This California National Park With Towering Redwoods Also Has Some of the Most Beautiful Wildflowers in the U.S.

Northern California's Redwood National and State Parks is the perfect wildflower destination to visit this spring.

Bald Hills Road in Redwood National Park winds through a spring bloom of fragrant Mountain Lupine.

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The redwood trees that thrive near Northern California’s coastline are among the state’s most magnificent sights. Much of them are protected in a set of preserves known as Redwood National and State Parks, and lucky for us, wildflowers enjoy this sanctuary just as much as travelers do.

The park’s history begins with what would have been its demise, logged for decades before preservationists thought better of felling the world’s tallest trees. The park was established in 1968 in order to save what remained. Today, the trickiest part of visiting the destination is probably how remote it is. But that remoteness adds to its beauty, awarding intrepid travelers with a pristine nature sanctuary.

From either Sacramento or San Francisco international airports, expect to drive nearly six hours to Orick, a small town central in the reserve. Smaller county airports that connect carriers like Contour Airlines, United Express and Avelo include Humboldt County Airport and Del Norte County Airport. These airports get you much closer to the park, though you will still need a vehicle to explore the region. Once there, here’s what to expect and how to make your way around.

Group walking through Red Wood National Park

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Wildflowers in Redwood National Park

Redwood National Park and its sister preserves are ideal for wildflower viewing between February and September, when rains have subsided and temperatures are slowly warming up. Of course, it’s best to keep in mind that wildflowers are indeed wild, so there’s no way to guarantee what you’ll see or where, but that’s all part of the fun. Arrive with tempered expectations, enjoy the towering trees, and consider yourself lucky if you spy electric-colored flowers, too. 

The 1.5-mile Lady Bird Johnson Grove Trail is friendly for hikers of all levels and is considered a top destination for wildflower viewing. Keep your eyes peeled for species like milkmaids (identify with four pale petals), Redwood sorrel (low-growing, white-pink flowers), and Redwood violets (five yellow petals), which like the shaded forest floor. 

Trillium Falls Trail, measuring 2.7 miles, is a great loop hike through old-growth forest, plus a namesake waterfall and lots of moisture, which ferns and trillium flowers enjoy. Visitors might identify a trillium flower by its three petals (which might be white, pink or purple), with the bloom jutting up above three leaves. Near the trailhead, Elk Meadow can act as your picnic stop, and it's great for both elk sightings and the chance to see meadow-loving flowers like wild buckwheat (pink and white clusters) and blue-eyed grass (six purple petals on grass-like stalks).

If you want to cover more ground – and therefore maybe increase your chances of seeing wildflowers – plan to drive Bald Hills Road, a 37-mile (one way) stretch that gains about 3,000 feet in elevation as you travel. Look carefully for swaths of wild lupine, glowing purple and majestic. 

Landscape from Bald Hills Road with oak trees, lupine, green hills and fog. Redwood National Park

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Guided Experiences

Redwood Adventures offers private, customizable half-day or full-day experiences in the park, including in Fern Canyon from October to June. Guides can do the hard work of interpreting the environment (i.e. spotting and identifying species) as you trek past waterfalls and creeks and through meadows. Bigfoot Adventure Academy also offers in-park guided excursions; consider the “Explore the Best of the Redwoods” offer, which takes you three miles around Trillium Falls.

Where to Stay 

Think low-key and unfussy when it comes to close-to-the-park accommodations. View Crest Lodge offers 12 simple guest suites in stand-alone coastal cottages, and that’s 25 minutes to Trillium Falls Trailhead in the park. Closer to park sites is the town of Orick, where Elk Meadow Cabins is an option. And to stay in the northern part of parks, hotels in the town of Klamath include Requa Inn, a historic structure built in 1914 and set on the Klamath River, also about a 25-minute drive to the center of the park.

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