Guide to the Best Camping in Redwood National Park

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    After an unforgettable 12-day car camping adventure through Redwood National Park campgrounds, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, and Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. Below, I want to share what I think are the best campgrounds from my time amongst the old-growth Redwoods (the world’s tallest trees) of Redwood National Park.  Spoiler alert, I think they are all pretty special but some will hold stronger memories than others.

    Whether you’re mapping out your own Redwood adventure or just looking to see what the wonders of Redwood National Park have to offer, you’re in the right place. If you are curious how I went about planning this adventure, please read my blog post Redwood National Park Campgrounds: Planning Guide.

    Let’s dive in and get ready to discover the wonders of the Redwood State and National Parks together!

    *Please note: This post may contain affiliate links. Any affiliate commission and ad revenue I receive helps me keep this tool and blog going. Thank you!

    Jedediah Smith Campground in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park
    But First Coffee!

    By: Dave P | November 5, 2023

    Where to find the Best Camping in Redwood National Park

    Have you ever booked a campsite, and the place cannot live up to the hype you read about or built up in your head? Well, every campsite I stayed at lived up to or exceeded my expectations. The developed campgrounds of Redwood National Park were well maintained, and the facilities were clean and tucked away from any noise of highways or towns.  It was easy for me to disconnect from my phone, and social media, and work to get the mental refresh I was looking for.

    I ended up camping at 5 different campgrounds on my trip, which after doing my research I deemed were the 5 best that not only fit my journey but were the best the area had to offer.  In my previous blog post, I mentioned I had a 6th one booked but ended up needing to head back a couple of days earlier than I had planned for a family obligation.  Here is where I camped on my car camping road:

    All of these sites are open year-round and can be booked through the Reserve California website. Check out this blog post, Book A Campsite: The Ultimate Website Guide for more options on booking campsites. Now let’s get into more details about my stay at each of these campsites

    Check Out My Shelter

    REI Co-op Wonderland 4 Tent

    REI’s Wonderland 4 tent is my choice for camping enthusiasts seeking a spacious and hassle-free camping experience. With its spacious interior, it’s user-friendly making it easy to set up with just one person, and its built to last. Its large doors and windows allow for excellent airflow. By adjusting its window openings, the Wonderland allows the flexibility to have the tent feel open or allow for privacy without sacrificing the ventilation. While The Wonderland is on the expensive side, this tent effortlessly combines comfort, quality, and reliability to provide great value for your camping adventures!

    $499.99

    Spacious

    Easy Setup

    Good Ventilation

    Durability

    Expensive

    No Vestibule

    Not Great in High Winds

    Specs

    Dimensions (L x W x H) – 100 x 100 x 75 in.

    Weight – 21 lbs 11 oz

    Additional Models – 6 person

    Detailed Review

    With a peak height of 75 inches, the 4P Wonderland it’s tall enough to change and move around comfortably while standing up if you’re 6’ 3” or shorter. The 100×100-inch floor dimensions give you plenty of room for a large camping mattress (up to queen size!!) while still having room for all your gear. On a rainy day during my last outing, I was able to comfortably fit my camp chair in the tent so I could read inside, and out of the elements. The tent’s walls rise almost straight up, ensuring optimal space right to the edges without having to bend over. While I have mostly used the tent solo, the Wonderland 4 is a good size for 2 or 3 adults or a small family with kids. There is also a 6-person model available for those who need more space.

    Spacious - With a peak height of 75 inches, the 4P Wonderland it’s tall enough to change and move around comfortably while standing up if you’re 6’ 3” or shorter. The 100×100-inch floor dimensions give you plenty of room for a large camping mattress (up to queen size!!) while still having room for all your gear. On a rainy day during my last outing, I was able to comfortably fit my camp chair in the tent so I could read inside, and out of the elements. The tent’s walls rise almost straight up, ensuring optimal space right to the edges without having to bend over. While I have mostly used the tent solo, the Wonderland 4 is a good size for 2 or 3 adults or a small family with kids. There is also a 6-person model available for those who need more space.

    Easy Setup - With an easy-to-understand color-coding system for the poles and pole sets, setting up the Wonderland tent is straightforward and quick, even for one person. Being 5’7″, the only struggle I have is getting the fly over the top of the tent. The triangular hubs on the center poles may be different from what you might see on other dome tents, but after reading the instructions that are sewn into the bag, I found them easy to work with. After a few setups of the structure, the process will become intuitive.

    Good Ventilation - Maintaining a fresh, dry, and cozy environment inside the tent is crucial, regardless of the weather outside. The Wonderland boasts an expansive mesh ceiling and generous vents throughout, ensuring top-notch ventilation. What’s more, the unique curved design allows for the triangular side windows to remain open even with the rainfly attached. Even in a downpour with everything zipped up, the upper mesh ports ensure continuous air movement. Thanks to these design elements, the Wonderland tent is versatile and easily adapts to different settings and climates.

    Durability - With Aluminum tent poles and high-quality fabrics the Wonderland is durable enough to last for years of adventure. With proper care and given the materials floor, rainfly, mesh, and hardware are a step up in the quality of budget tents, and the Wonderland should and is expected to hold up well with regular use.

    Expensive - If you are new to camping or don’t think you will go regularly, Wonderland may not be a good value for you. There are many tents that come in well under the $499.99 price point. That said, I find the value of the Wonderland Tent to be worth the investment given its quality and the spaciousness and living comfort of the the barn-style design.

    No Vestibule - While not a huge con, the Wonderland could take a step up with an option to have an enclosed vestibule. This option would help keep gear out of inclement weather and out of sight when we’re away from camp. While dry gear can easily be stored inside the spacious main part of the tent, sometimes that gear brings in dirt and grit you’d like to keep outside. Wonderland has awnings over both doors to keep the doorways drip-free when it rains, so even extending those may help provide a solution.

    Not Great in High Winds - Generally a negative to most high-profile tents, like the Wonderland, is being prone to wind damage or just being noisy with high winds. While the Wonderland is built to be durable and is quite stable when properly staked downs and guy lines set, it may not be as ideal for exposed environments with high winds like lower profile tents. The design of the Wonderland is more than adequate for sheltered locations (think wooded or forested campgrounds) that most people camp in.

     

    Jedediah Smith Campground: The Best Camping in Redwood National Park

    Night(s): 5/14/23 | Site #: 52

    Nestled within the towering redwoods of Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, the Jedediah Smith campground is a haven for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts alike.

    Initial reactions to Jedediah Smith Campground

    Right off the bat, the Jedidiah Smith Campground had me hooked. Big, well-spaced sites ensure you’re not elbow-to-elbow with your neighbor, making it feel more like a secluded retreat than a developed campground. There’s an immediate sense of peace, and with the redwoods as your canopy, who wouldn’t be brimming with excitement?

    My Campsite and Campground Amenities

    My site was a camper’s dream: close to the Smith River with direct access to the water, spacious, and surrounded by natural beauty. With a leveled dirt platform for my tent that made setup a joy. The sound of the Smith River provided the perfect white noise for peaceful sleep.

