Did you know that California is home to some of the tallest, largest, and oldest trees in the world? If you’re looking to visit big trees in California in person, you’ve come to the right spot!
There are several places where you can see these majestic living organisms in their natural habitat – redwoods on the California Coast and giant sequoias in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. This post covers where to see both throughout the Golden State.
After reading our guide on where to visit these enormous California trees, you’ll be ready for an epic adventure! Let’s dive right in.
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15 Amazing Places To See Big Trees In California:
1. Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park is easily one of the most iconic places to see large trees in California.
For first-time park visitors, we recommend starting with the General Sherman Tree, the biggest tree in California by the volume of its trunk. If that’s not impressive enough, the General Sherman Tree is also 2000 years old and 275 feet tall!
The Congress Trail features some of the largest sequoia clusters within the park. If you enjoy outdoor photography, this is an excellent place to snap a few photos of the biggest trees in California.
Visitor Tip: Sequoia National Park is a very popular destination in the summer, especially on the weekends. If you can, plan to visit this park during the week or come early on the weekends to find a parking spot near the Giant Forest Museum.
In the summer the park does offer free shuttles so visitors can get around to various attractions without needing to move their cars.
2. Kings Canyon National Park
Kings Canyon National Park is one of the lesser-known National Parks in the Golden State, but it is home to some of the largest trees in California.
Kings Canyon is located between Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks so here you can experience a variety of landscapes from giant sequoia trees to towering granite walls, waterfalls, and lush meadows.
While on the hike, you’ll get up close views of Gamlin Cabin, the Centennial Stump, and Fallen Monarch Tree, a tree that fell over 1000 years ago and still looks the same.
For a longer day hike, we recommend hiking the 7-mile-long Redwood Creek Loop that passes through one of the largest unlogged sequoia forests in California.
Hiking Tip: Before heading out hiking, we like to download an offline map from the AllTrails hiking app. This way we always have access to the trail map, even if we lose reception or get lost!
3. Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park is the perfect place to stop on a road trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco. This is one of my favorite redwood parks in California that I keep returning to over and over again!
Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park is located in the small town of Felton just north of Santa Cruz. Within this park, you can see some of the largest redwoods in California that were protected from logging in the 1800s.
One of the most popular trails within this park is the Redwood Grove Loop Trail. This hike is 0.9 miles long and passes through an old-growth forest with trees that are 270+ feet tall and over 1500 years old!
For a memorable experience, we suggest taking a historic steam train through this redwood forest that travels along wooden trestles and up steep switchbacks. The train ride is around 75 minutes long and the tickets can be reserved on the Roaring Camp website here.
4. Yosemite National Park
While Yosemite is mostly known for waterfalls, unique granite formations, and jaw-dropping viewpoints of the valley, it is also one of the best places to see massive trees in California.
Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias is situated in the southern part of Yosemite National Park and features a grove with over 500 giant sequoia trees.
There are several hikes that you can explore at Yosemite’s Mariposa Grove with various lengths and difficulty levels. A few of the most popular ones are:
- Big Trees Loop Trail – 0.3 miles long
- Giant Grizzly Loop Trail – 2 miles long with 380 feet of elevation gain
- Mariposa Grove Trail – 7 miles long with 1200 feet of elevation gain
- Guardians Loop Trail – 6.5 mile-long loop
Our personal favorite is the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias Trail which starts at the Mariposa Grove Welcome Plaza and ends at the Wawona Point lookout. This trail passes next to The Grizzly Giant tree which is estimated to be around 1800 to 2800 years old.
We also love to visit Yosemite’s Mariposa Grove in the winter for snowshoeing along the Big Trees Loop Trail. After a fresh snowfall, the entire place feels like a magic winter wonderland!
For an epic experience, book this Off-Roading Giant Sequoia 4×4 Tour! On this adventurous tour, you’ll go off-roading in a 4WD Jeep to explore giant sequoia trees at Yosemite.
5. Avenue Of The Giants
Situated within Humboldt Redwoods State Park, Avenue Of The Giants is one of the most beautiful forest drives in California. The entire highway is lined with giant redwood trees and offers plenty to explore for its visitors.
The Avenue Of The Giants is 31 miles long and runs parallel to Highway 101. Unlike most National and State Parks that require an entrance fee, it is free to drive along this road and explore its attractions.
