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The Redwood Coast - California

For the hundreds of thousands of visitors who come to Humboldt County each year, the huge trees are the main attraction on a drive along Highway 101. North of Leggett, before you see the Humboldt County line, the Standish-Hickey State Recreation Area marks the southern entrance to Redwood country and from this point north, Highway 101 becomes the main street leading to the redwoods parks of Humboldt and Del Norte counties.

Between Leggett and Piercy, Smithe Redwoods State Reserve protects a grove of old-growth redwoods. Just across the Humboldt County line, Richardson Grove State Park offers both the Eel River for recreation and an outstanding 2,000-acre redwood forest. Along the highway are shops selling burl products and the first of several drive-through trees.

Redwood Parks

Humboldt Redwoods State Park is an accessible and huge (51,000 acres) forest which is accessed by turning off Hwy. 101 and taking the Avenue of the Giants (Route 254), which winds through the park, passing several small communities. There's a visitor center along the Avenue. This park alone could prompt a vacation of several days&emdash;swimming and fishing in the Eel River, camping, hiking the park trails and relaxing in several historic and comfortable inns along the way, beginning with the renowned Benbow Inn, just south of Garberville, which is the main tourist center for the area.

Redwood National Park is a tribute to the foresighted preservation-minded people who lobbied for many years, and the state and federal governments, who worked together to preserve the best of the northern Coast Redwood groves. This unusual park includes three self-contained state parks as well as the connecting pieces under federal control. The main visitor information center is at the southern entrance, just south of the town of Orick and about 40 miles north of Eureka. Lady Bird Johnson Grove offers an easy two-mile loop walk to some very tall trees.

About 10 miles north of Orick is Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, first seen as a wide meadow. Here there's a visitor center and museum with information on the park's hiking trails, camping and fishing possibilities. The One-mile Revelation Trail is a self-guided trail, planned for the handicapped. The Fern Canyon Trail is a wonderful five-mile walk through lush ferns and tall redwoods.

There are 28 miles of walking trails in Del Norte Redwoods State Park, just south of Crescent City. The northern information center is in Crescent City, at 1111 2nd Street. Continuing the drive north via Hwy. 101, the last of the state parks within the national park is Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, 9,560 acres reached by taking U.S. Highway 199 east for 9 miles.

Avenue of the Giants

Since Europe's medieval age, the redwoods of Humboldt Redwoods State Park have been the silent sentinels of northwest California. The Avenue of the Giants, a route that parallels U.S. Hwy. 101, weaves in and out of the forest groves leading visitors to gaze in awe at these giant sequoias -- many of which have been standing here since before the birth of Christ. The 101 freeway speeds you past these impressive groves, but to get the true feeling of majesty in this forest, you must take the Avenue of the Giants.

We have come here again and again, as have millions of other visitors to the Humboldt redwoods. Yet even with all the tourist activity, the forest is so vast that the human element is lost in its space and grandeur.

The Avenue of the Giants has its southern entrance off Hwy. 101 just south of Phillipsville at Sylvandale and runs for 31 miles to the north exit/entrance south of Scotia.

Along the way, there are several small villages that offer tourist services: burl shops, cafes, stores and a few rustic inns and resorts. North of Miranda at Myers Flat, the Shrine Drive-Thru Tree is a popular spot -- the result of a fire that burned through the bottom of the 2,000 year old tree, leaving a hole large enough to drive through.

Opposite Founder's Grove a turnoff leads into Rockefeller Forest, another must-see collection of tall trees. It is a forest rather than a grove, and there are hiking trails throughout this large preserve.

Accommodations are available in the small towns along the route, or in Garberville, on Highway 101.

Where to Stay -- Hotel Guide

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Redwood Coast, California

At Miranda, Miranda Gardens Resort (707-943-3011) has 16 cottages nestled in the forest along with a heated pool and whirlpools ($$ to $$$). Whispering Pines Lodge (707-943-3182) is on the Avenue with rooms, suites with kitchens and a heated pool .

Weott is the closest town to the park visitor center and Founder's Grove. The Sequoia Motel in Weott (707-946-2276) has standard units close to a store and walking trails by the Eel River ($). Redcrest, to the north, has several places to stay including the Redcrest Motor Inn (707-722-4208) which has cabins, a motel, store, cafe and a campground .

The Avenue of the Giants exits to U.S. Highway 101 just south of the mill town of Scotia. Rio Dell is the neighboring town across the highway and most of the tourist facilities are in Rio Dell. However, if you have an interest in old hotels, Scotia is the place to go. The Scotia Inn (707-764-5683) is an historic building in this town owned by the Pacific Lumber Company. The inn, which opened in 1888, serves dinners Wednesdays through Sundays, however it is currently closed for renovations. The company offers a self-guided visitor tour that includes a visit to their museum.

For availabilities at state park campgrounds in the area, call 800-444-PARK, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., seven days a week.

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