    Jedediah Smith Redwood campground
    Elevated tent area at my Campsite at Jedediah Smith Campground

    Every site is equipped with picnic tables, food lockers, and fire rings—three camping essentials. My site featured a flat platform, making tent setup almost too easy. And the coin-operated hot showers and flush toilets added a touch of convenience to the wilderness experience.

    Things I won’t Forget

    Relaxation was an art form here. A day basking by the river with a cold plunge (just to say I did it), a night under the stars where I saw Venus and Starlink satellites march across the sky (nope, not UFOs, I checked!)—it was camping bliss. I enjoyed a chili and cornbread feast I cooked over the fire ring. And the morning nature trail stroll with my coffee? What a great way to start the day!

    Jedediah Smith Campground in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park
    Chili and Skillet Cornbread!

    Access to the Pacific Ocean

    Even though the Pacific Ocean was a short drive away, its closeness was a comforting thought. The opportunity for a quick surf session at Crescent City Bay made my stay at Jedediah Smith Campground feel like a two-for-one special—forest refuge and beach escape rolled into one.

    Activities near the Jedediah Smith Campground

    The campground itself is an experience with its Nature Trail, but the nearby Boy Scout Tree Trail and Grove of the Titans are the true stars. These hikes through old-growth redwoods are profoundly humbling and are not to be missed.

    Boy Scout Tree in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park
    Boy Scout Tree in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park

    Not Much in Terms of Challenges

    While it’s hard to find fault with such a gorgeous setting, be prepared for a little walk if your site is far from the facilities. And if you’re angling to fish, check the river conditions beforehand—Mother Nature can be a fickle friend.

    Recommendations for Campers

    Book for at least two nights to fully immerse yourself in this enchanting landscape, and if possible, snag a site by the river. It transforms the experience from great to extraordinary.

    To me, Jedediah Smith Campground offers the best camping in Redwood National Park and is a must-visit campground, offering an unrivaled camping experience amidst the Redwoods and the nearby Pacific Ocean. It should model what state park campgrounds should aspire to be—a seamless blend of nature’s grandeur and the comforts of developed campgrounds, creating the perfect setting for memories that will last a lifetime.

    See What I'm Sleeping On

    Exped MegaMat Duo 10 Sleeping Pad

    When it comes to outdoor comfort, the Exped MegaMat Duo 10 Sleeping Pad is my go-to choice. I’m continually impressed by the exceptional insulation it offers, keeping me warm on those cooler nights. When fully inflated my pad, size Medium Double, not only easily fits in my REI Wonderland 4 tent but also in the back of my Subaru Outback for a night in the car.  The face fabric on top adds another layer of comfort, feeling soft and plush to the touch. However, it’s worth noting that its larger size can be a tad cumbersome when packing and difficult to deflate.  Additionally, these sleeping pads run on the expensive side. But for me, the warmth, comfort, and versatility trade-off is well worth these minor drawbacks.

    $349.95

    Warmth

    Comfort

    Cumbersome

    Price

    Specs

    R-Value – 8.1

    Packed Size – 11 x 22 inches

    Inflated – 72 x 41 x 4 inches

    Weight – 7 lbs 8 oz

    Sleeping Capacity – 2-person

    Additional Models – Long Wide Double

    Detailed Review

    Warmth - The warmth and insulation of the Exped MegaMat Duo 10 Sleeping Pad truly set it apart. Boasting an impressive R-value of 8.1, it's designed to keep you snug in cold conditions. For those unfamiliar, the R-value measures a material's resistance to heat flow, with a higher number indicating better insulating properties. This means with the MegaMat, you're not only getting comfort, but also the assurance of warmth in chilly terrains.

    Comfort - The comfort factor of the Exped MegaMat Duo 10 Sleeping Pad is undeniably one of my favorite things about it. Crafted with high-quality materials, the sleeping pad incorporates a plush, stretch tricot top that offers a soft and cozy sleeping surface. Furthermore, its self-inflating foam core adapts to the contours of your body, ensuring a restful night's sleep, even on uneven terrains. I tend to inflate the pad to about 85%, this provides me a balance of firmness but allows my body to sink in a little bit to alleviate some of the pressure points (like in the shoulders if I am sleeping on my side). Add to this the pad's generous thickness, and you have a sleeping surface that rivals many home mattresses, ensuring you wake up refreshed and ready for the day's adventures.

    Cumbersome - While the Exped MegaMat Duo 10 Sleeping Pad offers top-notch comfort and warmth, it does come with a bit of a trade-off in terms of portability. Weighing over 7 pounds, it's not the lightest option on the market, which means you'll probably not want to carry it further than from your car to your tent. Additionally, deflating the pad can be a bit of a chore. Unlike some other pads that can be quickly deflated and packed away, the MegaMat Duo requires a bit more time and effort to get all the air out, making the packing process longer.

    Price - The Exped MegaMat Duo 10 Sleeping Pad undoubtedly offers premium features, but with that comes a premium price tag. When compared to other sleeping pads on the market, the MegaMat Duo's cost can be a little steep for some budgets. While you're certainly getting top-tier comfort and insulation, there are other pads out there that offer decent performance at a lower cost. It's always a balancing act between quality and affordability, and for some, the MegaMat Duo might feel like a splurge. Before committing, it's worth exploring other options to ensure you're getting the best value for your money.

    Gold Bluffs Beach Campground: 2nd Best Camping in Redwood National Park

    Night(s): 5/17/23 – 5/19/23 | Site #: 16

    Gold Bluffs Beach Campground is located on the Pacific coast in the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, which is also designated as a part of Redwood National Park. This campground offers remarkable views of the rugged coastline and Pacific Ocean.  As well as easy access to the diverse forests of Prairie Creek State Park.

    First Impressions of Gold Bluffs Beach Campground

    Beautiful, rugged, and isolated! A few miles off Highway 101, on the coast, there is not a single structure in sight besides the facilities for the campground. Situated on the grassy bluffs of the beach, the forest visible from the campground provides stunning contrasting landscapes. The campground is small, but the campsites are spacious and spread out pretty well for a small campground.

    Gold Bluffs Beach Campground in Prairie Creek State Park
    Gold Bluffs Beach Campsite!

    Tent Site Experience and Amenities

    The campsite was huge, by far the biggest one I had on my Redwood National Park trip and scenic.  I had a beachfront campsite with a dune between me and the site just north and the site south was a decent distance away.  I chose an area on the south side of the site, away from the fire pit to help keep smoke out of the tent.  The food locker and picnic table were located close to the parking spot, so it was easy to unload everything from your car.

    All the campsites at the campground come with concrete picnic tables, food lockers, and concrete fire pits.  The campground was clean and had a central location that had flush toilets and hot showers.

    Unforgettable Moments

    The first morning I did an incredible hike from the campsite, the Miners’ Ridge and James Irvine Loop trail that also crosses with the Fern Canyon trail. It was nice to start and end from my campsite.  On my last morning, I woke up to a herd of Roosevelt Elk walking through the campground.  They were pretty remarkable to see up close and personal!

