An empty road at Redwood National Park with the redwood trees on both sides.
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Road Trips

Road Trip From San Francisco To Redwood National Park

By Dianne Titos | Published on 22 October 2020

If you're a huge nature buff, then a road trip from San Francisco to Redwood National Park will have no shortage of breathtaking natural views. This trip will take you along the coast of California up into the beautiful woods that make up the park.

You can opt to fly out of San Francisco, landing in Eureka, and then driving into the national park. But if you fly, you miss out on the amazing coastal sights along the way to Redwood National Park. Plus, you'd have to drive into the park from Eureka anyway, so why not make a road trip out of it?

The 337-mile drive from San Francisco to Redwood National Park will take you around 6 hours. The fastest route is by taking the US-101 all the way there. It's doable in a day, but splitting it into 2 days will let you make some stops along the way.

Read on for some tips on planning your road trip from San Francisco to Redwood National Park, plus some of the things to see en route.

How Far Is Redwood National Park from San Francisco, and How Long Will the Road Trip Take?

There are two routes you can consider taking if you want to drive from San Francisco to Redwood National Park. The first route is the fastest, and the most scenic. It's 337 miles long and follows the US-101, which will take you around 6 hours to drive without considering bathroom, gas, and meal breaks.

RouteDistanceDriving Time
Fastest Route
(via US-101)
337 miles6 hours
Alternate Route
(via I-5 N and CA-299 W)
349 miles7 hours 20 minutes

On the other hand, you can take the I-5 and CA-299 W to reach Redwood National Park. This route is slightly longer and will tack on an additional half-hour, making it about a 6 ½ hour drive. No matter which route you choose, you'll find that this is a relatively short road trip.

You'll still be passing through some beautiful wooded areas with this second route, but you'd unfortunately miss out on the rugged California coasts.

An image of the coastal highway 101, California, in a cloudy blue sky.
Experience a smooth drive on this coastal road along US-101 on your way to Redwood National Park from San Francisco
oksana.perkins/Shutterstock.com

Remember that depending on what day and time you leave, you might have trouble leaving San Francisco. Leaving on a Friday or Saturday means you'll be joining everyone else leaving for a weekend trip too.

No matter how long the drive ends up taking you, it's best to split this trip up into 2 days, if possible. That way you can stop for frequent photo ops along the coast, and even stop for a camping trip in Mendocino National Forest.

Best Road Trip Route from San Francisco to Redwood National Park

The best route to get from San Francisco to Redwood National Park is 337 miles and will take you along the west coast of California, through beautiful wooded areas with plenty of opportunities to detour for stops along the coast.

Depending on how much time you have, there are lots of places you can stop along the way.

The best way to get to Redwood National Park out of San Francisco is the fastest, and the most straightforward. All you'll do is head out of San Francisco along the Golden Gate Bridge. Pass Fort Baker and stay on the US-101 for the entire drive, until you reach Redwood National Park.

Alternatively, you can start by leaving San Francisco by the Oakland Bay Bridge, following the I-80 E and I-5 N to CA-44 W. when you reach Redding, take exit 678, and follow CA-299 W and Pine Creek Road to Bald Hills road, following this until you reach Redwood National Forest. This route isn't as scenic, but it will allow you to stop in Sacramento.

If time is really on your hands, you can follow Route 1 that follows the coast all the way up from San Francisco to Redwood National Park, but this route will take you way longer with the twists and turns taking around 9 hours of driving.

Passing through Gualala and Mendocino, it's a pretty awesome option for those who like taking their road trips slow with a glass of wine in the evening.

A breathtaking view of Oakland Bay Bridge and an overlooking of the city lights, skyline of San Francisco at dusk.
A breathtaking view of San Francisco Skyline and Oakland Bay Bridge
yhelfman/Shutterstock.com

Best Places to Stop Between San Francisco and Redwood National Park

Spend the Night in Santa Rosa

If you're a wine lover, it'll be well worth your time to visit Santa Rosa. Situated in Sonoma's wine country, you'll also get to see plenty of historic sites. Take one of their walking tours to stretch your legs after hours in the car, and see some of what Santa Rosa has to offer.

Don't forget to check out their museums too. If you're an art lover, spend some time in the Museum of Sonoma County. If you're more interested in reliving an element of your childhood, why not visit the Charles M. Schultz Museum?

If you're wondering where to stay, consider pampering yourself at Vintner's Resort. You'll be able to see the resort's vineyard from any room you stay in, plus their bar features plenty of delicious regional wines for you to try.

