The highlight of our trip took us down 101 and 1 on the coast through the Redwoods. The Redwoods National and State Parks (RNSP) are comprised of the Redwoods National Park and 3 California State Parks, jointly managed by the NPS and California State Parks. The entire park runs about 50mi along the coast from Crescent City to Trinidad.
Even if your heart's fluttered from seeing the Redwoods in Planet Earth or Life, beholding the sheer volume of trees in RNSP will take your breath away. The coastal Redwoods are the tallest trees in the world, reaching nearly 400ft tall and 26ft in diameter. Giant Sequoias found in the Sierras are relatives, but slightly shorter at about 300ft tall and 30ft in diameter. The smaller 140ft tall, 6ft diameter Dawn Redwood is found in China, dating back to Jurassic period when the continents were joined.
In the late 1800s, extensive logging nearly took out the entire Coastal Redwoods; RNSP protects the remaining 4% (!!) of what used to exist. This small amount of original forest is called old growth. In the mid-1900s, many conservation groups replanted redwood forests, which are known as new growth.
Redwoods National Park
We started our Redwood tour from Crescent City, where the park headquarters is--I highly suggest stopping at a ranger station and picking rangers' brains about what to see. We learned so much about the ecosystems from a 10min conversation.
Simpson-Reed Grove: Old Growth
The Simpson-Reed Grove is in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. There's a 1 mile nature trail through old growth, which is characterized by a spectrum of different aged trees from saplings to a couple thousand years old. Much of the growth comes from nursery logs, trees that have fallen and become homes for new trees. The forest floor is thick with ferns and young trees.
Stout Grove: River Growth
The Stout Grove is also in Jedediah Park, but sits on a river bed. The 0.5 mile nature walk also takes you through old growth, but the river keeps the forest floor washed out and more open, with very few of the nursery logs that you find farther from the river.
Howland Hill Road: New Growth
The scenic 10 mile Howland Hill Road goes through the heart of Jedediah Park and links it to 101 in Crescent City. Most of the drive is through old growth, and at some points the landscape dramatically changes to new growth, where all the trees are young and identical in height.
To get down to the southern parks like Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, take Newton Drury Scenic Pkwy. You'll find a ton more hiking and elk herds in open fields. Logging leveled many of the forest here, and you can find areas where there's distinct lines between field and forest.
Avenue of the Giants
70 miles south of RNSP is Humboldt Redwoods State Park and one of our favorite drives (and romantic and reminiscent--it was our first stop on our first road trip to Squamish nearly 6 years ago). Avenue of the Giants, which used to be the old 101, now snakes in and out of 101 for about 30 miles. At either end, stop to pick up an auto tour brochure. There's tons of points to pull over along the route with marked signs and nature walks.
The Drury/Chaney Grove at stop #8 rivals "The Best 3 mile Hike in the World" in Bryce Canyon. It's a 2.4 mile nature walk through redwood forest that's carpeted with clovers and ferns as far as you can see into the forest.
We didn't find any 4-leaf clovers.
You want to go running through the forest floor until you realize that you're farther south and there's giant Poison Oak running hundreds of feet up the redwoods.
We have a new goal for our future acreage back yard.
The rest of the drive down was along 1. It's not for the feint of heart for carsick-inducing winding road, but it's pretty gorgeous.
At times I almost thought the blue seas and sheer cliffs could be Hawaii, then you look the other way and realize there's redwood forest right up to the cliffs.
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