Few things are as awe-inspiring as the towering trunks of the California redwoods. These ancient giants are some of the tallest and oldest trees in the world — dating back around 240 million years. Known for their towering branches and massive red trunks, redwoods are an incredible part of our forest ecosystem. It’s well worth a visit to experience their greatness first-hand.
Choose from over 30 parks and other properties in California to see these magnificent trees. We’ve listed the six best places to see redwoods in California below.
The 6 best places to see the largest redwoods in California
With several of the most notable forest groves within just a few hours of each other, the Northern California redwoods are the most notable of the tree species. When you visit the redwoods around the Bay Area, you get to enjoy the beautiful drive along some of America’s most famous coastline while winding along stunning forests.
1. Santa Cruz Mountains
The Santa Cruz Mountains offer a few different noteworthy options. Big Basin Redwoods State Park — founded in 1902 — should be on your California redwoods itinerary. California’s oldest national park boasts 80 miles of trails with ocean views, waterfalls, and rich history. Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park features a 40-acre grove of old-growth redwood trees, including one that’s 1,500 years old.
2. Muir Woods National Monument
Muir Woods National Monument was established in 1908 when Congressman William Kent donated the land to protect the 150-year-old redwoods from logging. Just outside San Francisco, well-paved trails in the park’s Cathedral Grove are accessible and family-friendly. However, this popular destination requires parking and shuttle reservations, so make sure to book ahead.
3. Humboldt Redwoods State Park
A list of the best parks to visit redwoods wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the Avenue of the Giants in Humboldt Redwoods State Park. Nestled in the state’s third-largest park, the Avenue is a 31-mile section of Highway 101 that takes you through an impressive 51,222 acres of redwood groves.
4. Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park
Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park sits just a few miles south of the Oregon border. Established as a designated UNESCO heritage site, the park remains one of the densest giant redwood forests. Seven percent of all the old-growth redwoods exist in this forest. If you’d like to immerse yourself in a forest with ancient trees, this park should be on your list.
5. Calaveras Big Trees State Park
Situated about 100 miles southwest of Sacramento, Calaveras Big Trees State Park is one of the most accessible places to see California redwoods. The park’s North Grove includes the “Discovery Tree,” a massive redwood stump that fell sometime in the 1850s. The story goes that it took 5 men and 22 days to count the rings of the trunk which led them to believe the tree had been 1300 years old. The park is accessible year-round with hundreds of miles of beautiful trails.
6. Carbon Canyon Regional Park
If traveling up north isn’t an option for you, there are also redwoods in Southern California. Carbon Canyon Regional Park in Orange County features a 10-acre grove of coastal redwoods, the largest in the southern part of the state. The grove was planted in 1975, making these trees only a few decades old and much smaller than their Northern California counterparts. The 2.5 mile Carbon Canyon Nature Trail is home to 200 coastal California redwoods.
Frequently asked questions about redwoods
How big are California redwoods?
Redwood trees are the largest trees in the world. While their height alone is a marvel, they’re also impressively large in diameter. They’re usually between 250 and 300 feet tall and up to 30 feet in diameter near the ground. That length is about equal to a mid-size school bus.
Where are redwoods found?
Though they once thrived throughout much of the Northern Hemisphere, redwoods are now unique to coastal California and Oregon. Beginning in the southwestern corner of Oregon, they grow in a narrow 20-30 mile wide strip 150 miles down the coast to Big Sur, California. The combination of heavy summer fog and moderate temperatures allows redwoods to flourish in this region.
How old are California redwoods?
California redwoods have an average lifespan of 500–700 years, with many living 2,000 years or more. One of the oldest known living redwoods, called President, is about 3,200 years old.
Are sequoias the same as redwoods?
While sequoias and redwoods have a lot in common — and are often referred to interchangeably — they are distinct species of trees. California redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) need the marine fog of the Northern California coast for growth. Sequoias (Sequoiadendron giganteum) are native to the western slope of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, mostly between 5,000 and 7,000 feet in elevation. This habitat features the dry heat of the mountains that the sequoias need to survive.
Giant redwoods can live up to 2,000 years, and giant sequoias even longer, up to 3,000 years. The two species also have some distinct physical differences. Redwoods are taller than their cousins, with branches up to 5 feet in diameter and bark up to 12 inches thick. Sequoias have branches up to 8 feet in diameter and bark that grows up to 3 inches thick.
What is the best time of year to visit the redwood forest?
The summer months are some of the best to visit the coastal California redwoods. Lower rainfall and higher average temperatures make it a great time of year for many of the incredible hikes offered within these forests.
California is renowned for its Pacific Ocean views and ancient redwood forests. Better Place Forests offers beautiful, tranquil memorial tree locations throughout the state, including new forests coming soon to Yosemite Gateway and the Western Sierra. Coastal California Redwoods, Douglas firs, and other tree species in our forests can be purchased as memorials and places to spread cremated ashes. We offer customized memorial services, and when you choose Better Place Forests as a plan for you or a loved one, you gain access to the forest for you and your family.
If you’re looking for something quieter and a bit more off the beaten path, we recommend heading to Better Place Forests Point Arena, near the tranquil town of Mendocino. With uniquely Californian trees and beautiful ocean vistas, you can spend eternity under a towering redwood, experiencing the peace these giants inspire in many of us. To learn more about what our forests have to offer, book a free online tour.