Redwoods and Sequoias near San Francisco, CA

naturegirl_2007 5B SW Michigan(5B SW Michigan)September 18, 2009

We will be visiting the Bay area for a short time in November and definitely want to see these trees. What place or places are must sees within a few hour's drive of Hayward, CA.

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There are some nice places on the peninsula (e.g. Big Basin Redwoods State Park).

    Bookmark   September 18, 2009 at 8:27PM
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riconiferman(z6 RI)

Muir Woods is worth going to, just north of San Francisco

    Bookmark   September 18, 2009 at 9:19PM
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Well, you will have no problem finding redwoods near SF as they are a coastal tree, but you are going to have to inland to see giant sequoias, at least in their natural habitat. Do a search on Sequoia NP and also King's Canyon NP, and see if you still wish to see them. Weather could also well be a factor for seeing the sequoias in November.

I don't doubt that there well could be some planted sequoias nearer to SF, one of the arboretums, perhaps.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2009 at 10:33PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Yes: the Sierra Nevada is in a different part of a big state.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2009 at 1:14AM
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naturegirl_2007 5B SW Michigan(5B SW Michigan)

Thanks for the information. I've looked briefly at web sites for the parks mentioned and see that I have to do a bit of homework before we go if we want to make the most of our time there. I knew the giant sequoias would be a bit of a drive but had not thought about the weather being cold or snowy. I figured driving conditions would be much better than those in Michigan in November but I now see where that could be very wrong thinking. I appreciate the heads up on that. We'll have to rethink what clothes to pack if we decide to go there and check the weather forecasts before driving. The trees look and sound awesome, though, and I'm excited to have a chance to experience their presence.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2009 at 1:44AM
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gardener365(5b Illinois USA)

It's awesome. I lived in Portland, OR for three years and as well as the sequoiadendrons there (and a few Redwood's), all the city parks have amazing trees. Just Doug fir is incredible. Had a Sequoiadendron on my block that was massive. You might look for a softcover book about the 'Trees of Greater San Francisco' as there is one for Portland, by Timber Press. This book I have gives you the addresses of the best specimens to visit, if the homeowner allows people on their property, or how the tree can be best viewed.

Enjoy your trip! Show us some photos on your return, please!


    Bookmark   September 19, 2009 at 6:29AM
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An interesting thing we noticed when vacationing there was that many of the small towns east of the coastal range have at least 2-3 Redwoods in them planted by someone. They were very visible as you drove into town as they were green and towered above most of the other trees.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2009 at 12:19PM
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Check out the Oct 2009 issue of National Geographic. They have an excellent article on Giant Redwoods and a map that shows their location. Muir Woods is a secondary growth park and would not be as spectacular as Humboldt State Park.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2009 at 5:27PM
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pinetree30(Sierra Westside)

A good giant sequoia site not too far away is Calaveras Big Trees State Park on state hwy 4 a few miles e. of Murphys, which is on state hwy 49. Unless Arnold closes the place down, as he is threatening with most state parks.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2009 at 6:58PM
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I have loved and visited these trees since I was 15 years old--I am now 70.

Let me start by saying I am sorry that you don't have more time. Maybe you could pick just one--either the giant sequoia or the coast redwoods, and visit one of the best places.

But another problem is once you get to where the best trees are, will you have enough time to really absorb anything? I always felt that when I visited just for a short time and expected to be astonished, I had the feeling that the trees were just looking back at me, and the true spirit of the trees, or whatever one might want to call it, escaped. Ideally one should have three days to visit any of these sites. And time to just sit in one place and look at one tree or group of trees for a chunk of time and let your spirit soar and play among the branches.

Anyway, that being said, here are your choices. Muir Woods, which is the closest, I always thought, is substantially a virgin grove. BUT, the redwoods are not that impressive compared to those in the best groves. I think the tallest redwood is something like 240 feet tall--tall enough--but more than 100 feet shorter than the trees further north in Humboldt State Park, for example. Other good sites further north are Prairie Creek Redwoods, and Jedediah Smith Redwoods. I am not sure which of these are now included in the Redwoods National Park. The best place for a first time visitor to the redwoods in my opinion would be Humboldt State Park, and most specifically, the Founders Grove and/or the Rockefeller Forest. If you can get out on the trails and spend some time, Prairie Creek might be my first choice.

If you have limited time, I would recommend Big Basin Redwoods over Muir Woods. But this is a small patch of redwoods compared to what you see further north. But there are some trees about 300 feet tall at Big Basin.