    Roosevelt Elk Gold Bluffs Beach Campground in Prairie Creek Redwood State Park
    Roosevelt Elk Strolling through the Campground

    Ocean Proximity

    This campground is right on the Pacific Ocean, purposely planned if there was any swell, I’d have easy access. Plus, the soothing sounds of the ocean to help you sleep, is not a bad consolation prize.

    Trails and Natural Beauty

    The Miners’ Ridge and James Irvine Loop trail was one of the more diverse hikes I have ever done.  You travel from the beach to Spruce Forest to Redwood Forest through Fern Canyon then back to the beach. The campground is not that far from the many trails in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

    Fern Canyon Hike in Prairie Creek State Park
    Fern Canyon in Hike Prairie Creek State Park

    Watch Out for Sand and Gnats

    One of the main challenges is making sure you keep sand out of your tent.  Also, on two of the nights, there were swarms of tiny gnats, which didn’t seem to respond to bug repellant. Both challenges are common with beach sites.  To combat the sand, I recommend making a “porch” outside your tent to take your shoes off before entering. I used my surfing changing mat as mine.

    Recommendations for Campers

    Given there was no surf, I probably could have done with just two nights here.  Overall, there are more hiking opportunities from Elk Prairie Campground in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park or Jedediah Smith Campground in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, so if your goals don’t involve surfing, I’d recommend two nights Golds Bluff Beach Campground and allocating more time at the two I just mentioned.

    In summary, Gold Bluffs Beach Campground offers some of the best camping in Redwood National Park and the best camping in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. It provides an authentic rugged beach camping experience. With easy access to surfing and hiking through diverse landscapes, this campground has a lot to offer.  While you can still connect to mobile services, the lack of development helps you feel disconnected from the everyday bustle of life.  Honestly, if the surf had been better it probably would have been my favorite campground. This National Parks campground has a lot to offer, I hope I have the chance to stay here again.

    What's on my feet?

    Danner Trail 2650 GTX Hiking Shoes

    Great mid-range hiking shoe! With a roomy fit, lightweight, and EXO Heel System to cradle the heel, I have found this shoe to be very comfortable on my feet. While I wouldn’t take this on a backpacking trip, these have become my go-to hikers for all my day hikes.  With a casual and more stylish appearance, they also work well for walks around town or exploring vacations!

    $189.95

    Comfort

    Light Weight

    Water Proofing

    Support

    Specs

    Footwear Height – Ankle

    Waterproof – Yes w/ GORE-TEX waterproof/breathable membrane

    Weight – 1lb 5oz.

    Color – Tan/Meadow Green

    Additional Models – Comes in two other colors and there is a non-waterproof model

    Detailed Review

    Comfort - The shoe immediately stands out when it comes to comfort. From the moment I slipped them on, my feet felt cradled and secure with EXO Heel System to cradle the heel.  And the breathable design? A game-changer. It ensures your feet stay cool, even during those long hikes. No more sweaty feet or discomfort. It's clear that Danner really put thought into crafting a shoe that molds to your foot, making each step on the trail feel like a breeze.

    Light Weight - At just 1 lb. 5 oz. per pair, these may be some of the lightest I've ever owned.  These shoes almost feel like wearing tennis shoes but with superior traction. Less weight means less strain on your legs, letting you trek longer and with more energy.

    Water Proofing - With a waterproof and breathable GORETEX membrane, these shoes keep water out! Like most shoes in this category (ankle height), these shoes have a lower flood height, at about 2.75 inches.  You should try to avoid deep puddles and be careful around the edges of bodies of water.  Anything below that flood height, the water stays where it belongs... outside the shoe!

    Support - While I have yet to experience any pain or soreness in my feet after a day of hiking in these shoes, the lightweight design comes at the sacrifice of some rigidity in the shoe.  Additionally, like most ankle-height hikers, the is minimal ankle support so if you have a tendency to roll your akles you may want to look into shoes with more height.   While I wouldn't recommend these shoes for carrying heavy loads or long backpacking trips, I've had zero complaints on support for the lightweight day hikes I've worn them on.

    Mill Creek Campground: 3rd Best Camping in Redwood National Park

    Night(s): 5/15/23 – 5/16/23 | Site #: 40

    Mill Creek Campground is nestled in the lush embrace of Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park. Ready to explore this gem in the wilderness, subheading by subheading? Let’s dive in!

    First Read on Mill Creek Campground

    Off the grid and quiet! As you veer off Highway 101, Mill Creek Campground greets you with its tranquil ambiance and a genuine off-the-grid vibe. Somewhere along the winding 3-mile access road, you lose cell phone reception, to truly disconnect in this beautiful campground.

    Mill Creek Campground Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park
    My Campsite at Mill Creek Campground

    Cozy Campsite and Developed Facilities

    The most appropriate way to describe my campsite may have been cozy, but it was packed with charm. The site neighboring to the north was pretty close, luckily, they came in a larger van that ended up acting like a privacy screen between the two sites. Despite its compact nature, was complete with the essentials – a mossy picnic table, secure food locker, and classic fire ring – it had all the hallmarks of a quintessential camp experience, not to mention the clean facilities with those much-appreciated coin-operated hot showers and flush toilets.

    Favorite Memories

    The culinary highlight was the ‘Peetza’ (pizza for those unfamiliar) the first night.  It was my first attempt at cooking pizza over an open fire. Pizza is usually good anytime, but it tasted a little better in the woods! Strolling the casual trail looping around the campground became my evening ritual, the perfect way to wind down before indulging in the joys of outdoor cooking.

    Mill Creek Campground Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park
    Campfire Peetza Night!

    Ocean Proximity

    The campground was a bit inland from the Pacific Ocean, about 10 minutes or so, but close enough that I could go find some waves to surf if I wanted to. Also allowed for direct access to the many coastal redwood trails.

    Trails and Natural Beauty

    The proximity to the Del Norte Redwood State Park trails was a big plus.  Within a short drive, I was able to access popular trails to walk amongst the coastal redwood trees like the Coastal Trail, Damnation Creek Trail, and Yurok Loop Trail. Additionally, from here I did my first surfing morning of the trip at Crescent City Bay.  While there will be no one wave that stuck out, the session itself will be a fond one for years to come.

    Crescent City Bay Surfing
    Davey Likey, Davey want Surfy

    Minor Challenges

    The minor inconvenience was the size of the campsite and feeling a little too close to my northern neighbors. However, not all sites share this feature, so a little research goes a long way. Spot number 39 caught my eye for its more secluded vibe.

    Recommendations for Campers

    This slice of paradise is worth the visit, just be strategic with your site selection for the optimum mix of peace and privacy (not to sound redundant but I’d check site 39).

    In summary, Mill Creek Campground in Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park presents an authentic escape into nature’s embrace. It serves as an ideal spot for those seeking to unplug and revel in the Redwood forests’ quiet majesty, with the bonus of the Pacific Ocean’s proximity. Mill Creek Campground may not offer the best camping in Redwood National Park, but with its blend of basic comforts and the raw beauty of the Redwoods, provides an enriching camping experience that’s hard to forget.

