Avenue of the Giants

Humboldt Redwoods State Park

There is a short stretch of road weaving through Humboldt Redwoods State Park in northern California called Avenue of the Giants. Here you can experience the largest contiguous old-growth redwood forest in the world.

 

Avenue of the Giants Wikipedia

Humboldt Redwoods State Park

 

It is on this 31-mile (51 km) section, State Route 254, where time stands still. Humans and their twenty-first century vehicles are dwarfed by 300-foot trees. And cell phones and voices are silenced by the towering behemoths that speak volumes…without words.

Athena with one redwood

 

Humboldt Redwoods State Park

Located near Garberville, California, it is approximately 200 miles (320 km) north of San Francisco, easily accessed via Highway 101.

 

Found only in coastal California and the southern Oregon coast, the old-growth redwood forests thrive in a temperate coniferous ecoregion.

 

As the tallest and one of the most massive tree species on Earth, Sequoia sempervirons live an average of 800 to 1,500 years; some have been documented at 2,000 years old. (The Coastal redwood, discussed here, is a different species than the Sierra redwood, Sequoia giganteum.)

 

Coastal redwoods are reliant on the moisture of the fog, usually growing a mile or two from the Pacific Ocean, and never more than 50 miles from it.

 

The strip of today’s existing old-growth redwoods extends north along the coast from the Big Sur area south of San Francisco to the southwestern corner of Oregon.

 

As recent as 1850 there were two million acres (8,100 km2) of redwood trees on California’s coast. Then with the discovery of gold came a burgeoning population, building needs, and unrestricted redwood logging.

 

Today there are 110,000 acres of remaining old-growth redwood forests.

 

Fortunately conservationists began efforts in the 1920s to protect this unique and ancient tree. More information: Save the Redwoods League.

 

Avenue of the Giants parallels the main highway, and offers a serene drive for people of all ages. In addition to cruising past the tall trees, there are many interesting massive redwoods that have toppled or succumbed to lightning. Giant rootballs as big as a car, mossy old limbs, trees hollowed out by natural decay over the centuries.

 

Founders Tree

Founders Tree, 1,400 years old, Avenue of the Giants

 

Many times I have witnessed a person going right up to a redwood and instinctively embracing it, leaning their whole body against it. I’ve done it plenty of times.

 

There are some old trees you can drive through and other touristy attractions (see the end), but my favorite activity  is hiking the forest. The presence of these trees and their long-lived existence remind me of the perspective of life, its cycles, and all of Earth’s creatures.

 

Jet pointing out the year of her birth…so young in comparison

Redwood rings tagged with dates. Fourth one from R is when the pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620. First tag near center is the year 1000.

 

There is something inherently relaxed and slow about the old redwoods.

 

With the canopy hundreds of feet in the air, the understory is quiet, accompanied by occasional thrushes or songbirds hopping on the ground…nothing as frenetic as, say, a tropical rainforest.

 

Even the ground is soft and hushed. Each step you take on the reddish-orange duff is cushioned by decades of fallen needles.

 

Ferns and shamrock-shaped sorrel comprise the understory, and in summer there are occasional native rhododendrons.

 

Great website with more information about hiking California’s old-growth redwoods: redwoodhikes.com.

 

There is a renewal that we find when we visit the redwoods, as if we are being embraced by hundred-year-old ancestors sharing the wisdom of the centuries.

 

Written by Jet Eliot.

Photos by Athena Alexander unless otherwise specified.

For one dollar you can visit this one-log redwood house in Garberville; created in 1946 from a 2,100-year-old tree that fell from natural causes.

 

One-Log House interior

 

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107 thoughts on “Avenue of the Giants

  1. Athena standing against that giant tree trunk and you pointing out the year of your birth in the tree rings really puts things into perspective from a human point of view. They are truly a magnificent and beautiful miracle of nature that I feel humbled by. Thanks for sharing your visit with us Jet 🙂

    • Yes, it was important to get human bodies next to the trees to demonstrate the size, so you could see. It’s impossible to imagine a tree so huge! Trees this size are also difficult to photograph, not only for getting one whole tree into the viewfinder, but also because there is not always a lot of light. I agree with you, Alastair, the old redwoods are humbling. I’m really glad you enjoyed the visit today, thank you, as always.

