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The Ultimate Redwoods & Waterfalls Road Trip In Northern California

Imagine a road trip that takes you through magical forests filled with ancient redwood trees and to breathtaking waterfalls along the way. 

Welcome to the ultimate Redwoods and Waterfalls Road Trip! 

This adventure will take you to some of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring natural wonders in the state. 

But planning the perfect trip can be overwhelming, with so many beautiful places to see and limited time. 

That’s why we’ve done all the hard work for you with this detailed guide on the must-see spots and the best route to take. 

From the towering redwood forests to the cascading beauty of hidden waterfalls, every stop on this journey offers something special. 

Let’s go!

1. Big Basin Redwoods State Park

Big Basin Redwoods State Park is located in the Santa Cruz Mountains, around 40 minutes from Santa Cruz. 

It is known for its ancient redwood trees, some of which are over 1,800 years old making them older than the Roman Empire. 

You can hike on over 80 miles of trails which all offer stunning views of the giant redwoods. 

The park also has camping sites for those who want to stay overnight. 

Besides hiking and camping, you can also enjoy picnicking and wildlife watching. 

A fun fact is that Big Basin is California’s oldest state park as it was established back in 1902. 

The redwoods are so tall here that their tops can disappear into the fog. 

They’re as tall as the Statue of Liberty!

Please note Big Basin was closed following a devastating fire in 2020 but it has since re-opened to day visitors.

2. Muir Woods National Monument

Muir Woods National Monument is located just 30 minutes north of San Francisco, in Marin County. 

It takes around 1 hour and 40 minutes to drive there from Big Basin Redwoods State Park.

Muir Woods is famous for its towering redwood trees, some of which are 800 years old. 

You can walk on several easy trails that wind through the forest, offering close-up views of these majestic trees. 

The park also has a visitor center where you can learn about the history and ecology of the redwoods. 

Besides walking, you can also enjoy bird watching and picnicking in the beautiful surroundings. 

A fun fact is that the tallest tree in Muir Woods is about 250 feet tall. 

The forest is so quiet that you can often hear the rustle of leaves and the calls of birds. It’s super peaceful.

3. Alamere Falls

Next, it’s time to visit our first waterfall!

Alamere Falls is located in Point Reyes National Seashore, just a 45-minute drive from Muir Woods National Monument. 

To get to the waterfall, you do need to hike about 13 miles round trip from the Palomarin Trailhead. 

It’s worth it though, I promise!

This beautiful 40ft waterfall is pretty unique because it flows directly into the Pacific Ocean. 

Alamere Falls is actually a “tidefall” which means it spills over a cliff and into the ocean waves below. 

The hike to the falls takes you through coastal scrub and along the edges of stunning cliffs. It’s really scenic. 

You can often spot wildlife like deer and a variety of birds along the way. 

The best time to visit is during the rainy season when the waterfall is most powerful and impressive.

4. Montgomery Woods State Natural Reserve

Montgomery Woods State Natural Reserve is located in Mendocino County.

The drive from Alamere Falls to Montgomery Woods State Natural Reserve takes around 2 hours and 45 minutes. 

This stunning park is known for its ancient and towering redwood trees. 

You can hike on various trails that take you through the heart of the redwood forest, catching a glimpse of these giant trees that tower over you.

The reserve is a great place for nature photography and just enjoying the peaceful atmosphere.

There are also picnic spots where you can enjoy a meal surrounded by nature. 

A fun fact is that Montgomery Woods is home to a tree that measures over 367 feet.

This tree was once thought to be the tallest tree in the world until other taller ones were discovered.

The forest here is often misty which adds to its magical atmosphere. 

It feels like a fairytale!

5. Humboldt Redwoods State Park

Humboldt Redwoods State Park is located along the 32-mile Avenue of the Giants, near the small town of Weott.

It takes around 2 hours and 20 minutes to drive there from Montgomery Woods.

It is known for having some of the tallest and oldest redwood trees in the world. 

You can drive, bike or hike through the park to see these incredible trees up close. They’re mesmerizing! 

There are over 100 miles of trails to choose from which are perfect for exploring the redwoods and the Eel River. 

The park also offers camping and picnicking areas for a fun outdoor experience. 

The park is also home to the Rockefeller Forest which is actually the largest remaining old-growth redwood forest in the world!