We’ve driven this route several times while traveling through northern California to Oregon. For the best experience, I recommend setting aside 2-3 hours to stop at some of the main groves, picnic areas, and hikes along the way.
For a unique experience, stop by the Shrine Drive Thru Tree. This is one of the most popular big trees in California that you can drive through and take a photo of. Keep in mind that this tourist activity costs $15 and the tree can only fit smaller cars.
A few other notable attractions include Founders Grove, Williams Grove, and Bolling Grove.
6. Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park
While Big Sur is known for rugged coastal landscapes and scenic viewpoints, did you know that you can also visit giant trees in Big Sur?
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park offers one of the best locations to see Big Sur redwoods. You can visit this State Park for the day with a small entrance fee of $10, but we recommend booking an overnight campsite so you can enjoy camping amongst towering redwood trees.
Within this park, take a walk along the Redwood Deck, a wooden boardwalk where you can see these majestic trees up close. Or stop by Big Sur Lodge to enjoy food and drinks on the outdoor patio while taking in the views of the surrounding redwood forest.
7. Redwood National Park
The redwood parks in northern California are a bit out of the way from most major cities, so they don’t get very crowded. This coastal region offers a wonderful place where you can see giant trees in California but a trip to Redwood National Park does require a bit of planning ahead of time.
Redwood National and State Parks is a large park system on the Northern California Coast that protects half of the remaining redwood trees in the world. It also offers an excellent place for viewing wildlife in California including the Roosevelt Elk.
You can often spot these majestic elk munching grass in the meadows by Elk Prairie Campground as you drive through. Within this park, you can also visit pristine beaches, fern-covered canyons and stop by stunning overlooks.
If you’re short on time, Lady Bird Johnson Grove Trail is one of the shortest and most popular trails within Redwood National Park that travels through an old-growth forest. This 1.5-mile-long loop was dedicated to Lady Bird Johnson in 1969 for her conservation efforts.
8. Sequoia National Forest
Sequoia National Forest is a great alternative to visiting Sequoia National Park. National forests don’t require entrance fees and don’t get as busy as their National Park counterparts. This forest is a great option if you’re looking to discover California’s giant trees without dealing with the big National Park crowds.
Sequoia National Forest is located south of Sequoia National Park. The best location to see giant sequoia trees in this National Forest is at the Trail of 100 Giants.
The Trail of 100 Giants is 1.4 miles long and mostly paved making it a wonderful choice for families with kids. This trail travels through the Long Meadow Grove which is home to over 125 giant sequoia trees.
Some of the most impressive sequoias along the Trail of 100 Giants include the Proclamation Tree (over 2000 years old), The Goose Pen Tree along with giant fallen sequoias.
9. Big Basin Redwoods State Park
Big Basin Redwoods State Park is California’s oldest State Park and one of the best places to see some of the largest redwood trees in California. It boasts a wonderland filled with ancient coastal redwoods that are more than 50 feet round and 1800 years old!
For families with small kids, we recommend hiking the Redwoods Loop Trail which is only 0.6 miles long and passes ancient California redwoods. The Dool Trail is another short day hike that is somewhat easy and short.
Due to limited day visitor parking, it is recommended to make Big Basin parking reservations ahead of time. The drive to the park itself is memorable along the narrow, windy Highway 9!
Visitor Note: Due to a devastating fire in 2020, many of the park trails remain closed. Be sure to check for the latest updates on the Big Basin Redwoods State Park website before heading out there.
10. The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park
The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park is a hidden gem situated just a 20-minute drive east of Santa Cruz. This underrated park offers an excellent nature escape amongst enchanting redwood groves, fern-covered trails, waterfalls, and historic logging sites.
This park was once home to some of the biggest redwoods on the West Coast. Unfortunately in the 1800’s many of these ancient giants were logged and now only 5% of original old-growth forests remain in California.
We suggest starting with the Old Growth Loop which is 1.3 miles long and passes through Marcel’s Forest, the largest and best-preserved old-growth grove within the Forest of Nisene Marks State Park.
If you’re looking for longer trail options, be sure to check out Aptos Rancho Trail, Loma Prieta Grade Loop, and Historic Loop Trail which leads to Maple Falls.
