Redwood trees are some of the tallest, largest, and oldest trees in the world. Redwoods near San Francisco is one of the most unique species found in California.
You might wonder how far are the redwoods from San Francisco. While you can find a few redwoods in San Francisco proper, you do need to get outside of the city to see some of California’s best redwood forests. Hence, I strongly recommend driving your own car or rent a car for your San Francisco redwoods road trip.
There are more than 30 state parks in California with Coastal Redwood trees. To help you decide, I’ve created a list of some of the best places to see redwood forests near San Francisco that are all within 2 hours of SF. I’ve also included their diving time and driving distance from SF as well as a few travel tips for visiting redwoods close to San Francisco.
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Types of Redwoods near San Francisco, California
There are two types of redwoods that can be found in California: coast redwoods (Sequoia Sempervirens), giant sequoias (Sequoiadendron Giganteum).
Whereas, you will see the giant sequoias on the Sierra Nevada mountains in Yosemite National Park, Kings Canyon National Park, and Sequoia National Park which is around 4 hours drive from San Francisco.
Both types of redwoods are magnificent, however, the main difference between these two is their shape and distribution. The coastal redwoods are taller and skinnier with small trunks. The giant sequoias are much coarser in texture with wider growth rings.
So, if you are planning to drive from San Francisco to redwoods, visiting coast redwoods will be a better choice.
Amazing Facts about Redwoods in California
Let’s share some amazing redwood tree facts before getting into the best places to find redwoods near San Francisco.
Best Redwoods near San Francisco
#1 Muir Woods National Monument
Distance from SF: 17 miles north
Estimated Driving Time: 30-40 minutes
Probably, it is the closest redwood to San Francisco. Therefore, it is the most-visited redwood forest in San Francisco. Even if you have just one day in San Francisco, you can go for a short evening trip to Muir Woods. This park opened in 1908 and it is open throughout the year. Ferry and shuttle service are available for SF daytrippers.
With 554 acres of the area certainly, it is not the biggest redwood park in San Francisco, but it has some scenic hiking trails for all levels of hikers. The main trail is flat and perfect for everyone. Visitors can stroll beside the tall trees that age from 500 to 1000 years old and enjoy the exhibits to learn more about these iconic trees.
The short distance, easy trail are the main reasons for Muir Woods to become the first choice of most visitors which is why the park is always crowded.
Tip: Try to reach early in the morning to find a parking spot and beat the crowds.
#2 Purisima Creek Redwoods Preserve
Distance from SF: 30 miles
Estimated Driving Time: 40-50 minutes along HW 280
Purisima Creek Redwoods Preserve is one of the best places to see redwoods around San Francisco. If you don’t like the heavy crowd of Muir Woods, you can visit this preserve which is another popular redwood close to San Francisco.
Most of the trees at Purisima Creek Redwoods Preserve are about 100 years old and grow along Purisima Creek Canyon, at the bottom of the mountain. You can see here the second-growth redwood forest.
Not only the redwoods, but the view from the top of the mountain will also leave you awestruck when the trees and wildflowers are covered with moss. Purisima Creek Redwoods Preserve has several hiking trails, most of which are for expert hikers. But the beginner-level hikers can enjoy a small part of the trails rather than completing it.
Note: Entrance is FREE.
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#3 Samuel P. Taylor State Park
Distance from SF: 31 miles north
Estimated Driving Time: 50-60 minutes
Planning for camping in redwoods near San Francisco? Look no further than Samuel P. Taylor State Park, located in the steep, rolling hills of Marin County in California a few miles from Point Reyes National Seashore. Don’t miss our essential camping packing list while going for an outdoor adventure trip.
The campground is known as ‘Camp Taylor’ which is one of the best campgrounds in California. It has 51 family campsites with basic amenities like picnic tables, fire-ring but no hook-ups.
You can enjoy hiking and picnicking among the towering redwoods. The most popular trail is the Pioneer Tree Trail that offers a beautiful view of an old-growth grove of redwoods in this park. It is an easy hike that takes about an hour to complete a 2.1-mile loop.
If you prefer a less crowded hike, head to Cross Marin Trail to Kent Lake. It’s a 19-mile long day hike with 1,300 feet of elevation gain. Be prepared with plenty of water and hiking gear to attempt this hike.
#4 Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
Distance from SF: 72 miles
Estimated Driving Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Located southeast of San Francisco in the watershed of the San Lorenzo River, Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park is a charming redwood forest near San Francisco and is known for its 40-acre old-growth redwood grove.
The park’s tallest tree is approximately 277 feet tall and nearly 1500 years old. A 0.8 miles Redwood Grove Loop Trail loop will lead you through this fantastic growth within 30 minutes. Don’t miss the group photo in front of the Fremont Tree which has a big hole at the bottom.
If you are looking for more adventure, breathtaking views, go for Fall Creek and Lost Empire Trail Loop. It is a 10-mile loop hike, not for beginners, but offers amazing views of the coastal redwoods.
