Coast redwoods are the real giant sequoias


Special to Redwood Coast Parks from Mario Vaden

ORICK — Ten years ago, if you asked where to find old growth giant sequoia, my answer would be Yosemite or Sequoia National Park, where Sequoiadendron trees grow indigenous. But time passed, and Redwood National Park revealed hidden surprises that pushed a “reset button.”

What is a Sequoia? Going with facts, it can only be coast redwood, Sequoia sempervirens, a species known in Humboldt and Del Norte. So what merits calling Sequoiadendron a GIANT Sequoia? To deserve the title, the other mountain species would need dimensions far beyond the coast species. But that’s not the case!

Presently, the national tree champ among all species is General Sherman Sequoiadendron, listed with 1321 points, by American Forests . Tree champs are ranked with points for each foot of height, inch of circumference, and every four foot increment of canopy width.

Right now, Redwood National and State Parks has at least two coast redwoods exceeding 1321 points. Carefully adding, those two each hold over 1350 points, with dimensions to more than 29 feet wide and to over 308 feet tall. For now, the coast holds The Big Kahuna for points.

Why is Sherman listed national champ, and not these coast redwoods? There are reasons. Around 2012, a verification team released the location of a new height discovery to an Oregon news outlet. And other unique trees were damaged or burned, like The Senator cypress of Florida. In response, some discoverers do not submit trees to champion programs anymore.

“I am 100 percent certain that a coast redwood surpasses the General Sherman tree.” – Mario Vaden

Redwood National and State Parks also hides the widest diameter single trunk in the United States. It is 29.2 feet wide chest high (diameter at breast height, or DBH) and along the ground has the greatest circumference. 

It was found 2010 with a friend Thomas, from Germany. Then its full diameter was measured and discovered in 2015 by another redwood explorer from Arcata. We doubt people will learn about this at park visitor centers, but Save the Redwoods League’s site noted it for several years.

Why should Calaveras Big Trees or Yosemite stake claim to GIANT Sequoia and the biggest trees in the world? The largest trees in Redwood National and State Parks are much larger than the Grizzly Giant or other trees of those two mountain parks. Most parks within Redwood National and State Parks have a bigger coast redwood.

But what about the Giant Forest where some large wood volume Sequoiadendron can be seen? Someone may interject that grove to defend the giant sequoia nickname.

Take the following as a kind of Certified Arborist report. When trunks of real single stem formation are compared, I am 100 percent certain that a coast redwood surpasses the General Sherman tree. Furthermore, some mountain giants that look like single trunks, are actually merged or “fused” doubles. Between new coast discoveries and observations on the mountain, that Is what I learned. 

Both species are not immune to double trunk formation. Some have have seen trunks starting to merge like this where it’s easy to spot. In 1000 years, a future hiker may look at the same but think the two trunks are just one.

But trees give witness through marks, lines and shapes. They can denote what used to exist. For example, hike at Prairie Creek, then before reaching Westridge trail, a root crosses open space from a redwood trunk to the ground. 

That means there was a decaying log there centuries ago. The log vanished, but the root supplies a story for future generations.

Likewise, vertical lines on trunks can indicate a redwood is actually two trees. Especially if the included bark marks are on opposing sides of what seems like one trunk. That is the case with some so-called largest Sequoiadendron trees. 

This is not an anomaly. Hikers can spot this development in both regions with both species. But it becomes more obscure as each century passes.

Best I can tell, Redwood National and State Parks has a larger volume coast redwood than Sherman pertaining to genuine single trunks, with that aspect separate from the point rating for champions. So what can we conclude?

If the largest of both species were set side by side, the average person wouldn’t know which was the largest. Both species are virtually neck-to-neck for size. The coast’s biggest are randomly dispersed among thousands of acres, obscure in a Jurassic-like rainforest, while the mountain’s largest stand more open, rugged, and almost alien. Together, they are both the largest trees in the world.

