Your Guide to Visiting the Avenue of the Giants in Northern California

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Open road through the Avenue of the Giants in California.

THIS ULTIMATE GUIDE TO THE STUNNING AVENUE OF THE GIANTS IN NORTHERN CALIFORNIA COVERS EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT DRIVING THIS FAMOUS REDWOOD ROUTE.

 



Hidden up in the far reaches of Northern California is a drive so pretty that it is worth delaying your road trip by at least a couple of hours. No seriously, in our opinion, the Avenue of the Giants is one of the most scenic highways in the whole USA (sorry Big Sur). Spanning a distance of 32 miles, this narrow two-lane route is a great way to explore the beautiful coastal redwood groves that dot the Northern California region.


The scenic drive is done almost entirely in Humboldt Redwoods State Park, which was established by the Save the Redwoods League in 1921. Most of the land that was eventually protected, was purchased from the Pacific Lumber Company - which was once one of California's biggest logging and sawmill operations (it was even nicknamed the Redwood Empire). Today, Humboldt Redwoods State Park protects 51,651 acres of beautiful land. Including, the famous Rockefeller Grove, which is presently the largest remaining contiguous old-growth forest of coast redwoods in the world.


Within those 50,000+ acres, of which 17,000 acres is made up of old-growth redwood forest (the largest expanse of ancient redwoods left on the planet) you can find more than 100 coast redwood trees that reach over 350 feet (110 meters) in height; including, the 4th-tallest measured living redwood - the Stratosphere Giant - which was measured at just over 370 feet (or 113 meters) in 2004. In fact, up until the mid-2000s, the Stratosphere Giant was thought to be the tallest known living redwood tree in the world. It wasn't until the discovery of three taller trees in the nearby Redwood National and State Park that he got knocked down to the fourth spot.



 


The Avenue of the Giants scenic drive takes you through some truly stunning redwood forests and groves. Along the route, you really begin to realize how small you are as a human - or more, just how massive the redwoods really are. If you are hoping to learn more about this part of the country, or if you just want to see these massive trees for yourself, then we cannot recommend driving (or even biking) the magnificent Avenue of the Giants enough.


Below you will find our in-depth Avenue of the Giants Travel Guide which covers everything you need to know about visiting this part of Northern California; including, how to get there, where to stay and what to do during your visit.






THE BASICS | TOP THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT VISITING THE AVENUE OF THE GIANTS



DO YOU HAVE TO PAY TO ENTER THE AVENUE OF THE GIANTS?

No, it is free to drive and explore the Avenue of the Giants. The only times you will have to pay is for nights in the state park campgrounds (which costs $35 per night).


🌼 California State Park Pass

If you are thinking of combining your trip to the Avenue of the Giants with other outdoor California adventures, then we highly recommend purchasing an annual California State Parks Pass. There are two pass options available for purchase: the California Explorer Annual Day Pass, which gets you into ALL California State Parks, and the Golden Poppy Annual Pass, which gets you into all state parks in the northern part of the state. The first pass is $195, while the Golden Poppy Annual Pass is $125.


You can learn more about and purchase your California State Parks passes here.



HOW LONG IS THE DRIVE THROUGH THE AVENUE OF THE GIANTS?

It is roughly 32 miles one-way. You can go north to south or south to north depending on which way you are driving in from. For example, if you are driving from San Francisco to the Avenue of the Giants you will start at the southern entrance.



HOW LONG DO YOU NEED IN THE AVENUE OF THE GIANTS?

This is totally dependent on what you want to do in the Avenue of the Giants, but we would say you need at least 1-4 hours. We spent about 6 hours there, but this included doing a couple of short hikes and a bike ride.



WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT THE AVENUE OF THE GIANTS?

The summer months - mainly May through August - is the best time to visit the Avenue of the Giants. This is due to two things: first, everything will be open - including the three campgrounds (most things close after Labor Day Weekend); secondly, this is when you can expect the best weather - including sunnier days and warmer temperatures.


In our personal experience, we visited the Avenue of the Giants in mid-June and it was absolutely wonderful. The weather was great (lots of sunny skies), it wasn't super crowded and the wildflowers were in full bloom.







