We have our fair share of giant trees on Vancouver Island. So seeing large trees may no longer phase you. You might, however, still be pleasantly surprised at the stunning sight of the grand Sequoias in Northern California.
Exploring the Redwood Forest is definitely something that one should not miss out on!
Viewing trees is always a highlight for our little family. So on our road trip to San Diego, we decided to take the long route in order to drive through the Redwood Forest. Even though it added miles to our trip, ducking off the I5 to the 101 was definitely worth it!
We were in awe of how small we felt looking up at these big beauties.
Located on the coast of northern California, the Redwood National and State Parks are where you will find old-growth temperate rainforests. The four parks, together, protect 45% of all remaining coast redwood. These trees happen to be the tallest, and one of the most massive, tree species on Earth.
If that isn’t enough reason to visit, I don’t know what is!
Places to Visit while Exploring the Redwood Forest
If you have time to stop along your journey, there are several tourist attractions that are worthy of visiting.
The Trees of Mystery
Although at first glance it looks like you are in the heart of a tourist trap, the Trees of Mystery is honestly worth the stop and price of admission. You will meet Paul Bunyan and his blue ox Babe, and follow along with their story. A highlight for the kids is the fact that you can carry on a real conversation with the fabled giant!
The 8/10ths of a mile groomed interpretative trail, through part of the Redwood Forest, leads you to the SkyTrail. This is where you will enter a 9-minute gondola ride which raises you 571 feet through the trees!
Drive the Avenue of Giants
Once we left the Trees of Mystery the kids were eager to get up close and personal with the real giants of the forest, so we travelled along the 32-mile Avenue of Giants (also known as State Route 254), which is adjacent to Highway 101. There are plenty of hikes and/or walks of varying difficulty and length along the route, and they are all very well mapped out, and easy to find.
Drive Through a Redwood
Have you ever wanted to drive your vehicle through the middle of a tree? Well, you can!
While you are exploring the Redwood Forest, there are three spots for you to do so. However, they are all privately owned and you will be charged an entry fee.
#1: Shrine Tree – located in Myers Flat (on the Avenue of Giants). Unlike the other two drive-thru-trees, the opening of this tree was created primarily by nature. Unfortunately, this means it is also the tree with the smallest opening, and only compact cars will fit through.
A few other highlights of this area:
- There is also a “Drive-On” tree, which is basically a ramp up to a fallen giant that you are allowed to drive over.
- A walk-through stump and two mini-playhouses, imaginatively carved from hollowed redwood trunks that the kids can enjoy.
- An on-site gift shop
#2: Chandelier Tree (as seen in the photo above) – located in Leggett, this redwood is named because of the enormous branches balanced on either side of the trunk, much like a giant chandelier (if you were to look at it upside down).
- Most vehicles, other than motorhomes or ones pulling trailers, will fit through this tree.
- There is also a gift shop, day-use picnic area, duck pond, and a 200-acre park with resident deer and forest trails.
Tour Thru Tree
#3: Tour Thru Tree – this tree is located in Klamath. In 1976 a tunnel was carved through the tree, which had been scarred by a forest fire. The carvers made sure to carefully avoid critical areas of living wood, hence the reason it is still standing.
- This area also has an RV Park and Campground, which features showers, a store, fuel options, office services and WiFi.
Places to Camp
We tried to camp within the Redwood Forest but were out of luck due to it being a Friday night and completely full. So if you, too, wish to camp among the giants, it is advisable to phone ahead and make reservations.
The Redwood National and State Park provides four different options for you:
- Jedediah Smith Campground – Situated in a magnificent old-growth redwood grove on the banks of the wild and scenic Smith River.
- Mill Creek Campground – Sleep beneath towering maples, alders, and young coast redwoods, with access to Mill Creek, miles of varied hiking trails, and seasonal ranger-led programs.
- Elk Prairie Campground – Enjoy ancient coast redwoods, grazing Roosevelt elk and black-tailed deer in Elk Prairie, easy access to over 70 miles of hiking and biking trails, and seasonal ranger-led programs.
- Gold Bluffs Beach Campground – Experience the wild Pacific coastline and grazing Roosevelt elk in this campground, with easy access to a secluded stretch of beach, Fern Canyon, and 70 miles of hiking and biking trails.
Please check the Redwood National and State Park website for current information, alerts and updates.
We were able to find a campsite just outside the forest’s limits at Patrick’s Point State Park. A very nice (typical) State Park – much like our very own Provincial Parks – fully treed, and a little rustic.
Patrick’s Point campground comes with spectacular ocean scenery too.
If camping isn’t your thing, stay at a hotel in nearby Klamath or Orick.
Or, better yet, rent a nearby vacation home!
If you are staying in San Fransico and looking for a day trip to the Redwood Forest, there are a few options for you.
- Private day tour
- Muir Woods Tour (Small Group)
- Big Bus Group Tour
If you ever get a chance to drive through the Redwood Forest you won’t be disappointed. It’s truly a spectacular sight!
Tell me, have you been? Did you drive straight through, or stay for a few days?
Let me know in the comments below.
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