Redwood National Park is home to the tallest trees in the world with some reaching heights of 380 feet and living as long as 2200 years. They only grow in Northern California and southwest Oregon and these parks provide great hiking and camping opportunities. These lush forests need our protection and you should try to experience them first hand so you don't let anything deter you from joining in to ensure their longevity.
One thing for which California is famous is its redwood trees. These are primarily in two distinct regions with different, but related tree species.
Contrary to some peoples' impressions, they do not grow over all, or even most, of California and they are not suited to growing in most of the state but are adapted to specific regional climates. People often get the two confused and mix the type of the Sierra with the extensive forest found only in the second, coastal region. The Sierra trees tend to be more isolated, further apart, more twisted or bent, thicker, and shorter. The Coastal trees tend to be in larger, often very dense, etensive stands, tend to be straighter, thinner, and taller.
Both types of trees may be extremely old and get extremely large but as far as I know a few of the largest Sierra trees are slightly larger in girth and volume than the largest coastal species but the coastal trees are the tallest.
Both types of trees are somewhat threatened, partly a result of massive logging for the timber industry in the 19th and early 20th centuries, especially of the Coastal Redwoods. At the time, most houses in Northern California tended to be made partly or wholly from Coastal redwood, valued not only for its appearance but for its pliability and ease of use combined with resistance to decay as well as the nearby access to huge stand of trees which had been called an "inexhaustible" supply of timber.
One group, confusingly often referred to as "Giant Sequoia," is Sequoiadendron giganteum, and it is found in the western Sierra Nevada, mostly to the south, from the American River in the North down to Tulare County south of Yosemite in the south. These can be extremely large and old, yet they tend to exist in small, even isolated stands or groups with relatively few trees. The climate tends to have snowy winters with summers that are sunny, hot or very warm, and very dry.
The other main group, the Coast Redwoods, is Sequoia sempervirens and it exists on the coast, stretching from the Monterey Bay region of California's central coast in the south into SW Oregon in the north. However, roughly 90% of these trees are found in California's Redwood Empire, California's North Coast from San Francisco to the Oregon border. This consists of the counties of Marin, Sonoma, Mendocino, Humboldt, and Del Norte. With heavy marine influence unlke the Sierra redwood region, this area has much lower diurnal and seasonal temperature fluctations. This region tends to have moderate, cool, extremely wet winters, in some places in Sonoma and Del Norte Counties normally reaching close to, and sometimes exceeding, 100 inches of rain annually. Snow is rare. Summers normally tend to be cool to somewhat warm throughout the region, summers can get fairly warm during the day in the southern and more inland reaches. Summers often have consistent, often very dense fog from the ocean, so that even without rain the area is often chilly and wet in the summer, barely warmer than in winter. In the north, epsecially, there will be periodic rain all through summer and in the summer the area may be completely covered in fog or clouds all day, every day, for weeks, making places like Portland, Oregon seem sunny and warm. Unlike the Sierra redwoods, these trees may, even today, be in extensive, dense, dark forests with thick undergrowth of ferns, vines, and other plants. The biggest tree stands are in Humblodt and Del Norte counties in the far north, but the term "Redwood Empire" was coined in Santa Rosa, in Sonoma County, in the early 20th century as a tourism marketing ploy. Major preserves to visit for camping and hiking include Redwood National Park, Humboldt Redwoods State Park (both in Humboldt/Del Norte Counties), Navarro River Redwoods park in Mendocino County, Armstrong Redwoods preserve in Sonoma County, Muir Woods in Marin County, and Big Basin preserve in Santa Cruz County.
I went on a tour to the Giant Redwoods. They didn't pay the entrance fee and also only gave us an hour there. I didn't feel it was worth it at all. The trees were awesome and I wish I could have spent a lot more time there.
Yes, THAT Grant. He hated the left coast. It was in the west he first earned his rep as an irresponsible boozer & was asked to resign his army commission or be cashiered. Luckily, a war came along in time for him to redeem himself. They usually do.
Don't miss the redwoods to or from Oregon. Breathtaking! You might even wish to consider changing plans a bit whether driving Coast Highway 101 or inland via connecting route 199 to I-5 or route 99. It was 2 lanes bumper to bumper when I drove it in my youth a century ago, probably 4 lanes now. Old superhigways, if they still exist though, often offer the best scenic experience.
One of the incredible experience is to be amongst a grove of giant sequoia trees. These ancient tall Californian redwood trees are tall and huge.
Some trees even have a tunnel or hole big enough to walk through or a car to drive through.
Fortunately, these giant trees are being well protected and found in many national parks in California like Kings Canyon National Park and Giant Sequoia National Park or Muir Forest near San Francisco.
The Humboldt Redwoods State Park in Northern California is home to Avenue of the Giants, a drive-through scenic side road which parallels Highway 101. You can pick up an auto tour guide at the entrance to the Avenue (we entered on the north side in Pepperwood).
The road winds for 32 miles past various groves of redwoods and points of interest. You can park and walk along trails if you wish. The road meanders for a while along the Eel River - down to a trickle when we were there in late July, but apparently it can get quite high in the winter.
The southern end of the tour is in Phillipsville, but you can get back on 101 at various points along the way.
Redwood National and State Parks in Northern California truly give a person perspective on their place in this universe. We are tiny, tiny people. Redwoods used to cover much of North America - the same climate change that did in the dinosaurs also spelled doom for the redwoods. That, and logging.
Our two favorite areas of the parks were the Simpson-Reed Grove, in Jedediah Smith SP, and the Lady Bird Johnson Grove, which is in the southern part of the NP. Even between the two one can notice a difference in size - northern redwoods are larger than southern redwoods.
Unlike most national parks, there is no admission fee to drive through Redwood.
Go see the Redwood trees. Look how big they are! In Prehistoric (what's up with that word, anyways?) times, was everything really this big? Unbelievable. You can see these in Northern Cali near San Francisco or in Yosemite National Park.
Humboldt Redwoods State Park has a large forest of these huge trees. Worth the drive and walk to see this amazing place. Many of the old growth trees are more than 2000 years old and a growth of over 300 feet on 52,000 acres.
Mill Valley - Muir Woods. Peaceful and serene Muir Wood is the old-growth redwood forest closest to San Francisco. It is a 550-acre (223-hectare) preserve, with some trees 1,000 years old and as high as 252 feet (77 meters). There are easy trails to wander amongst the giant redwoods. midway between Silicon Valley and the Sonoma and Napa wine country.
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