Few experiences match the majesty of winding through Howland Hill Road's towering stands of old-growth redwoods.
This iconic tour of ancient trees around every corner can now be taken virtually from anywhere with Internet access.
Google Street View, which allows users to explore places at eye-level all over the world with a 360-degree virtual experience, now depicts five national parks, including Redwood National and State Parks.
"It might entice people to come visit who didn't realize how amazing this place is," said Candace Tinkler, chief interpreter for the redwoods parks. Beyond that, Tinkler is excited to share the Redwood Parks experience with those who can't make it in person. "There are people who will never be able to physically come here or take all the drives, and this is a way to make this place more accessible to people all over the world."
In addition to Howland Hill Road, Google's multi-camera cars captured Cal-Barrel Road, Newton B. Drury Parkway, Davison Road and Bald Hills Road to showcase Redwood Parks.
On a virtual tour of any one of those redwood-lined roads, Internet users can click the up-arrow to tilt the camera toward the sky,taking in the crowns of the tallest trees in the world - without the neck cramp.
"I don't want to think that virtualness will ever replace really being here," Tinkler said. Still, even Del Norters might need some redwood relief at work.
"Everyone likes to take a road trip through a national park," said Evan Rapoport, the Street View project manager, who was inspired by a cross-country camping trip he took after graduation. "Bringing unique places to people that they might not go to in the real world is unique to Street View."
Google sought permission from the Department of the Interior before filming in May as drivers hit the road in vehicles rigged with 15-lens cameras that point in all directions, Rapoport said. The camera fires off still images at intervals depending upon the speed of the vehicle, then custom software blurs faces and stitches all of them together into an ever-advancing 360-degree panorama.
In addition to Redwood Parks, Google Street View also aimed cameras at Death Valley, Joshua Tree, Sequoia and Kings Canyon and Yosemite national parks.
The project was part of a Street View "refresh" of California that involved a trip down Highway 1 along the Big Sur coast, including the famous Bixby Creek Bridge that spans the mouth of a coast-hugging canyon.
The parks join other Street View features like a snowy glide down one of the ski runs at Squaw Valley of 1960 Olympics fame, or a walk around the gardens of the Louvre museum in Paris.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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