    Elk Prairie Campground: 4th Best Camping in Redwood National Park

    Night(s): 5/20/23 – 5/21/23 | Site #: 44

    Elk Prairie Campground is a tad inland from Gold Bluffs Beach Campground but is also located in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. Elk Prairie Campground has access to over 20 trails to see old-growth redwoods within a few minute’s drive. The Roosevelt Elk can also be spotted within a short walk from the campground and throughout the park.

    Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park
    Morning Fog On The Trail

    First Impressions

    Popular and compact. Now I will note this was approaching Memorial Day weekend, so the crowds were starting to roll in. However, due to its location and the accessibility of the hiking, this campground is a bit more popular than most.  Additionally, the campground packed the campsites closer together to accommodate more campers.  Each still had a relatively private feel as they had good forest cover between each one, but most sites were on the smaller side compared to what I had previously experienced.

    Campsite and Amenities

    The campsite was on the smaller side but felt private.  I had Prairie Creek bordering me to the west, there was a good bit of vegetation between the campsites to the north and south of my site, and I was able to use my car and tent as a privacy screen from the campground road to the east. All the campsites at the campground come with picnic tables, food lockers, and concrete fire pits.  The campground was clean, and not overgrown – given the amount of vegetation, and had clean facilities with flush toilets and hot showers.

    Close Encounter of the Black-Tailed Deer Kind

    The meadows at the campground entrance were a casual stroll away.  This area provided regular viewing of the beautiful Roosevelt Elk.  This was a great spot to enjoy my morning coffee.  While staying at Prairie Creek I also did the Tall Trees Grove hike, which not only provided great immersion with old-growth Redwoods, I had a peaceful encounter with a black-tailed deer.  I hadn’t seen another soul for about 30 or more minutes, and around a corner on the trail came the black-tailed deer.  We both stopped and stared at each other for a bit about 30 feet apart, before the doe (didn’t have antlers so I assumed it was a doe) slowly moved on into the woods.

    Tall Trees Grove in Redwood National Park
    Hiking Tall Trees Grove

    Access to the Pacific Ocean

    While as the crow flies the Pacific Ocean wasn’t too far away, it wasn’t easy to get to.  The easiest access would have been back through Gold Bluffs Beach State Park. Since they are both a part of Prairie Creek State Park, I think your campground pass should allow you to park in visitors’ spots at Golds Bluff Beach.  Other beach access would be driving south for 10 to 15 minutes, near Kuchel Visitor Center.

    Trails and Natural Beauty

    From the campground you have easy access to over 20 hikes, some you can walk to right from camp and others are within a few minutes drive down Newton B Drury Parkway.  From the campsite, I walked and completed a Loop of West Ridge Trail to Prairie Creek Trail, which was a peaceful hike in the towering redwoods.  Towards the end added in part of the Rhododendron Trail as well which took me to the Cathedral of Trees trail.  The Miners’ Ridge and James Irvine Loop trail that also crosses with the Fern Canyon trail is also accessible from camp.

    A short drive north I completed a loop of Hope Creek and Ten Taypo Trails, not as scenic as others but they were isolated.  A drive just south of the campground I was able to access Tall Trees Grove trail on my permit day and Lady Bird Grove Johnson Nature Loop.  Due to the permits limiting the number of hikers, this was a memorable hike, you felt isolated amongst the old-growth redwoods.

    Roosevelt Elk in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park
    Roosevelt Elk at the trailhead!

    Challenges and Tips

    My site was next to a group site, which was occupied during my stay.  While the group there was never excessively loud, especially never after quiet hours, larger groups tend to produce a lot more ambient noise.  After 10 days of only hearing sounds produced by Mother Nature from my campsites, I found the noise to be a bit distracting.  Other than that and the already mentioned size of the campsites, I enjoyed the campground.

    Recommendations for Campers

    If your priorities are access to the redwoods rather than the coast in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, then Elk Prairie Campground is better suited for you than Golds Bluff Beach Campground.  When booking a site, next time I would just make sure I had a little more separation from the group campsites.

    In summary, Elk Prairie Campground in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park provides easy access to some of the best old-growth Redwood hiking the area has to offer.  With 20-plus hikes and private campsites, this campground has a lot to offer. Depending on your trip goals, you may want to spend a few nights here, but it’s a must-stop for at least one night if you’re camping in the area.

    Redwood Creek along Tall Trees Grove Trail
    Redwood Creek along Tall Trees Grove Trail

    Bonus Review: Van Damme State Park Campground in Mendocino County

    Night(s): 5/13/23 | Site #: 33

    While not in Redwood National Park, if you’re planning a road trip along California’s Route 1, Van Damme State Park Campground is a spot you’ll want to check out. It’s got that easy access off the highway, yet it’s surprisingly peaceful—a combination you don’t always find at campgrounds.

    First Impressions of Van Damme State Park Campground

    It’s a thumbs-up for cleanliness and tranquility. The campsite was prepped and ready with all the essentials: picnic tables, food lockers, and fire rings. These are the kinds of conveniences that make or break a camping trip, and Van Damme checks all the right boxes.

    Campsite at Van Damme State Park Campground
    Campsite at Van Damme State Park Campground

    Review of the Campsite and Amenities

    My tent site was spacious but had a bit of a slope. It was a slight challenge, but there was a flat spot for my tent and one for the picnic table and firepit area, so it was manageable.  The campsite also had plenty of privacy guaranteed. Many other tent sites didn’t have a slope.  The main downside was that the in-campground road was affected by recent storms and the firewood I purchased from the campground was wet.  Both were minor inconveniences and the road issue is temporary.

    While I didn’t use the hot showers, they’re there and clean—a nice perk after a day of exploring.  Flush toilets are also available, which are always appreciated when you’re camping.

    Memorable Moments

    The park staff deserves a shout-out—helpful and knowledgeable, they make your stay smooth and enjoyable. Their tips on local hikes and the Mendocino area were spot on. Cooking over the fire ring was a highlight for me—I mean, who doesn’t love a campfire-cooked ribeye and homemade bread?

    Dinner on night 1
    Something about steak over a fire just tastes better

    Pacific Ocean Proximity

    The campground is right near a stunning Pacific Ocean cove. You might not see the ocean from your tent, but it’s just a short walk away. Having my morning coffee there was an absolute delight.

    Comparison to the Other Campgrounds

    Compared to other campgrounds on my trip, Van Damme wasn’t at the top of my list, but that’s more due to the excitement of the Redwoods ahead. It’s still a great place, especially for those who appreciate a beautiful, quiet campground with the bonus of being by the ocean.

    Recommendations for Campers

    Here are a few tips: bring some dry firewood to help get one going in case the wood there is damp, and coins for the showers. And enjoy the evenings by the fire rings—it’s the quintessential camping experience.

    In Summary, Van Damme offers a well-rounded, comfortable camping experience with the added beauty of the Pacific coastline. It’s a great first stop in Mendocino County and an excellent base for exploring the area.