As for the giant sequoias, the premier place, by far, is Giant Forest in Sequoia National Park. And if you have time, the Congress Grove trail is a must. The so called "House" group about a mile out on the trail is an absolute stunner, as the "Senate" group. And there are numerous spectacular individual trees. The trail takes you into the real forest to see the trees--beautiful. The Crescent Meadow walk is amazing also.

A second choice is the Mariposa grove in Yosemite Nat Park. Not quite the same woodland environment, and not so many totally spectacular trees, but very nice. And right by the road is one of the most spectacular trees, named "The Grizzly Giant." Not the biggest or tallest, but the most picturesquely rugged and ancient looking of all the sequoias I know.

The Calavaris Grove is very nice, but it would be my third choice.

God I love these trees! I hope that before I leave this earth I can see them again. When I lived in LA when I was in grad school, these places were an amazing restorative refuge for me!! I visited in all seasons, and spent a lot of time walking among these trees, often spending half a day in one place just looking and absorbing.


    Bookmark   September 19, 2009 at 8:26PM
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Another thought or two and a bit more info; Of course you can do a web search for all the redwood and giant sequoia sites.

The tallest tree in Muir woods is now 255 feet tall--maybe just growth since I was first there in 1954. At Big Basin they have a tree 329 feet tall.

Just a bit of general advice--you need to decide how much time you want to spend in a car driving to somewhere against the time you can spend actually there. Given my feeling that just getting out of a car and gazing at some big trees for an hour or so does not have that much value, I would recommend that you go to a closer place and spend more time there. I would seriously consider Big Basin as a first choice and take the time to walk a trail or two. You can plan a longer vacation for sometime later--I would recommend a week for the redwoods and adjacent coastal areas north of SF, and a week for the Sierra Nevada. Minimum in both cases.

Oh, I forgot. In Sequoia National Park Giant Forest area--they have removed all the cabins, etc. from the Round Meadow area and restored it to a more natural state. This is a wonderful area also for seeing great giant sequoias. But I did enjoy staying in those cabins and camping under the great trees. They moved the accomodations up the road out of the groves.

If you want to visit Giant forest, it is best to stay on the main highway to save time, and go further south and enter the park's southern entrance. At the northern entrance is the Grant Grove, which has a few spectacular trees, but it is nothing like Giant Forest. And it is a fairly long drive from the Grant Grove area to Giant Forest on the mountain road.

The weather should still be OK for the Sierra into early November, at least. But there could always be an early snow--check the forecast before you leave. But definately it will be chilly. For that matter, you can count on it being chilly in the coast redwood groves in November--and it could be rainy.


    Bookmark   September 20, 2009 at 11:34AM
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naturegirl_2007 5B SW Michigan(5B SW Michigan)

WOW! Great information, everyone, great help in our planning. Cold and rainy....sounds like alot of our Michigan hikes. We can be out and be fine in that since we now know to expect it. We hike quite a bit in Michigan but find that trails in some other places are more hilly and slow us (me in down some. I understand the need to spend time in the forest, not just do a drive up tourist visit. Again, thanks for the reminder: we will try to plan accordingly. The trail suggestions are a great help, too. And I bet 90% of visitors never set foot on any of least that is what we see at parks in our state.

Spruce, would you consider the suggested trails difficult hiking? Lots of elevation changes? Either way, I'm going to start stopping at a hilly park on my way home from work a few times a week to try to get my hilly hiking up to speed. I walk alot outdoors at my job but most is, by necessity, slow and on flat land. I could walk it fast for hours but throw in some hills and my pace slows considerably. I don't want to have to bypass spectacular trees because of poor conditioning.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2009 at 8:26PM
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The trails I am talking about--those in the groves of the giant trees, whether in the coast redwoods or the giant sequoias in the Sierra--are really easy. If you can walk a mile or two on more or less level ground, you will be fine. There are, of course, lots of moderate to strenous hikes one can take in the larger parks, but just to see some of the most spectacular trees, no problem at all.

One of my favorite trails in the northern redwoods area, is the Damnation Creek Trail in Del Norte Redwoods State Park. You hike from the ridge over the ocean down to a wonderful beach (not for swimming, at any time of year). You start in a grove of spectacular redwoods and then go down rather steeply for maybe a mile or so. But even this trail is not "strenuous," unless coming back up you try to go too fast. But this area may be too far for you to consider during this trip

But there are lots of other shorter and easier trails that have many more spectacular redwoods than this one.

