Avenue of the Giants

Avenue of the Giants

Avenue of the Giants: Drive Thru A Big Tree

This meandering two-lane stretch of historic Highway 101, which has been around since stagecoaches were the primary means of transportation,  winds between some of the world’s tallest and oldest trees, leading many to declare it one of California’s prettiest nature drives.

It may be short at only 31 miles, but it offers endless opportunities of side adventures – hiking, swimming, paddling, camping – as well as kitschy Americana discoveries, like a drive thru redwood and café that’s part of a living chimney tree.

Don’t miss the Founder’s Grove, which honors pioneer preservationists who safeguarded these primeval trees and features the Dyerville Giant, a 380-foot tall redwood that fell with a mighty crash mistaken for an earthquake or train crash for miles around; the Bell Grieg Grove, carpeted with redwood sorrel so lush, thick and soft that Brad Pitt couldn’t resist snoozing it in; and the Women’s Federation Grove, which features mammoth slab picnic tables and a gentle sandy bend in the Eel River popular with families to wade and swim.

One standout in the grove puzzles botanists, the so-called Christmas Tree, one of only a handful of albino redwoods known to exist. Trees need chlorophyll to exist, but these beauties, lacking any, sport ghostly white needles and rely on sustenance from sibling or parent trees.

The Avenue, which bisects Humboldt Redwoods State Park, one of the largest and oldest in the California park system, can be driven in an hour or so or a day, depending on how many times you choose to stop.

One of the most popular detours is the Rockefeller Forest which, at 10,000 acres, is the largest single stand of old growth or uncut redwood on Earth. The best place to browse the real giants here is the Bull Creek Flat loop, an easy 30-miunte stroll that can extend to hours to extending loop trails should the spirit so move you.

The route, which connects a number of old logging towns with 1940s motor courts, comfort food diners and redwood souvenir shops, is popular with motorists, motorcyclists, cyclists and, twice a year, in the spring and fall, marathon runners.

There are free driving guides at roadside signboards at both the avenue’s southern entrance, 6 miles north of Garberville, and at the northern entrance at Pepperwood, 35 miles south of Eureka. Along the way, numerous access points offer easy opportunities to return to the modern Highway 101.

Be sure to stop at the Humboldt Redwoods State Park visitor center near Weott, which features loads of redwood Americana, an exhibit on America’s best known birdsong imitator and an RV made from wood driven by a giant stuffed teddy bear. Note for photographers. Drive the Avenue in the morning, when sun beams filter through the early morning mist and spotlight the sparkling dewdrops on the ground ferns.

Check out the Avelo Route Map for more information on Flights to Eureka / Arcata, CA.