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Avenue of the Giants and Drive-Thru Trees

The stretch of historic US‑101 through the redwood country of Humboldt County, frequently called the Avenue of the Giants, is lined by pristine groves of massive trees and provides boundless opportunities to come face-to-face with your own insignificance in nature’s greater scheme of things. If you tire of this display of natural majesty, or simply want to keep it in context with the modern “civilized” world, you’re in luck: Every few miles, amongst the stately trees, you’ll come upon shameless souvenir stands selling redwood burl furniture and chainsaw sculptures, as well as wonderfully tacky tourist traps like the Legend of Bigfoot. Check out this video walkthrough from YouTube road trip enthusiast, Urban Outdoorsman:

Many of the area’s hyper-tacky attractions now exist only in memory (and on old postcards), but none of the survivors is big or bold enough to detract from the main event—the big trees—and since they’ve been in operation since the early days of car-borne tourism, they’re as much a part of the redwood experience as the trees themselves. Most charge only a few dollars’ admission, so there’s not a lot to lose.

While you’re encouraged to stop at any and all of them—at least long enough to buy a postcard or two—the most tried-and-true attraction is the Trees of Mystery, marked by huge statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox along US‑101 in Klamath, well north of the official Avenue of the Giants. In Myers Flat is the Shrine Drive-Thru Tree, at 13078 Avenue of the Giants (old US‑101), which wagon-borne travelers drove through more than a century ago.

Two more classics are found in the south: One of the best stops in redwood country, Confusion Hill in Piercy is one of those places where water runs uphill and the rules of physics seem not to apply; there’s also a little railway train here that chugs uphill to a nice grove of trees. Finally, at the Chandelier Drive-Thru Tree, in Leggett off old US‑101 on Drive Thru Tree Road, drive your car through a 315-foot-tall redwood tree, still growing strong despite the gaping hole in its belly.

A car drives through the Chandelier Tree in Leggett California in 1941.
The Chandelier Tree in 1941. Photo © TigerPaw2154 licensed CC-BY-SA 3.0.

In 2017, one of California’s other famous tunnel trees was brought down by a storm. The “Pioneer Cabin Tree” was a Giant Sequoia located in Calaveras Big Trees State Park (nearer to Yosemite) and long past the days when it served as a motorist attraction. The massive trees found along the Avenue of the Giants are in the sequoia family, but California’s Coastal Redwoods grow taller (the tallest in the world!) and sport a wider root system than their inland cousins.

Driven through or driven-thru the Avenue of the Giants? Share your arboreal adventures with us on social media using the hashtag #TravelWithMoon or tag us @moonguides on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

Avenue of the Giants Drive-Thru Trees pin