Trail of the Giants: World's Tallest Trees Road Trip

Visit the best groves of old-growth redwoods and sequoias on this epic road trip!

Hiking Easy, Moderate

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Stout Redwood Grove
Photo: Greg Heil

Description

California's redwoods, famous as the tallest trees in the world, inspire a sense of awe and wonder as you gaze at their massive trunks and try to make out the towering canopy, so high above you that you'll have to crane your neck back to try to take it all in. Even then, the scale of these trees is so tremendous, so exceptional, that the human brain doesn't seem capable of comprehending it. Indeed, when trunks from the first sequoias cut down by white men were shipped to the East Coast for display at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876, it was labeled the "California Hoax" by locals who couldn't fathom trees of that scale.

Even adolescent redwoods soar to astronomical heights, but the Hyperion tree towers above the rest—in 2006, it was measured to be 379.7 feet tall. The Hyperion Tree is a coast redwood, or Sequoia sempervirens. The similarly-famous sequoia trees are a close cousin of the coast redwoods, with the scientific designation of Sequoiadendron giganteum. This specific species of sequoia claims the title of the largest tree in the world by volume: the General Sherman Tree. The General Sherman contains 52,508 cubic feet of wood.

Massive sequoias and redwoods of varying shapes and sizes live up and down the beautiful state of California. While you can find sequoias and redwoods in several different places, the individual species require very specific climate zones to thrive. So, you'll have to track down these specific zones, which is where this guidebook comes in.

Making the search more difficult is the "insatiable logging of the late 19th century" that obliterated most of the original redwoods and sequoias, according to FATMAP writer Jesse Weber. In many places, second-growth redwoods have re-sprouted, but to find the true giants, you'll have to seek out the isolated pockets of old-growth forests that were spared the saw and the axe.

To track down these iconic trees, try traveling the Trail of the Giants! This guidebook outlines a road trip of epic proportions that visits the most renowned pockets of old-growth redwoods and sequoias in California. The trip as delineated runs from south to north, beginning with the sequoias in Sequoia National Park, Kings Canyon National Park, and Yosemite National Park. From there, the route swings out to the coast, switching from sequoias to coast redwoods. You'll hit a few of the remaining patches of old-growth forest in the San Francisco Bay Area that haven't burned down before heading north to the iconic Redwood National and State Parks that protect the largest groves of remaining redwood trees.

Even with a whopping 14 hikes in this guidebook, these are just the highlights! There are many more trails and redwood groves to see and experience, and each one is just a little bit different from the last. So get started planning your next road trip, and try traveling the Trail of the Giants!

Sources: FamousRedwoods.com "In the Land of Giants: Best Redwood Hikes near SF" LiveScience.com NPS.gov  Sequoia Parks Conservancy "Sequoia sempervirens," Wikipedia.org "Sequoiadendron giganteum," Wikipedia.org

Routes included

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