I will never forget the first time I saw a tree big enough to drive through. I was only five years old and beyond thrilled that our family road trip not only took us through the redwoods, but actually THROUGH a redwood tree.
If you are planning a family road trip to or through California, I hope you’ll be able to visit some of its oldest–and largest–inhabitants: giant sequoias and giant redwoods. Here is a quick guide to five of our family’s favorites destinations for seeing these beauties.
1) The Chandelier Tree, a.k.a. the “drive-thru tree” (Leggett, CA)
While cutting a car-size hole through ancient redwoods is, thankfully, no longer permitted, you can still drive your kids through the Chandelier Tree (above) at Leggett, California, where this enormous redwood continues to stand and grow in spite of its drive-thru traffic. Just be sure to turn your side mirrors in to avoid spending more time in there than you’d like. The Chandelier Tree is just south of the intersection of Highway 101 and Coastal Highway 1, not far from the famed “Avenue of the Giants,” included below. Follow this link for more information about the Chandelier Drive-Thru Tree.
2) Calaveras Big Trees State Park (Angel’s Camp, CA)
We are very fond of “Big Trees” as it’s easy to reach in less than 3 hours from San Francisco or Berkeley, and has giant sequoias that simply do not disappoint. The North Grove walking loop gets you up close to–and even inside of–jaw-droppingly delightful trees, and is easy enough to do with toddlers on foot, or you can push a buggy or stroller through if you like. If you plan well in advance, you may be able to get a camping reservation here as well (see my tips for Camping at Big Trees here). Otherwise, you can book a hotel room in nearby Angel’s Camp (my kids would recommend the Best Western Cedar Inn & Suites with swimming pool and complimentary hot breakfast). Read more about Calaveras Big Trees State Park in my blog post here, and access the CA State Parks pages for the park here.
3) Humboldt Redwoods State Park
If it’s giant redwoods you want to see on your Northern California road trip, look no farther than Humboldt Redwoods State Park, where you’ll find plenty of shady groves to explore and the 31-mile scenic detour beside 101 called the “Avenue of Giants.” If you’re not sure how your little ones will do on the meandering route, know that you can tour small sections of the Avenue of Giants without committing to the whole tour. There are plenty of places to stop and picnic and explore the giants along the way. For a printable map of the Avenue of the Giants, click here, and to see descriptions and details of hikes at Humbolt Redwoods, click here. For more information about Humboldt Redwoods State Park, including details about camping in the park, click here.
4) Mariposa Grove, Yosemite National Park
With so many other spectacles competing for your attention within Yosemite National Park, you might lose sight of its majestic resident trees. Some of our favorites are the giant sequoias near the south entrance in the Mariposa Grove. The massive “Grizzly Giant” can be seen on a 1.6-mile roundtrip hike from the parking area. Or, if your family’s up for it, you can do a 6-mile roundtrip hike from Yosemite’s historic Wawona Hotel (my review here). Click here to see a map of the Mariposa Grove area trails. Find more help and inspiration for your Yosemite family vacation on my Yosemite board on Pinterest and in my reviews of Curry Village and Evergreen Lodge.
5) The Parker Group, Sequoia National Park
If you want to see giant sequoias on the grandest scale there is, do not pass Go, but head directly to Sequoia National Park. Not only is Sequoia home to the world’s largest tree (based on volume), the General Sherman tree shown atop this post, but it has mammoth sequoias and giant redwoods throughout the park. While many are prominently mapped and made as accessible as possible, our favorites remain this stand called “The Parker Group” that is off the most beaten path, not far from Moro Rock, which you’ll want to be sure and visit while you’re there (see my tips for hiking Moro Rock with little kids here). For help planning your trip to Sequoia National Park, click here to see the latest Park Newspaper with maps and updates (scroll down for the latest edition). Be sure to also read my important(!) tips for visiting Crystal Cave while you’re there. Only a few campgrounds in Sequoia accept reservations, with most being available on a first-come, first-served basis. More camping info here. For a detailed review of our family’s stay at Sequoia’s Wuksachi Lodge, click here,and by all means if you’re on Pinterest, check out my Sequoia National Park board.
