Because Redwood is such a varied park it's best experienced in a series of short trips. Get your dose of redwood-induced wonder with an overnight camping excursion on the Redwood Creek Trail. You'll begin at the trailhead near Bald Hills Road in the heart of the park. Eight miles in, you'll cross a small bridge into the Tall Trees Grove, home of the 368-foot Libby Tree. There's a 379-foot tree in the same watershed, but no one's saying just where. Camp on the banks of Redwood Creek just downstream from the bridge and hike out the next day. Since Redwood also embraces ocean and rivers, you'll want to paddle a few of the brackish lagoons that lie near the park's southern boundary. Stone Lagoon has a primitive paddle-in campsite ($12), while Big Lagoon has a fun feeder stream to explore. To top off that trip, consider a day of mountain biking on the old logging road from Bald Hills to Lost Man Creek. In 13 mostly downhill miles, great coastal views drop into Lost Man Creek's majestic redwood grove. The one hitch is that if you go unguided (i.e., no shuttle), you'll have to turn around and bike mostly uphill at the end of the day.
Permits are required to camp along Redwood Creek; they're free at the Kuchel Visitor Center. Kayak Zak's rents kayaks for day or overnight trips (three hours, $30; kayakzak.com). Redwood Adventures guides the ride to Lost Man Creek ($195 per person; redwoodadventures.com).
Walk the one-mile loop through the fantasy world of Fern Canyon. Its sheer 40-foot walls are blanketed top to bottom in swaying, glistening ferns.
Four reasons to consider Elk Meadow Cabins: simple but comfortable lodging; a local herd of Roosevelt elk; a hot tub; and the owners, experts at setting up trips or proffering advice (doubles from $229; redwoodadventures.com).
Originally published as part of "America's Ultimate Parks 2009," National Geographic Adventure magazine