    Redwood National Park
    Hiking in the old-growth redwoods of Redwoods National Park

    After an unforgettable 12-day car camping adventure through Redwood National Park campgrounds, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, and Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. Below, I want to share what I think are the best campgrounds from my time amongst the old-growth Redwoods (the world’s tallest trees) of Redwood National Park.  Spoiler alert, I think they are all pretty special but some will hold stronger memories than others.

    Whether you’re mapping out your own Redwood adventure or just looking to see what the wonders of Redwood National Park have to offer, you’re in the right place. If you are curious how I went about planning this adventure, please read my blog post Redwood National Park Campgrounds: Planning Guide.

    Let’s dive in and get ready to discover the wonders of the Redwood State and National Parks together!

    *Please note: This post may contain affiliate links. Any affiliate commission and ad revenue I receive helps me keep this tool and blog going. Thank you!

    Jedediah Smith Campground in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park
    But First Coffee!

    By: Dave P | November 5, 2023

    Where to find the Best Camping in Redwood National Park

    Have you ever booked a campsite, and the place cannot live up to the hype you read about or built up in your head? Well, every campsite I stayed at lived up to or exceeded my expectations. The developed campgrounds of Redwood National Park were well maintained, and the facilities were clean and tucked away from any noise of highways or towns.  It was easy for me to disconnect from my phone, and social media, and work to get the mental refresh I was looking for.

    I ended up camping at 5 different campgrounds on my trip, which after doing my research I deemed were the 5 best that not only fit my journey but were the best the area had to offer.  In my previous blog post, I mentioned I had a 6th one booked but ended up needing to head back a couple of days earlier than I had planned for a family obligation.  Here is where I camped on my car camping road:

    All of these sites are open year-round and can be booked through the Reserve California website. Check out this blog post, Book A Campsite: The Ultimate Website Guide for more options on booking campsites. Now let’s get into more details about my stay at each of these campsites

    Check Out My Shelter

    REI Co-op Wonderland 4 Tent

    REI’s Wonderland 4 tent is my choice for camping enthusiasts seeking a spacious and hassle-free camping experience. With its spacious interior, it’s user-friendly making it easy to set up with just one person, and its built to last. Its large doors and windows allow for excellent airflow. By adjusting its window openings, the Wonderland allows the flexibility to have the tent feel open or allow for privacy without sacrificing the ventilation. While The Wonderland is on the expensive side, this tent effortlessly combines comfort, quality, and reliability to provide great value for your camping adventures!

    $499.99

    Spacious

    Easy Setup

    Good Ventilation

    Durability

    Expensive

    No Vestibule

    Not Great in High Winds

    Specs

    Dimensions (L x W x H) – 100 x 100 x 75 in.

    Weight – 21 lbs 11 oz

    Additional Models – 6 person

    Detailed Review

    With a peak height of 75 inches, the 4P Wonderland it’s tall enough to change and move around comfortably while standing up if you’re 6’ 3” or shorter. The 100×100-inch floor dimensions give you plenty of room for a large camping mattress (up to queen size!!) while still having room for all your gear. On a rainy day during my last outing, I was able to comfortably fit my camp chair in the tent so I could read inside, and out of the elements. The tent’s walls rise almost straight up, ensuring optimal space right to the edges without having to bend over. While I have mostly used the tent solo, the Wonderland 4 is a good size for 2 or 3 adults or a small family with kids. There is also a 6-person model available for those who need more space.

    Spacious - With a peak height of 75 inches, the 4P Wonderland it’s tall enough to change and move around comfortably while standing up if you’re 6’ 3” or shorter. The 100×100-inch floor dimensions give you plenty of room for a large camping mattress (up to queen size!!) while still having room for all your gear. On a rainy day during my last outing, I was able to comfortably fit my camp chair in the tent so I could read inside, and out of the elements. The tent’s walls rise almost straight up, ensuring optimal space right to the edges without having to bend over. While I have mostly used the tent solo, the Wonderland 4 is a good size for 2 or 3 adults or a small family with kids. There is also a 6-person model available for those who need more space.

    Easy Setup - With an easy-to-understand color-coding system for the poles and pole sets, setting up the Wonderland tent is straightforward and quick, even for one person. Being 5’7″, the only struggle I have is getting the fly over the top of the tent. The triangular hubs on the center poles may be different from what you might see on other dome tents, but after reading the instructions that are sewn into the bag, I found them easy to work with. After a few setups of the structure, the process will become intuitive.

    Good Ventilation - Maintaining a fresh, dry, and cozy environment inside the tent is crucial, regardless of the weather outside. The Wonderland boasts an expansive mesh ceiling and generous vents throughout, ensuring top-notch ventilation. What’s more, the unique curved design allows for the triangular side windows to remain open even with the rainfly attached. Even in a downpour with everything zipped up, the upper mesh ports ensure continuous air movement. Thanks to these design elements, the Wonderland tent is versatile and easily adapts to different settings and climates.

    Durability - With Aluminum tent poles and high-quality fabrics the Wonderland is durable enough to last for years of adventure. With proper care and given the materials floor, rainfly, mesh, and hardware are a step up in the quality of budget tents, and the Wonderland should and is expected to hold up well with regular use.

    Expensive - If you are new to camping or don’t think you will go regularly, Wonderland may not be a good value for you. There are many tents that come in well under the $499.99 price point. That said, I find the value of the Wonderland Tent to be worth the investment given its quality and the spaciousness and living comfort of the the barn-style design.

    No Vestibule - While not a huge con, the Wonderland could take a step up with an option to have an enclosed vestibule. This option would help keep gear out of inclement weather and out of sight when we’re away from camp. While dry gear can easily be stored inside the spacious main part of the tent, sometimes that gear brings in dirt and grit you’d like to keep outside. Wonderland has awnings over both doors to keep the doorways drip-free when it rains, so even extending those may help provide a solution.

    Not Great in High Winds - Generally a negative to most high-profile tents, like the Wonderland, is being prone to wind damage or just being noisy with high winds. While the Wonderland is built to be durable and is quite stable when properly staked downs and guy lines set, it may not be as ideal for exposed environments with high winds like lower profile tents. The design of the Wonderland is more than adequate for sheltered locations (think wooded or forested campgrounds) that most people camp in.

     

    Jedediah Smith Campground: The Best Camping in Redwood National Park

    Night(s): 5/14/23 | Site #: 52

    Nestled within the towering redwoods of Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, the Jedediah Smith campground is a haven for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts alike.

    Initial reactions to Jedediah Smith Campground

    Right off the bat, the Jedidiah Smith Campground had me hooked. Big, well-spaced sites ensure you’re not elbow-to-elbow with your neighbor, making it feel more like a secluded retreat than a developed campground. There’s an immediate sense of peace, and with the redwoods as your canopy, who wouldn’t be brimming with excitement?

    My Campsite and Campground Amenities

    My site was a camper’s dream: close to the Smith River with direct access to the water, spacious, and surrounded by natural beauty. With a leveled dirt platform for my tent that made setup a joy. The sound of the Smith River provided the perfect white noise for peaceful sleep.

