Of all the wonderful redwood groves scattered along the California coast, the finest are preserved in Redwood National Park. Here one may take a walk back in time to that distant age when redwoods were found abundantly across North America.
There is a sense of timelessness in the groves, of trees that were seedlings when Julius Caesar took his ill-fated walk to the Forum and of a ground sanctified through age and beauty.
It is always twilight under the thick canopy of the redwood forests, always April cool, with the morning freshness of the biblical garden. Black-tailed deer and Roosevelt elk graze among the giant sword ferns, and hermit thrushes call out from the dense thickets. Rabbits feed in grassy clearings while bobcats watch with eyes like polished topaz.
An abundance of superb hiking trails are also found in the park. The best of these may be the Coastal Trail, which offers a quiet walk through the towering redwood groves near the Pacific shore side of the park.
Inland, visitors will find many good trails among the streams and rivers. Redwood National Park also protects 40 miles of northern California sea coast, where colony-dwelling sea birds, rotund sea lions, and playful seals live.
Redwood National Park Photo Opportunities
While every inch of this park is truly a natural wonder, there are some must-see sights to capture with your camera, including:
- Tall Trees Grove: This grove is home to a tree dubbed the "Tall Tree," which once measured nearly 367.8 feet. Unfortunately, the Tall Tree's crown fell off in the 1980s. Don't let this stop you, however -- this grove still has plenty of other tall trees to wow you.
- Klamath River Overlook: From this vista, you can view a variety of birds and other wildlife at the mouth of the Klamath River as well as gray whales in the Pacific Ocean. Peak migration months for viewing whales are November through December and March through April.
- Stout Grove: The clear Smith River runs alongside this grove. Its rich river soil is the cause of sparse vegetation on the forest floor and the unusually stout trees found in this grove.
- Damnation Creek: This steep trail descends 1,000 feet through an old-growth redwood forest to the ocean. Used in the past by Tolowa Indians for food gathering at the ocean, the trail offers excellent photo opportunities of both the forest and the ocean.
Tall Trees Grove
Tall Trees Grove, the centerpiece of Redwood National Park, is part of a stupendous stretch of unusually tall redwoods that is called the Emerald Mile. Here, under a vaulted green canopy, sunshine reaches the forest floor only in splintered shafts of light, creating an effect that resembles a gothic cathedral, where great columns of stone are punctuated by stained glass. The mystery of this magical place is further heightened when fog rolls in from the nearby ocean, wrapping the great trees in a wispy gauze of vapor.
Among the giants in Tall Trees Grove stands the world's tallest known tree, appropriately called the Tall Tree. Its top once rose almost 368 feet above the ground (the crown fell off in the 1980s). Foresters estimate that the tree is about 600 years old. This remarkable tree was not measured until 1963, when it was discovered, along with the second and third tallest trees, which stand nearby.
Exploring Redwood National Park will be even more satisfying if you know a little bit about its history. Read the next section to find out more.