IS THE AVENUE OF THE GIANTS DOG FRIENDLY?

You can totally drive through with your pet, but most of the hiking trails are not dog friendly.



WHAT ARE THE CLOSEST TOWNS TO THE AVENUE OF THE GIANTS?

There are a couple of towns close to, and even in, the Avenue of the Giants. This includes the towns of Phillipsville, Miranda, Myers Flat, Weott and Redcrest. Many of these towns do have food and lodging options available. You can read more about this below.


The closest major cities to the Avenue of the Giants are Fortuna (16 miles from the northern entrance), Eureka (33 miles from the northern entrance) and Willits (75 miles from the southern entrance). These three cities will have large grocery stores, chain restaurants and hotels, and lots of services.







\\ How to Get to the Avenue of the Giants


The Avenue of the Giants is almost entirely in the very large Humboldt Redwoods State Park. The road, which is just a split off of the much busier Highway 101, is easily reached from a couple of major towns and cities. Below are the basic driving distances and times from a couple of the most well-known and popular cities nearby.



FROM SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA TO THE AVENUE OF THE GIANTS

It is approximately 212 miles from downtown San Francisco to the southern entrance of Avenue of the Giants (where the auto tour begins or ends). This drive can take anywhere from 3 hours and 45 minutes to 4.5 hours depending on traffic.


About 95% of this drive will be along Highway 101, which you can easily pick up in San Francisco by the famous Golden Gate Bridge. Along the way, you have the opportunity to stop off in such places as Healdsburg and Geyserville, which are known for their beautiful wineries, and Leggett, which is home to one of the few remaining drive-thru redwood trees.


💬 INSIDER TIP: if you are planning to fly to California and then drive up to the Avenue of the Giants, then we suggest booking a flight into San Francisco International Airport (SFO). From the airport, it is easy to rent a car and hop on Highway 101. Plus, then you get to drive over the famous Golden Gate Bridge!



FROM PORTLAND, OREGON TO THE AVENUE OF THE GIANTS

It is approximately 441 miles from Portland to the northern entrance of the Avenue of the Giants. This drive can take anywhere from 7 hours and 45 minutes to 8.5 hours depending on traffic and road construction.


Most of this drive will be spent on Interstate 5 (until the town of Grants Pass), Highway 199, which follows the beautiful Smith River, and Highway 101 through Crescent City and Eureka. Along the way, you have the opportunity to stop off in such places as Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve, Redwood National and State Parks, and many beautiful northern California beaches.



FROM CRESCENT CITY (AND REDWOODS NATIONAL AND STATE PARKS) TO THE AVENUE OF THE GIANTS

From the small town of Crescent City, which is located quite close to Redwoods National and State Parks, it is around 2 hours and 15 minutes to the northern entrance of Avenue of the Giants. This drive is entirely done on Highway 101. Along the way, we recommend checking out the Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge and many of the rocky Pacific coast beaches.



➳ If you are looking to learn more about the best things to see and do while road tripping to the Avenue of the Giants, then we highly recommend checking out Roadtrippers. This easy to use app shows you all of the best places to eat, sleep, and explore while out on the open road. You can check the site out for yourself here.




A white van parked in front of a couple of giant redwoods.

EXPLORE MORE | 25 TIPS TO BE A MORE SUSTAINABLE VAN LIFER







\\ Where to Stay in the Avenue of the Giants


There are a lot of options when it comes to finding a place to stay in and around the Avenue of the Giants. Below are a couple of great options. From luxury hotels nearby to rugged campsites within the heart of the redwoods, you can find the perfect base camp for all of your needs.