  2. I loved the photos of Athena standing in front of the massive redwood and you pointing to your ‘birth ring’ which is mere minutes in a rewood’s relative life cycle! I agree that walking amongst these giants is so serene and awe inspiring!

    • The sheer size of these trees is astounding, isn’t it, Dave? I am so glad you and Sue have had the honor of visiting the California old-growth redwoods. My best to you both for a happy weekend. Thanks so much for the visit today.

    • This park is one of my favorite places to go when celebrating a birthday, Jan, for that very reason: you feel so young! I imagined you had been here, because you are a traveler and Bay Area denizen, but I am always glad to hear when you have visited any of the places I mention. My thanks, Jan, for your visit today. We share many favorite places in common.

  3. I hope these trees are far away from any danger of forest fire. They are really precious. Their age is mind-boggling when you realize these trees were around when the Americas were first being discovered and settled by Europeans.

    • When I was there last month that was my thought too, Anneli, hoping they are free of fire danger…it’s the first time this thought has ever occurred to me there, in spite of visiting dozens and dozens of times over decades. But alas, no forest is free from fire danger; we hope, and many people revere them, so I would guess there is a plan in place. Thanks for your visit today.

  4. What a great wonder — these trees are so magnificent. They really put the wow in wonder and like you said you just want to hug them. Great write-up and photos and thanks for sharing

    • Oh so great to hear from you, dear Bill, thanks so much for your visits and comments every single Friday. Sometime I hope you get to visit this wonder, I know you would love it.

  5. These trees are incredible! I love the shots with you and Athena to give us a true prospective of the massive size of the trees. Thank you for educating us and for sharing your magnificent photos, Jet. Happy Weekend!

  6. I love Avenue of Giants and redwoods, no matter where they grow. 🙂 There is something sacred I feel when standing in the midst of these ancient trees. The first time I saw them I cried! It is hard to believe that so many were felled without a thought to how special they were. I’m a member of Save the Redwoods, a worthy non-profit that works to preserve and acquire more groves from development.

    • I love hearing that you’re a member of Save the Redwoods, Eliza, that is great. And crying the first time you saw the Giants says a lot, they induce that kind of magic, and as you say, they are sacred. Warmest thanks for this comment, much enjoyed.

  7. Thank you Jet for this beautiful post and awesome photos.
    How I would love to see and walk among these wonderous trees. How much
    they can give and teach us.
    Isn’t the On-log house fantastic. What a beautiful idea. Would love to find
    out who conceived of the idea.

    Miriam

    • I am pleased that you enjoyed the old redwoods, Miriam. I hope you do get a chance to see one up-close sometime. The one-log house website is under construction, or I would look up who originally conceived of the idea. The house moved around different parts of the U.S. for many years, on exhibit, and now it is permanently settled there in Garberville. Thank you.

  8. These trees leave us with such a sense of wonder – it’s like looking up at a sky full of stars. I haven’t been to the Avenue of the Giants, but have been awed at the Muir Woods sanctuary of redwoods. The majesty of these trees is magnificent. Wonderful post, Jet.

    • I am truly thrilled that you have had the honor, Bertie, of visiting the old redwoods. I remember you telling me how very much you enjoyed experiencing the redwoods up in Garberville…brings a smile to my face. Thank you, my friend — cheers to you.

    • Thank you, Donna, I’m glad you enjoyed the redwoods post. It’s not a particularly birdy place, as the trees are so tall, but oh, I know you would enjoy it just for the magnificence of the trees. My warm thanks.

  9. Loved this little tour of the giant redwoods, Jet. Words fail to describe the wonder of these trees that humble any sane person privileged to wander in their presence… But, again, your post brings us to the beauty on this planet.