But one thing seems certain. Coast redwoods exist, so large, they “vaporize” the notion that any other species deserves to be called a giant Sequoia.

Appreciate Sequoiadendron trees for their unique magnificence. And likewise appreciate Sequoia sempervirens for the inherent stature created within that forest of towers – tallest, widest and giant.

The park visitor centers know where a handful of the largest can be found. Ask for directions. Easy ones are Giant Tree in Humboldt Redwoods State Park and Big Tree up at Prairie Creek. 

In Jedediah Smith park is the Boy Scout redwood near the Boy Scout Tree trail, but pay close attention to the size of trunks just feet from the trail. Also in Jedediah Smith park, take the Mill Creek trail. That trail is closed in 2020 for construction, but there are redwoods through there that can convey the magnitude of other giants most people will never be able to reach. Just give it a year.

Between the two big tree regions, the coast redwoods are hands down my favorite. I have met many new friends in relation to this forest; local folk, and others from across the United States, Germany, South Africa.

Alone and together, new finds include many new largest coast redwoods, the world’s tallest maple, tallest hemlock, and various other unique trees.

I am glad my mother had a chance to see the coast redwoods toward the end of her years. She said “this is the most peaceful place I have ever been.” Reaching age 98, she rests among the coast redwoods.

Mario Vaden is a certified arborist, photographer and redwood enthusiast based in Oregon. He has more redwood lore on his website, 

Wild elk demolish wild elk sign

ORICK — With human foot traffic limited in Redwood National and State Parks, the local wildlife is making itself more at home in recent days, especially resident Roosevelt elk. Two males, for example, while practice sparring, managed to demolish a sign that read: “Danger: Wild Elk.”

It was a sign

NO BULL: A pair of stags, which can weigh more than 1,000 lbs each, lock antlers while trying their best fight moves. Who’s worst for the wear? A park sign that was no match for the rambunctious elk.

Paying a visit

A few others make themselves at home at the otherwise quiet Prairie Creek Visitor Center near Orick.

Tree of mystery

When the visitor center reopens, examine the Antler Tree, a bizarre natural curiosity, and see if you can figure out how it came about.

Roosevelt Elk

It had to be ewes

Endangered Roosevelt elk nearly disappeared from California, but have impressively rebounded in recent decades. They number in the thousands in Redwood National Park and surrounding wildlands.

Best of the big tree videos on the Net

ORICK — Tired of tigers on Netflix? Join us on a virtual trek to meet up with monsters hundreds of feet tall and thousands of years old in Redwood Coast Parks, the original wild kingdom. We combed the Internet so you didn’t have to and came up with the greatest hits. Enjoy.

National Geographic goes all out in Redwood National Park (3:48)

If redwoods could talk, this is likely what they would say (2:55)

According to hippie legend, if you drink the water at Fern Canyon (at 2:10), you’ll live forever (10:10)

One man’s mission to revive the last redwood goliaths will restore your faith in Earth and humanity (10:45)

Princess Grace of Monaco recites a Louis Simpson poem about the redwoods. Wow. Just wow (3:53)

Cartoon turtles sing about a redwood. Defies explanation and logic but fun (1:39)

Humboldt’s finest nature guide goes out on a social distancing limb (11:01)

Simply the park’s greatest eye candy in super high definition (3:45) If not enough, here’s a similar saga 2.5 hours long 

When the Klamath Tour Thru Tree meets a Ford Econoline, who will win? (2:36)

How tall is the world’s tallest tree? Little kids cavort around a big clue. Take the (super easy one question) quiz. Maybe win a shirt (0:43)

The ten most amazing trees

Tall Trees Grove. Kyle Meyer

ORICK, CA — Our team of adventure professionals in Northern California has ranked the ten most remarkable trees in Redwood National and State Parks, home of the world’s tallest living things. The list comes as we officially launch Redwood Coast Parks in Orick, California, the central town in Redwood NSP.