11. Portola Redwoods State Park
If you’re looking for places to see big trees in California near San Francisco, put Portola Redwoods State Park on top of your list! This State Park is located just an hour’s drive south of San Francisco tucked away in a remote mountain forest.
Most people visit Portola Redwoods State Park in the summer from nearby cities in the South Bay Area for hiking and camping among some of the biggest trees in California.
While California parks can get pretty busy in the summer season, Portola Redwoods is a quiet place where you can go to escape the crowds. This park does have very limited parking so we recommend arriving early in the morning to secure a parking spot.
Portola Redwoods State Park features multiple campsites and over 18 miles of hiking trails within 2800 acres of wilderness.
A few of our favorite trails are:
- Sequoia Nature Trail – a popular 0.75-mile-long loop that leads to multiple redwood groves.
- Old Tree Trail – a short and easy 1-mile-long trail that ends at a massive redwood tree.
- Iverson Trail To Tiptoe Falls – along this 1.25-mile-long hike you can visit the year-round Tiptoe Falls.
12. Carbon Canyon Regional Park
If you live in Orange County and don’t want to travel far to see huge trees in California, head over to the Carbon Canyon Regional Park! Here you can go on an easy day hike in a 3-acre grove filled with towering coast redwoods.
The trail to visit the Carbon Canyon redwoods is around 1.5 miles long. You also have the option to extend the hike into a longer 3-mile loop by following the Carbon Canyon Nature Trail on the AllTrails hiking app.
Coastal redwoods are not native to Southern California and there are not a whole lot of places you can see them south of Santa Cruz. These redwoods were planted in the 1970s and have grown to be 100 feet tall!
Visitor Tip: Carbon Canyon Regional Park visitor parking is $3 during the week and $5 on the weekends.
13. Fall Creek Unit
The Fall Creek Unit is a wonderful nature space on the Central Coast that offers 20 miles of hiking trails. While the Fall Creek Unit is part of the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, it is located in a separate area that is much less visited.
The Lime Kiln Trail is an especially great trail at the Fall Creek Unit that is just 3 miles long. Along this trail, you can hike amongst giant redwoods, overgrown ruins, fern-covered creeks, and wooden bridges.
The Fall Creek Unit consists of a second-growth forest that was once logged and has grown back. Here you can also visit remnants of an old lime processing site that is now overgrown with vegetation.
14. Calaveras Big Trees State Park
Calaveras Big Trees State Park is a 6500-acre park located a 2-hour drive from Sacramento. This is a great weekend-day trip option for those living in Sacramento, Stockton, and Modesto cities.
There are two giant sequoia groves that you can explore at the Calaveras Big Trees State Park – the North Grove and the South Grove. The Calaveras North Grove Trail is the most popular day hike following a 1.7-mile long loop. This trail is fairly flat so it’s a great option for families with little kids.
Within the North Grove, you can visit the Discovery Tree stump that was once one of the largest sequoia trees in the world. This tree was so unbelievably huge that it was (sadly) cut down in 1853 to be displayed in exhibitions. Now visitors can see the stump where the tree used to grow and walk across it.
If you have extra time, be sure to stop by the nearby Moaning Caverns for a tour of the largest underground cave in California!
15. Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park
Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park features 10,000 acres of old-growth redwoods near Crescent City just south of Oregon. Redwoods can only grow from Central California to southern Oregon along a narrow strip near the ocean.
This State Park offers wonderful camping opportunities at the Jedediah Smith Campground along with miles of redwood hiking trail. The most popular hike here is the 0.7-mile-long Stout Memorial Grove Trail that travels through a dense redwood forest next to the Smith River.
Other wonderful day hike options include the 1.7-mile-long Grove of Titans Trail and the 5.2-mile-long Fern Falls via Boy Scout Tree Trail. This hike is longer, more remote, and leads to Fern Falls, a small waterfall surrounded by lush ferns and redwood trees.
Looking for more things to do around California? Be sure to check out these posts next:
- 15 Amazing Redwood Hikes Near Santa Cruz
- 30 Best Central California Coast Attractions For Visitors
- 12 Top Places To Stay In Santa Cruz On The Central Coast
- 10 Top Rated Vacation Rentals & Hotels In Felton
- 25 Best Beaches On The Central Coast In California
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