Another highlight is that visitors can see three types of redwoods in Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. Coastal Redwood, Giant Sequoia, and a Dawn Redwood are planted side by side at the entrance of the park. It will give you a great idea of the difference between these three types of redwood giants.
#5 Big Basin Redwoods State Park
Distance from SF: 76 miles
Estimated Driving Time: 1 hour 50 minutes
Looking for ancient coast redwood trees near San Francisco? Located in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Big Basin Redwoods State Park can be the best option for you. It has a second-growth redwood forest, some gorgeous waterfalls, and more than 80 miles of trails. It is California’s oldest State Park that preserves approximately 18,000 acres.
You can see here some old giants which are around 1000 to 1800 years old. It is a popular hiking destination in California, but the park is not that crowded like Muir Woods.
Collect the self-guided trail brochure from the park headquarter and enjoy the 0.5 miles of Redwood Loop Trail and discover the magnificent redwood trees.
If you are a hiker, I will highly recommend going for Sequoia Trail that you can connect with a waterfall trail. This 4.2-mile loop trail is easy and offers incredible views of the surrounding area.
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#6 Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve
Distance from SF: 77 miles
Estimated Driving Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve earned its place on the list of best places to see giant redwoods near San Francisco because of its convenient location at the north of the Russian River, two miles from Guerneville’s Main Street. People from San Francisco, Napa, and Sonoma can easily come here for a day trip.
The reserve is not huge(805 acres), but the trees that you can see here are between 1000 and 1500 years old. The oldest tree of this reserve is Colonel Armstrong which is more than 1400 years old. The tallest tree Parson Jones reaches beyond 310 feet tall.
The Pioneer Nature Trail is the best one for first-timers. You can discover the coast redwood trees and learn about them via interpretive displays as you stroll along. You can combine this easy 2-mile loop trail with the Armstrong Grove Loop Trail, and can see more redwood trees.
#7 Portola Redwoods State Park
Distance from SF: 50 miles
Estimated Driving Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Portola Redwoods State Park is another great option for those wanting to see redwoods near San Francisco in a quieter and more secluded environment.
It is located to the north of Big Basin Redwoods State Park. At 2800 acres, Portola Redwoods State Park isn’t that huge, but it’s definitely awe-inspiring.
The trees are less tall but they look pretty. At the end of a half-mile Old Tree Trail, you will find a single giant tree called the Old Tree. It’s around 300 feet tall and 1,200 years old.
You will see three large redwood groves here: Main Grove near the entrance, Peters Creek (popular for old-growth and can be reached by a long hike, but worth it), and Slate Creek (easy hike with an impressive view but more logging has been done).
#8 Humboldt Redwoods State Park
Distance from SF: 217 miles
Estimated Driving Time: 4 hours
I wouldn’t say Humboldt Redwoods near San Francisco, as the State Park is near about 4 hours of driving from SF. However, if you have time and a keen interest to see some giant coastal redwoods, you must visit Humboldt Redwoods State Park.
The most unique feature of this State Park is that you can explore the redwoods while driving your car. The Avenue of the Giants is a scenic highway with a 32-mile stretch of trees and it is very popular among people looking for a romantic getaway in California.
The most interesting thing is here you can drive through three redwood trees. Don’t forget to take pictures while going through the Shine Drive Through Tree.
It’s home to the largest old-growth coastal redwoods which is called Rockefeller Forest. This old-growth forest covers about 17,000 acres and offers a great view of some of the best redwoods in California.
There are several hiking and biking trails in the State Park. Founders Grove is a short, accessible trail that goes through the redwoods and is suitable for everyone. You can also enjoy camping in Humboldt Redwoods State Park.
Packing List for Redwood Hiking
Check out the below items to bring for a hike in redwoods near San Francisco:
- Hiking backpack: Choose a lightweight, airy backpack with a comfortable hip strap and multiple pockets to organize your stuff. I always use Osprey Stratos 24 while going for a day hike.
- Rain jacket: When you are hiking in a mountain, the weather can be unpredictable, and can experience unexpected rain. A light rain jacket can keep you dry throughout the hike.
- Hiking boots or shoes: The most important thing on your hiking packing list is a pair of sturdy hiking boots. Buy a durable, waterproof, and comfortable hiking shoe before hitting the trails. Check out our 15 best and cheap hiking boots if you are planning to buy one.
- Fleece: Expect cool weather while hiking amongst giant sequoias. So be prepared with a comfortable fleece jacket and an extra insulation clothing layer.
- Plenty of water: I personally use a GRAYL Ultralight Water Filter Bottle while hiking. It is a reusable bottle and allows me to filter out bacteria, viruses, heavy metals, and chemicals before consumption.
- First-aid kit: No need to bring a bulky first-aid kit box, but you must carry an Adventure Medical Kit which is ultralight and watertight with a reliable setup for minor ailments.
- Snacks: Because you don’t want to be a hangry hiker. Bring some protein bars and pre-made sandwiches to supply energy continuously.
If you found this article about the best places to spot redwoods near San Francisco helpful, then kindly share it with others and plan your next San Francisco redwoods road trip.
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