    • Always a treat to receive your words, Walt, they gave me serenity, for I do strive to bring the beauty of this planet to my followers, just like you do. And am thrilled to hear that this has been a success. Warmest thanks, my friend.

  10. My first visit to these redwoods was memorable for two reasons. Primary was the trees, of course, but I also experienced a stronger than usual earthquake while staying in a Garberville motel. Great memories.
    I’m not certain in which month we were there, but it was rainy, and dim among the trees, and there weren’t any other people around. My traveling companion stepped behind one of those great trees while I wasn’t looking, and when I turned around, I had the sudden sensation of being entirely alone among them. I wasn’t precisely frightened, but there was such a strong sense of presence, I caught my breath. Perhaps it was the spirit of the trees that I experienced for just a moment.

    I’ll confess I was glad that that trickster of a fellow traveler didn’t make me wait more than five minutes before he reappeared!

    • I thoroughly enjoyed reading your Avenue of the Giants experiences, Linda. The spirit of the trees is profound, I am glad you experienced it; and interesting that it hit you when your friend vanished. And how great you were there when there weren’t many people, that heightens the experience. Then being in Garberville during a strong earthquake–well that just tops it all. The earth was definitely talking to you on that trip, Linda…and how cool is that!?!

  11. I see from previous comments that I’m not alone in the sacred feeling I get in the groves of these majestic beings. There’s a hush and a stillness that takes over the usual pace we endure in our everyday lives. I’m not certain, but I think I’m a bit closer to these groves than you are. I think another visit is needed sometime soon. Try to include the Trillium Falls hike in the spring if you have a chance. It’s my favorite when the Trilliums are blooming!

    • Great to receive your comment, Gunta, as always. Here in the Bay Area we have Muir Woods, old-growth redwoods that average 500-800 years old, that is close to where I live. But I prefer not to go there because it is touristy. I’m glad people from all over the world get to visit redwoods there, but it is not serene with so many people, and it’s gotten so crowded that you have to make reservations just to park! So, I do have a few hours drive up to Humboldt, and I would guess you are closer. It is always heaven when I get there, and I know you have this experience too. I’m really glad to get the heads-up on Trillium Falls hike in the spring. Thanks so much, Gunta. Great exchange, my humble thanks.

  12. How nice to read about ancient trees. I’m fond of birds and trees. I have been to the Sequoia Forest near Visalia. I felt like I was in another world, such big trees! So beautiful! Thank you my friend for your great post. 🙂

    • Yes, I know exactly what you mean, HJ. When you enter one of the Sequoia forests, you do feel like you’re in another world. Everything slows down, quiets, and simplifies. I am so glad you have had the joys of the sequoias, my friend. Thanks so much for your visit, always a treat.

  13. A short stretch of road but what an experience with the redwood forest. I can just imagine the silence you speak of over there – massive trees dwarfing anything that comes their way. Love the shot of you pointing to your year of birth and these trees certainly have been around. Love the last couple of shots and how the 2,100 year old tree was preserved into something very creative. So cozy in there 🙂

    • I am glad I could share with you the beauty and peace of the old redwoods, Mabel. Yes, that little home inside the tree, it is, as you say, so creative. My warmest thanks for your visit.

  14. I love the opening photo with the giant tree against the intensely blue sky. I’ve seen the giant redwoods only once many, many years ago. I still remember the experience which bordered on magical. If I ever get a chance to hike through them, I will jump at it!!

    • I like that photo, too, Joanne. That opening photo was taken in the summer, and often we are there in the winter when there is less light in general. Even though you witnessed the giant redwoods many years ago, I find it telling that you still remember the magic of the experience. Always a joy to “see” you, thank you for your visit.

    • As you are a photographer, you can imagine the difficulty of capturing these enormous trees in the viewfinder, Michael Stephen. I hope you do visit the redwoods one day, and when you do, bring all your lenses. 😉 Thanks so much for your visit and comment, much appreciated.

    • Hi Hien, I hope you do get a chance to visit the redwoods one day. You come out to the west coast fairly frequently, so maybe there will be a time. They are not the best trees for birdwatching (so tall), but all the immense beauty of the redwoods fills in that gap without a pause. My warm thanks.

