With all due respect for the stately redwood, we found Redwood National Park to present a rather sprawling disjointed mess that seemed more of a refuge designed for the greatest protection of the redwood tree from a chainsaw rather than, per se, a visitor experience. Perhaps the national designation in turn affords greater protection to the state parks meandering haphazardly back and forth therein.

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The coast redwood is not just another tree to be appreciated in a guidebook. You need to stand next to one, dwarfed by its colossal size and in awe of its lengthy lifespan of thousands of years to fully appreciate its stature and historical significance.

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Beginning with a drive through the Avenue of the Giants in Humbolt Redwoods State Park (located on old Highway 101 south of Redwood National Park), we tried to digest the height and width of the majestic redwoods located in this old growth forest. Capturing its sheer size on film proved near impossible.

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Avenue of the Giants

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Next we headed to the Redwood visitor center to try and unlock the mystery of this national park. Several of the visitor centers show a fairly decent, if short, film to acquaint the visitor with the park and we learned that Redwood National Park also encompasses prairies and coastline.

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beach access behind the Kuchel Visitor Center

One of the recommended hikes is along the Lady Bird Johnson Grove Trail which we attempted to undertake but numerous signs at the trailhead warning hikers of theft, combined with an uneasy feeling we could not define, deterred us from more than a cursory exploration. It was something we had not felt in any of the prior national parks and just as we were despairing of discovering the magic that makes a national park so special we came upon the Roosevelt elk. A bull elk was protecting his harem from another bull elk and the chase and the posturing was on full display in Elk Prairie punctuated by the distinctive elk bugle. We stole close, but not too close, for a front row seat.

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Roosevelt Elk

While we can’t put our finger on exactly what it is that leaves Redwood lacking, we do appreciate that we failed to piece together the puzzle that is Redwood National Park.

Up Next: Lassen Volcanic National Park