“There’s no private organization with more experience in Redwood Country,” said Redwood Coast Parks chief Richard Stenger, a former national park ranger spearheading the group. “We work with naturalists, arborists, equestrian experts, representing generations of people who have lived and worked around Redwood National Park.”

Based on a system that includes visitor feedback, visual aesthetics and scientific value, the RCP team ranked the top ten trees in Redwood National and State Parks. 

1. Illuvator

Nick Nichols. NatGeo

This monster, one of the most massive trees in the world, with more than 200 trunks and stems, graced the cover and eight-page centerfold of National Geographic in its feature on the super trees of Redwood National & State Parks. Named for the supreme creator in JRR Tolkien’s Middle Earth, it resides in the Atlas Grove in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park.

2. Nugget

Once the tallest known tree, this retired champion in Redwood National Park could retake the crown someday. It’s the second fastest growing redwood on record. The tree has plenty of elevated company in Tall Trees Grove, a fine-looking forest along Redwood Creek near Orick. Like Nugget, several neighbors are among the world’s ten tallest trees.

3. Corkscrew Tree

Corkscrew Tree

This photogenic oddity, featuring four trunks knitted together, poses a botanical mystery. Some think it a cathedral tree with a fairy ring gone wild. Others suspect that several coast redwoods grew around a central tree that later died and decayed. In either case, children of all ages find its twisting nooks irresistible to explore.

4. Klamath Tour Thru Tree

Klamath Tour Thru Tree

Only three living drive thru trees remain in the world, all along Highway 101 on Northern California’s Redwood Coast. The newest and least visited one offers the most pristine natural setting. It stands atop a small private hill surrounded by Redwood National Park and Yurok tribal lands. And the craftsmen who carved the tree’s cavity avoided essential living wood, safeguarding its health.

5. Stout Tree

Stout Tree

The largest redwood in Stout Grove, a forest at the confluence of two rivers in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park south of Crescent City, this venerable giant features distinctive rippled bark and a wooden viewing platform to protect its roots and provide wheelchair access.

6. Big Tree

This old growth giant in Redwood National & State Parks lives up to its name, having a circumference of 68 feet. Estimated at 1,500 years in age, the tree is just off the Newton Drury Scenic Parkway near the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park Visitor Center.

7. Sir Isaac Newton


While not the one that dropped an apple on the English physicist, this redwood is a legend in its own right. A former American Forests national points champion and one of the largest recorded redwoods, it’s located in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. An unmistakable burl makes it stand out from the Prairie Creek Trail.

8. Horse Goose Pen

Horse in a Tree

Redwood Creek Buckarettes lead horse rides from Orick into the dense old growth forests of Redwood National Park, including to this unusual tree with a large natural cave, a so-called goose pen. The interpretive tours share insights on local wildlife, flora and history, and stop here for an unforgettable selfie.

9. Eternal Spring Tree


This redwood has a strange spot, maybe a hole into the cambium, from which water constantly flows. It’s in the Lady Bird Johnson Grove, named for the former first lady who championed forest preservation, which offers a fine walk on an flat mountaintop loop. An added bonus: The many wild rhododendrons that bloom in late spring and summer.

10. Hyperion

Hyperion. Drew Hyland

The tallest of three trillion trees on the planet, Hyperion lords over Redwood National Park from a hidden hillside near Redwood Creek. The Internet tantalizes with location clues, but park rangers keep it secret to discourage foot traffic. Fortunately, the few trekkers who find the 380-footer, named for a Greek titan known as the High One, tend to respect low-impact hiking protocols

Google Map

To find these trees, some easy, some not so much, we put together this handy GPS laden treasure map with our Google friends.

Sky High Quiz

Watch this short. Take the (easy one question) poll. Pop an answer in the comments here and you may win a free tree t-shirt.


