The world's tallest kind of tree grows around San Francisco, and these hikes are the best ways to see true giants.
The tallest trees in the world are in Northern California. They are the coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens), and they grow up to 380 feet. They can also live to more than 2,000 years old. These ancient giants once dominated the landscape around San Francisco, but most fell victim to insatiable logging in the late 19th century.
Redwood forests have since resprouted, but few trees predate the arrival of Europeans and their saws. Those that do are called old growth. Luckily, redwoods grow fast, so even some second-growth forests (regrown since logging) approach 100 feet tall. Second-growth is common in the Bay Area, and you may think you’ve seen huge trees after strolling through a younger forest, but until you’ve stood beneath a true old-growth giant, you’re kidding yourself.
The trails on this list are in true old-growth groves, revealing trees that exceed 50 feet around at the base and soar out of sight overhead. Some have living trunks that you can walk inside or all the way through. These massive trees survive only in isolated pockets—places that loggers never reached. Today they are protected and accessible by those who appreciate their natural grandeur.
Muir Woods National Monument is the most famous old-growth stronghold near San Francisco, but it’s not the only one. That’s good, because Muir Woods becomes impossibly crowded on weekends. This list contains one trail in Muir Woods that’s certainly worth doing, but the rest are in less busy parks of the Bay Area and Santa Cruz Mountains. Hikes range in difficulty from stroller-friendly nature walks to long treks in the backcountry, so you can choose your ideal adventure among these mega trees.