Well, I’d like to think I’ve done my Arbor Day good deed now by planting these seeds for your future travels – and here’s a map with all five of these destinations to help with your planning.
So how about it? Do you want to add any of these stops to your California bucket list? Have you visited any of these gorgeous trees yet? And by the way, where are YOUR favorite trees? Please leave me a comment below!
Here’s a snapshot upon entering Bauman Farm’s amazing market – with bakery – with gift shop – with out-of-this-world nursery and over-the-top playground, which my mother-in-law introduced me to during our first road trip this summer. You’ll have to wait to see more about it, however, because I am taking the next few weeks OFF from this blog to savor what little is left of summer (and, you know, catch up on some of those personal things I’ve been allowing to sliiiiiide) before we dive back in to the new school year.
If you need help planning upcoming travels, however, here are some quick links to help you find just the tips you need:
- Air travel with babies, toddlers and little kids
- Car seat and road trip travel tips
- More family travel FAQs and popular topics
- Travel destination tips, reviews and recommendations
- Recommended gear for travel with baby / toddler
- Trip planning resources, including the Worldwide Directory of Baby Gear Rental Agencies, Moms around the World interviews, Hotel & Vacation Babysitter Agency Directory, and more…
Enjoy the rest of your summer – remember, this time next year your little one will be a whole lot bigger!
Having survived thousands of miles of road trips with diaper-clad co-pilots, I can tell you one thing with certainty: diaper changing facilities are few and far between along America’s great highways. Rest Areas are generally not equipped, and it never fails to surprise me how even the fast food restaurant with the 2-story play structure and high chairs lining the wall never seems to have a place for changing diapers in the restroom.
Not to worry. When you set up your own quick-change station in your car, you’ll be good to go. To prepare for diaper changes on your next road trip:
- Stash a few diapers, a travel-pack of diaper wipes and pack of antibacterial hand wipes in your glove box for quick access during front-seat changes.
- Keep a baby blanket or changing mat handy (flannel-backed vinyl works well) to protect the seat.
- If you have “bucket seats” or an emergency break in between the front seats of your car, bring along a firm pillow from home to even out the surface beneath your changing mat (also helpful for bottle- or breastfeeding breaks along the way, and napping).
- Have a large slide-lock plastic bag on hand to stow away diapers when a waste bin is not immediately available.
- Use the antibacterial hand wipes to freshen hands afterward.
And remember, if you pack along these vacation-ready Huggies Hawaiian Diapers and Wipes for your trip, Huggies Every Little Bottom will donate a day’s worth of diapers to families in need for every pack purchased this summer! Read all about it in my post Dressed cute for a cause in Kauai.
Want more tips for road trips with your baby or toddler this summer?
- Do not pass go, but head directly to the “Travels by Car” tips page for more quick tips and advice.
- Find all the planning help you can handle for successful family road trips with young children in Part 4 of Travels with Baby, and in related sections on temperament, packing, and more.
- As you travel, keep hundreds of on-the-go tips at your finger tips to help in the car, in restaurants, in hotel rooms, in airports, on airplanes, in foreign countries, and more with the pocket-size Take-Along Travels with Baby.
How about you? Do you have a great on-the-go diaper changing tip? Please share in comments below!
That’s us on one of our road trips last summer, returning from the Pacific Northwest through the magestic redwoods you may encounter along northern Hwy 101. As part of our final day of driving, I insisted we close out the road trip with a drive through the famous “Chandelier Tree,” which my kids were very excited about. (Don’t tell the middle kid she actually slept through it – she’s convinced she remembers it quite vividly!)
Only 2 weeks later we were southbound to L.A. on quite a different journey. Perhaps that’s why I’m having trouble planning our upcoming road trip for this summer? It will be hard to top last year’s adventures, and I’m not sure I could handle it if we did!
Are you gearing up for a summer road trip? Where will your family drive this summer?
