Backpacking, Dispersed Camping along the Redwood Creek, and Horseback Riding in Redwood National Park

My fiance and I (I had just proposed a few days before we got here!) decided to try a little backpacking along the Redwood Creek in the Redwood National Park in Northern California - it's the only place in the park where dispersed camping is allowed. And when I say "a little backpacking" I mean it - we only had time to stay one night and we only had one backpacking pack and one regular backpack. 

It was perfect. The weather was perfect, the camping conditions where perfect, the trail was perfect... we didn't see another hiker the whole time too! 

The trail starts off just to the north of the Redwood Creek and goes through some mixed vegetation - there's redwoods, crazy maple trees, blackberry fields, and everything is covered in lush moss. There aren't too many super super giant redwoods but there are plenty of big ones to still blow your mind.

redwood creek trail, redwood national park

We crossed at least 10 little bridges like this one in only a few short miles:

redwood creek trail, redwood national park

Here's one of those crazy maple trees, very gnarly and covered is thick moss, I think it's called a "big leaf maple" but the leaves looked exactly like sugar maple.

redwood creek trail, redwood national park

After only 2 to 3 miles, we reached the first river crossing. On the other side of the bridge is actually the first point where dispersed camping is allowed, and after this point you can camp anywhere you like so long as it's on the gravel banks of the Redwood Creek and not within a half-mile of the backpacker's camp site. 

redwood creek trail, redwood national park

It was getting dark (we started the hike at like 5pm) and it was a really nice spot so we decided to park it here. The gravel "bars" where actually very nice and soft - almost like sand. And there was already an established camp fire ring next to a large drift-wood tree trunk.

redwood creek trail, redwood national park, dispersed camping

As you can see from the photos, the air was full of smoke. This was in very early September 2017, and fire from around the state and especially from Oregon had filled the atmosphere with smoke, sadly. (Little did we know the final toll the fires would take on Northern California that year - the deadliest in California histiry - and much of the West as well. Go see the redwoods before it's too late!) 

The smoke didn't make for great photography either. But I still tried.

redwood creek trail, redwood national park

One of the coolest things we saw that night was a family of ducks floating down the stream. They spotted us wading in the creek and slowed down but they had no choice but to keep going down stream past us. Once they got close enough to us, they broke into a frantic frenzy to get past us a quick as possible - it was like a duck stampede!

It was too dark to get a non-blurry photo though.

This is the moon trying to shine through the smoke:

There were many, many more miles of trail to explore but sadly we had to turn around to make it back to San Francisco in time. You could make a several day backpacking trip out of this trail, and it would be worth it for sure!

So the next morning we hiked back to the trail head and make a quick stop at the Lady Bird Johnson Grove which is just a short drive further down the road from the trailhead. Highly recommended!

redwood national park

Very difficult to capture just how massive these giants are.

redwood national park redwood national park

Redwood Trails Horse Rides

We weren't done yet! I called Linda of Redwood Trails Horse Rides and scheduled a two-hour horseback tour for the both of us. At $45 an hour it was very affordable and very, very much worth it! It was an experience I'll truly never forget. 

redwood national park horse rides redwood national park redwood national park horse rides redwood national park

Thanks for looking!