  15. A one log house! What a pleasant surprise at the end. Will have to put this on my bucket list for when we get to the west coast.

    My son is currently chilling out giant sequoia seeds in the fridge to ready them for planting in our yard (!!). He’s REALLY into sequoias and redwoods at the moment .. will show him your post this morning. Have a great weekend, Jet!

    • Oh how I love this story of your son and the giant sequoia seeds, Shannon. As the redwoods prefer cool weather and plenty of fog, I’m thinking Texas might not work so well. But what a cool project for him to engage in. And yes, definitely take him to visit the old-growth redwoods in California. He will love it, as I imagine all your intrepid, adventurous, out-doorsy kids (and parents) will. A delight to “see” you today, thank you.

    • Always a pleasure, Andrea, to receive your splendid words, thank you. It is impossible to imagine trees this large and venerable, but I am glad I could bring them to you “across the pond.” Gracious thanks.

    • And you and I have both been rather terrorized by the recent incineration of trees, Sharon, so I am glad I could share with you the magnificence of trees too…and yes, the perspective of life. A smiling thank you for your visit.

  16. Giant redwoods are awe inspiring. I saw some back in the late 70’s in California. Old growth forests are like cathedrals. Places to reflect and feel renewed. Happy holidays to you and yours.

  17. The giant Redwoods are truly magnificent, aren’t they?! We visited Redwoods National Park and at least a half dozen of the Redwoods state parks a couple of months ago. I’m so glad I happened upon your blog. Beautiful, thanks for sharing your travels with us!

  18. Speaking volumes…without words. Absolutely – if only more of us would take the time to hug a tree, and listen to what it is telling us. We’ve spent more time this weekend in a logged out area than we’d choose to, searching for Scout, and can’t believe how blasted and barren things look after the trees are ripped out. It has to be seen to be believed…
    We hope you’ve had a good weekend.

    • We have a neighbor who elected to sell his fire-ravaged trees to a logging company; every day I drive past it, and I agree with you, pc, it is shocking to see trees ripped and bulldozed, and the forest in more of a shambles than what the fire did. So, yes, that’s why we take such refuge in these magnificent surviving old-growth redwoods. Glad you enjoyed the post, and I hope your week ahead has some sweetness. My warmest thanks, as always.

  19. Pingback: Avenue of the Giants — Jet Eliot | huggers.ca

  20. Are they the biggest trees in the world ? look at you in front of that second photo, the tree is very huge.
    I’ve seen many trees here in many provinces, but I’ve never seen something huge like that. It’s amazing. Thanks for sharing it with us. 🙂

  21. Thank you for sharing the magnificence and majesty of these century-old towering trees. I hope to be able to embrace a giant redwood someday. if only they could talk, i’d love to hear their story. as always great blog and photos. thanks, again 🙂

    • The longer one stands in their presence, the more you hear what they’re saying. It’s like a cathedral in these forests, and we all seem to be quiet and listen to their story, it’s remarkable. I am so glad I could share the redwoods with you, Lola. Great to see you, and have a happy tropical holiday.

  22. Wonderful post and images, Jet. I love this place – magical and amazing. Great shot of Athena who is usually on the other side of the lens. It makes me sad when I think about the loss of these giants and so thankful that the remaining have been preserved. Happy holidays to you and yours!

    • I’m really glad you’ve enjoyed the old redwoods, Jane, and it makes me sad too knowing much of them have been lost. But yes, we are lucky to have had the fortune of so many people before us who were devoted to preserving the redwoods. My warmest thanks for your visit.

    • You know the peace and tranquility of hiking among the redwoods, David, we are both lucky to have experienced this. You, too, have relaxed and pleasant holidays, and thank you for a year of sweet exchanges.

  23. GREAT post and photos! Love You as our tour guide! I’ve been there and LOVE those trees. Got to get my man out that way some day. He would absolutely flip a gasket! Thank You and Cheers!!! 🙂

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