Lady Bird Johnson Grove Trail in Redwoods National Park goes through a stand of old-growth redwoods to the spot where the former First Lady dedicated the national park in 1968. Located about three miles north of Orick, California on US 101, the former logging trail—short and easy to walk-- provides visitors with outstanding views of the tallest tree species in the world.
A wilderness of giants hugs the 40-mile stretch of coastline from Orick to Crescent City, California. Scenic drives encompass redwood forests in three state parks. Wayside exhibits along the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway, the original Redwood Highway, commemorate this historic route through the heart of the old-growth redwood forest.
At Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, six miles south of Orick, you may spot wildlife including Roosevelt elk. Although Prairie Creek has earned the name of “Elk Prairie,” it’s possible to see Roosevelt elk in any open landscape in the parks.
Sixty miles further south is the iconic Avenue of the Giants, a 32-mile drive through Humboldt Redwoods State Park on old Hwy 101. An auto tour brochure includes a map with numbered stops where visitors can walk short trails like popular Founders Grove. But it’s easy to admire magnificent redwoods from the car since the road skims beside many of these enormous trees. Enjoy another view of the scenery with a picnic in the shadow of redwoods at Williams Cove above the Eel River.
For a unique perspective that illustrates the scale of these giants, check out drive-through trees along US 101 in Klamath, Myers Flat, and Legget, California. While fascinating, the practice of carving a hole through a tree harks back to a time when we didn’t appreciate the forest’s role in the environment and the significance of protecting it.
The ancient redwood forest ecosystem is so large that it is preserved by both the National Park Service and California State Parks, organizations working cooperatively to manage their contiguous park lands. Whether you’re traveling through a national or state park, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer size of the trees and magnitude of the ancient forest lands.
A version of this article by Beverly Burmeier was originally published in Texas Journey.
Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier