SPECIAL REPORT • The West's untapped treasures

"Ambassadors from another time" is how John Steinbeck describedredwoods in Travels with Charley. Redwood National and State Parkscontain thousands of such ambassadors. In fact, it's home to someof the world's tallest and oldest trees.

Shaped like a gnarled finger, the park covers some 105,000 acresand 37 miles of coastline near the California-Oregon border.Redwood National Park is unique, as it's managed in concert withPrairie Creek, Del Norte Coast, and Jedediah Smith Redwoods StateParks.

Bisected by U.S. 101, the park is easy to zoom through. Takeyour time and the place will quickly reveal its wonders: herds ofelk, misty canyons, ancient trees.

Ranger Philip Rovai suggests I take the scenic, winding drivedown Davison Road for a short walk up Fern Canyon as well as forthe likelihood of spotting Roosevelt elk. First I join him on ahike into magnificent Stout Grove, by the Smith River's tealwaters. Towering above us are coast redwoods, or Sequoia sempervirens, which can live up to 3,000 years."Stand next to a massive redwood and just look up - you feel smallin the world, like when you gaze up at the stars at night," Rovaisays.

WHERE: Along U.S. 101 north of Eureka.

WHEN: Open year-round; April through October is best.

COST: $2 day use.

SERVICES: For maps, visit the Redwood Information Center offU.S. 101 south of Orick (707/464-6101, ext. 5265). There are 335campsites ($12; 800/444-7275). For lodging, contact the CrescentCity/Del Norte County Chamber of Commerce (800/343-8300 or www.northerncalifornia.net).

ACTIVITIES: In Prairie Creek Redwoods, hike the .7-mile FernCanyon loop. From U.S. 101, take Davison Rd. (unpaved, butdrivable) 8 miles to its end; en route, you may see Roosevelt elk.The 1/2-mile Stout Grove Trail is off Howland Hill Rd. in JedediahSmith Redwoods.

CONTACT: (707) 464-6101 or www.nps.gov/redw.

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