The Avenue of the Giants off Highway 101 in Humboldt State Park is a ride not to miss if you can. These tall, gnarly trees look beautiful from every angle whether standing or lying on the forest floor, roots on display to the world in a fantastic twisty show of earth, ferns and organic matter. The road trails through the most stunning forest of redwoods you are ever likely to see along the side of the Eel River. You will see open alluvial plains and meadows but it still a road so there is the hum of traffic .
Rockefeller Forest is the largest remaining old growth redwood forest in the world which is less than 17,000 acres with one of my top runs of my trip along the Bull Creek Flats South trail straight from the Albee Campground about a 11 mile round trip through a mesmerizing landscape of chunky trees that will hopefully outlive all of us. The bumpy, narrow Mattole Road leading to the campground follows the flat through five miles of old growth and is one of the world’s best redwood drives. The largest trees in the park are found here; of the world’s ten tallest trees, three are on Bull Creek Flats, although their exact location is a secret.
Not only so you get to see some of the tallest in the world but you are also very close to the “Lost Coast”.
The Lost Coast was one of few areas along the California coast that the highways people thought they ought to leave alone and not build a road through it, subsequently it is a wild piece of coastline with a few access roads and lots of hiking trials. The most famous is the Lost Coast Coastal Trail which is about 64 miles with camping and water along the way. Unfortunately the amount of wild fires in the area made this a less than desirable hike for us! You don’t have to hike all of this and can break it down into smaller hikes of course. There are also mountain biking trails which are due to be ready by autumn 2008 too.
How to get there
This is 45 miles south of Eureka and 20 miles north of Garberville off of Highway 101.
Where to Stay
We loved No.33 in Albee Campground. This campground is much more remote than the others in the park and has tonnes of trails straight from the campground. This site looks out across a meadow which has a little apple orchard in it – a favourite of the local black bears in late season.
Trees hold a supernatural quality for me and the sequoia’s did nothing for my childish daydreams of magic forests carpeted in ferns and inhabited by goblins. In the case of the sequoia’s the goblins do not have to be very small as some of the trees are as big as my old flat in England (but that’s not saying much). This is really two national parks joined together by some national forest so sometimes it gets confusing as to what area you are in. This park hosts Mt. Whitney which at14,496.811 feet is the tallest mountain in the “lower 48” states however, you cannot really see the mountain from the entrance to the park on the west side. You can see it and access it from 0.7 mile (17.1 km) trail from Whitney Portal, 13 miles (21 km) west of the town of Lone Pine which has the great Diaz Lake Campground with about 200 sites including space for large RV’s down by the riverside. It’s cheap at $10 a night and looks out at the eastside of the NP. However, we were more interested in camping in the park and discovered that getting to Sequoia and Kings Canyon NP by vehicle was a little tricky as there are no roads running though the park. If you are in the east side of the mountains then you have to drive around the park to get into the westerly entrance. But getting there is worth it to see what little remains of these majestic groves of Sequoia trees and access to Kings Canyon.
The largest tree (in terms of volume) in the world is General Sherman which is located in this park and is a site to behold, but it is hard to really get the scale of these giants of the forest as you stand there staring up into the sky at them. I can’t help but feel sadness too that we have hacked down so much of our old growth forests although there is still alot of campaigning with Campaign for Old Growth amongst others.
Due to the relative remoteness of the park it is easy to get away from the few people that are there who are mostly looking at the more famous trees on short hikes or driving through the park.
View into Kings Canyon
A beautiful trail for hiking or running is the Ridge trail, this was one of our top runs as it gently undulates up and down on single track and some forestry road. Another stunning trail which you can get on direct from the Azalea Campground which was our favourite camping spot, is the Sunset Meadow trail but be ready for alot of downhill and then uphill.
How to get there
Nearest airport is Fresno
To enter Sequoia Park: From highways 65 or 99, go east on Highway 198 to the park entrance.
To enter Kings Canyon National Park:From Highway 99, go east on Highway 180 to the park entrance.
The main park road, the Generals Highway, connects these two entrances.