Today, Redwood National Park not only protects the rest population of these tree giants on a length of almost 90 kilometers along the Northern Californian Pacific coast, but also covers coastal sections without tree population, a narrow strip of the Pacific Ocean off the coastline and inland areas, where creeks and rivers, but also small sections of prairie can be found. Altogether, the park covers an area of more than 530 kmē and has been a UNESCO world heritage site since 1980 and an international biosphere reserve since 1983.
The National Park was opened in 1968 and greatly expanded in 1978. For a long time before that, since 1911, efforts had been undertaken to conserve the trees that were disappearing at an alarming pace. In 1918, the Save-the-Redwoods League was founded on private initiative, which is to this day committed to the protection of the trees and which has ever since its founding purchased lands bearing redwoods. When the state of California set up a state park system in the 1920s, primarily pursuing conservation goals, most of these properties were transferred to those new parks and later to the new National Park as well. These donations made it possible to include the land surrounding the actual trees in the protection efforts. Today, both the National Park and the State Parks are commonly being administered by the National Park Service, which attempts to restore some of the cleared lands to their original state. Within park boundaries, there a few private properties and small villages that do not belong to the Park itself.
Redwood National Park begins near the town of Crescent Beach in the North, some 25 kilometers from the borderline between California and Oregon. Here, there is also the central Park administration located, along with a small museum. Further information centers within the park are located along Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway near the town of Hiouchi and another one near the village Orick. All are open year-round. The southern end of the National Park is a few miles inland near Lyons Ranch, but those who travel through the area on Highway 101 along the coast will leave the National Park a little further north near Orick.
Going by car is the easiest option to discover Redwood National Park. Highway 101 traverses the entire length, always staying close to the coastline and it allows access to almost all sights worth seeing. Also, several Scenic Drives with varying lengths have their starting points at the highway. It should be noted that some of these roads are not paved.
The majestic trees know to impress by their volume, their heights and the vast circumference of their trunks. The exact location of the tree named “Hyperion”, the world’s tallest tree with a height of 115,6 meters, is not publicly known because it is feared that a constant flow of visitors would damage the surrounding ecosystem. The same applies for the location of the so-called Grove of Titans, a group of trees featuring some especially huge specimens in the Park’s north. In this grove, “Lost Monarch” with a height of 98 meters and a circumference of almost 8 meters and “Del Norte Titan” with a trunk circumference of 7.2 meters and a height of 94 meters can be found, among others. The redwoods on average become 500 to 700 years old - but there are specimens which have grown as old as 2000 years - and they have good resistance against environmental impacts. By intentionally kindled fires that do not harm the giant trees, the National Park Service Rangers regularly clear the soil from foreign organisms which have been introduced here and which dispute the redwoods their essential nutrients.
But the park consists of a broad variety of habitats apart from the redwoods forests and is by virtue of that home to a large number of animal and plant species, some of which are endangered. Among others, tree species like the tall-growing Douglas fir, oak and Sitka spruce can be found here. The coastal area is habitat for sea lions, pelicans and sea otters, in the areas further inland there are mountain lions, lynxes, coyotes, elk, snakes, frogs and salamanders. The streaming waters in the northern section of the park, most notably the Smith River, is home to salmon and trout.
Among opportunities for leisure activities in the National Park and the neighboring State Parks, hiking must be mentioned. A network of trails with a total of more than 300 kilometers are available. It is possible to hike the entire length of the Park via the Coastal Trail. In some sections, the trails can also be used by mountainbikers and horseback riders. Information on that and the trails accessible are available in the Visitor Centers. For accomodation, several campgrounds are available, some of which can not be reached by car. There are no hotels in the park itself, but a broader choice of overnight options can be found in the towns around the perimeter.
More information on Redwood National Park can be found on the website of National Park Service.