Coast redwoods, the tallest tree species on earth, are awe-inspiring in the way of mountains and stars, growing over 350 feet tall and living over 2,000 years. Lucky for us in the Bay Area, coast redwoods grow right in our backyard between southern Oregon and the Big Sur coast. You can typically find them up to 40 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean, soaking up moisture from fog in summertime.
Shady redwood forests are a great option for summer hiking. Creeks and streams, common in redwood forests, create serene water vistas. Tannin, a chemical found in redwoods that gives them their reddish color, naturally repels insects too, so you will likely have fewer bugs on your redwood hikes. But it’s not all about us. Coast redwoods are critical members of an interdependent ecosystem, cleaning and stabilizing creeks they feed from and supporting plants and animals in their canopies and forest floors.
As you hike, try to avoid stepping on redwood roots. Redwoods don’t have taproots anchoring them to the ground and their root systems are shallow—the equivalent of a person being anchored by their big toe—so root damage can impact a tree’s stability.
Here are seven beautiful redwood hikes within day-trip distance of San Francisco.
Redwood Hikes in North Bay
1. Stinson Beach-East Peak Fire Lookout passes through a coast redwood forest beside Webb Creek on the Steep Ravine Trail. When you reach the Pantoll Ranger Station, you can continue another 3.9 miles northeast to the East Peak Fire Lookout or turn around for a 6.4-mile hike.
2. Canopy View-Fern Creek Loop is a shady, 3.8-mile loop in Muir Woods National Monument. Hike along old growth redwoods beside Redwood Creek and Fern Creek, leaving tourists behind as you climb to a viewpoint of Mount Tamalpais State Park.
Redwood Hikes in East Bay
3. West Ridge-Stream Trail Loop is a partially shady 7.9-mile loop in Redwood Regional Park near Oakland. The loop climbs the partly sunny West Ridge Trail, visits peaceful Redwood Bowl, and then descends along Redwood Creek into a second-growth redwood forest.
Redwood Hikes in the Peninsula
4. Berry Creek Falls Loop is a strenuous hike in the Santa Cruz Mountains past movie-star waterfalls and an old-growth redwood forest within Big Basin Redwoods State Park. The 10.5-mile loop circles the park past three major waterfalls, with an especially scenic stretch along Berry Creek.
5. Whittemore Gulch–Purisima Creek Loop is a moderate, 9.5-mile hike around Whittemore Gulch in Purisima Creek Redwoods Preserve. The second-growth redwoods along Purisima Creek, sunny valley views, and vistas of the Pacific Ocean make it a classic.
Redwood Hikes in South Bay
6. Bear Creek Redwoods Preserve is a brand-new Midpen preserve in Los Gatos that opened in June 2019. Six miles of shady hiking trails loop around the preserve, climbing over 1,000 feet from the parking lot to Madrone Knoll at 2,400 feet. There is also a 0.2-mile easy access trail next to the parking lot called the Upper Lake Loop Trail. An interpretive brochure highlights history and habitats around this loop.
Redwood Hikes in Santa Cruz
7. Fall Creek-Big Ben Loop is a challenging, 8.9-mile loop hike in Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park near Felton. The hike begins in a pleasant redwood forest beside Fall Creek, visits historic lime kilns, and stops by the ancient Big Ben Tree before looping back to the trailhead.
Need more ideas? Check out these redwood hikes, too:
- Heritage Grove Trail, a 2.6-mile (one-way) trail in Sam McDonald County Park
- Redwood Grove Loop Trail, a 0.8-mile loop in Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park (main entrance)
- Ewoldsen Trail, a 5.3-mile round-trip hike in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park (check conditions, trail closed as of September 2019)
- Valley View Trail, a 2.0-mile round-trip hike in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park