The amazing thing about the West Coast is that it is still mostly wild, open, and astoundingly beautiful country, where you can drive for miles and miles and have the scenery all to yourself.
Redwood National Park
Established in 1968, and enlarged since then, Redwood National Park protects the last vestiges of the more than two million acres of primeval redwood forest that once covered the entire Northern California coastline. To be honest, alongside the gorgeous groves in the adjacent Smith, Del Norte, and Prairie Creek State Parks, the trees preserved here aren’t by any means the oldest, largest, or most beautiful. In fact, much of the federal parkland is second- or third-growth timber, clear-cut as recently as the 1960s. Though redwoods are the fastest-growing softwoods on earth—growing 3-5 feet a year when young—the groves here can look rather disappointing compared to those in nearby areas. But, they do serve a valuable role as an environmental buffer zone even if they’re not exactly a tree-lover’s pilgrimage site.
That said, Redwood National Park does hold two special sights, including the Lady Bird Johnson Grove, on Bald Hill Road two miles east of US-101, where the new park was dedicated in 1969. Ten miles farther up this road, and a long hike beyond that, the Tall Trees Grove (free permit required) holds one of the world’s tallest trees, the 360-plus-foot Libbey Tree, whose trunk measures over 14 feet in diameter.
At the south end of the park, the roadside-strip town of Orick stretches toward the coast, where the main Redwood National Park Thomas H. Kuchel Visitor Center (119441 Hwy-101, 707/465-7765) stands at the mouth of Redwood Creek.