32 Miles - Length
Humboldt - COUNTY
State highway, very good- PAVEMENT
Meandering, smooth, - CURVES
Scotia, Redcrest, Miranda, Garberville - GAS
Humboldt County, California
Avenue of the Giants
Quick Ride: Ride through the Biggest and Tallest trees in the world. Stunning stretch of road that is a national treasure, parallels main highway, shouldn't be missed if you are riding in the area.
Motorcycle Ride California's Redwood Coast
The Avenue of Giants along California’s Pacific Coast Range: If you are headed to Northwestern California, you must plan this stretch of road into your trip. A journey through these giant redwood trees is best done on a motorcycle. No other venue of transportation can allow for an unobstructed 360-degree view of the awe-inspiring world around you. Come on up, roll along at a couple miles an hour, and be prepared to say lots of Wows!
Ridden south to north, you can find the Avenue of the Giants, aka Highway 254, north of Garberville, and 20 miles north of the Leggett - Highway 1 junction. The north entrance is 15 miles south of Highway 36. Mattole Rd also intersects Highway 254 in the mid-section of this 32-mile length of road, and Alderpoint Rd parallels to the east, connecting Garberville with Highway 36.
As you roll north on Highway 101, you'll see several signs north of Garberville for the Avenue of the Giants, take the exit off the freeway and descend to the South Fork of the Eel River. The Eel River is the primary watershed for Lake, Mendocino, Humboldt, and Trinity counties draining nearly 4000 square miles comprising various forks and all draining into the Pacific Ocean at Fortuna. Highway 101 and Avenue of the Giants both parallel opposite sides of the Eel River.
Head up the road to the Franklin Lane Grove in-between Phillipsville and Miranda. Anchoring the south end of Highway 254 at Franklin Lane Grove is the Chimney Tree Grill. This is a small road-side restaurant with several outdoor tables, good burgers, and they also offer milkshakes. There is a doorway carved into the side of a nearby redwood, you walk into and look up at the sky through the top of the hollow tree. Headed southbound, this is easy to miss as it’s located on the south side of Ohman Creek. Southbound riders, the Chimney Tree Grill marks the end of Highway 254 where it rejoins the 101 freeway.
The Madrona Motel dating to the 1940s anchors the north end of ‘town’ where the road then enters the Franklin K. Lane Redwood Grove. These groves of redwood trees are one after the other for the 32-mile length of Avenue of the Giants. It will feel as though the road is popping in and out of groves of giant redwoods.
At Miranda is the Spirit Art Glass studio, open since 1990 and for the last 30+ years has produced many works of art. Glass is made on site, a combination of sand, soda, and lime, the concoction is then heated to 2300 degrees and blown into various works of art. Across the street from the Spirit Art Glass studio is Maple Hills Rd, which heads back across the Eel River and to the 101 Freeway.
A few miles north, you’ll roll into Miranda. This is one of the few places in the Avenue of the Giants to fuel up and also holds the only local high school with 150 students in grades 8-12. Population here climbs to about 500 residents, which is about the largest town along this stretch of road.
North of Miranda, the ride flows into Humboldt Redwoods State Park. Pavement for the majority of Highway 254 is excellent, and southern sections were repaved in the last few years. There are more than 250 family campsites in three different campgrounds, plus environmental camps, group camps, trail camps, and a horse camp. An additional 100 plus miles of trails snake through the park to walk among the redwoods.
This southern section contains Rockefeller Forest, the world's largest remaining contiguous old-growth forest of coast redwoods. As the redwoods began to disappear north of San Francisco, grassroots organizations began to spring up to save the trees from logging. The park was established by the Save the Redwoods League in 1921 largely from lands purchased from the Pacific Lumber Company and spans nearly 52,000 acres.
This stretch of Highway 254 is a truly delicious stretch of pavement with ample helpings of sensory overload. The trees are magnificent, impossibly tall, and emanating a color explosion of green. While the tree canopy above is so thick it limits the amount of sunlight that ever hits the forest floor, that forest floor is often covered in fern like plants that carpet the ground. Over 100 of the 137 known tallest trees in the world over 350 feet are here.
There are numerous pullouts and places to park along these 32 miles, although not all of them are paved. If it is raining, as it often does in a rain forest, you may want to keep riding until you come upon a paved pull-out. The Avenue of the Giants may get up to 100 inches of seasonal rains each year.
Over the last two decades of leading motorcycle tours, I’ve tried to never hit the same pullout twice with tour groups, as each one offers a new perspective and a new view of the trees above. Yet, even after that many years, I still don’t think we’ve stopped at them all, the pull-outs are numerous and welcoming. Many of these pullouts have trails snaking off into the redwood trees, inviting exploration and wandering.