HOTELS AND LODGES


Below is a list of some of the best hotels and lodges near the Avenue of the Giants. This list goes from south to north.


| Benbow Historic Inn: this historic and beautiful spot opened all the way back in 1926, and today it still transports visitors to an era from long ago. If you are looking for a touch of luxury during your visit, then the Benbow Historic Inn might be perfect. The hotel offers fine dining options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner in their on-site restaurant, daily scones, coffee and tea, free bikes to help you explore the area, a seasonal pool and jacuzzi and easy access to hiking and biking trails. | BOOK HERE


| Miranda Gardens Resort: get cozy in one of the resort's 16 cabins, all of which have amazing views of the surrounding redwoods. This resort also includes free breakfast, a pool, and is dog friendly. | BOOK HERE


| Myers Country Inn: located in the heart of the Avenue of the Giants, the Myers Country Inn is a great spot to base yourself for some redwood adventures. The bed and breakfast includes free parking and breakfast and is dog friendly. | BOOK HERE


| Scotia Lodge: this 100+ year old hotel is a great place to relax and unwind after a full day of exploring in the redwoods. It includes 22 rooms and suites, Main + Mill Kitchen and Bar, complimentary drinks, and easy access to the historic town of Scotia. | BOOK HERE




VACATION RENTALS AND AIRBNB


There are also a couple of options if you are someone looking for a bit more space and privacy during your visit to the Avenue of the Giants. Below are a couple of Airbnbs within a short drive (or walk) of the Avenue and all of its many adventures.


| Glamping Cabins in the Majestic Redwoods: these modern glamping cabins include a queen sized bed and bunk beds, a desk, fiber optic wi-fi, private bathrooms, and a small kitchenette. They are located on the edge of Myers Flat and within easy access of various hiking trails and coastal redwood groves. | BOOK HERE


| A Small Piece of Paradise in the Redwoods: similar to the glamping cabins above, but just a bit more remote, this cute cabin includes a full kitchen, a designated workspace (and wi-fi), a queen-sized bed and a full private bathroom. | BOOK HERE


| Garden Guesthouse in Rio Dell: this cute private guesthouse is located just a bit north of the Avenue of the Giants in the historic mining town of Rio Dell. The guesthouse includes a quaint bedroom, small kitchen, a lounge and easy access to a thriving garden. | BOOK HERE




CAMPING


There are three campgrounds within Humboldt Redwoods State Park: Hidden Springs, Burlington and Albee Creek. Each campground requires guests to reserve their spot online at reservecalifornia.com. It costs $35 per site, per night. The campgrounds vary in size and amenities. You can read our route guide below for more information on each campground.


Besides the three campgrounds within the state park, you also have the option to stay at a couple of privately owned campgrounds or RV parks nearby. This includes the Dean Creek Resort, which has an RV park and campground, the Redcrest Resort and Gift Shop, which includes full RV hook ups and a few campsites, and the Stafford RV Park, which is located right outside the northern entrance of the Avenue of the Giants.




EXPLORE MORE | OUR IN-DEPTH GUIDE ON HOW TO FIND FREE CAMPSITES IN THE USA






VAN LIFING


Because the entire Avenue of the Giants is pretty much within Humboldt Redwoods State Park, it can be tough to find any legal free camping sites when van lifing. The best option is to either reserve a night in one of the three campgrounds within the state park (see above) or head to a spot outside of the state park.


A few close areas that could be good options for free camping are along Mattole Road down by the coast (the Lost Coast area specifically), a few dirt pull-offs by Benbow and Cooks Valley (which are both south of the Avenue of the Giants) and the very scenic dirt forest roads around Shelter Cove, which is about an hour southwest of the Avenue of the Giants.







\\ What to Bring With You to the Avenue of the Giants


Layers are going to be your best friend when exploring the Avenue of the Giants. Because the temperature can fluctuate somewhat dramatically throughout the day - cold in the morning and evening and warm in the afternoon - you will want to make sure you are prepared for whatever weather comes your way.


