The 16 Best Places to See Towering Redwood Trees in California

Redwood National Park
© The Migrating Monkey/Shutterstock.com

Written by Samuel Christopher

Updated: October 25, 2023

Share on:

Advertisement


Almost nothing else in nature excites the imagination, like the giant Redwood tree. Two of the subspecies of this tree are the tallest and the most massive species of tree in the world — the Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) and the Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum).

Interestingly, these two magnificent species of tree live in the same state: California. However, the two species exist in very different parts of this large state, meaning there are multiple opportunities to see redwood trees in California.

If you’re crazy about trees and would like to know where to see Giant Redwoods in California, take a look at this list that describes the best places to stand under the shadows of giants.

Why Do Redwoods Exclusively Grow in California?

Well, for starters, they don’t. The Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) of China is a rare subspecies that grows on the moist southeastern coast of that country. Coast Redwoods and Giant Sequoias have also found their way into other countries around the world as invasive species, such as New Zealand.

However, California hosts the right set of environmental conditions that allowed these trees to develop naturally and evolve into their current form. One of the essential conditions is the California coastal fog phenomenon, which essentially allows these trees to absorb a dousing of water and moisture each night as the fog rolls in. Scientists point to this phenomenon as one of the reasons why redwood trees in California have grown to be so gigantic.

1. Redwood National Park

Park Bench Surrounded by California Redwoods

Redwood trees provide shade for the forest floor.

©RyanCSlimakPhoto/iStock via Getty Images

Why not start with something obvious? Redwood National Park is home to some of the world’s tallest Redwood trees. It is smack dab in the middle of tons of other amazing, mind-bending scenery on California’s iconic Highway 1.

Redwood National Park is the central protected area of Redwood National and State Parks. The state parks are Del Norte Coast, Jedediah Smith, and Prarie Creek state parks, all of which are included on this list as well.

Redwood National Park is also home to the world’s tallest tree, an absolutely massive old-growth individual named Hyperion. This tree towers above the rest at a stunning 380 feet tall. Interestingly, Hyperion is relatively young for Redwood Trees in California, at a juvenile 800 years old. This means it might have even further to grow as the years go on.

Aside from the Redwoods themselves, Redwood National Park is home to many other endangered fauna of the Northern California ecosystem. Some examples include the Northern Spotted Owl, Bald Eagles, Black Bears, and Steller Sea Lions.

2. Big Basin Redwoods State Park

A couple tourists hiking in Redwood National Park, California

Some redwood trees are large enough to walk through.

©Yaya Ernst/Shutterstock.com

Big Basin Redwoods State Park is located in Santa Cruz County, just outside of the San Francisco Bay Area, a few hours south. It’s the state of California’s oldest state park and has been protected since 1902.

There is evidence that the park has been inhabited since prehistoric times. It has become a treasure to the people of northern California due to the beauty of its natural scenery. It even makes an appearance in the classic Alfred Hitchcock film Vertigo.

Big Basin is home to the largest Redwood Grove, south of the Bay Area. Unfortunately, the park has recently experienced heavy losses to its natural treasures. This primarily occurred during the 2020 CZU lightning complex fires.

3. Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

Stout_Memorial_Grove_in_Jedediah_Smith_Redwoods_State_Park_in_2011_(22)

Many Redwoods live to be thousands of years old.

©Chmee2, CC BY-SA 3.0 – Original / License

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park is another protected area in Santa Cruz County. One can quite easily travel to both it and Big Basin in one go if you’re interested in seeing multiple Redwood forests. This state park is home to some old-growth Redwood tracts. It features some truly mighty specimens of Redwoods, including one famous old gentleman known as “The Giant.”

Some of the Redwoods living in Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park are extremely ancient. Several trees are over 1,800 years old. At the park’s entrance, there are all three existing species of Redwoods planted. This allows visitors to compare the appearances of the Coast Redwood, Giant Sequoia, and Dawn Redwood.

4. Humboldt Redwoods State Park

The Eel River wends through this state park.

©Scrubhiker (USCdyer) / CC BY 2.0 – Original / License

Humboldt Redwoods State Park is of interest due to the fact that it contains the largest intact old-growth grove of Redwood trees remaining on Earth. This park is the third-largest park in the California State Park system. The park is named for the German scientist Alexander Von Humboldt (as are the rest of the state features of California featuring that name).