The trail along Prairie is perhaps the most wonderful of all the easily accessible trails. The redwoods are not in quite such dense groves of extremely tall trees as the Founders Grove or the Rockefeller Forest, but there is a more varied forest, more rhododendron undergrowth, etc. etc.
Now if you want to go to Yosemite park and want to get into the back country, you have to get in shape. But this would not be to see the most spectacular trees.

Maybe just one more "pitch" for you or anyone else reading this. Whether the coast redwoods or the sierra redwoods are more beautiful or more spectacular, is an open question I won't try to answer. The coast redwoods grow in generally dense stands of considerable extent. The giant sequoia trees Grow in small groups or individual trees scattered among other kinds of smaller trees, such as white fir and sugar pine. The general woodland environment of these two kinds of trees is quite different, and everyone has their own preference. So take that into consideration when reading what I will say next.

That is, that in my humble, or not so humble opinion, the Giant Forest in Sequoia National Park is the most spectacular place to see trees that I have ever seen, or heard about--or for that matter, could imagine. And the Congress Grove trail is the most spectacular way to see, what is actually just a small portion of this largest of the surviving giant sequoia groves. Stands in the Converse basin and maybe one or two other areas were, before they were cut down, perhaps nearly as spectacular. But for now, the Giant Forest is it.

And the so called "house group" I mentioned before, includes only moderately sized sequoias, but there are 10 or 12 growing so close together that in a couple of cases you can barely walk between them, and the huge reddish brown fluted columns of the trunks support crowns up to and maybe over 300 feet tall. There is nothing in all the world of trees to match this. Overwhelmingly beautiful!!

Of course, the General Sherman tree, the largest individual tree, is at the head of the trail.

Well, enjoy what you can get to. And, Of course, I would like to get your impressions of what you are able to see. If you just go to Big Basin, you will have a wonderful "taste."


    Bookmark   September 22, 2009 at 10:33AM
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mdvaden_of_oregon(NW Oregon)

The question may be do you want to SEE Redwoods, or See REDWOODS. Muir Woods is pretty cool, and you might want to look-up Montgomery Woods too, for coastal redwoods.

Giant Sequoia, say Kings Canyon for example, puts you about 5 hours out to the east, and you may want to find out about the climate change that time of year.

The bulk of the really big and tall redwoods are pretty much from the Rockefeller Forest and Avenue of the Giants, 4 hours north, and then northward.

If you left at 5am, you could probably shoot right out of the San Francisco area streamlined-like and zip up to the Rockefeller Forest area. There are several nice areas there. One website of several worth checking out for selections is:

Redwood Hikes -

Not sure if 6 hours drive is too far for you, but Prairie Creek Redwoods is awesomely grand too, especially James Irvine Trail.

By the way, if you have not got a copy yet, call Barnes and Noble, or even Nat Geo single copy center, and snag a copy of the October 2009 magazine already out. Cover story is The Tallest Trees: Redwoods.

Here is a link that might be useful: More Coast Redwoods Info and Photos

    Bookmark   September 27, 2009 at 11:45PM
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I love your redwood site--thanks!

Another observation or two for the uninitiated in redwood viewing:

One of the first things one visiting redwoods needs to understand is the diversity not only among redwood sites, but the diversity in the individual trees. As noted earlier, the redwood groves in Humboldt Redwoods State Park have a somewhat different character from those in Prairie Creek State Park, for example. So if you have visited one redwood site, you have not "seen the redwoods" so to speak. My feeling is that wherever you go in the redwoods, no matter how much you have seen, there is still more to see--there is so much diversity.

And, on top of that, nothing could be more untrue than Ronald Reagan's famous statement made when he was opposing the expansion of Redwood National Park--"When you have seen one redwood, you have seen them all."

The two most important factors in this diversity are differences in the genetic makeup of the trees, and their very long life spans. In prior discussions in this and the Tree Forum, I have expressed my love of the genetic diversity in species such as Norway spruce and red maple. Perhaps next on my list of species of trees showing wonderful diversity would be the coast redwood. To mention just one aspect of this diversity: some trees develop rather narrow open crowns, sometimes with their branches sloping downward gracefully; other trees develop broader and denser crowns, more rounded at the top, seeming to surge or billow upward. And you can see these types growing together in the same stand. I have seen outstanding examples of both of these crown types in the Bull Creek Flat area of Humboldt Redwoods State Park (The Rockefeller Forest.)