The road weaves in between the trees, sentinels that stand tall, where measure and scale seem disconnected. Some years back as a young man on my first wandering ride across the United States, I rode my ’82 Suzuki GS850L across the country to the south rim of the Grand Canyon and peered over the edge like many before me have done. No picture can capture what you see there, not even that nifty panorama feature on your phone. The scale defies your brain’s ability to comprehend what your eyes are telling you exists. Unable to process this mile-deep hole in the earth’s crust and ten miles across, one stares into it and simply feels in awe.
You’ll feel that again as you ride through the Avenue of the Giants. Pulling over and attempting to capture what you’re seeing will be unsuccessful, the trees extend upwards and seem not real. Riders have pressed their noses against the bark and looked straight up. Others have laid down in the middle of the road and attempted to angle the camera upwards. All paltry attempts at capturing the scale. You can only experience this place in person.
The discovery of redwoods spurred a gold rush for lumber. The first sawmill in the area began operation on Humboldt Bay in 1852. Estimates were at the time projecting 2,000,000 acres of Coast Redwoods along the Pacific Coast. Redwoods were found as far south as the Monterey Peninsula on up to the southwestern corner of Oregon. However, the coast redwood is only found in a narrowband 5-47 miles wide along the Pacific Coastline. Often the oldest are found in gullies and valleys where a year-round water source is available. Redwoods have been found as far south as Los Angeles, thought to be from the last Ice Age 10,000 years ago. Redwood bark as been found in the La Brea tar pits and during subway excavations in Los Angeles. Redwoods locally have traced back 3 million years.
On the north end of the Napa area is the Petrified Forest. The volcanic explosion of Mt. St. Helena 3.4 million years ago knocked down a forest of prehistoric Redwood trees near Calistoga, then covered the site with volcanic ash. The ash covering the trees prevented decomposition of the wood and instead allowed water to percolate through the trees, pulling the mineral-rich water into the redwoods, preserving them and turning the trees to stone.
The prehistoric redwood trees, which are the largest petrified trees in the world, stayed buried for 3.4 million years until discovered in 1870. Some petrified trees were 2000 years old at the time of the eruption. The Petrified Forest comprises 845 acres. It has been privately owned for over 100 years and has been open to the public since 1914, by far an interesting place to visit if you are wandering about the Napa area. While the redwoods impress us with the size and scale, try conceptualizing 3.4 million years.
Trees grow arrow straight by design, if the tree begins to lean during growth, the redwood increases production of wood on the opposite side of the lean to correct the balance of the tree. Redwoods can grow as much as 2-3 feet per year, but may reduce that growth to a mere inch in years with minimal moisture. Redwood trees are said to be mature at 1000 years old, and don’t reach old age till 1500 years. Most fall from wind storms.
The top of the tree is so tall, the tree needs a secondary system to draw moisture up nearly 40 stories to reach the top 100 feet. It does this by growing in areas along the Pacific Coast that provide constant fog. The top of the tree has the ability to absorb moisture directly through the bark. Condensation also forms on the leaves at the top layers, which form droplets and fall beneath the tree and into the root system.
What may surprise some is these trees may reach 370 feet, with historical reports suggesting some were reportedly over 400 feet. Yet coast redwoods lack a main tap root and their root systems may only be ten feet deep and as little as 5-6 feet deep. However, the root systems may extend out 100 feet laterally from the tree, often intertwining and even fusing together with other redwoods to create a giant inter-dependent organism. By growing in groves, the trees support and promote one another’s growth and success.
That success is dependent on several details: Redwood can grow in flood prone areas and prefer alluvial plains like this region along the Eel River. After a flood, fresh sediment is distributed into a redwood grove, the trees have the ability to reverse their root systems by growing up into freshly deposited sediment from the most recent flood. In the mid-section of the ride at Founders Grove, you’ll see a sign marking the high-water mark of the 1964 Flood, 10 feet above the road. A similar view is found along Highway 128 headed into Boonville, where the high-water mark is clearly visible on the trees 10 feet off the ground.
There are very few side roads that connect to this length of Highway 254, and no other major highways. This helps to limit tourist traffic to entering and exiting the Avenue on either end, although note the many pull-outs also mean vehicles pulling out, or off, of the road. Tourists by nature aren’t the brightest people, and have their attentions directed elsewhere, to bother watching out for the lone motorcyclist.
There are however several back roads that head off into the forest. One of these is Elk Creek Rd 4 miles north of Miranda that heads east away from Highway 254. This is a dead-end road for pavement, but splits off into various spider roads. Elk Creek Rd also connects with Dyervillle Loop Rd.
Elk Creek Rd gets progressively narrower and eventually requires you to turn around if you want to stay on pavement. If you get funny looks from the locals, it’s because they are wondering what you are doing on ‘their’ road. Dyerville Loop Rd is a loop that heads out to remote communities like Eel Rock, Whitlow and McCann along the Eel River. The mid-section of this loop is not paved and is a single lane gravel road for about two miles into McCann.
