On our trip back to California from our travels in Oregon, we took a lazy drive through the 32-mile stretch of old-growth redwood forest known as Avenue of the Giants. Avenue of the Giants, aka State Route 254, is the savvy scenic alternative to California Highway 101 in Northern California.
These giants have thrived on the foggy coast along this route in Humboldt Redwoods State Park for thousands of years.
Our favorite thing about this savvy side trip is that you can experience the magic of the forest by car. A road trip through Avenue of the Giants is also one of our recommended California Bucket List places.
What’s savvy about it?
There’s no entry fee, no line to get in, no outdoor gear needed. You can stay in the car and just drive through the redwoods. Or stop and park on the side of the highway to snap a quick photo, follow a critter trail, climb on a fallen log. Then back in the car and on your way. Short of time, or have babies, dogs (not allowed on trails), or none-hikers with you? No Problem.
This road was originally built in the 1880s for stagecoach travel. So slow your wagon or speed things up, it’s up to you. You’ll find several places to make a quick exit back to HWY101. No need to make the full 32-mile commitment — unless you want to.
Not So Savvy
Did we catch you with the phrase “drive-through” redwood trees? You may be looking for the Shrine Drive-Thru Tree on the Myers Flat side of Avenue of the Giants. There’s a cleaved natural opening in a tree that you can actually drive your car through.
It’s a tight squeeze and touristy. You’ll pay ten bucks and probably have to wait your turn to drive through and take a photo. We didn’t. But if you want to, you can find out more and view a map to the location on this Visit the Redwoods page.
What to Avoid
A few savvy tips for what to watch out for on your redwood trees road tour:
1. Avoid the marathons. Two marathon races take place annually at Humboldt Redwoods State Park during the first three weekends of May and October. The park closes two of the main roads for around six hours. If you’re not actually participating in these races, you might want to avoid these dates. Check upcoming race routes and times before you head out.
2. Watch out for poison oak. The dreaded poison oak lives among the redwoods. If you go off trail, you may find patches of it here and there among the ferns and clover.
3. Don’t plan the day around hiking with your dog. Dogs are allowed at certain places in the park, but dogs are not allowed on the trails in Avenue of the Giants, except for service animals.
As mentioned above, that’s one of the benefits of seeing this area by car. Open a window and your dog will happily enjoy the ride as much as you do. We never told you this, but you could probably pull over and let Tina Fey and Mrs. Maisel out of the car for a quick break off the beaten trail without much of a fuss. We saw a few, just pick up the poo.
How to get to Avenue of the Giants
Avenue of the Giants parallels Highway 101 from Phillipsville to Pepperwood on State Route 254, a few hours drive from San Francisco. It’s 20 miles north of Garberville and 45 miles south of Eureka. At the beginning of the the route you’ll see the Avenue of the Giants sign with a map of the drive on it.
You can grab a brochure for your self-guided auto tour at either end of the Avenue of the Giants, or at the Humboldt Redwoods State Park visitor center. We didn’t, and you don’t really need one to enjoy the drive.
Park headquarters and the visitor center are located on the Avenue of the Giants, between Weott (228 miles north of San Francisco) and Myers Flat.
Popular Stops: Hiking Trails
On our road trip, we followed our whims, which also means we didn’t run into more than a few other like-minded trail blazers. Others may prefer following well-travelled trails. Look for the Auto Tour signs along the road that designate trailheads. Here are a few of the easier trails:
- The Drury-Chaney Loop Trail — A meandering 1.67 mile mostly flat trail on the north side of the Ave.
- The Gould Grove Nature Loop Trail — A 0.62 mile mostly flat interpretive loop near the Burlington Campground and the Visitor Center, with accessible parking near the trailhead.
- The Fleishmann Grove Trail — A 0.63 mile out and back mostly flat trail located not far from the Gould Grove Nature Loop.
- The Founder’s Grove Loop Trail — A 0.53 mile accessible loop trail off of Dyerville Loop Road. Look for the famous Founder’s Tree. Accessible parking and restrooms.
- The Rockefeller Loop Trail — A 0.62 mile loop trail next to the South Fork Eel River near the California Federation of Women’s Clubs Grove. Awesome views of the redwoods, Bull Creek and the Eel River. Accessible parking at the trailhead.
If you’re in the mood for something more strenuous, scroll to the bottom of this CA Nat’l Parks page for options.
About Humboldt Redwoods State Park
California’s largest redwood state park, Humboldt Redwoods State Park is a World Heritage Site and an International Biosphere Reserve. The redwoods (sequoia sempervirens) grow in the strip of coast from Monterey, California to the southern border of Oregon.
People visiting the park for longer than a quick drive through the redwoods will find plenty to do, including picnicking, camping, bicycling, hiking, fishing, and other typical California state park activities. Find out more via: California National Parks and State of California.
Picnic Area & Restrooms in Humboldt Redwoods State Park
You’ll find accessible parking, picnic areas and restrooms at The Founder’s Grove, Williams Grove, and California Federation of Women’s Clubs Grove.