Why Everyone Should Visit the California Redwoods
If you’ve been following along, this is the third leg of my summer road trip through the Pacific Northwest. Nick and I started in San Francisco and the continued onto Santa Rosa before heading north.
On our road trip, we were faced with a serious problem. Our next planned destination was Portland but Santa Rosa and Portland are a pretty good distance from one another. We might have been able to do the 10-11 hour drive buuuuut who really wants to be in the car for that long?!? There are really only so many podcasts you can listen to.
As I was planning our route, I realized that we had the opportunity to drive through both Humboldt Redwoods State Park and Prairie Creek Redwoods Park. We’d take U.S. 101 north, which is nicknamed the Redwood Highway because, yup, it passes through the redwoods.
What are the redwoods?
Redwoods are giant trees. We’re talking massive, giant trees that tower over you. They’re indigenous to the area and often crowd out other trees. They’re incredible to see, even the ones that have fallen over to expose their giant root systems.
First reason to visit the redwoods: it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before (especially if you live on the East Coast!)
Our first adventure: the Avenue of the Giants
The first leg of our journey was from Santa Rosa to Eureka, the coastal town we would be spending the night in. If you’re travelling from Santa Rosa north, the easiest way to drive is taking the 101, but it’s very hilly and very curvy. This pregnant lady at four months along was not a fan but the views are pretty incredible.
As you drive along, you’ll eventually come along to signs for The Avenue of the Giants. This alternative small highway runs parallel to the 101 and will take you pass some “giants”: those huge redwood trees.
You do need to keep an eye out: there are two entrances to this highway. To drive the whole length, take the first exit you see (sorry, I forget the exact name of the town but it definitely says “The Avenue of the Giants” on the sign). If you miss it or want to shorten your time on the back road, take the exit at Myers Flats.
Another reason everyone should visit the California redwoods is the Avenue of Giants is the small towns, breathtaking forests, and weird roadside attractions.
Driving along there are tons of shoulders to pull off on and you’re going to want to just to take a million pictures of the trees. If you’re a hiker, there are entrances to trails scattered along the route.
The small towns are VERY small; we’re talking maybe three businesses and maybe a little convenience store or grocery. Also in these small towns are some of the quirky roadside attractions you can only find in something like the Avenue of the Giants. You might want to stop to see the One Log House in Garberville or squeeze your car through the Shrine Drive-Thru tree.
Where We Stayed: Eureka, CA
Our stay in Eureka was short so I don’t feel like I can give it a full review. When I was researching where to stay between Santa Rosa and Portland, Eureka popped up as a cute small town right on the water. It’s got clusters of Victorian homes from it’s time as a premiere vacation town along the 101, back when people did more driving vacations than flying to their destinations.
We stayed at the Eureka Inn. I chose it for its history: celebrities like Shirley Temple, Walt Disney, and Humphrey Bogart stayed there and so did U.S. presidents like Gerald Ford. It definitely has a lot of historic character like the phone booths in the lobby and the giant fireplace in the lobby. The rooms are simple and updated. It was a good place to stay the night.
We didn’t have much time to explore since we got in late and then headed out of town early the next morning. We did manage to make a quick stop to photograph the Carson Mansion, a cool mix of Victorian architecture and now a private club, and the Pink Lady, the most perfect pink home. We also grabbed dinner the night before at the Fresh Freeze, a throwback drive-in with burgers, fries, and lots of milkshakes.
Overall, Eureka is not a destination that I would return to but it was a good stop on our journey.
Our second adventure: the Trees of Mystery
If you’re looking for one can’t-miss attraction for the California redwoods, you’ll want to visit the Trees of Mystery in Klamath, CA.
The final reason everyone should visit the California redwoods is to be able to soar about the trees and realize how amazing nature is.
The Trees of Mystery is a roadside attraction right on the 101 that celebrates the redwoods in an amazing kitschy way. You’ll immediately know you’ll find it by the big Paul Bunyan statue with his friend Babe the Blue Ox right by his side.
There’s a gift shop and a motel and restaurant across the way. For $18, you can take a short hike through the redwoods and learn about what makes them some of the most interesting trees in the U.S. You’ll also get a chance to see things like the Candelabra tree, where other trees grow from its trunk, and the Chapel trees, where several trees have grown together to create a makeshift chapel. Yes, you can even get married there if you want.
The price of admission is definitely worth it for the main attraction: the Skytrail. The Skytrail is a gondola ride up above the redwoods and pine trees to a lookout platform. You feel like you’re flying above the trees and it’s really just something amazing to experience.