No trip to the San Francisco Bay area would be complete without taking in the California Redwood trees, the tallest living things in the world. The sight of the trees, stretching to the sky, is breathtaking. Though you strain to see the treetops, they seem to be not quite there as the trees appear to brush the clouds. The trees are ancient and strong, yet graceful and stately. The trees spring from seeds no bigger than tomato seeds, yet the fruit of that seed can reach heights of 367 feet and be 22 feet wide at the base of the trunk.
California Redwood Trees versus Sequoias
Though in the same family, Redwood trees are not the same as California's Giant Sequoias. Redwoods grow only on a narrow part of the California coast and also on southern Oregon's coast. Giant Sequoias can grow up to 275 feet tall and can measure up to 40 feet wide at the base of the trunk. They grow further inland in the mountains. Both the Redwoods and the Sequoias are coniferous, meaning that they produce their seeds in cones, and both are evergreens.
Finding Redwood Trees
California's northern coastline in the area surrounding San Francisco provides an ideal climate for the Redwood trees. The day and night temperatures are generally cool, and the trees thrive in the foggy, misty climate. The weather is often damp, even in the heat of summer, as the area receives over 100 inches of rainfall each year. This provides the ideal climate for the trees to flourish.
Redwoods are not susceptible to insect problems, disease, or even fire. Their foliage grows high on the tree, well above a typical fire, and their hearty trunks can endure flames. Some trees have survived fires and grown even though fires hollowed out part of the trunks. These hollowed areas are large enough for people to stand in, yet the tree continues to flourish.
The trees' lives are measured in centuries, not decades like other trees. Many reach 600 years of age, though some trees have been found that are as old as 2,000 years old. New trees can grow from seeds, but many sprouts grow from the stump of cut or fallen trees.
To get a closer look at California Redwood trees, you can visit Muir Woods, part of the National Park Service, and a National Monument. Muir Woods is in Mill Valley, under an hour from the San Francisco city center.
Theodore Roosevelt, twenty-sixth president of the United States, set aside the Muir Woods area in 1908. The land was donated for preservation, with the request that it be named in honor of John Muir, an early conservationist.
At Muir Woods, you can hike through six miles of trails. The park service has marked out those trails that are short (around 30 minutes), as well one- and one-and-a-half hour loops through the old-growth forest. However, the park has restrictions. You may not horseback ride, picnic, smoke, camp, or bring pets into the park.
Muir Woods is quietly fascinating. The forest is calm and still, the trees tower over you as you enter. Being in the woods gives you a chance to touch and experience something ancient but peaceful.
Fortunately, it is easy to get to Muir Woods, as it lies 11 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge. Parking is limited, so you want to be sure to get to the park early. The park is open every day, from 8:00 in the morning until sunset. In preparation for your trip to the park, bring a jacket as the park is cool and shady, even in the summer. Temperatures throughout the year range from 40 degrees to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Also be prepared for rain. Don't forget your camera, as you will definitely want to take pictures.
Your trip to see the California Redwood Trees will be a memorable one, and Muir Woods is an unforgettable part of that trip. It is not every day that you get a chance to touch a piece of the world that lived before the American Revolution happened or that got its start around the same time the Coliseum was built in Rome. It is definitely worth the short trip for any San Francisco residents or tourists.