It’s always awe-inspiring to drive and stroll through groves of majestic (300+ feet tall) and venerable (up to 15,000 years) coastal redwoods. California’s 32-mile Avenue of the Giants and Humboldt Redwoods State Park are no exception. This is the largest remaining grove of first growth redwood trees in the country.
Coastal Redwoods (sequoia sempervirens) are the tallest trees in the world at over 300 feet tall. They can live 2,000 years or more. The maritime climate along the Pacific coast from central California to southern Oregon provides the trees with the moisture, temperature, and fog (that protect them from summer drought) that they require.
Enjoying the Trees up Close
While you can see the giants from the road whizzing by in a car, the best way to really appreciate the scale of these towering giants is by getting out of the car and walking amongst them.
When strolling slowly among them, peer downward at the ferns that thrive in the damp forest floor. Then look ahead at the massive trunks which can reach 15 feet in diameter and hundreds of feet up through the sparsely leafed lower branches to the full canopies towering above. Awe at the mass of these giants. Due to their incredibly shallow root structure, rain and windstorms have caused many trees to crash to the ground.
The trees shatter as they topple to the earth. One such fallen tree is the Dyerville Giant, a 52-foot circumference, 370-foot tall tree (the height of a 30 story building) that was felled by a 1991 rain and wind storm when another giant tree, which had been knocked to an angle by another falling tree, later fell into the giant. The crash of the million pound tree was so powerful as to register on seismographs throughout the region!
And this is not to speak of the thick, gnarled layers of bark or the room-sized holes that fires have burned into still healthy trees, much less those in which fire has burned door-sized holes all the way through the center of some of another still healthy tree.
Humboldt Redwoods State Park Visitor Center is a good place to learn about coastal redwoods. Displays discuss the region’s geology, climate, and biology; and the history of development from the Yurok and Wiyot Native Americans to homestead farmers and ranchers; and the logging industry which clear-cut most of the region’s forests before most of it could be protected. And it tells the story of vaudeville celebrity and naturalist Charles Kellogg who toured the country in his famous Travel Log home which he carved from a 22-foot section of the trunk of a single, 11-foot diameter redwood tree.
The easy 1.3 mile trail is right off of Route 101. Unfortunately, the highway noise can be a major distraction. And the trail’s easy access makes this one of the most popular walks in the area. But you can’t deny the beauty of the large redwoods.
Rockefeller Loop is a short .6 mile easy walk much quieter, less populated environment.