Humboldt Redwoods State Park lies near Highway 101. It offers easy access to the infamous Redwood tourist experience, “Avenue of The Giants.” This park features a few very notable Redwood individuals, including Stratosphere Giant, which was the tallest Redwood tree ever recorded before the discovery of Hyperion. Also of note is an albino Redwood named The Christmas Tree.

5. Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

McWay Falls.

McWay Falls at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park Big Sur, California.

©RudyBalasko/iStock via Getty Images

This state park exists within the famously beautiful region of California known as Big Sur. This region has provided many artists and countercultural types haven for decades.

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park contains many old-growth Redwood groves. There are several individuals over 300 feet tall. There are also several trees in the park that are over 2,500 years old.

In Big Sur, the mountains jut dramatically against the coastline of California. This results in a unique ecosystem where one can experience alpine and ocean environments in very close proximity to each other. This means one can enjoy a day at the beach before turning around to gawk at some giant redwoods.

6. Hendy Woods State Park

A sea cave and a sinkhole on a headland in Mendocino, California.

Mendocino Country features dramatic coastal landscapes.

©picchu productions/Shutterstock.com

Hendy Woods State Park is in Mendocino County, a northern California county known for its beautiful coastal scenery. It’s also quite notable for the quality of its wine and vineyards.

This state park contains many old-growth Redwood tracts. Many of these groves aren’t far from some of the famous vineyards of Mendocino. This makes this state park of particular interest to a particular brand of gourmand.

Hendy Woods State Park is also about 20 miles inland from the California coast. This makes it significantly warmer on average than many similar ecosystems that are located directly by the water.

7. Montgomery Woods State Natural Reserve

Sunbeams and pathway through ferns and redwood trees, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, Damnation Creek Trail, California

Ferns often accompany Redwood groves.

©Danita Delimont/Shutterstock.com

This reserve is also located in Mendocino County, not far from Hendy Woods State Park. It’s a prime location to seek out a now-rare type of ecosystem known as upland riparian habitat.

This natural reserve exists thanks to a donation by the California naturalist Robert T. Orr, who donated the land in 1945. The grove isn’t far from Mendocino Headlands State Park, a coastal state park that features dramatic coastal imagery.

8. Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park

Sunbeams over the Smith River at Redwood National Park in California

Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park is close to the border with Oregon.

©Kaitlind Fasburg/Shutterstock.com

This entry is part of the Redwood National and State Parks system of protected areas. This state park lies far to the north in California, close to the border with Oregon.

Like many of the entries on this list, the park features a dramatic collision between epic old-growth forests and dramatic coastal environments. There are many old-growth stands of Redwoods within the park’s boundaries.

This state park is close to the Northern California community of Crescent City. Crescent City is a working-class port town that mixes elements of California and Pacific Northwest cultures.

9. Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park

Afternoon skyline aerial view of the urban core of downtown Oakland, California, USA.

This entry is on the outskirts of Oakland, CA.

©Matt Gush/Shutterstock.com

This next entry is the perfect Redwood Excursion for the urban naturalist. This is because Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park is located smack dab in the middle of the Bay Area in the city of Oakland, CA.

Just a short drive through the eastern neighborhoods of Oakland brings you face-to-face with some towering Redwood trees. Also in the park are numerous other examples of native California flora and fauna.

Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park is the last surviving example of the East Bay’s Redwood forests. These used to be more common prior to the expansion of the urban areas that comprise the San Francisco Bay Area. Another attraction in the park is the Chabot Space and Science Center. This center is a state-of-the-art science education facility. It offers science education to the often disenfranchised youth of the East Bay.

10. Sequoia National Park

Famous Sequoia park and giant sequoia tree at sunset.

Giant Sequoias are the most massive tree in the world.

©IM_photo/Shutterstock.com

This is the world’s premiere place to see the Giant Sequoia, the world’s most massive species of tree. Within Sequoia National Park is the “Giant Forest,” a grove of humongous Sequoia trees that includes five out of the ten largest trees in the world.

Chief among these is the fantastic specimen General Sherman. The general is the world’s largest tree when all of the relevant factors are taken into consideration. This enormous tree has a bole volume of 1,487 m3 and is approximately 274 feet tall. Although General Sherman is not as tall as Hyperion, scientists tend to place more value on the overall size and mass of a tree over height when determining what is the largest tree.

Sequoia National Park is located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, a massive mountain range that includes Mt. Whitney, the highest mountain peak in the contiguous United States at 14,000 feet.

11. Muir Woods National Monument

The peak of Mt Tamalpais State Park, Marin County, California. San Francisco bay area visible in the background. The result of uplift, buckling, and folding of the North American Plate.