Many of these small logging towns along the Eel River were washed away in the 1964 flood and never rebuilt. Dyerville Loop Rd parallels Highway 254 along the Eel River, and passes by Fort Seward Rd, which connects to Alderpoint Rd. The Dyerville Loop also connects south all the way (gravel) to Alderpoint Rd into Garberville.
At Myers Flat, the Avenue switches sides with the freeway again. On the west side of the road is the Shrine Drive-Thru Tree, where you can pull the bike up to the tree and park inside the base of the trunk. The Shrine Tree is held together with a bit of chewing gum, some JB Weld, and several steel cables wrapped around the trunk. Despite that, it’s large enough to drive a car through. Note the Chandelier Tree at Leggett is likely the better picture, but you decide.
The Shrine Drive-Thru Tree claims to be 275 feet high, 21 feet in diameter, and 64 feet in circumference. The tree is hollow and ¾ of the wood is dead. However, the remaining ¼ of the tree refuses to die. The tree continues to grow and produce cones, although it leans precipitously. The private owners of this drive-thru tree state it was the first attraction along Avenue of the Giants.
The Avenue has these sorts of touristy attractions that provide an added element to the Redwood experience. Along the Avenue of the Giants, eight Auto Tour signs designate interpretive panels and interesting places to stop. Look for the Auto Tour sign to indicate where to stop. Stops are generally about 200 feet beyond the Auto Tour signs. There is a campground here at Myers Flat called the Giant Redwoods RV Camp and Riverbend Cellars in the middle of town.
Heading further north up to Myers Flat past the Myers Country Inn, the road flows past Williams Grove into Humboldt Redwoods State Park. Hidden Camp State Campground rolls up & a mile later the road to Burlington Campground near Weott shows itself. This stretch rides into multiple groves of redwood trees, the Lansdale, Pioneer & Boiling Groves, separated by short breaks in the forest popping out along the river or into meadows.
Some of these redwood trees are mere inches from the road, exacerbating the sensation of smallness. The term ‘old growth’ refers not to individual trees, but to the entire forest community. Historically, this term has been used to describe a forest that has never been logged. But the correct term is all-aged, with young and old trees mixed together throughout their natural life cycles. However, we like to use the term ancient because the appearance of the redwood forest has changed very little over countless centuries. Today, only about four percent of the original 2,000,000 acres of Coast Redwood forest remains.
On the east side of the road is the Humboldt Redwoods State Park Headquarters. Here is the Visitor's Center where you can stock up on brochures and park info. The park encompasses 53,000 acres, California’s third-largest state park. This is the largest old growth contiguous redwood forest in the world with nearly 100 miles of hiking, riding and mountain bike trails. The parks also includes Rockefeller Forest, the largest remaining old-growth redwood forest, the largest expanse of ancient redwoods left on the planet.
At Burlington, in the center of the drive, is the Humboldt Redwoods Interpretive Visitor Center. A bit of congestion here with the nearby campground and people walking across the road. Weott is to the north of the Visitor Center but is along the freeway and Highway 254 bypasses the town completely, although there is another freeway on-ramp here. Federation Grove where the Founders Tree is located is two miles to the north.
My favorite sign for the level of the floodwaters is here too, always a fascinating conceptual idea to grasp of the floodwaters being this high above the road. The north end of the aforementioned Dyerville Loop starts here and continues all the way south to Garberville, although portions of it are not paved. A few hundred yards up Dyerville Loop Rd is a parking area to go check out Founders Tree, thought at one time in the 1960s to be the world’s tallest tree. Subsequent measurements in later years put this in doubt, but despite all that, the current measurement stands at 346 feet.
The tree is so tall, the lowest limb is 190 feet from the forest floor. At 40 feet in circumference, it’s not as big as Giant Sequoias, but it’s big. North of Founders Grove is the junction for Mattole Road- The Lost Coast up through Humboldt Redwoods State Park and the Albee Creek Campground.
Everything combines here when the North Fork & South Fork of the Eel River combines at Founders Grove and the Dyerville Giant. You'll also notice you pick up the Northwestern Pacific Railroad which hugs the North Fork of the Eel River now headed downstream to Fortuna, and the Dyerville Train Trestle crosses the river here. Many of these train trestles were washed away in the 1964 flood. Today, the tracks aren’t in use anymore, but the railroad beds along the Eel River remain. Mattole Rd intersects with Avenue of the Giants and the 101 Freeway here.
The 50-mile loop of Mattole Rd isn’t for everybody. A wise rider once said, your reaction to this road may depend on the amount of your suspension travel, but it’s extremely remote, intensely scenic and the 7-mile stretch along the ocean belongs on a magazine cover. A few miles west of the Avenue along Mattole Rd are even more redwood groves along with Albee Creek Campground.
