Great Places to Get up Close to California’s Redwood Trees

20 Aug Great Places to Get up Close to California’s Redwood Trees


This is their temple, vaulted high,
And here we pause with reverent eye,
With silent tongue and awe-struck soul;
For here we sense life’s proper goal…

–Joseph Strauss, “The Redwoods”

That the chief engineer of the Golden Gate Bridge was also a talented poet may come as a surprise to some people. Yet it’s easy to spot the soaring parallels between Joseph Strauss’s two most famous subjects—the iconic suspension bridge that reached heights no bridge had known before and earth’s tallest residents: the coast redwoods.

If you’ll be traveling to northern California, chances are you’d like to see both. So if and when you find your family crossing the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, I recommend you keep on driving. As it happens, Strauss’s feat of engineering leads city dwellers right toward the gateway to the tallest of the coast redwoods themselves. Continuing north on Highway 101, here are four of the best places to experience California’s redwoods along the way.

Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve

Nestled in the hills of north Sonoma County, Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve makes a nice side trip from San Francisco or a welcome diversion from wine tasting. The 805-acre park is home to many majestic coast redwoods and offers picturesque picnicking, easy hiking and unfettered access to some of its biggest and most mature beauties. You’ll even find a wheelchair accessible trail and hand-held rope path with braille interpretive signs here. Not to miss: The 310-foot Parson Jones Tree, which stands taller than a football field is long and is among the tallest of the ancient coast redwoods you will find.

Humboldt Redwoods State Park and the Avenue of Giants

No rightful pilgrimage to the redwoods would be complete without paying respects to some portion of Humboldt Redwoods State Park. The 53,000-acre park holds the largest continuous stand of old-growth redwoods in existence. And coursing through Humboldt Redwoods State Park is the world-famous “Avenue of Giants,” a 31-mile scenic detour from California’s Highway 101 that everyone should drive at least once. Along the Avenue, there are plenty of opportunities to stop, stretch, stand in awe, hike, and yes—hug a tree.

Redwood National Park

Redwood National Park is home to the tallest of the tallest trees on earth—many of which stand more than 5 stories taller than the Statue of Liberty—including the tallest redwood tree known to date. “Hyperion” looms at more than 379 feet tall (that’s more than six times the height of the Statue of Liberty), but its exact location in the vast park is kept secret for its protection. Redwoods, you should note, aren’t the only record-setting giants in this park. Redwood National Park is also home to the world’s tallest grand fir, sitka spruce, and hemlock trees.

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park

This 10,000-acre wild and wonder-filled park is home to 7 percent of the world’s remaining old-growth redwood trees, not to mention California’s longest free-flowing river and one of its most beautiful: the Smith. Much of Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park remains mysterious and uncharted to the average visitor, but the 20 miles of maintained trails that do await here reward visitors with unforgettable hikes into a deep hush of ancient forest.

Inspired? Check out these related trips from Adventure Collection members:

Redwood Empire Family Multisport Tour from Backroads
California Wine Country Multisport Adventure Tour from Backroads
Stanislaus Rafting – Calaveras Big Trees State Park from O.A.R.S.

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Shelly Rivoli is the Adventure Collection’s Family Travel columnist. She has traveled with young children by airplane, Metro, ferry, train, elephant and long tail boat. Her revised and expanded guidebook “Travels with Baby: The Ultimate Guide for Planning Travel with Your Baby, Toddler, and Preschooler” received both a Lowell Thomas Award and a North American Travel Journalists Association Award. Shelly founded a decade ago and has blogged there since 2007, receiving many accolades along the way. Recently, she created a second site,, which focuses on travel with school-age children, of which she now has three.
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