes for noisier hiking, it does allow for spectacular redwood drives like the Avenue of Giants.
While the access to the trees is great, we think it distracts from the trees. For this reason, we gave the award for best redwood hike in Humboldt Redwoods State Park to the Homestead and Big Trees Loop. Yes, the Founder’s Grove trees are to die for, and you should do that hike too, but for a more serene experience try the following:
Start at the Big Trees Day Use Area. Walk back out and left on Mattole Road to the Pullout for Addie Johnson Trail. Take that to the Homestead Trail. When you reach the access road take a left and then a right onto Mattole Road again. Take the Big Trees Trail on the left back to your car.
Other not-to-miss hikes in Humboldt Redwoods State Park:
- Founder’s Grove
- Children’s Forest Trail
- The Rockefeller Loop
- The Grieg-French-Bell Grove
As you can see, there is plenty here to justify a trip to Humboldt Redwoods State Park. The trees here are truly magnificent.
Tuolumne Grove Trail – Yosemite National Park
Distance from San Francisco: 176 miles
Length: 2.5 miles
For a bit of a change, the next three entries will be focused on the giant sequoia. Also a redwood, this is a cousin of the giant coastal redwood. The Sequoia are shorter, but wider trees that grow further inland, along the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
First up is the Tuolumne Grove Trail in Yosemite National Park. This 2.5-mile hike is easy on the way down to the grove, so people are often surprised by how difficult the way back up is. Just be prepared and take the water you need in the summer months.
A trip to Yosemite National Park can be done in one whirlwind day from San Francisco. But with a sizable drive, such a big park to see, and reservations and park fees to deal with, the best way to do it is on a Yosemite One Day Tour from San Francisco. During the summer months (when the trail is accessible for hiking rather than snowshoeing), this tour includes the hike in the beautiful Tuolumne Grove.
Big Trees Loop Trail – Mariposa Grove – Yosemite National Park
Distance from San Francisco: 213 miles
Length: 0.3 miles
The other of the best Redwoods hikes near San Francisco is in Yosemite in the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoia. The Big Trees Loop Trail here is a wheelchair accessible, 0.3-mile trail that includes the Fallen Monarch tree. For an encounter with the grove’s most famous tree, try the 2-mile Grizzly Giant Loop.
Insider Tip: Cars with a valid disabled placard can drive up further along the road and make their way to the Grizzly Giant on a special accessible trail.
For those that want to leave some of the crowds behind and see what is arguably the best part of Mariposa Grove, take the Mariposa Grove Loop Trail. This is a 7-mile strenuous hike to the upper grove. It is well worth the effort.
Keep in mind that the Mariposa Grove Access Road is only open Spring-Fall. When it is closed, the trails in the grove are still open to hikers and snowshoers willing to make the extra 2-mile trek (each way).
The Congress Trail + General Sherman – Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park
Distance from San Francisco: 291 miles
Length: 3.3 miles
If you visit Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park (and we think you should), you absolutely must stop and see the world’s largest tree: General Sherman. The quick and accessible path to the fenced off tree will be crowded, but enjoy the tree and then continue onto the Congress Trail to leave the crowds.
The Congress Trail is a gorgeous and mostly flat trail through the biggest and most densely packed sequoias in the park. With very little undergrowth, the huge trees are super impactful here and make for fantastic photos.
West Ridge and Karl Knapp Trail – Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park
Distance from San Francisco: 321 miles
Length: 5.8 miles
Our final 3 picks for the best redwoods hikes are within the Redwoods National and State Parks system in Northern California. Each park within the system is a considerable drive from San Francisco, but the redwoods here are the best of the best. If coming from the city, make your trip at least 2 days long for the best experience.
Our first is the West Ridge and Karl Knapp Trail in Prairie Redwoods State Park. This loop trail combines what was once the Prairie Creek Trail (Karl Knapp) with the Zig Zag #1 and West Ridge Trails for a spectacular 5.8-mile loop trek through the most beautiful areas of the park.
For the best full-day redwood hike in Prairie Redwoods, look no further than the Miner’s Ridge and James Irvine Loop. This 12.1-mile loop takes you through redwoods, onto stunning Gold Bluffs Beach, and through a lush fern canyon. It is less redwoods-focused, but too beautiful not to mention.
Stout Grove Trail and Grove of Titans – Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park
Distance from San Francisco: 359 miles
Length: 0.6 miles, 1.7 miles
Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park is a huge swath of pristine coastal redwoods. The woods here are bright, lush, and extremely photogenic, especially on a sunny day. We simply couldn’t pick just one trail as the best in this park.
First off we have the Stout Grove Trail. This is a short jaunt through a grove of tightly-packed redwoods with an understory of ferns and sorel. The star of this grove is the Stout Tree with its distinctly rippled bark, but the whole grove feels like a cathedral, especially if you can catch the afternoon light shining through on a summer day.
Our second incredible redwood hike in Jedidiah Smith is the Mill Creek Trail to the Grove of Titans. This hike is a 1.7-mile out and back to some of the world’s largest redwoods by volume. The biggest of them, the Lost Monarch, is 25 feet in diameter!
The trail within the Grove of the Titans is a metal covered walkway elevated above the forest floor to protect the vegetation from constant trampling. Once that walkway ends, you are on the Mill Creek Trail again. You can return the way you came or continue another 2 miles to reach the Stout Grove. This option connects our top two picks into one great hike, but the inbetween is a tad lackluster in comparison.
And finally, our third pick in this incredible park is the Boy Scout Tree Trail. This 5.6-mile out-and-back moderate trail ends at the pretty Fern Falls, but that definitely isn’t the draw of the hike. This is one of the longest redwood hikes near San Francisco where you won’t hear any traffic noise, and the varying redwood woodlands are fantastic.
Best Redwoods Hike near San Francisco FAQ
Why should I go on these best Redwood hikes near San Francisco?
Everyone who has witnessed the giant redwoods will tell you what a magical experience it is. Walking beneath these giant beings, many of which have been around for over 1,000 years, is simply life-changing. If you have the time and opportunity to see the giant redwoods, don’t let it slip by.
When is the best time of year to go on the best Redwood Hikes near San Francisco?
One of the best things about visiting the redwoods is you can do it year round. Different seasons come with different advantages. Of course the summer months will be the most crowded, but you will experience the least rain and every road and amenity will be open. One thing you may run into in summer and early fall is fire. Forest fires are getting more common in the region and you may run into closures and/or unhealthy air quality.
Fall can be a fantastic time to visit the giant redwoods near San Francisco. The crowds won’t be as heavy and the weather is likely to be gorgeous. The Bay Area in particular often experiences a second summer in September and October, making for ideal hiking conditions.
Don’t dismiss a visit to the redwoods in winter either! Winter may be colder, wetter, or even snowy (especially in the Sierra Nevadas), but those conditions often just add to the magical feeling of the redwoods. Snowshoeing under the giant sequoia in Yosemite is not a memory you will soon forget. There will be less hikers on redwood trails in winter, and traffic noise will be less obtrusive.
Spring might just be the best time for a Redwoods hike near San Francisco, especially those in Redwood National and State Parks. You may experience some muddy conditions, but trails will still be less crowded, and all of that rain makes for a bright green and lush understory. You may also catch the rhododendrons in bloom in late spring.
What to wear/pack to feel comfortable on the best Redwoods Hikes from San Francisco?
The trick to packing for the best Redwoods hike near San Francisco is to bring layers. Be ready for conditions warmer than you think and cooler than you think, and make those layers easy to throw off and on. A rain layer is also a good idea when hiking in the “off season.”
Of course you need a good pair of shoes, water, and emergency supplies whenever you plan to hike. For parks where poison oak is common, long pants are the best plan. Be smart, and stay safe.
Read our other article next for an even more in depth guide to the Redwood forests closest to San Francisco. Also check out this redwood hikes website for excellent details on every hike in every redwood park in California. Enjoy your hike in the magical California redwoods!