The Dyerville Giant & the Founders Tree are found along the Founders Grove nature trail southeast of this junction. The Dyerville Giant was certified by the American Forestry Association as the "Champion" Coast Redwood up until it fell in March 1991. Until that time, this giant redwood was 370 feet tall and was estimated to weigh over 1,000,000 pounds, comparable to a thirty-story building or 200 feet taller than Niagara Falls. The base of the tree was 52 feet in circumference and 17 feet in diameter.
At Redcrest, is the Englewood Industrial Park, but there’s not much industry, rather the defunct and decaying Eel River Sawmill grounds along the highway. Not much has happened here in the last 20 years we’ve been riding past it. Redcrest is another tiny alcove of homes albeit even picturesque looking with its green grass, small hometown market, and requisite manufactured homes sprinkled about. There’s also a single gas pump here at the Redcrest Grocery. You might even want to stop at the Redcrest Resort for your Avenue of the Giants souvenir penny.
Along the river are the communities of Stafford, Holmes, Larabee, and Shively which are old logging camps clear-cut into meadows. In modern times, these meadows are now farmed for haymaking, others are remote like Shively and assessable only by single lane gravel roads.
A few feet to the north at the Ancient Redwood RV Park is the Immortal Tree House, and nearing Pepperwood is the Immortal Tree. When you stop at the Tree House, you'll notice that it's a massive redwood tree that's hollow inside. It has regular doors and even windows carved into the tree. Inside is a nifty little museum with working miniature models from the 1930s. Pepperwood, Stafford and Weott are local towns that were destroyed in the 1964 flood and never re-built. A few moments later past Redcrest after passing by several groups of homes stuck back into the redwoods along the Eel River, the road ends and rejoins the interstate Highway 101 for Eureka.
There is a demonstration forest at the northern end of the Avenue of Giants. And a few miles north is Scotia, a company logging town. The Scotia Inn here has been restored to a beautiful historic hotel and is well-worth the visit. There is a historic logging museum with plenty of photos, artifacts, and logging machinery of days gone by. They offer free self-guided tours if you're into that sort of thing and have long wondered the workings of a lumber mill.
The historic Scotia Inn built in 1923
If you continue up northbound on Highway 101, at Rio Dell, Blue Slide–Grizzly Bluff Rd runs up the west side of the Eel River along a low hillside through farmland speckled with grazing dairy cows over to Ferndale. This road continues either to Fernbridge or out to the ocean as Centerville Rd. The north end of Mattole Rd is found in Ferndale.
Due north is Highway 36- one of the best motorcycle rides in all of Northern California. Some might even claim this part of the country.
If you come up this way, aside from the Avenue of Giants, do not miss The Lost Coast!
Where to next?
Welcome to Northern California. There are awesome roads in every direction. Here are a few suggestions you may have missed or overlooked.
North: Avenue of the Giants reconnects with Hwy 101 at Pepperwood and a continues north as Hwy 101. Scotia and Rio Dell are moments away, as is Highway 36. Further north are Highway 299 to Highway 96 and even further north, Bald Hills Rd at Orick.
South: Rejoining Hwy 101 at Miranda, Avenue of the Giants ends here and if you need more twisties, connect with Highway 1 at Leggett and continue out to the ocean through the 22-mile section, one of the twistiest, most delicious roads in the state.
East: No connecting roads to Avenue of the Giants other than Elk Creek Rd and Dyersville Loop. At Garberville a few miles to the south, you can find a remote paved parallel trek out to Highway 36 at the foot of South Fork Mountain with Alderpoint Rd, Zenia Bluff Rd, Ruth-Zenia Rd, to Mad River Rd will get you all the way to the base of South Fork Mountain Summit. At the summit is Horse Ridge Lookout Rd- a road you've ridden by dozens of times and never knew was there. Further east is Mount Lassen.
West: At the mid-section of Highway 254 is the south entrance to Mattole Rd – The Lost Coast. You can connect with Usal Rd (dirt) or Wilder Ridge, which circles back south to Shelter Cove or back to Garberville. At the north end of Avenue of the Giants, ride into Rio Dell and pick up Blue Slide Rd to Grizzly Bluff Rd to ride out to Ferndale.
Avenue of the Giants - Photo Gallery
MORE INFO: Highway 254
Avenue of the Giants
RIDE IT on a PASHNIT TOUR
32 Miles - LENGTH
State Highway, well-maintained - PAVEMENT
Meandering, smooth - CURVES
Garberville, Miranda, Scotia - GAS
Numerous - LODGING
LISTED CONNECTING SIDEROADS:
Elk Creek Rd
Dyerville Loop Rd
Mattole Rd - The Lost Coast