If you’re planning to drive around California, Oregon, Washington, or Vancouver, be sure to check out my destination tips and advice page for recommendations of great places to stop, stay, and play along the way. And of course, don’t overlook the online tips and advice for road trips with babies and young children.
Related posts and pages:
- Five ways my Take-Along Travels with Baby will help on this next road trip
- “Tree House” at Humbolt Redwoods State Park on the Avenue of Giants
- Anderson River Park: Great pit stop for family road trips on I-5
- Driving loop for north central SF – Golden Gate Bridge, Park, Beaches & More
- See more in destinations…
This post is part of Photo Friday at DeliciousBaby.com.
When I recently discovered the Poetry Speaks to Children book with CD, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the CD and listen to the likes of Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Billy Collins reading their own poetry. Then came the moment, when just a few tracks in, my kids tilted their heads and stared at me as they heard an old man’s voice saying aloud the words I’ve whispered in their little ears since they were infants. I said, “That’s Robert Frost telling it—the man who wrote the poem.”
This entertaining collection includes 50 poems from 34 poets on the CD alone, and the printed book that accompanies it includes several more with illustrations. In contrast to the usual “children’s verse” suspects of centuries-old, mind-numbing (sometimes head-scratching) nursery rhymes, these fresh tracks range from Roald Dahl’s amusing “The Dentist and the Crocodile” that reads like a rhyming story to the rhythmical “Rabbit” by Mary Ann Hoberman, where you can play along as you listen counting how many “bits” are in the poem (good luck!).
While the collection was created with elementary school-aged children in mind, and some of it may be a little over the head of your toddler, it makes for fun listening overall for everyone in the car. Better still, this is a wonderful collection I know my family will enjoy for years to come—and I won’t be surprised if yours does to. Click here to browse the book or buy your own book with CD. (Please note: While Amazon’s product page says it’s temporarily out of stock, it is in fact still available new from other featured sellers – just click the “New from” link or click here.)
And before I go… happy National Poetry Month!
>>> Now you can quickly browse all the Pack This! recommendations at Amazon – click here. For the best in travel gear for babies and toddlers, head to Great Products & Gear. <<<
Okay, 5 people packed in a minivan setting out for hundreds if not thousands of miles of adventure may not be the first image that comes to mind when you hear the words “green travel.” Yet this year, families across the continent will set out to do just that in the name of meaningful, family vacations. With just a few minor adjustments, you might be surprised how even the Great American Road Trip can be done a little greener than you’d think.
Here are five easy steps you might take to “green” your own family road trip this year.
1. Use a refillable 3-gallon water dispenser as you travel instead of buying bottles of water. One identical to this BPA-free model has accompanied us on countless road trips, and we don’t plan to leave home without it this year! On shorter trips, I love having our same delicious water from home with us as we travel, and on longer trips, it’s always easy to refill with more water and ice at hotels along the way. During drives in the car, we keep it in a shady nook and sometimes set a pillow on top to insulate. In the campground? Perfect. And in case of a roadside emergency, you’ve got plenty of extra water for the family – or the car.
2. Bring your own travel mug and USE IT (again and again and again). Many a time, my hubby and I have stopped in our tracks in line for a free hotel breakfast or in a motel lobby with free coffee to go back and grab our travel mugs to fill them instead of the paper or Styrofoam cups provided by the hotel. Not only is this better for the environmental big picture, but my travel mug holds way more coffee and keeps it hot longer to boot! (For the same reason, I love using it to keep my cold water cold on the road.)
3. Bring a bag for recyclables. Garbage cans may be many along your route, but recycling receptacles? Not so many. Your road-trip recyclables stashed in a separate bag can be properly filed when the opportunity arises, or put in your own bin at home on your return from a weekend away.
4. Consider renting a hybrid – If you’ll be renting a car for your family road trip, or one to drive around the island, consider renting a hybrid car. Depending on the driving you’ll do, the savings in fuel costs alone may prove well worth it. For a limited time, you can also save 5% off all hybrid vehicles at Fox Rent a Car locations across the U.S., though the hybrids here and at other locations go quickly, so book yours early to avoid disappointment.
