A drive through the redwoods

On our way home from our recent trip to the Southern Oregon coast we took a detour through the Northern California redwoods. Located in the northwestern corner of California, Redwood National and State Parks (RNSP) protect 133,000 acres (540 km²) of pristine redwood forests, including 45% of all remaining old-growth stands of coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens).

Managed jointly by the National Park Service and the California Department of Parks and Recreation, RNSP consists of Redwood National Park proper, plus Del Norte Coast, Jedediah Smith, and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Parks. I’ve visited this area many times, and while all of these parks are full of unique natural beauty, my favorite is Jedediah Smith State Park just outside of the Crescent City, an unassuming town 20 miles from the Oregon border.

Cutting through the heart of Jedediah Smith SP, Howland Hill Road offers one of the most spectacular drives in California. This 12-mile dirt road takes you from one breathtaking sight to another, allowing you to view centuries-old redwoods up close. While the road is narrow, there are plenty of wide spots so you can pull over and get out of the car. 12 miles doesn’t seem like much, but I guarantee you, you will stop so many times that you should allow two hours—and much more if you plan on taking any of the wonderful hikes.

I prefer overcast skies when visiting the redwoods; sunlight creates harsh contrast which makes it difficult to see details. Fortunately, this area receives close to 70 inches of rain a year, which means plenty of cloudy days. A light mist would be even better, but unless you live in the area, you have to take what you can get.

We were lucky—the sun didn’t come out until we were at almost through—and I managed to take a number of photos that I’m very happy with. I hope you will enjoy them, too!

While the coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) doesn’t quite reach the massive girth of the giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum), it is the world’s tallest tree. A coast redwood nicknamed Hyperion is currently the world’s tallest at 379 ft. (115 m).
One of the most beautiful roads in the country
My mother for size comparison
This tree had a diameter of 10 ft.--impressive but nowhere near the 26 ft. of the Lost Monarch, considered the world’s largest (albeit not tallest) coast redwood
Two more giants
Many people are so awed by the large trunks that they forget to look up!
I think the view of the tree tops is the most spectacular sight of all…
…especially when several trees touch at the top
A fallen giant.
The other half is on the other side of the road.
Dead redwoods become a refuge for deciduous trees which find rich nutrients inside the decaying redwood trunk.
I bet this forest didn’t look much different 500 or 1000 years ago!
Interesting mushroom attached to the trunk of a redwood. Does anybody know what kind it is?

More posts from our trip to Southern Oregon:


  1. The photo of the road is my favorite.

    I've got to see this in person some day! I've been to Muir woods near SF -- how does this compare?

    It's probably a "shelf" fungus, and it seems that "sulfur shelf" fungi are common on redwoods.

  2. Alan, I take more photos of roads than anything else (except maybe plants) :-)

    Muir Woods is essentially similar, just on a much smaller scale and much less wild, probably because it's so close to a major population center. What I love about Redwood NP and the various redwood state parks is how remote they are. I have a thing about wanting to get away from the crowds when I'm on vacation.

    Shelf fungus is an excellent guess. The photos I found on Google look very similar

  3. Love the photos Gerhard, superb photography as always! :)


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