Northern California's Avenue of the Giants

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The Avenue of the Giants pays homage to two American glories: redwood trees taller than the Statue of Liberty and tourist attractions tackier than a redwood Elvis, which you just might find on this 31-mile section of old Highway 101 in Northern California. Tiny towns line the avenue with their mammoth man-modified tree spectacles, like the hand-carved Eternal Tree House and the recently renovated One-Log House. It's hard to resist a photo of your wheels wedged into the Shrine Drive-Thru Tree, a 2,000-year-old redwood with a burned-out base larger than an SUV.

Humboldt Redwoods State Park, home of the world's largest stand of old-growth redwoods, is the star of the avenue. The 53,000-acre park boasts 20-plus trails, many of which are open to horses and bikes as well as hikers and anglers. One fern-fringed trail takes hikers by the Eel River, where osprey and great blue heron may be seen feeding; others lead to the graves of early homesteaders. Any path will put you on the sequoias' mystical stage, where splintered light nourishes a green carpet of trillium, sorrel, and sword fern.

Kitschy gift shops along the avenue carry the standard souvenirs—live burls (dormant redwood buds that look like tree knees), eau de redwood perfume, and resin-coated redwood clocks. There are no chain saw-carved bears at Stone's Redwood Gallery in Miranda, though. Fine woodworkers Ed and Cheryl Stone carve and finish redwood, buckeye, and maple into everything from cribbage boards to oil lamps. Michael Shearer, a craftsman near Miranda, sells handblown vases, perfume bottles, and sculptures at Spirit Art Glass. The artisans at both stores make their wares on the spot.

 

Where it is: Roughly 200 miles north of San Francisco, the Avenue of the Giants parallels U.S. Highway 101 from Phillipsville to Pepperwood.

  

When to go: Tourist season runs from June to September, after which many businesses close for winter.

  

Who will like it: Tree huggers, crafts lovers, children, hikers, horseback riders, and lumberjacks.

  

What's there: Gift, antique, and crafts shops; historic inns, campgrounds, motels, and RV parks; snack bars and coffee- houses; fanciful tourist-attracting trees; and virgin redwoods. For more information on Humboldt Redwoods State Park, call (707) 946-2263.

Illustration by Michael Klein

This article was first published in May 2002. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.

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