road trip recap: redwood forest

by Stacy

First, a message from Woody Guthrie:

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island
From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me.

Have you ever been to Redwood National Park? If not, you should. It’s 775 miles from San Diego and absolutely worth the trip. Admission is free!


Redwoods are tall trees. Extremely tall. Also called giant redwoods or coastal redwoods, they are the tallest trees you will find. We also went to Sequoia National Park, and those are the largest trees around, but they are shorter than the towering trees you’ll see along the coast.


It’s hard to get perspective in photos without a reference, but the redwoods can grow over 350 feet tall and lives for 1200-1800 years. Impressive, I think.

Some fun facts we learned about the redwoods:

  • The redwood trees actually absorb a significant amount of their water through their bark. The area is foggy, with light and hazy summer fog, and cool, dense winter fog.
  • The oldest and widest trees are not the tallest trees. They grow upward very quickly, then continue growing out. The wind blows off the tops of the trees as they age.
  • The very tallest trees in the park are not marked in any way. The fear is that attracting attention to the trees would cause too much traffic and damage the trees’ shallow root systems.

running elk

We saw a herd of elk along the road back to the hotel, hanging out and grazing. We stopped to watch and take a few photos as did a number of other cars. It was a fun wildlife sighting for the day, especially that close. On our hikes the wildlife was mostly limited to birds.


In these shoes I am six feet tall. The trees are significantly taller.

The above photos were taken on the Lady Bird Johnson Trail, an easy 1-mile loop with lovely scenery. It’s not a tough hike and is very accessible.

In contrast, my favorite part of the Redwood Forest was the Tall Trees Trail. Allow 4 hours for the trail, both for driving to the trailhead and the actual hike.


To visit the grove you have to stop at the Kuchel Visitor Center to procure one of 50 permits available each day. The permit includes a map and that day’s lock combination. We also walked along the beach next to the center and learned about deadly sneaker waves from the sign pictured above.

From the visitor center it’s a 45-minute drive up a winding hilly road to the locked gate securing the entrance to a 6-mile gravel logging road. Only 1.3 miles away from the parking lot (and almost 700 feet lower in elevation) is the Tall Trees Grove.

tall trees trail, redwood national park

This photo shows part of the Tall Trees Loop where century-old maple trees dripping with moss make the trail look like a Tim Burton movie set.

The trail is impressively silent, partially due to the seclusion of the area and the limited access. Rusty-orange pine needles pave the trail which is lined with lush ferns and other foliage. The peaceful atmosphere helps you to appreciate the scale of the massive trees and soak in the beauty of the forest.

The Tall Trees Trail (you can read a lovely write-up here) ranks high on my list of favorite moments on the trip. It was a steep climb back up to the parking lot, but we made it just as it started to rain.

What’s your favorite hike? I haven’t hiked much so don’t have a large repertoire for comparison, but this was a spectacular way to spend the afternoon.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

mangocheeks November 25, 2010 at 11:56 am

Yes I have when I visited America for the first time ever and I loved it. I spent time there exploring with my best friend (who I miss dearly – she lives in the States and I live in the U.K), but the memories wonderful and the photographs I have to my trip to the magnificent Redwood Forest.


Stacy November 28, 2010 at 11:55 am

How wonderful! It was such a great experience to be up there.


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