    Jedediah Smith Redwood campground
    Elevated tent area at my Campsite at Jedediah Smith Campground

    Every site is equipped with picnic tables, food lockers, and fire rings—three camping essentials. My site featured a flat platform, making tent setup almost too easy. And the coin-operated hot showers and flush toilets added a touch of convenience to the wilderness experience.

    Things I won’t Forget

    Relaxation was an art form here. A day basking by the river with a cold plunge (just to say I did it), a night under the stars where I saw Venus and Starlink satellites march across the sky (nope, not UFOs, I checked!)—it was camping bliss. I enjoyed a chili and cornbread feast I cooked over the fire ring. And the morning nature trail stroll with my coffee? What a great way to start the day!

    Jedediah Smith Campground in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park
    Chili and Skillet Cornbread!

    Access to the Pacific Ocean

    Even though the Pacific Ocean was a short drive away, its closeness was a comforting thought. The opportunity for a quick surf session at Crescent City Bay made my stay at Jedediah Smith Campground feel like a two-for-one special—forest refuge and beach escape rolled into one.

    Activities near the Jedediah Smith Campground

    The campground itself is an experience with its Nature Trail, but the nearby Boy Scout Tree Trail and Grove of the Titans are the true stars. These hikes through old-growth redwoods are profoundly humbling and are not to be missed.

    Boy Scout Tree in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park
    Boy Scout Tree in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park

    Not Much in Terms of Challenges

    While it’s hard to find fault with such a gorgeous setting, be prepared for a little walk if your site is far from the facilities. And if you’re angling to fish, check the river conditions beforehand—Mother Nature can be a fickle friend.

    Recommendations for Campers

    Book for at least two nights to fully immerse yourself in this enchanting landscape, and if possible, snag a site by the river. It transforms the experience from great to extraordinary.

    To me, Jedediah Smith Campground offers the best camping in Redwood National Park and is a must-visit campground, offering an unrivaled camping experience amidst the Redwoods and the nearby Pacific Ocean. It should model what state park campgrounds should aspire to be—a seamless blend of nature’s grandeur and the comforts of developed campgrounds, creating the perfect setting for memories that will last a lifetime.

    See What I'm Sleeping On

    Exped MegaMat Duo 10 Sleeping Pad

    When it comes to outdoor comfort, the Exped MegaMat Duo 10 Sleeping Pad is my go-to choice. I’m continually impressed by the exceptional insulation it offers, keeping me warm on those cooler nights. When fully inflated my pad, size Medium Double, not only easily fits in my REI Wonderland 4 tent but also in the back of my Subaru Outback for a night in the car.  The face fabric on top adds another layer of comfort, feeling soft and plush to the touch. However, it’s worth noting that its larger size can be a tad cumbersome when packing and difficult to deflate.  Additionally, these sleeping pads run on the expensive side. But for me, the warmth, comfort, and versatility trade-off is well worth these minor drawbacks.

    $349.95

    Warmth

    Comfort

    Cumbersome

    Price

    Specs

    R-Value – 8.1

    Packed Size – 11 x 22 inches

    Inflated – 72 x 41 x 4 inches

    Weight – 7 lbs 8 oz

    Sleeping Capacity – 2-person

    Additional Models – Long Wide Double

    Detailed Review

    Warmth - The warmth and insulation of the Exped MegaMat Duo 10 Sleeping Pad truly set it apart. Boasting an impressive R-value of 8.1, it's designed to keep you snug in cold conditions. For those unfamiliar, the R-value measures a material's resistance to heat flow, with a higher number indicating better insulating properties. This means with the MegaMat, you're not only getting comfort, but also the assurance of warmth in chilly terrains.

    Comfort - The comfort factor of the Exped MegaMat Duo 10 Sleeping Pad is undeniably one of my favorite things about it. Crafted with high-quality materials, the sleeping pad incorporates a plush, stretch tricot top that offers a soft and cozy sleeping surface. Furthermore, its self-inflating foam core adapts to the contours of your body, ensuring a restful night's sleep, even on uneven terrains. I tend to inflate the pad to about 85%, this provides me a balance of firmness but allows my body to sink in a little bit to alleviate some of the pressure points (like in the shoulders if I am sleeping on my side). Add to this the pad's generous thickness, and you have a sleeping surface that rivals many home mattresses, ensuring you wake up refreshed and ready for the day's adventures.

    Cumbersome - While the Exped MegaMat Duo 10 Sleeping Pad offers top-notch comfort and warmth, it does come with a bit of a trade-off in terms of portability. Weighing over 7 pounds, it's not the lightest option on the market, which means you'll probably not want to carry it further than from your car to your tent. Additionally, deflating the pad can be a bit of a chore. Unlike some other pads that can be quickly deflated and packed away, the MegaMat Duo requires a bit more time and effort to get all the air out, making the packing process longer.

    Price - The Exped MegaMat Duo 10 Sleeping Pad undoubtedly offers premium features, but with that comes a premium price tag. When compared to other sleeping pads on the market, the MegaMat Duo's cost can be a little steep for some budgets. While you're certainly getting top-tier comfort and insulation, there are other pads out there that offer decent performance at a lower cost. It's always a balancing act between quality and affordability, and for some, the MegaMat Duo might feel like a splurge. Before committing, it's worth exploring other options to ensure you're getting the best value for your money.

    Gold Bluffs Beach Campground: 2nd Best Camping in Redwood National Park

    Night(s): 5/17/23 – 5/19/23 | Site #: 16

    Gold Bluffs Beach Campground is located on the Pacific coast in the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, which is also designated as a part of Redwood National Park. This campground offers remarkable views of the rugged coastline and Pacific Ocean.  As well as easy access to the diverse forests of Prairie Creek State Park.

    First Impressions of Gold Bluffs Beach Campground

    Beautiful, rugged, and isolated! A few miles off Highway 101, on the coast, there is not a single structure in sight besides the facilities for the campground. Situated on the grassy bluffs of the beach, the forest visible from the campground provides stunning contrasting landscapes. The campground is small, but the campsites are spacious and spread out pretty well for a small campground.

    Gold Bluffs Beach Campground in Prairie Creek State Park
    Gold Bluffs Beach Campsite!

    Tent Site Experience and Amenities

    The campsite was huge, by far the biggest one I had on my Redwood National Park trip and scenic.  I had a beachfront campsite with a dune between me and the site just north and the site south was a decent distance away.  I chose an area on the south side of the site, away from the fire pit to help keep smoke out of the tent.  The food locker and picnic table were located close to the parking spot, so it was easy to unload everything from your car.

    All the campsites at the campground come with concrete picnic tables, food lockers, and concrete fire pits.  The campground was clean and had a central location that had flush toilets and hot showers.

    Unforgettable Moments

    The first morning I did an incredible hike from the campsite, the Miners’ Ridge and James Irvine Loop trail that also crosses with the Fern Canyon trail. It was nice to start and end from my campsite.  On my last morning, I woke up to a herd of Roosevelt Elk walking through the campground.  They were pretty remarkable to see up close and personal!