Get an Epiphany in Eureka

A port city in northern California, Eureka will remind you of a Victorian-era town. Whether you're interested in nature or culture, Eureka has a healthy combination of both to offer.

Visit Old Town Eureka to get a real blast from the past. A visit to Carson Mansion will fill you with awe, and for more pieces of Eureka's history, try a visit to the Clarke Historical Museum.

The Victorian house of Eureka, the Carson Mansion in a clear sunny blue sky.
The Carson Mansion located in Old Town, Eureka, California
calimedia/Shutterstock.com

If you're more of a nature buff, Eureka is close to the Lost Coast hiking trail, as well as Humboldt Bay.

If you're planning on spending a night in Eureka, definitely think about staying at The Inn at 2nd & C. You'll be charmed by the historic building, established in 1888, and its rustic, Victorian-esque décor. The inn overlooks Humboldt Bay and is located in the historic district of Eureka, where you'll have access to plenty of restaurants and historic sites to visit.

Things to See on a Road Trip from San Francisco to Redwood National Park

Let's get into the reason why you opted for a road trip. There are plenty of stops and detours you can take along the way to and from Redwood National Park. Here are a few sights you should consider stopping at.

  1. McNears Beach: Once you get off the Golden Gate Bridge, why not make your first stop at McNears Beach? If you go on a warm, sunny day, you'll be able to enjoy the water and maybe even get some suntanning in. Just be aware that this is a popular location, so it can get crowded.
  2. San Francisco Bay National Estuary Research Reserve: Located close to McNears Beach, the San Francisco Bay National Estuary Research Reserve is the perfect place to spend some time by the coast and exploring the wetlands.
  3. Olompali State Historic Park: the US-101 will take you by this historic park anyway, so why not stop and check it out? Olompali State Historic Park was purchased by California State in 1977 and features several old ranch buildings. It'll be worth spending some time learning about this history of the area in this park.
  4. Viansa Sonoma Winery & Tasting Room: If you don't mind a pretty significant detour, definitely pay a visit to the Viansa Sonoma Winery. Not only will you be able to try delicious wines, but you'll also enjoy the view from where the winery is situated at the top of Sonoma Valley.
  5. Trione-Annadel State Park: Interested in some hiking or biking along the way to Redwood National Park? A visit to Trione-Annadel State Park will offer all those things, along with plenty of good fishing spots and opportunities for photo ops with the beautiful wildflowers that grow in the park.
  6. Clear Lake: This beautiful lake is the largest natural freshwater lake in California. Visit Clear Lake for some fishing, swimming, sailing, or water skiing as you enjoy the incredible mountain view.
  7. Mendocino National Forest: Stop in the Mendocino National Forest for a day and take in the beauty of the coastal mountain range. This is the only national park in California without a highway or paved road, and it's the perfect place to go for a little solitude in nature.
  8. Humboldt Redwoods State Park: Stop in at Humboldt Redwoods State Park to see the beautiful, ancient Redwood trees that populate the area. Go for a hike, or bring your mountain bike with you to travel around this state park.
  9. Patrick's Point State Park: Once you leave Eureka, you'll be driving along the coast. There will be plenty of places you can stop to enjoy the incredible, rugged California coast. One of these places is Patrick's Point State Park, where you'll enjoy sheer cliffs, beaches, and forested areas.

Best Time to Go on a Road Trip from San Francisco to Redwood National Park

A wooden bridge at the Lady Bird Johnson Grove Trail in Redwoods National Park during a foggy morning.
Lady Bird Johnson Grove trail, Redwoods National Park
Roman Khomlyak/Shutterstock.com

The best time of year to take this road trip depends mostly on what you want to get out of it. If you're looking to enjoy the weather and don't mind crowds, heading out on this journey in the summer will get you what you're looking for.

If you go in the summer, you'll be able to avoid the heavy winter rainfalls and enjoy the much nicer hiking conditions of the area. Going in the summer also means you'll get to see the mists that blanket Redwood National Forest. On the other hand, a trip in the summer means that the park will be busier.

If you want to get in a lot of hiking and prefer fewer crowds, then try going during one of the shoulder seasons, spring or autumn. The weather will be cooler, but you'll still be able to get in the outdoor activities you want while avoiding the business of summer months.

Be aware that if you decide to go in the winter, while you shouldn't expect much snow, you can expect a fair amount of rain, and temperatures between 40F to 50F. Don't discount a winter visit altogether, though! Walking through the quiet redwoods during a gentle winter drizzle is certainly an atmospheric experience.

If you go in the winter, you might also be able to see the gray whale migration. December is the best month to go for this incredible experience as you watch them from the Klamath River Overlook or the Crescent Beach Overlook.