In addition there are all kinds of more specific individual growth forms/patterns that appear in individual trees. One of the most famous examples is the so-called "Corkscrew Tree" in Prairie Creek park. Anyone walking in the groves can see all kinds of different special growth features in individual trees.

But more generally, the long life spans of the trees provides opportunities for the growth of each tree to become more and more individual. As I walk through the groves, I don't just look for the largest trunks, but I am always looking upward into the crowns of the trees and finding all kinds of individual glorious wonders there.

The so-called Sierra Redwoods, or Giant Sequoias, show a lot of individual diversity also. But there is not so much between the appearance of the individual groves--there is some, including the effect of meadows in some of the groves, etc. And there is not, as far as I have been able to observe, so much genetic diversity. But my love of the diversity in the individual Giant Sequoia trees is no less than my love of the diversity in the coast redwoods. If you look up into the crowns of these giant trees you see all kinds of different branching patterns. As these trees reach ages of 1,500 to perhaps over 3,000 years, each tree, in interaction with the storms and other environmental influences, develops more and more individual character. I never tired of looking up into the crowns of these great trees and seeing all the wonders there.

So, if you have seen one redwood, or Giant Sequoia tree, that is exactly what you have seen, one coast redwood or Giant Sequoia tree. There are thousands and thousands more trees to see, each having its own special and unique beauty. In all the time I have spent walking among these great trees, I never tired of seeking and finding the glorious beauty in each individual redwood or Giant Sequoia grove, or in each individual tree.


    Bookmark   September 30, 2009 at 11:43AM
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mdvaden_of_oregon(NW Oregon)

Howdy spruceman ...

You even by chance stayed at the Curly Redwood Lodge in Crescent City (link below) ?

When not camping, that's where I usually get a room. Older but clean.

From your post it looks like you have covered quite a bit of ground down that way. Figured you must have been in CC a few times too.

Here is a link that might be useful: Curly Redwood Lodge

    Bookmark   September 30, 2009 at 10:41PM
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Thanks for the tip. Yes, visited CC, or mostly drove through, several times. I generally always camped when I visited the redwoods--the campgrounds in the state parks were very nice--generally better than national park campgrounds. But often what I did was just wait until dusk, and if I found a nice place away from campgrounds, I would just park where I could and carry my sleeping bag off into the woods and find a nice tree to sleep under.

But now my wife is no camper. If at some point we are free of our responsibilities here, we will be on our way!!


    Bookmark   October 1, 2009 at 10:04AM
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toronado3800 Zone 6 StLouis(6)

Just reading along and planning MY next vacation.

Thanks for taking the time to type all that guys.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2009 at 2:58PM
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All this talk of diversity among redwoods and sequoias had me thinking, boy, old Spruce don't know what he's talking about, as Saint Reagan had made his famous pronouncement about them all being the same, but I see you covered that!

Also Spruce, you mention wanting to get out there again before leaving the Earth. What sort of trip have you got planned?

Alright, just giving ya the business. Just a bunch of nonsense really! I'd say that your replies would help greatly in setting the itinerary for anyone of us tree-lovers lucky enough to be going out there. We've got dear friends in SF. I wish that A: We traveled....ever, and B: That there would be a reasonable way to combine two very different agendas on a N. Cali trip.

Good good stuff.


    Bookmark   October 1, 2009 at 7:33PM
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naturegirl_2007 5B SW Michigan(5B SW Michigan)

Yes, thanks again, the replies here are very helpful. And the posters' feelings of awe, appreciation, and respect for the giants comes through and inspires, too. Right now it is looking like we will try for a looong day at Big Basin and an overnight to Yosemite...maybe not the best choice for giant sequoias but okay and a spot that will let others in the group see a few of their choices. We may also do a quick walk thru (against the advice of some...but we will be sooo close but have very little time) of Muir Woods since another group member wants to visit nearby Alcatraz. Hopefully, the S.F. non-naturegirl relative will join us for at least one of our "tree" outings.

