During any roadtrip that goes through northern California, the Avenue of the Giants is a requisite stop. This 31-mile highway used to be part of the famous 101 Highway, but now it is a can’t-miss detour.
It is hard to imagine a world without iconic Coast Redwood trees, but years of logging and development made them seem almost endangered. Dating back to the 1910s, the Save-The-Redwoods League began purchasing these plots of land dotted along the Eel River for preservation. While some stops are more tourist-y than others (including a tree you can drive a small car through, for $8), there are miles of trails, swimming holes, and idyllic picnic spots to find along the road too.
I’d highly recommend researching meticulously, down to the exact odometer mark, your stops. Service in the area was spotty, and signage wasn’t great either. We sailed right past one of the three ‘maybes’ we had on our list! Luckily, right after that was another easy hike on our list, the Drury-Chaney loop, which had decent(ish) signage. Parking for many of these hikes is just along the shoulder, and do take caution when crossing the road. Eager to stretch our legs after hours in the car, we hit the trail, a flat 2.4 mile loop.
The mid-day sun overhead quickly disappeared as the tree cover above us became a full canopy and the trees around us grew in size and number. I realize, especially when I am at best an “amateur” photographer, that saying “pictures don’t do it justice” is a bit of a cop-out. But nothing can possibly do justice to a redwood tree, you just have to see one for yourself. The sheer size, both diameter and height, is indescribable. All I could go is gawk and go, “Man, that’s a big tree.” Because they all were big trees! Big trees, felled trees whose diameter was taller than Mama Boots, giant stumps, and gargantuan nurse logs, all surrounded by ferns and clovers so lush no carpet could compete. There were tons of benches scattered about, all named for members of the Save-the-Redwoods League.
Unfortunately, time was a fickle foe. We wanted to roll into our hotel for the night before it got dark, so we couldn’t stop and gawk for hours, although, whenever we did stop, I was just blown away by something new and enormous. I felt like Alice in Wonderland after she drank the bottle that shrank her. Even the shelf fungus growing on the redwoods was almost comically oversized! I kept on looking up, up, and up, despite the trail winding around a cooling creek with charming bridges everywhere. The trail could have been a straight line out and back, for all I cared! I admit, the empty trail and the cat tracks all about did give the place a bit of a creepy feel, and the serpentine winding of the loop didn’t help.
Far too quickly, we reached the shared part of the trail that led back to the car. Were time not an issue, I would have done tons of trails along the Avenue of Giants, sat on benches along the trails, or at least doubled back to see this loop from another angle! Sadly, we climbed back into the car for an apres-hike beer and then our hotel and dinner. If you know you’ll be driving along the Avenue of the Giants, allow hours more than the time to just drive through or a quick breather of a hike–you can thank me later.
Distance: A flat 2.4 miles for the loop, with many other short hikes located along the Avenue of the Giants
Elevation: 32 feet (I told you it was flat!)
Parking: No pass required
Bathrooms: No bathrooms at this trailhead, but they are available at the visitor center for the Avenue of the Giants (hours will vary, either 9-5 or 10-4 depending on time of year)
Best Beer Bet: Eel River Brewing in Fortuna, CA is a perfect stop after this hike or others at the northern end of the Avenue of the Giants