Along the northern Pacific coast of California are the world’s tallest living plants: giant trees that spring up from the rich, moist soil. Coastal redwoods — the tallest trees in the world — reach heights of over 200 feet tall, with the tallest rising more than 350 feet, which is taller than a 30-story building. Their thick bark resists fires, insects, and fungi, while their shallow roots absorb dew drops that drip from their needles. The trees’ roots intertwine with other redwoods’ to afford collective strength to withstand winds and storms. Such natural adaptation means that the redwoods in California range in age — some can be up to 2,400 years old. Easily drive to one or all of these redwood forests by staying at one of many California vacation rentals. That said, check out the top places in California to see impressive redwoods.
The Chandelier Drive-Thru Tree, a tall coast redwood tree in Leggett, rises over 300 feet tall, and measures 21 feet wide. It stands in a private grove owned by the Underwood family since 1922. Since 1937, the Drive-Thru Tree gives visitors the opportunity to drive through the car-size hole that Mr. Underwood cut in the tree for a nominal fee. Be advised to turn your side mirrors in to save damages. Visit the gift shop to browse for souvenirs, or enjoy hiking and picnicking in the park. Look for the Chandelier Tree just south of Highway 101 and Coastal Highway 1 intersection.
2. Calaveras Big Trees State Park
Calaveras Big Trees State Park features a walking loop that lets you get close to the giant sequoias and massive coast redwoods. Take the little ones in strollers or walking to see these colossal trees, even from the inside-out. Kids enjoy climbing the stairs to stand on top of the huge stump of the Discovery Tree, which marks the beginning of the North Grove Trail. The North Grove trail features the Empire State Tree, the largest in the grove, and the tunnel tree, which lies along the trail. Even adults can walk through the inside of the tunnel tree. This 1.5 miles walk is mostly level, and the easiest trail with kids.
3. Redwood National Park
Redwood National Park is in the northernmost coastal area of California. Be sure to hit the Lady Bird Johnson Grove Trail, a 1.5 miles hike to the spot where Lady Bird Johnson dedicated the park in 1968. The elevations in the park range from sea level to over 3,000 feet, with hiking trails are nicely maintained with hard-packed gravel. Whether you want to take a short stroll or an all-day hike beneath the giant redwoods, the place to begin is at the Visitor Center where you find maps and brochures that explain the local trees and wildlife.
4. Muir Woods National Monument
Just 12.5 miles north of the city, Muir Woods National Monument site makes it easily accessible to San Francisco vacation rentals. Although this is one of the smaller redwood parks, the hiking trails give your family a variety of choices about distance and skill levels. It’s recommended that you get here early in the morning to find a parking spot in this popular park, which is the only old-growth redwood forest in the Bay area. As you meander among the 1,000-year-old trees, listen for the songs of birds and the occasional drop of a pine cone. Yeah, it’s like that.
5. Big Basin Redwoods State Park
Open to the public since 1902, Big Basin Redwoods State Park features many waterfalls and more than 80 miles of hiking trails winding through coastal redwood forest. All trails start in the valley near the park headquarters, with the biggest trees and most beautiful groves in the park covering about half a mile to the north and south of the building. There’s a fee to park near the headquarters, but parking in all other areas is free, including Waddell Beach, Whitehouse Canyon Road, and China Grade.
6. Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
Located a mere 5.5 miles north of Santa Cruz, Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park centers around a grove of redwoods that range up to 300 feet in height and 1,800 years in age. For an effortless and exciting look at the giant redwoods, take the Roaring Camp Railroads steam locomotive train tour through the park. The one-hour trip takes you through the redwood forest, over trestles, and to the summit of Bear Mountain. Along the way, your conductor narrates the history of the camp, the park, and the railroad. If you prefer walking, the park features almost 15 miles of trails, including some that lead to the San Lorenzo River and overlooks that feature views of Monterey Bay.
7. Humboldt Redwoods State Park
Shadowy, cool, and cloaked in a misty repose, the giants of Humboldt Redwoods State Park preside over a lush world. The 32-mile “Avenue of Giants” tour along Highway 101 features plenty of shady groves, trails, and picnic spots along the way, giving your family opportunities to ride or hike as much as you choose. The 53,000-acre park includes 17,000 acres of old-growth coastal redwoods, making it the oldest such stand of redwoods in the world. This forest features trees that stand over 300 feet high and are thousands of years old. Stop by the Visitor Center between the towns of Weott and Myers Flat for maps and brochures. You pay no entrance fees, and only one day-use area charges a small per-car fee. The rest of the day-use areas are free, including the Women’s Federation Grove, which includes a sandy beach on the Eel River, picnic tables, and restrooms.
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