    Roosevelt Elk Gold Bluffs Beach Campground in Prairie Creek Redwood State Park
    Roosevelt Elk Strolling through the Campground

    Ocean Proximity

    This campground is right on the Pacific Ocean, purposely planned if there was any swell, I’d have easy access. Plus, the soothing sounds of the ocean to help you sleep, is not a bad consolation prize.

    Trails and Natural Beauty

    The Miners’ Ridge and James Irvine Loop trail was one of the more diverse hikes I have ever done.  You travel from the beach to Spruce Forest to Redwood Forest through Fern Canyon then back to the beach. The campground is not that far from the many trails in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

    Fern Canyon Hike in Prairie Creek State Park
    Fern Canyon in Hike Prairie Creek State Park

    Watch Out for Sand and Gnats

    One of the main challenges is making sure you keep sand out of your tent.  Also, on two of the nights, there were swarms of tiny gnats, which didn’t seem to respond to bug repellant. Both challenges are common with beach sites.  To combat the sand, I recommend making a “porch” outside your tent to take your shoes off before entering. I used my surfing changing mat as mine.

    Recommendations for Campers

    Given there was no surf, I probably could have done with just two nights here.  Overall, there are more hiking opportunities from Elk Prairie Campground in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park or Jedediah Smith Campground in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, so if your goals don’t involve surfing, I’d recommend two nights Golds Bluff Beach Campground and allocating more time at the two I just mentioned.

    In summary, Gold Bluffs Beach Campground offers some of the best camping in Redwood National Park and the best camping in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. It provides an authentic rugged beach camping experience. With easy access to surfing and hiking through diverse landscapes, this campground has a lot to offer.  While you can still connect to mobile services, the lack of development helps you feel disconnected from the everyday bustle of life.  Honestly, if the surf had been better it probably would have been my favorite campground. This National Parks campground has a lot to offer, I hope I have the chance to stay here again.

    What's on my feet?

    Danner Trail 2650 GTX Hiking Shoes

    Great mid-range hiking shoe! With a roomy fit, lightweight, and EXO Heel System to cradle the heel, I have found this shoe to be very comfortable on my feet. While I wouldn’t take this on a backpacking trip, these have become my go-to hikers for all my day hikes.  With a casual and more stylish appearance, they also work well for walks around town or exploring vacations!

    $189.95

    Comfort

    Light Weight

    Water Proofing

    Support

    Specs

    Footwear Height – Ankle

    Waterproof – Yes w/ GORE-TEX waterproof/breathable membrane

    Weight – 1lb 5oz.

    Color – Tan/Meadow Green

    Additional Models – Comes in two other colors and there is a non-waterproof model

    Detailed Review

    Comfort - The shoe immediately stands out when it comes to comfort. From the moment I slipped them on, my feet felt cradled and secure with EXO Heel System to cradle the heel.  And the breathable design? A game-changer. It ensures your feet stay cool, even during those long hikes. No more sweaty feet or discomfort. It's clear that Danner really put thought into crafting a shoe that molds to your foot, making each step on the trail feel like a breeze.

    Light Weight - At just 1 lb. 5 oz. per pair, these may be some of the lightest I've ever owned.  These shoes almost feel like wearing tennis shoes but with superior traction. Less weight means less strain on your legs, letting you trek longer and with more energy.

    Water Proofing - With a waterproof and breathable GORETEX membrane, these shoes keep water out! Like most shoes in this category (ankle height), these shoes have a lower flood height, at about 2.75 inches.  You should try to avoid deep puddles and be careful around the edges of bodies of water.  Anything below that flood height, the water stays where it belongs... outside the shoe!

    Support - While I have yet to experience any pain or soreness in my feet after a day of hiking in these shoes, the lightweight design comes at the sacrifice of some rigidity in the shoe.  Additionally, like most ankle-height hikers, the is minimal ankle support so if you have a tendency to roll your akles you may want to look into shoes with more height.   While I wouldn't recommend these shoes for carrying heavy loads or long backpacking trips, I've had zero complaints on support for the lightweight day hikes I've worn them on.

    Mill Creek Campground: 3rd Best Camping in Redwood National Park

    Night(s): 5/15/23 – 5/16/23 | Site #: 40

    Mill Creek Campground is nestled in the lush embrace of Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park. Ready to explore this gem in the wilderness, subheading by subheading? Let’s dive in!

    First Read on Mill Creek Campground

    Off the grid and quiet! As you veer off Highway 101, Mill Creek Campground greets you with its tranquil ambiance and a genuine off-the-grid vibe. Somewhere along the winding 3-mile access road, you lose cell phone reception, to truly disconnect in this beautiful campground.

    Mill Creek Campground Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park
    My Campsite at Mill Creek Campground

    Cozy Campsite and Developed Facilities

    The most appropriate way to describe my campsite may have been cozy, but it was packed with charm. The site neighboring to the north was pretty close, luckily, they came in a larger van that ended up acting like a privacy screen between the two sites. Despite its compact nature, was complete with the essentials – a mossy picnic table, secure food locker, and classic fire ring – it had all the hallmarks of a quintessential camp experience, not to mention the clean facilities with those much-appreciated coin-operated hot showers and flush toilets.

    Favorite Memories

    The culinary highlight was the ‘Peetza’ (pizza for those unfamiliar) the first night.  It was my first attempt at cooking pizza over an open fire. Pizza is usually good anytime, but it tasted a little better in the woods! Strolling the casual trail looping around the campground became my evening ritual, the perfect way to wind down before indulging in the joys of outdoor cooking.

    Mill Creek Campground Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park
    Campfire Peetza Night!

    Ocean Proximity

    The campground was a bit inland from the Pacific Ocean, about 10 minutes or so, but close enough that I could go find some waves to surf if I wanted to. Also allowed for direct access to the many coastal redwood trails.

    Trails and Natural Beauty

    The proximity to the Del Norte Redwood State Park trails was a big plus.  Within a short drive, I was able to access popular trails to walk amongst the coastal redwood trees like the Coastal Trail, Damnation Creek Trail, and Yurok Loop Trail. Additionally, from here I did my first surfing morning of the trip at Crescent City Bay.  While there will be no one wave that stuck out, the session itself will be a fond one for years to come.

    Crescent City Bay Surfing
    Davey Likey, Davey want Surfy

    Minor Challenges

    The minor inconvenience was the size of the campsite and feeling a little too close to my northern neighbors. However, not all sites share this feature, so a little research goes a long way. Spot number 39 caught my eye for its more secluded vibe.

    Recommendations for Campers

    This slice of paradise is worth the visit, just be strategic with your site selection for the optimum mix of peace and privacy (not to sound redundant but I’d check site 39).

    In summary, Mill Creek Campground in Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park presents an authentic escape into nature’s embrace. It serves as an ideal spot for those seeking to unplug and revel in the Redwood forests’ quiet majesty, with the bonus of the Pacific Ocean’s proximity. Mill Creek Campground may not offer the best camping in Redwood National Park, but with its blend of basic comforts and the raw beauty of the Redwoods, provides an enriching camping experience that’s hard to forget.