Redwood Coast Parks, a group of professional redwood adventurers, is based in Orick, California, the central town in Redwood National & State Parks, the home of the world’s tallest trees, 300 miles north of San Francisco. It’s a project of the Northern Humboldt Lodging Alliance, a non-profit dedicated to sharing the wonders of the Redwood Coast with the world.

Forest bathing under the redwoods

The soundscape, and being able to get away from human noise is huge. Nature Therapy, specifically Forest Bathing is a great way to do that.In Japan where the study first began, it is referred to as Shinrin-Yoku.

Humboldt County now has a certified Forest Therapy Guide, through the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy.  

In Forest Bathing you go through a specific standard sequence in which you are enabled to have a therapeutic experience using the power of nature. 

Our guide likes to think of it like computer coding, a very specific set of codes, to change the human mind into a specific wavelength.  In this way one refreshes the mind and body. The science behind this is known as Attention Restoration Theory.  

In a world full of hi-ways and skyscrapers, air and noise pollution, a break from the city is less of a want and becoming more of a need for people.

Something amazing happens when you are surrounded by nature.  Our bodies are innately drawn to sources in nature that produce un-seeable nutrients.  Trees producing oxygen and clean carbon dioxide is commonly known, but there are many other benefits nature provides us.

In Humboldt County we have thousand-year-old trees and an ecosystem that is older than human history.

Just 200 miles north of San Francisco, the last old-growth Redwood forests hold their place and their power. Even when viewed in passing and with distraction, they are compelling and breathtaking. How much more when one is guided to find the pace of the forest, to open one’s senses and mind to the vast communication that rains down from these forests?

That’s what Forest Bathing is all about. Forests like these resonate with the ancient parts of our being – the ones for whom a place like this meant food, security, connection, and joy. Forest Bathing helps you find a way to quiet your thoughts, and open your senses to the immensity of life that surrounds us all of the time. 

This program offers you the opportunity to do a deep dive into that world of support and connection in the most powerful way possible. These are the oldest trees on the planet, and they hold an inestimable measure of wisdom and memory.

In the same way that an animal suffers when removed from the habitat to which it has evolved, humans need nature, and, in particular, forests. Forest therapy is not the same as just walking in the woods. It is a guided experience that includes activities that are specifically designed to help participants perceive and interact with the natural world in a way that very few in western societies do. There is an ever-growing body of worldwide scientific studies that reveal not just the mental, but physical benefits of Nature Therapy and, in many countries nature therapy is becoming an integral part of health care. 

Spending mindful time in a forest has been shown to be extremely beneficial for everything from depression and anxiety to immune system disorders.

During Nature Therapy Walks will move at a very slow pace and are suitable for anyone who can walk slowly for an hour or two. These aren’t nature walks in the traditional sense, although we will be happy to answer questions about such things after our walks. These are about finding your intuitive connection to the family of life in the forest, exploring that, and taking the effortless comfort that comes from moving at our natural pace in our natural habitat.

Redwood Adventures at the Elk Meadow Cabins, provides a variety of Forest Therapy programs such as Shinrin-Yoku “Forest Bathing” Walks. They also provide consulting for organizations to utilize Forest Therapy as a health and wellness tool to reduce stress and offer tools for your staff to connect more deeply to where they work.

For more information or to schedule a session contact Redwood Adventures at 707-727-9266 or

Watch the whales, now from land

Great news land lubbers: Weekly whale watching walking tours are almost here.

Kayak Trinidad, one of the North Coast’s top paddle outfitters and guide services, will offer a two-hour walking tour among the cliffs of the beautiful seaside village of Trinidad, California. They will start Feb. 23rd and go every Sunday through May.

For those of you who love seeing whales but are less inclined to venture into the ocean in kayaks, this guided tour lead by their seasoned guides and naturalists is a great option. And it’s only $25 per person.

