Sure, you can simply stick your head out the window of your car to see towering trees lining Avenue of the Giants, a 32-mile/52-km-long, redwood-trimmed stretch of Highway 101. But we strongly suggest you pull over, get out, smell the piney air, hear the burbling creeks and rivers, and look way, way up to truly appreciate these amazing trees, as well as the emerald-green habitat where they live.
Conveniently, there are plenty of places to do that along the way, most notably in 53,000-acre/21,448-hectare Humboldt Redwoods State Park. Avenue of the Giants actually runs right through the park, so you can easily turn off to explore on an assortment of loop trails, like the 7.5-mile/12-km Bull Creek Loop, which lets you get a mini-glimpse of the remarkable Rockefeller Forest, home to the world’s 2nd, 4th, 6th, and 8th tallest trees. Also visit Founders Grove, honoring the people behind the formation of Save the Redwoods League in 1918, an organization that played a critical in the permanent protection of these remarkable trees.
Romance finds a home in this idyllic coastal region, where ocean fog rolls in from the ocean to blanket hushed redwood forests, and whales spout offshore. Along the coast, artists set up their easels to paint scenes of crashing surf and whitewashed cottages wrapped in rose-filled gardens.
Each year, December through May, look to the sea to witness roughly 15,000 gray whales swimming south for the summer.
It’s also a place where a new generation of farmers and winemakers focus on preserving the land as well as producing amazing food and wine. Favorite escapes include the romantic hamlet of Mendocino, roughly a 3-hour drive up the coast from San Francisco, and Eureka, a former logging town 2 hours further north, and the gateway to breathtaking Redwoods National and State Parks.
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