John Muir Woods National Monument is in Marin County.

©Alisa_Ch/Shutterstock.com

Named for the romantic naturalist John Muir, Muir Woods National Monument is located on Mount Tamalpais in Marin County. Marin County is a maritime community located just north of San Franciso along California’s Coast.

Muir Woods owes its monument status to US President Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt was a passionate naturalist who spearheaded the conservation movement in the United States. He is the President who created the concept of the National Park System.

This park is one of the most visited places on this list due to its proximity to San Francisco. Many tourists to the storied “Paris of The West” make a point to fit a trip into Muir Woods, as it lies just on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge.

12. Prarie Creek Redwoods State Park

Bull Elk (Roosevelt subspecies) fighting during the September breeding season; Redwood National and State Parks, California coast, highway 101; Pacific Northwest wildlife / nature / outdoors / parks

Roosevelt Elk populate the meadows of Prairie Creek.

©Tom Reichner/Shutterstock.com

Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park is another member of the Redwood National and State Park system. This state park contains over 14,000 acres of protected forest.

Of note within the park is a very large population of Roosevelt Elk. This is a species of Elk that lives in the temperate rainforest environments of the Pacific Northwest and Northern California.

Together with the rest of the parks in the Redwood National and State Park System, this park is a designated World Heritage Site. This emphasizes the weight and importance that people place on these magnificent trees.

13. Yosemite National Park

On Nov 14, 2016, Supermoon, super sized moon, rise over the Half Dome in Yosemite National Park

One of the many dramatic rock formations of Yosemite.

©Phitha Tanpairoj/Shutterstock.com

Yosemite National Park is one of California’s most iconic locations. The park has some of the most dramatic rock formations and epic natural scenery that one can find within the lower 48.

It is also home to a significant number of Giant Sequoia trees. These trees dot the park at various locations. There are several at high elevations above 6,000 feet, which means that one can pass by them on a pair of cross-country skis in the winter.

One of the more popular locations to see these girthy trees is in Mariposa Grove of the park, which lies close to the park’s southern entrance. You can find this section of trees crowded with tourists in the park’s equally crowded summer months.

14. Carbon Canyon Regional Park

View of El Matador beach in Southern California

This park isn’t far from the beaches of Southern California.

©Lux Blue/iStock via Getty Images

This entry is a grove of Coast Redwoods in the south of the state and the largest of its kind in that region of the state. This regional park is located just outside of Orange County, itself a suburb in the expansive greater Los Angeles urban area.

This park is probably the most southern example of a significant Coastal Redwood grove this far south in California. However, many of these trees are struggling under severe drought conditions. These types of conditions have plagued the area for the past decade or so.

15. Kings Canyon National Park

A view of Road's End Point on Kings Canyon Scenic Byway, California.

John Muir preferred Kings Canyon to even the formations of Yosemite.

©Ovidiu Hrubaru/Shutterstock.com

Kings Canyon National Park is a sizable national park that exists adjacent to Sequoia National Park. In fact, the two parks often overlap and share boundaries.

Like the latter, this place has many groves of massive Giant Sequoia trees, which exist in Sequoia National Forest. This forest exists dispersed between the two national parks.

A notable Sequoia specimen that lives in the park is General Grant. This erudite tree is another enormous Sequoia tree named after a Civil War-era General. The canyon walls of the canyon were carved over millennia during the last ice age. They are comprised of the distinctive gray granite that also adorns the rock formations of Yosemite.

16. Calaveras Big Trees National Park

largest plants

Calaveras is the home of many of the world’s formerly largest trees.

©Lucky-photographer/Shutterstock.com

This is another great venue for seeing some Giant Sequoia trees. Calaveras Big Trees National Park is also quite convenient to get to, as it lies only 100 miles east of California’s capital, Sacramento.

This is the first place that Western settlers ever recorded seeing and identifying a Giant Sequoia tree. This occurred during the 1850s when this area was the center of a global gold rush.

This park is also the site of an environmental tragedy. It was home to a massive Giant Sequoia known as the Discovery Tree, which would be the world’s largest tree if it still stood today.

Unfortunately, this tree was felled in order to harvest timber. This action was met with widespread dismay and condemnation by the public. This outrage galvanized the state government of California to present a document called the Yosemite Grant to Congress. This document jumpstarted the process of protecting these magnificent trees for future generations.


Share this post on:

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.