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My Favorite Road Trip: California’s Giant Redwoods

Forest Bathing Among Giant Redwoods

Take a road trip with AAA Washington’s Jeanine Ollivier Rollins from her home in Seattle to Humboldt County, California, to walk and ‘forest bathe’ among the giant redwoods. Read why a calming walk in nature is one of her favorite ways to spend her vacation.

Sometimes you just want to feel small.

That’s why AAA Member Travel Counselor Jeanine Ollivier Rollins recommends visiting the forests of giant redwoods in northern California. Rollins, who has lived and traveled widely in the United States, says visiting nature is the most refreshing of experiences.

“I have been on most of the major interstates and roads in the United States,” says Rollins. “But one that’s closest to my heart because of where I grew up is the northern California redwoods along Highway 101.”

The region is one of the most unique in the world, she says. The route goes like this: Travelers can depart via Interstate 5 from, say, Seattle, and head south into Oregon. Then they can pick up Highway 199 by Grant’s Pass and head west to connect with Highway 101 near Crescent City in California.

“It’s extremely scenic,” Rollins says. “You can look at the elk herds everywhere. There’s also Fern Canyon. You also pass through Jedediah Smith State Park, where they filmed ‘Return of the Jedi.’”

Jeanine Ollivier Rollins in Klamath
Jeanine Ollivier Rollins at the Klamath River Overlook in California. Photo courtesy of Rollins.

Bathed in Redwoods

Rollins quotes the Japanese term “forest bathing” to describe a walk among the redwoods, which can grow upwards of 300 feet tall. A person is bathed in the sights and smells of the old growth while surrounded by the mist and moisture of the forest.

“Redwood trees are majestic,” Rollins says. “They make you feel like this little-bitty person.”

It takes around 10 hours to drive from Seattle to northern California, but Rollins and her husband like to “dilly-dally.” They often stop at Grants’ Pass in Oregon to spend the night before heading out on the rest of the journey to the redwood hubs. And for those who enjoy oysters, Rollins says, you’re in for a treat.

“As a kid growing up in Humboldt County,” she says, “I had to learn all the different types of trees in history class. We learned about the ecosystem in the area. For example, there are Kumamoto Oysters, I just love those little pillowy oysters from Humboldt Bay.”

To get to the national parks, Rollins says travelers can take an RV, traditional cars or even motorcycles. There are a few dicey areas along the drive between the border of Washington and Oregon, but if one is careful there should be no problem traversing them. And while travelers may not want to plan to take their RVs too far into the parks, there are plenty of mild hikes that go deeper into the woods.

“You can take your time,” Rollins says. “There are lots of pull-off areas, trails that are easily walkable to go see ferns as big as you are and trees of massive size.”

One favorite of Rollins is Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. It is a little lesser known than its southern counterpart in Humboldt County, offering a bit of “the road less traveled,” Rollins says. Visitors can venture there year-round — including January and February when the weather is mild and sunny. Rollins likes to go in spring when the azalais and rhododendrons are in bloom.

“This is one place I can go where I feel I can unwind,” she says. “I don’t need a five-star resort. I like to go back to nature and see the ocean, walk through the forests and enjoy the rivers. You’re surrounded by water and greenery. It’s very calming. I feel my most free when I’m out on the open road.”

–Written by Jake Uitti
–Top photo is of giant redwood trees at Jedediah Smith State Park. By Lance/AdobeStock

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