    Elk Prairie Campground: 4th Best Camping in Redwood National Park

    Night(s): 5/20/23 – 5/21/23 | Site #: 44

    Elk Prairie Campground is a tad inland from Gold Bluffs Beach Campground but is also located in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. Elk Prairie Campground has access to over 20 trails to see old-growth redwoods within a few minute’s drive. The Roosevelt Elk can also be spotted within a short walk from the campground and throughout the park.

    Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park
    Morning Fog On The Trail

    First Impressions

    Popular and compact. Now I will note this was approaching Memorial Day weekend, so the crowds were starting to roll in. However, due to its location and the accessibility of the hiking, this campground is a bit more popular than most.  Additionally, the campground packed the campsites closer together to accommodate more campers.  Each still had a relatively private feel as they had good forest cover between each one, but most sites were on the smaller side compared to what I had previously experienced.

    Campsite and Amenities

    The campsite was on the smaller side but felt private.  I had Prairie Creek bordering me to the west, there was a good bit of vegetation between the campsites to the north and south of my site, and I was able to use my car and tent as a privacy screen from the campground road to the east. All the campsites at the campground come with picnic tables, food lockers, and concrete fire pits.  The campground was clean, and not overgrown – given the amount of vegetation, and had clean facilities with flush toilets and hot showers.

    Close Encounter of the Black-Tailed Deer Kind

    The meadows at the campground entrance were a casual stroll away.  This area provided regular viewing of the beautiful Roosevelt Elk.  This was a great spot to enjoy my morning coffee.  While staying at Prairie Creek I also did the Tall Trees Grove hike, which not only provided great immersion with old-growth Redwoods, I had a peaceful encounter with a black-tailed deer.  I hadn’t seen another soul for about 30 or more minutes, and around a corner on the trail came the black-tailed deer.  We both stopped and stared at each other for a bit about 30 feet apart, before the doe (didn’t have antlers so I assumed it was a doe) slowly moved on into the woods.

    Tall Trees Grove in Redwood National Park
    Hiking Tall Trees Grove

    Access to the Pacific Ocean

    While as the crow flies the Pacific Ocean wasn’t too far away, it wasn’t easy to get to.  The easiest access would have been back through Gold Bluffs Beach State Park. Since they are both a part of Prairie Creek State Park, I think your campground pass should allow you to park in visitors’ spots at Golds Bluff Beach.  Other beach access would be driving south for 10 to 15 minutes, near Kuchel Visitor Center.

    Trails and Natural Beauty

    From the campground you have easy access to over 20 hikes, some you can walk to right from camp and others are within a few minutes drive down Newton B Drury Parkway.  From the campsite, I walked and completed a Loop of West Ridge Trail to Prairie Creek Trail, which was a peaceful hike in the towering redwoods.  Towards the end added in part of the Rhododendron Trail as well which took me to the Cathedral of Trees trail.  The Miners’ Ridge and James Irvine Loop trail that also crosses with the Fern Canyon trail is also accessible from camp.

    A short drive north I completed a loop of Hope Creek and Ten Taypo Trails, not as scenic as others but they were isolated.  A drive just south of the campground I was able to access Tall Trees Grove trail on my permit day and Lady Bird Grove Johnson Nature Loop.  Due to the permits limiting the number of hikers, this was a memorable hike, you felt isolated amongst the old-growth redwoods.

    Roosevelt Elk in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park
    Roosevelt Elk at the trailhead!

    Challenges and Tips

    My site was next to a group site, which was occupied during my stay.  While the group there was never excessively loud, especially never after quiet hours, larger groups tend to produce a lot more ambient noise.  After 10 days of only hearing sounds produced by Mother Nature from my campsites, I found the noise to be a bit distracting.  Other than that and the already mentioned size of the campsites, I enjoyed the campground.

    Recommendations for Campers

    If your priorities are access to the redwoods rather than the coast in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, then Elk Prairie Campground is better suited for you than Golds Bluff Beach Campground.  When booking a site, next time I would just make sure I had a little more separation from the group campsites.

    In summary, Elk Prairie Campground in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park provides easy access to some of the best old-growth Redwood hiking the area has to offer.  With 20-plus hikes and private campsites, this campground has a lot to offer. Depending on your trip goals, you may want to spend a few nights here, but it’s a must-stop for at least one night if you’re camping in the area.

    Redwood Creek along Tall Trees Grove Trail
    Redwood Creek along Tall Trees Grove Trail

    Bonus Review: Van Damme State Park Campground in Mendocino County

    Night(s): 5/13/23 | Site #: 33

    While not in Redwood National Park, if you’re planning a road trip along California’s Route 1, Van Damme State Park Campground is a spot you’ll want to check out. It’s got that easy access off the highway, yet it’s surprisingly peaceful—a combination you don’t always find at campgrounds.

    First Impressions of Van Damme State Park Campground

    It’s a thumbs-up for cleanliness and tranquility. The campsite was prepped and ready with all the essentials: picnic tables, food lockers, and fire rings. These are the kinds of conveniences that make or break a camping trip, and Van Damme checks all the right boxes.

    Campsite at Van Damme State Park Campground
    Campsite at Van Damme State Park Campground

    Review of the Campsite and Amenities

    My tent site was spacious but had a bit of a slope. It was a slight challenge, but there was a flat spot for my tent and one for the picnic table and firepit area, so it was manageable.  The campsite also had plenty of privacy guaranteed. Many other tent sites didn’t have a slope.  The main downside was that the in-campground road was affected by recent storms and the firewood I purchased from the campground was wet.  Both were minor inconveniences and the road issue is temporary.

    While I didn’t use the hot showers, they’re there and clean—a nice perk after a day of exploring.  Flush toilets are also available, which are always appreciated when you’re camping.

    Memorable Moments

    The park staff deserves a shout-out—helpful and knowledgeable, they make your stay smooth and enjoyable. Their tips on local hikes and the Mendocino area were spot on. Cooking over the fire ring was a highlight for me—I mean, who doesn’t love a campfire-cooked ribeye and homemade bread?

    Dinner on night 1
    Something about steak over a fire just tastes better

    Pacific Ocean Proximity

    The campground is right near a stunning Pacific Ocean cove. You might not see the ocean from your tent, but it’s just a short walk away. Having my morning coffee there was an absolute delight.

    Comparison to the Other Campgrounds

    Compared to other campgrounds on my trip, Van Damme wasn’t at the top of my list, but that’s more due to the excitement of the Redwoods ahead. It’s still a great place, especially for those who appreciate a beautiful, quiet campground with the bonus of being by the ocean.

    Recommendations for Campers

    Here are a few tips: bring some dry firewood to help get one going in case the wood there is damp, and coins for the showers. And enjoy the evenings by the fire rings—it’s the quintessential camping experience.

    In Summary, Van Damme offers a well-rounded, comfortable camping experience with the added beauty of the Pacific coastline. It’s a great first stop in Mendocino County and an excellent base for exploring the area.

    Redwood National Park
    Hiking in the old-growth redwoods of Redwoods National Park