There are some great old-growth redwood forests around the Bay Area, but driving down from Oregon, I knew I wanted to see Redwood National Park. Much of Northern California, between San Francisco and the Oregon border, is protected land: either a national or state forest or park. As it is officially known, Redwood National and State Parks are a series of parks along the coast that are home to the world's tallest trees.
Where are the world's tallest trees found?
You read that right. The tallest trees in the entire world are the Coast Redwoods, and they are found right here in Redwood National Park. The exact location of the species' tallest tree (called the Hyperion) is a well-kept secret, though it is known to be within a quarter mile of an area cut down during deforestation. It was probably only weeks from being felled when Redwood National Park was established in 1968.
Though we couldn't find the tallest tree exactly, we did see many of its cousins. And boy, were they something. We went for a two mile hike through the park and among some of the most impressive trees. The redwoods here are over one thousand years old, and some of the trunks were the size of a car. It was a little mind-boggling to be honest.
We parked at Big Tree Wayside to start our hike, and the Big Tree is right next to the parking lot. Apparently the 16th largest Coast Redwood, this tree is protected by a raised viewing platform that makes it a little hard to see its true size.
If you are having trouble reading the sign, I'll write it out because the biometrics on this Big Tree are impressive.
Height: 286 feet
Diameter: 23.7 feet
Estimated Age: 1,500 years
Prairie Creek Trail
The rest of the hike was just as exciting. I loved all the ferns and moss covering the trees. It was a very quiet and peaceful walk, and aside from some trunks moved out of the way of the path, it was mostly untouched. Dead tree trunks are really important for the biome, as they are home to a lot of animals, insects, moss, mushrooms, and more. It was cool to see, in some cases (see the second photo), tree trunks sprouting sideways out of their fallen parent tree. The trees also eventually decay and enrich the soil as part of the nitrogen cycle. This was obvious walking along the spongy, red path.
I tried to take a vertical panoramic photo, but I still don't think it quite captures the awe-inspiring size of these trees. Nonetheless, it is a good example of a phenomenon I love: crown shyness. I've also heard it called canopy sharing, as if the trees can sense where another's leaves start and give it space. Crown shyness is more accurate to the likely explanation of avoiding cross-contamination of disease. Either way, it's cool to see the thin river of sky peeking through the canopy on the right side of this photo.