Call 707-329-0085, email or visit for details and reservations

3 perfect off-season trips

Redwoods by Candlelight. Gary Todorff

Don’t run from the cool weather. Embrace it. Own it. Light it up by candlelight in the forest. Hike to a gushing waterfall. Or spy on seals along the mouth of a river. Here are three autumn adventures in Northern Humboldt County will will make the season pass like a cool breeze.


Redwoods by Candlelight

Fog or sunshine, which sky conditions provide the optimal view experience to marvel at the redwoods? Hard to say, with pros and cons for each. But there’s a third option gaining popularity: darkness. 

For the 30th annual Candlelight Walk in the Redwoods, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park will, due to public demand, host the event over two evenings, Friday and Saturday, Dec. 6 and 7. Doors will open at 5 p.m. in the visitor center, a shabby-chic cabin built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, just north of Orick. 

After snacks, a raffle and silent auction to benefit the park, the luminary-lit processions will proceed at 6 p.m., on an easy ¼-mile level path to the campfire ring, for tales as tall as the trees. Please leave your candles and dogs at home. Advance reservations, which begin Nov. 1, are highly recommended ($10, free to kids 12 and under). Rain or shine. Call (707) 465-7327 or visit

Trillium Falls

With star attractions like big trees, Roosevelt elk and Fern Canyon, Redwood National and State Park visitors often overlook a fourth natural star, the Trillium Falls Trail, which features deciduous and redwood forests, Pacific rhododendron, plenty of Western trillium — one of the foremost wildflowers on the North Coast — and patches of giant trillium, in the spring.

But the real showcase of the moderate trail loop, which rises and falls and switches back and forth over 3 miles, is Trillium Falls, the largest and most beautiful in the parks, which really shows off in the fall rains. A steel bridge over Prairie Creek offers an excellent view of the boulder-strewn cascade. 

To start the walk to the water from U.S. Highway 101 just north of Orick, go west on Davison Road at the Elk Meadow Day Use Area, then take a quick left to the parking area, which has restrooms, picnic tables and, sometimes, a herd of resting elk. Start at the trailhead at the southern end and tiptoe around said antlered layabouts if present.

Hammond Trail

Lastly, do Humboldt like the locals do — they selected the Hammond Trail, a 5-mile section of the California Coastal Trail between Arcata and McKinleyville, as the best place to walk, jog and bike in one reader poll. Besides two-wheeled riders, the path, which meanders along a river, estuary, beaches, forests and sand hills, welcomes riders on four hooves. 

It begins in the Arcata Bottoms at the old steel bridge, retired to trains but open to pedestrians. Look down at the Mad River and you may see people and sea lions alike chasing the same schools of fish. Go north and stop at the market near Widow White Creek and School Road for refreshments. A bit farther north, turn the kids loose on the playground at Hiller Park. Or near the northern end of the trail, which climaxes with panoramic views of Clam Beach. Hop down a Billy goat trail into the coastal meadow for a closer look at harbor seals lounging about by the hundreds around the Mad River mouth.

From the Humboldt Insider Fall 2019 edition.


Fern Canyon: Remote wonder, no crowds

Fern Canyon in Redwood National & State Parks. Kirt Edblom

With so many of California’s best-known natural wonders loved to death, we decided to look for less-traveled alternatives across the state, especially in Northern California. First up:


Seven different varieties of fern including the descendants of species dating back millions of years line the steep walls of a narrow gorge in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. The short loop trail takes you past hanging greenery, tiny waterfalls and moss gardens.

Claim to fame: Steven Spielberg filmed a scene from “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” in the canyon.

Special considerations: It’s a wet hike. Waterproof boots or river sandals are recommended.

Camping: Gold Bluffs Beach Campground and Elk Prairie Campground are nearby.

Getting there: Moderately difficult. While Fern Canyon isn’t really remote compared to other destinations on this list, the 10-mile drive over unpaved road from Highway 101 at Orick helps keep the mobs away. Cost to enter: $8 per car.

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