The redwoods of Coastal California are the tallest trees in the world. Redwoods extend from southern Oregon to, roughly, Monterey Bay, a distance of about 450 miles. The greatest concentration of parks devoted to them, however, is in northwest California where 4 state parks–Jedediah Smith, Del Norte Coast, Prairie Creek, and Humboldt–and Redwood National Park created in 1968 are found. If you drive Highway 101, you experience 4 of these.
According to the Northern California Lonely Planet that I found and browsed sleepily at the Requa Inn, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, the most southerly of the 5, is the best place to see them. This proved correct. Humboldt is the largest redwood park in California at 53,000 acres. Amazingly, 17,000 of these acres are old growth.
3/4 of the world’s tallest 100 trees are near the Avenue of the Giants, a 31 mile section of old Highway 101 that parallels the newer road. I highly recommend driving its entire length. A lot of it follows the Eel River, often seen far below the Avenue. A lot of the Avenue of the Giants is in Humboldt State Park, and there is access to new 101 in almost every small village if you get tired of trees or run out of time. I recommend frequent stops to experience the silence and one each at the Founder’s Grove and the visitor center 2 miles south of the hamlet of Weott. In 1918 three men, the Founders honored here, created the Save-the Redwoods League.
There were lots of alluring trails available in Humboldt too, but the day Ruth & I drove through was especially cold and grey. The trails in the Rockefeller Forest, we learned at the Visitors Center, give access to many especially giant redwoods. Down the Dyerville Loop is the Dyerville Giant. When it fell during a storm in 1991, seismographs 10 miles away reacted.
Redwoods have been around for 180 million years and are, perhaps, the world’s most fascinating trees. One of the major reasons why they concentrate here is the fog created by the Pacific Ocean. It keeps them damp even during droughts like the one California has been dealing with for the past 3 years. Redwoods normally grow to 300+ feet and can live to be 2,000 years old although most don’t see a 600th birthday. Despite their size, they have a shallow root system, so signs advise admirers not to hike among them on really windy days.