This West Coast Scenic Drive Is Home To The Tallest Trees In The World

Deep in the heart of Northern California, four hours north of San Francisco, there's an enchanting drive that feels worlds away from the city. Avenue of the Giants in Humboldt County, is a 31-mile stretch that earned its name from the towering old-growth redwood trees that frame each side of the avenue, often reaching 300 to 350 feet tall. For context, that's about the height of a 35-story skyscraper. The average redwood trunk is so thick, in fact, that you'd need eight people to create a circle around it, according to Save the Redwoods League. Put simply, these are not your everyday trees.

The coastal redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) get their name from the reddish hue of their bark, a stunning contrast to the sea of green ferns you'll see along the trails. After decades of logging in the 1800s, what remains in Humboldt is 5% of the original forest, with some trees dating back to 2,000 years ago. While the scenic drive is beautiful all year round, it's especially charming in the fall with the changing foliage and wind-swept leaves lining the road. Oh, and do keep your eyes peeled for Bigfoot, as this is said to be his territory, as noted by the Humboldt County Visitors Bureau. You'll find plenty of nods to this mysterious creature in the gift shops dotted along the way. With trees this magnificent, can you really blame him for sticking around?

Things to do along Avenue of the Giants

Avenue of the Giants is easy to spot from Highway 101, with several signs directing you off the main highway. Right after Garberville, take the exit at Phillipsville to start the scenic drive. About 15 minutes in, you'll spot the Shrine Tree, a fun attraction where you can drive through a redwood. A few minutes north, you'll find the Humboldt Redwoods State Park Visitors Center, which offers a great overview of the forest with interactive displays and wildlife exhibits.

As you wind along the Eel River, the avenue will take you past many trails and scenic vistas worth exploring. Founder's Grove Loop Trail gives visitors an up-close view of the Dyerville Giant. This goliath measured 362 feet tall and weighed more than a million pounds before it fell over in 1991. You can still walk the length of the log for a true sense of scale. Nearby is also the Founders' Tree (364 feet), previously thought to be the world's tallest tree until Hyperion (380 feet) was discovered in an off-trail part of the forest. Note: trekking off trail to see Hyperion is not permitted.

Up near Redcrest, The Immortal Tree is another popular tourist spot. In its 950-year lifespan, this durable redwood has survived multiple lightning strikes, fires, a historic flood, and an attempt to chop it down. To this day, you can still see the axe marks. It's a fun spot to snap photos, have a picnic, and visit Burl n' Drift Redwood Gifts & Souvenirs, a treasure trove of gifts made from salvaged wood.

Nearby accommodations and attractions

Though this region is remote, there are motels and inns along the avenue in the towns of Myers Flat, Miranda, and Red Crest. If you need more time with the redwoods (understandably) or you're road tripping on a budget, the Burlington campground, Hidden Springs campground, and Albee Creek campground are all solid tent camping options. If you're a visitor driving through with an RV, check out the Ancient Redwoods RV Park or Stafford RV Park. The peace and quiet in this neck of the woods is otherworldly. At night you'll be falling asleep in no time.

At the north end of the avenue, Eureka and the surrounding areas have plenty of restaurants, accommodations, and entertainment options to round out your perfect road trip. It's also your chance to explore redwood trees from the canopy 100 feet above the ground at the Redwood SkyWalk. While you're here, don't miss a stroll through Old Town, the Carson Mansion, and the Lost Coast Brewery. If you're around on a Saturday, the Arcata Farmer's Market is a must-see, along with the Hatchet House where you can try your hand at throwing axes, Lumberjack-style. Round out your itinerary with an outdoor soak at the Finnish Country Sauna and Tubs. Come for the trees, stay for the good vibes all around.