5. Bring an ice chest loaded with easy travel foods, even if you won’t be camping, and replenish as you travel. Having simple sandwich fixings, string cheese, baby carrots and the like on hand may not only save you money and calories over frequent fast food and drive-thru stops on your journey, but you won’t have nearly as much packaging to dispose of along the way. Not to mention, you’ll be picnic-ready for any scenic stop along your path.
GET MORE! For more road trip tips for travel with young children, see the Car Seat and Road Trip Tips Page, and don’t miss the planning help in Travels with Baby and tips to use during your road trip in Take-Along Travels with Baby.
Related posts and pages:
- Pack This! Reusable rinse-and-roll Bibbity Bib for travel
- Visit a National Park FREE this year (14 days left…)
- Pack This! Reusable Fresh N Freeze (not just for) baby food storage containers
- Pack This! Recycled plastic stacking cups – Made in the USA
When I mentioned the upcoming National Park Week and related Earth Day events earlier this week, I couldn’t help but think about the amazing State Parks California also has to offer that shouldn’t be overlooked by those planning travel here with their kids.
For example, Humboldt Redwoods State Park (above) is just one of several parks featuring enormous redwoods and several toddler-friendly hikes along California’s “Avenue of the Giants.” There are so many lovely groves to explore and shady pitstops for picnics along this section of northern California’s Highway 101, that you’ll want to be sure to drive at least a portion of the scenic 31-mile “Old Highway 101″ rather than the nearby modern freeway version of it. For a printable map of the Avenue of the Giants, click here, and to see descriptions and details of hikes at Humbolt Redwoods, click here.
Another California State Park featuring massive redwood giants with toddler-friendly hiking and a nice campground – which is often argued should be a National Park - is Big Trees Calaveras State Park, which is roughly 3 hours east of San Francisco. You can read about one of our visits to Big Trees in this post and get my tips for camping at Big Trees Calaveras in this post.
When my mother bravely loaded our Chevy hatchback with the faulty second gear to drive us down America’s scenic highways and on through several of its National Parks, our unforgettable journey not only taught us the value of bonding through family travel (and adventure!) but showed us firsthand what natural wonders had been set aside for us by our country and should never be taken for granted.
This month, from April 21 through April 29, you’ll have the opportunity to visit ANY of America’s 397 National Parks for FREE. Many of the parks will also be offering special Earth Day activities and events while you are there. Some you might want to check out if you’ll be in California include:
Yosemite National Park will have a guided bike tour of the valley for $5 each, including bike rental (or FREE if you bring your own bike – our favorite way to see Yosemite!), face painting and crafts for kids, and a family night that includes a sing-along and dramatic staging of Dr. Suess’s The Lorax in the Yosemite Lodge amphitheater. More special events, activities and offers are mentioned here.
Grand Sequoia National Park will have family-friendly events including an Earth Day Fair with numerous giveaways, guided forest tour, and evening meteor shower viewing at Wuksachi Lodge. More info about these and other special events here.
If you can’t take advantage of National Parks Week this month, these FREE entrance dates are also scheduled for later this year:
MORE FREE NATIONAL PARK DAYS IN 2012:
- June 9: Get Outdoors Day
- September 29: National Public Lands Day
- November 10 – 12: Veteran’s Day Weekend
Some of our National Parks, it should be noted, are always free. And of course, if it’s easier to see a National Park this year on your own time and your own dime, it can still be well worth every penny of the entrance fee.
For ideas and inspiration in planning your trip to a National Park this year:
- You can check out Ken Burns: The National Parks - America’s Best Idea: or follow this link to dowload the individual park episode you want.
- Explore these 35 National Park Adventures for Kids in this online brochure from the National Parks Foundation.
- If Yosemite National Park is on your list, be sure to see my tips for visiting Yosemite with young kids, biking, managing your car seat in bear country and more!
As we sang so often on our trip several years ago, “This land is your land; this land is my land.” I hope you’ll get a chance to get out there and share some of it with your own family this year.
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