And I've been fast walking some longer distances. I also stop on my way home from work at a park that has an old silo retro-fitted with a large indoor stairway that ends at a glassed in area overlooking fields, floodplain forest, and a large river. The view makes the climb seem worthwhile, and I no longer feel quite the ache in my legs when I reach the top. I'm doing two or three climbs per visit now! Hopefully the silo climb is a bit like mountains :)

    Bookmark   October 2, 2009 at 7:03PM
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Excellent planI donÂt think you could do better. Of course you will see the Mariposa grove of sequoias. They are a bit out of the way from the other park attractions, but I would say they are a "MUST." A couple of things to look for: By all means stop to see the "Grizzly Giant" tree. This is one truly spectacular tree and in its way as amazing a giant sequoia as you can see anywhere. The diameter is truly massive, but overall it is technically not one of the largest because it is not so tall as othersÂjust a bit over 200 feet--, but no matter. The crown of this tree is truly grizzled and gnarled, suggesting that has been growing there forever.

Depending on how much time you have, a couple of suggestions: Try to see one of the fallen trees. There is one called "The Fallen Monarch," but I canÂt remember how far one has to walk to see it. And since I was last there, the Wawona Tunnel tree has fallen. You might want to make a point of seeing that--it should be right next to the road.

One of the finest trees is the Galen Clark treeÂgiven that name because that is supposedly the first tree he saw when he discovered the grove. It is not unusually large, but perfect in its formÂat least the last time I was there.

Also, I understand there is a kind of tram ride that has been built. Maybe you could get around more easily that way to see the grove. But anywhere you stand in this grove you will see wonderful trees. And if you see this grove, and Big Basin, you will really have more than just a "taste" of the most amazing trees in the world.

I would recommend that you get up early, very earlyÂand get to Yosemite early enough to see the Mariposa grove the first day. Then you would not have to break up your stay in the valley area the next day.

Two recommendations: first, for a hike in the valley, the vernal falls trail is nice. I canÂt remember exactly how far it is to get to the top of the falls, but it may not be too far. Some of the other falls in November may not have much water. Bridal Veil may be dry, and Yosemite falls itself will be at a low ebb. But Vernal Falls should still be very nice.

Second, Glacier Point should be a must. It is a bit of a drive, but not much walking required once you get there.

One bummer for you is the days are so short in Nov.

Well, have fun!!

    Bookmark   October 3, 2009 at 10:21AM
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"Try to see one of the fallen trees"

There's one in the Calaveras Grove (south grove), a section of hollow log about 15 or 20 metres long. You can walk through the full length, without having to stoop down at all. Fairly close to the Agassiz Tree if I remember rightly.


    Bookmark   October 3, 2009 at 7:59PM
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botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

Resin, I have walked through that tree. My wife and I spent a week near the Calaveras Grove at a place called Arnold. I usually spent the day hiking in the Giant Sequoias. One stump is so big they squaredance on it.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2009 at 6:23AM
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I have a wonderful, but unfortunately out-of-print book called "Big Trees," by Fry and White: 1930. Some of the information in this book is out of date, but it is a wonderful introduction to the trees. The reason I mention it here is that this book is worth its price and more for its catalogue of all the giant sequoia groves, with a brief description of each with a count of the large trees in each. There is one map showing the location of all the groves, and a more specific one showing the location and extent of the southern groves--the area where most are concentrated. This book is in libraries and I think you can get used copies on-line.

You have to hike to get to the South Grove, but it is not far. It is much larger than the North Grove, having 947 large trees compared to 158. I visited the North Grove, but never the South Grove.

Here is the description: "Magnificent grove containing trees of remarkable size and interest; reached only by trail; contains the Louis Agassiz, one of the largest of all Big Trees."

This is one of the largest groves. Giant Forest contains 3,500 trees, and Redwood Mountain Grove 3,000. Next after that is the Muir grove with 1,800, Garfield with 1,600, and then the Calaveras South.

As for hollow fallen trees. There is one in Giant Forest that was made into a house by a rancher named Hale Tharp for use when he used the meadows as a summer pasture for his cattle before the park was established. It is on the border of Log Meadow, and is at the end of the Crescent Meadow trail. There is another smaller one, broken into pieces, somewhere near the Congress Grove Trail. One time when I was walking this trail, a summer thunderstorm came up and I found shelter in this log as I watched the storm and gusts of rain come down through the great trees--a memory I will cherish forever.


    Bookmark   October 4, 2009 at 9:52AM
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botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

I hiked into the South Grove of the Calaveras stand and videotaped it. I didn't have a digital camera then. Almost all the big trees had a 'catface' from previous fires. When I was there they were doing controlled burning to reduce the possibility of a huge fire. I walked for hours without seeing anybody. I will never forget the sight of those big trees.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2009 at 11:27AM
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