California Redwoods: Driving the Pacific Coast Highway

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Jedidiah Smith Redwoods State Park. Photo by Jim Pond
Jedidiah Smith Redwoods State Park. Photo by Jim Pond

Our time in Oregon has been amazing, but we’re eager to continue our drive down the Pacific Coast. We soon realize that this portion of the highway will take us more inland. But that’s okay, because we’re going to see the famous California Redwood trees today.

These behemoths of the forest can grow over 300 feet tall and 22 feet around. Redwoods are resistant to insects and fire and diseases are unknown. I am filled with the anticipation of viewing these giants.

Our first stop is Crescent City, which is about 20 miles from the Oregon/California border. Named for the crescent-shaped stretch of beach south of the city, it is home to about 7,600 residents.

On a small island outside Crescent City Harbor is one of the first lighthouses on the California Coast, Battery Point Lighthouse. It was first lit with oil lamps in 1856 and survived the tsunami of 1965. The lighthouse is open to the public and tours are available in low tide only.

California Redwoods

From there, we turn inland to see the Redwoods. We stop at Crescent City Information Center to get an idea about available hikes. We learn that the trees are larger in the California State Parks than in the national parks. The reason is that the state parks were implemented before the national parks, so less logging was done in the area. We choose Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park as our destination.

The Redwoods need to be experienced firsthand to have a respect for the size of these trees. Pictures do not do them justice. Still, perhaps the photo here will give you an idea.

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, photo by Jim Pond
It’s hard to imagine just how big the Redwoods are. Photo by Jim Pond

Trinidad, California

We continue down the coast to Trinidad, California. We plan to stay at a cabin in the Redwoods at Emerald Forest Cabins and RV.

Our cabin comes with a full kitchen, cable TV and internet access, so we aren’t roughing it too much. The air is cool outside tonight and the faint breeze carries the aromas of the forest. I am ready to call it a day.

Emerald Forest Cabins and RV, Trinidad, California. Photo by Jim Pond
Emerald Forest Cabins and RV, Trinidad, California. Photo by Jim Pond

Day 8 of our journey dawns and I awaken to the smell of coffee. We take our time enjoying coffee and breakfast before hitting the road again.

Before leaving Trinidad, we check out Trinidad Head Memorial Lighthouse and find a pleasant surprise. Four to five harbor seals lay on the rocks basking in the sun. I’m mesmerized by a mama seal and her pup. I like how they hold their back flippers out of the water as the tide rises around their rock.

Harbor Seals in Trinidad, California. Photo by Jim Pond
Harbor Seals in Trinidad, California. Photo by Jim Pond

Heading south again, Highway 101 begins to move inland away from the ocean. We have heard of the Avenue of the Giants and decide to take that route.

The Avenue of the Giants is a scenic route through the Humboldt Redwoods State Park. It is the old alignment of US Route 101 and is currently maintained by California as State Route 254. The northern entrance is 15 miles south of Fortuna. It’s well worth the extra time. That’s what this trip is about, isn’t it? Taking time to soak in the beautiful and majestic scenery.

We have decided to stop for the night at Benbow Historic Inn in Garberville. Built by the Benbow family, the inn opened as Hotel Benbow in 1926. It has hosted such dignitaries as Herbert Hoover, Eleanor Roosevelt and Lord Halifax. The Inn is currently owned by John and Teresa Porter with Jack MacDonald. They continue to restore and upgrade the historic inn. We enjoy complimentary English scones and tea at 3 pm. Our room is luxurious and we have a small courtyard facing a beautiful lawn.

We decide to go into the town of Garberville for dinner and find a small cafe/bar open that appears to be a local hang out. There is not much to the town and if you are not the adventurous type, you might want to eat dinner at Benbow Historic Inn’s restaurant.

It has been a great couple days on the northern California coast. Tomorrow we will drive south as we continue our adventure.

For more information about lodging, activities and dining on the northern coast of California visit www.Redwoods.info

This is part six in our continuing series on Traveling the Pacific Coast Highway