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Thirty-three miles long, the Avenue of the Giants was left intact for sightseers when the freeway was built. The giants are the majestic coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens); more than 50,000 acres of them make up the most outstanding display in the redwood belt. Their rough-bark columns alone climb 100 feet or more and branches soar to more than 340 feet. With their fire-resistant bark and immunity to insects, they have survived for thousands of years. The oldest dated coast redwood is more than 2,200 years old.

Sadly, the route has several tacky attractions that attempt to turn the trees into some kind of freak show. My suggestion is to skip these and take advantage of the trails and campgrounds off the beaten path. As you drive along, you'll see many parking areas with short loop trails leading into the forest. From south to north, the first of these "attractions" is the Chimney Tree, where J. R. R. Tolkien's Hobbit is rumored to reside. This living, hollow redwood is more than 1,500 years old. A gift shop and burger place are nearby. Then there's the One-Log House, a small apartment-like dwelling built inside a log. You can also drive your car through a living redwood at the Shrine Drive-Thru Tree, at Myers Flat, midway along the avenue.

A few miles north of Weott is Founders Grove, named in honor of those who established the Save the Redwoods League in 1918. Farther north, close to the end of the avenue, stands the 950-year-old Immortal Tree, just north of Redcrest. Near Pepperwood at the end of the avenue, the Drury Trail and the Percy French Trail are two great short hikes. The park itself is also good for mountain biking. Ask the rangers for details. For more information, contact Humboldt Redwoods State Park (tel. 707/946-2409; www.humboldtredwoods.org).

The state park has three campgrounds with 248 campsites: Hidden Springs, half a mile south of Myers Flat; Burlington, 2 miles south of Weott, near park headquarters; and Albee Creek State Campground, 5 miles west of U.S. 101 on the Mattole Road north of Weott. Reservations are advised in summer; you can make them by calling tel. 800/444-7275 or online via ReserveAmerica at www.reserveamerica.com. Remaining sites are on a first-come, first-served basis. You'll also come across picnic and swimming facilities, motels, resorts, restaurants, and rest areas with parking lots.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.