Below are a few of the key things you will want to make sure to pack with you when visiting the Avenue of the Giants and the surrounding redwoods.



| Thermal Base Layers: a great way to start your layering process is to invest in a set of nice, comfortable, wicking base layers. This long sleeved shirt works great on its own and also under a rain jacket or light puffy, while these cozy tights are perfect under a light set of hiking pants.


| Rain Jacket: one of the most necessary outdoor items you will want to pack with you when visiting the Avenue of the Giants is a solid rain jacket. This piece of clothing will likely come in super handy if you are planning to do any morning adventures, for that is when rain and fog are most common. This longer rain jacket by Kuhl is breathable and easy to move around in.


| Light Puffy Jacket: while a rain jacket is a great place to start, you will also want to bring along a lighter puffy jacket for those chilly mornings, and those evenings spent around the fire. This puffy by Mountain Hardwear packs down easily, is made of durable recycled materials and has synthetic insulation that delivers lightweight warmth even when wet.


| Waterproof Hiking Boots: while there are not very many super long trails along the Avenue of the Giants, there are still enough adventures to be had that you will definitely want to bring along some solid waterproof hiking shoes. This mostly leather pair by Danner is comfortable, lightweight and has great gripping abilities for when you are hiking on wetter surfaces.


| Wool Socks: because it never gets super cold up in the Avenue of the Giants, you can actually get away with wearing a bit lighter pair of hiking socks. This pair by Icebreaker is made out of a Merino wool blend that helps regulate temps and repels unwanted odors. It also has a reinforced heel and toe area to enhance durability for extensive wear (because no one likes wearing socks with holes in them).


| Sunscreen and Bug Spray: while you might expect very little sun out in the redwoods, you will likely be surprised to find that in the summer it can get quite bright out. But honestly, no matter where you are planning to hike, it is important to protect your skin by always wearing sunscreen. This eco-friendly sunscreen by Badger is perfect for storing in your backpack or car.


Also, the mosquitos are no joke up in the redwoods so definitely make sure to bring along at least one bottle of bug spray. This one by Murphy's Naturals is made entirely from all natural ingredients and also repels ticks.


| Hiking Fanny Pack: if you are just looking to do the shorter hikes around the Avenue of the Giants (which mostly take you through massive coast redwood groves) then you can get away with just a lightweight fanny pack. This durable and easy to carry one by Patagonia is 5L in size - which is definitely plenty of room for your phone, keys, Chapstick and maybe some bug spray.



➳ You can find even more awesome outdoor adventure gear at Backcountry.com.







 

ROUTE GUIDE THROUGH THE AVENUE OF THE GIANTS

 






Most of the Avenue of the Giants drive will be along the stunning South Fork of the Eel River - which, along with other tributaries and the main Eel River, forms the third largest watershed in the entire state of California.


Along the 32-mile drive, you will have plenty of opportunities to pull over and explore some of the most magical and magnificent redwood forests around; including, such notable stops as the Founder's Grove and the Rockefeller Grove. Likewise, you will also have the chance to swim in the Eel River, have a picnic in one of the many day use areas, and learn more about the area's history at the Humboldt Redwoods State Park Visitor Center.


Below you will find our personal route guide through the Avenue of the Giants. We outline some of the best stops, as well as some interesting facts about the forests and the people that once lived there.







➳ You can find a more in-depth map of the Avenue of the Giants here, or just pull over at either entrance to the Avenue and pick up their handy driving map (there is also a good one at the visitor center).



This route guide will start at the southern entrance to Avenue of the Giants and end at the northern entrance. The southern entrance is quite close to the town of Garberville and right off of Highway 101. Below is our in-depth route guide for driving (or biking) the entire Avenue of the Giants in Northern California.




STOP 1 | PHILLIPSVILLE AND THE LIVING CHIMNEY TREE


The first stop along the Avenue of the Giants is in the small town of Phillipsville (the most southern town on the Avenue of the Giants route). While this town is quite small - population: 140 - it does have a couple of points of interest. Including, the living Chimney Tree - which is a massive redwood tree that looks like a chimney. You can stop in and check out the tree (it's free to enter) and then grab a quick bite to eat at the nearby Chimney Tree Grill.


Also in Phillipsville, you can check out the first major coastal redwood grove along the Avenue. The F.K Lane Grove is conveniently located right past the town and has a couple of nice little walks to allow you to get up close with the massive redwood trees.



Distance from the southern entrance: 1 mile to the Living Chimney Tree and 3 miles to the F.K Lane Grove.