Driving Through Northern California's Avenue of the Giants (And Tips For Photographing It!)
Updated: Sep 1
Avenue of the Giants is a scenic drive that parallels Highway 101 in Humboldt Redwoods State Park. The 31 miles stretch, lined with California redwoods (the tallest trees in the world), has been on my bucket list for quite some time. This past June of 2020, I finally got to experience the majestic road while road-tripping through Northern California and Southern Oregon.
In this post, I’ll be sharing a few tips that might be helpful to anyone who is planning on doing the drive through Avenue to Giants.
WHERE IS AVENUE OF THE GIANTS:
Avenue of the Giants is located in Humboldt Redwoods State Park and parallels Highway 101 and the Eel River for 31 miles. It can be accessed via Exit 672 or Exit 645 off HWY 101, depending on which direction you are traveling.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO DRIVE AVENUE OF THE GIANTS:
The full avenue will take about 2.5 hours, and that's without stopping to take pictures or hiking the groves. If you can, plan on spending half a day to get the most out of Avenue of the Giants.
BEST TIME OF YEAR TO VISIT AVENUE OF THE GIANTS:
I would imagine Avenue of the Giants is beautiful any time of year. We went at the end of June. I found this to be a great time to visit because it's right before peak season (July and August are the busiest times to visit) and because the weather is ideal (warm, less rainfall). It's also a great time to go if you're looking for foggy conditions.
I found the Avenue of the Giants to be a little trickier to shoot than expected. Here are a few tips for photographing Avenue of the Giants.
TIME OF DAY:
One of the best times to photograph Avenue of the Giants is in the early morning. We stayed near Avenue of the Giants for two days. On the first day, we did the drive in the early morning, hoping to catch some foggy conditions. The fog had pretty much dissipated by 8m, but it was still an ideal time for shooting the road.
We also did the drive the next day in the mid-afternoon. Not a great time to shoot in general; this goes double for Avenue of the Giants. The contrast of shadow and light on the road was extremely harsh.
Wide Angle Fast Lens: Probably the most important piece of gear. Due to the height and density of the redwoods, the lighting along Avenue of the Giants can be challenging. Having a fast aperture lens is helpful. Also, a wide-angle lens is key for capturing the height of the redwoods.
Zoom Lens: For those tight road shots.
Drone: I brought my DJI Mavic Air but didn't end up using it. I think I was just too lazy to break it out, but I have seen some pretty amazing photos of Avenue of the Giants that look like they were taken with a drone.
Tripod: Not a necessity, but considering the low-light conditions that exist, a tripod can help when shooting at slower shutter speeds.
SHOOT IN MANUAL:
If you can, shoot in manual mode to avoid overexposure and/or underexposure from the dramatic contrast of shadows and bright sections along Avenue of the Giants.
Utilize people in your photos to give perspective to the colossal redwoods.
WHAT TO DO AT AVENUE OF THE GIANTS (besides drive):
THE GROVES: There are numerous hiking trails and "groves" along Avenue of the Giants. We only had time to hike one grove, so at the recommendation of California Through My Lens, we chose to check out Founders Grove. For more information on the groves in Avenue of the Giants, check out californiathroughmylens.com
TOURIST ATTRACTIONS: There are a few little tourist attractions along Avenue of the Giants (which we chose to skip). The main one being the Shrine Drive Thru Tree, where you can pay a small fee to drive your car through the trunk of a redwood tree.
WHERE TO STAY:
We stayed at The Redwood Riverwalk Hotel in Fortuna and would recommend it. It's right off HWY 101 and about 15 minutes from the north entrance to Avenue of the Giants. I also noticed that you can stay directly on Avenue of the Giants; something I would do on my next visit!
Be sure to add Avenue of the Giants to your bucket list when visiting the Northern California redwoods. We did Avenue of the Giants as part of a road-trip that also included Burney Falls and Southern Oregon.
Are you planning a visit to Avenue of the Giants and have a question? Ask me in the comments!
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