It covers over 17,000 acres!

The trees here can grow over 300 feet tall, creating a canopy that feels like a green cathedral.

6. Whiskeytown Falls

Whiskeytown Falls is located in the Whiskeytown National Recreation Area. 

It takes around 3 hours and 20 minutes to drive there from the Humboldt Redwoods State Park.

To reach the waterfall, you need to hike the James K. Carr Trail which is about 3.4 miles round trip. 

Wayne Hsieh / Flickr

This beautiful waterfall is 220 feet tall, making it one of the tallest in the area. 

The hike to the falls is absolutely stunning and takes you through lush forest and along clear streams. 

As you hike, you can enjoy the sight and sound of cascading water as you approach the falls. 

The trail is well-marked and offers several viewpoints along the way for taking photos. 

Whiskeytown Falls was actually rediscovered in 2004 after being hidden for many years so not many people have seen it!

7. Hedge Creek Falls

Hedge Creek Falls is located near Dunsmuir in the Shasta Cascade Area,

It takes around 1 hour and 30 minutes to drive there from Whiskeytown Falls.

To get to the waterfall, you need to take a short, easy hike from the parking area off Interstate 5. 

The hike is only about 0.7 miles round trip, making it perfect for all ages. 

You’ll also be treated to impressive views of Mount Shasta and the Sacramento River.

Hedge Creek Falls is pretty unique because you can actually walk behind the waterfall and see the water cascade in front of you. 

dorkvater / Flickr

The waterfall is about 35 feet tall and flows into a small, serene pool below. 

You can often enjoy the cool, misty air and the peaceful surroundings. 

Hedge Creek Falls is also known as the “Million Dollar Waterfall” because it cost ~$1 million dollars to bypass it when building Interstate 5.

8. McCloud Falls

McCloud Falls is located in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest which is just a 40-minute drive from Hedge Creek Falls.

To visit the falls, you can drive to the McCloud River Loop which provides easy access to all three tiers of the waterfall. 

The falls are divided into three sections: Upper, Middle and Lower McCloud Falls. 

Each section has its own charm with most people ranking the Upper and Middle Falls as the most impressive.

There are well-maintained trails that connect the three falls so it’s easy to hike between them. 

If you hike, the round trip is around 3.5 miles but you can avoid this by driving to each tier.

You can even swim in the pools below the falls during the summer months which is super refreshing on a hot day.

McCloud Falls is also a popular spot for fishing with trout often found in the river.

9. Burney Falls

Burney Falls is located in McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park. 

The drive from McCloud Falls takes roughly 50 minutes so it’s not too far.

To reach the waterfall, you can drive directly to the park and take a short walk from the parking area to the falls. 

This stunning waterfall is 129 feet tall and flows at a rate of 100 million gallons of water daily!

Burney Falls is known for its beautiful, clear blue water and the lush greenery surrounding it. 

It’s pretty impressive and often ranked as one of the best waterfalls in California. 

The waterfall is also fed by underground springs so it flows consistently year-round. 

There’s no bad time to visit!

You can hike the loop trail that offers different viewpoints of the falls and the surrounding area to take in all its glory. 

Burney Falls was given the nickname the “eighth wonder of the world” by US President Theodore Roosevelt due to its breathtaking beauty.

Access to the base of the falls may be restricted due to construction works. Please check the official website for updates.

10. Kings Creek Falls

And the final stop on our redwoods and waterfalls road trip is Kings Creek Falls in Lassen Volcanic National Park. 

It takes around 1 hour and 30 minutes to drive there from Burney Falls.

To reach the waterfall, you do need to hike about 2.3 miles on the Kings Creek Falls Trail. 

daveynin / Flickr

This scenic waterfall is 30 feet tall and cascades down a rocky cliff into a beautiful pool below. 

The trail to the falls takes you through meadows, forests and along Kings Creek. 

Bill Ward / Flickr

The hike is moderately challenging but offers stunning views of the surrounding landscape so is totally worth it.

Kings Creek Falls is a popular spot within the park as it’s known for its natural beauty and serene atmosphere.

You can also extend your trip to explore the rest of Lassen Volcanic National Park.

Sophie Davis

Born and raised in the Bay area of California, Sophie is a California native. She joined our team in 2023 to create travel guides on California.

Learn more about the Traveller's Elixir Team.

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