On the side of Mount Tamalpais, 12 miles north of San Francisco, there stands a glorious redwood forest known as Muir Woods. A proud member of the National Park Service and a National Monument since 1908, this majestic forest is a popular destination for both locals and visitors to hike and explore. Muir Woods National Monument encompasses a total of 554 acres, 240 of which constitute old growth coast redwood forests.
Once upon a time, these redwoods and sequoias grew all around the country, but today they only exist in a small strip between Monterey and southern Oregon. The rarity of these forests makes Muir Woods all the more special – the forest’s close proximity to the Pacific Ocean causes it to be frequently doused in fog, allowing the redwoods to avoid drought and creating a consistently wet environment that allows the rest of the forest’s plant life to thrive. The main activity on the agenda for Muir Woods visitors is hiking. There are six miles of trails throughout the forest made up of asphalt and boardwalk, including three main trails estimated to take half an hour, one hour, and two hours, respectively.
Take a day trip out of the city to enjoy the gorgeous nature of the surrounding Bay Area. If you want to enjoy the area’s majestic redwoods, but you’re looking for something a little less crowded than Muir Woods, Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve is the perfect spot for you. Armstrong Redwoods is a California state park in Sonoma County preserving 805 acres of coast redwoods, also known as Sequoia sempervirens. The area is made up of a temperate rainforest with a mild, wet climate, gathering an average of 55 inches of rain each year. The notorious bay Area fog sustains such wet conditions, supporting the growth of the redwoods during the summer. The atmosphere in these woods is serene and magical, transporting visitors into a cool forest isolated from the busy streets of the surrounding communities.
Sequoia National Park’s Giant Forest
Sequoia National Park’s Giant Forest is home to the largest sequoia trees around. The park is filled with massive mountains, deep canyons, and dense, diverse forestry. The Giant Forest is a large grove between forks of the Kaweah River, filled with exceptionally large trees like the General Sherman Tree, the largest living sequoia. Within the forest there is a vast network of hiking trails, ranging from short one hour hikes to full-day adventures. Along the trails, you can enjoy gorgeous views and some spectacular wildlife sightings.
Yosemite National Park’s Mariposa Grove
The Mariposa Grove is the largest redwood forest in Yosemite National Park, filled with several hundred giant sequoia trees. The forest contains two of the 30 oldest giant sequoias in the world, the older of the two being the Grizzly Giant that is estimated to be 1,900 to 2,400 years old. The Mariposa Grove has been closed for renovations since 2015, but it is scheduled for a grand reopening in the spring of 2017 so be sure to book your trip in advance before all lodging options fill up.
Big Basin Redwoods State Park
Established in 1902, Big Basin Redwoods State Park is the oldest state park in California, located among the Santa Cruz Mountains. It is host to a gorgeous redwood forest filled with massive ancient coast redwoods. The trees can be more than 50 feet in circumference, some even older than the Roman Empire. Other trees in the forest include the likes of conifer, oaks, chaparral, and more. In addition to the forest, the park is home to thriving waterfalls and a number of historic cultural and natural features.
Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park
Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park is located in the northernmost section of California between Crescent City and Eureka. The park features everything from beaches to open meadows, even offering a home to a herd of Roosevelt Elk. The park’s forest is filled with coastal redwoods, standing tall and majestic. The park’s Fern Canyon is a popular destination for visitors, known for being used as a backdrop in Jurassic Park. Within the park you can also find multiple campgrounds, scenic drives, tons of hiking trails, and a 19-mile bike loop.