November 14, 2022
The most beautiful forests in California
California is home to some of the most incredible forests in the world, particularly those featuring the massive, spectacular ancient coastal redwood trees. If you want to check out some of this majestic forestry, here are the best options for a place to visit.
On the side of Mount Tamalpais, 12 miles north of San Francisco, there stands a glorious redwood forest known as Muir Woods. A proud member of the National Park Service and a National Monument since 1908, this majestic forest is a popular destination for both locals and visitors to hike and explore. Muir Woods National Monument encompasses a total of 554 acres, 240 of which constitute old growth coast redwood forests. Once upon a time, these redwoods and sequoias grew all around the country, but today they only exist in a small strip between Monterey and southern Oregon. The rarity of these forests makes Muir Woods all the more special – the forest’s close proximity to the Pacific Ocean causes it to be frequently doused in fog, allowing the redwoods to avoid drought and creating a consistently wet environment that allows the rest of the forest’s plant life to thrive. The main activity on the agenda for Muir Woods visitors is hiking. There are six miles of trails throughout the forest made up of asphalt and boardwalk, including three main trails estimated to take half an hour, one hour, and two hours, respectively.
Take a day trip out of the city to enjoy the gorgeous nature of the surrounding Bay Area. If you want to enjoy the area’s majestic redwoods, but you’re looking for something a little less crowded than Muir Woods, Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve is the perfect spot for you. Armstrong Redwoods is a California state park in Sonoma County preserving 805 acres of coast redwoods, also known as Sequoia sempervirens. The area is made up of a temperate rainforest with a mild, wet climate, gathering an average of 55 inches of rain each year. The notorious bay Area fog sustains such wet conditions, supporting the growth of the redwoods during the summer. The atmosphere in these woods is serene and magical, transporting visitors into a cool forest isolated from the busy streets of the surrounding communities.
Sequoia National Park’s Giant Forest
Sequoia National Park’s Giant Forest is home to the largest sequoia trees around. The park is filled with massive mountains, deep canyons, and dense, diverse forestry. The Giant Forest is a large grove between forks of the Kaweah River, filled with exceptionally large trees like the General Sherman Tree, the largest living sequoia. Within the forest there is a vast network of hiking trails, ranging from short one hour hikes to full-day adventures. Along the trails, you can enjoy gorgeous views and some spectacular wildlife sightings.
Yosemite National Park’s Mariposa Grove
The Mariposa Grove is the largest redwood forest in Yosemite National Park, filled with several hundred giant sequoia trees. The forest contains two of the 30 oldest giant sequoias in the world, the older of the two being the Grizzly Giant that is estimated to be 1,900 to 2,400 years old. The Mariposa Grove has been closed for renovations since 2015, but it is scheduled for a grand reopening in the spring of 2017 so be sure to book your trip in advance before all lodging options fill up.
Big Basin Redwoods State Park
Established in 1902, Big Basin Redwoods State Park is the oldest state park in California, located among the Santa Cruz Mountains. It is host to a gorgeous redwood forest filled with massive ancient coast redwoods. The trees can be more than 50 feet in circumference, some even older than the Roman Empire. Other trees in the forest include the likes of conifer, oaks, chaparral, and more. In addition to the forest, the park is home to thriving waterfalls and a number of historic cultural and natural features.
Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park
Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park is located in the northernmost section of California between Crescent City and Eureka. The park features everything from beaches to open meadows, even offering a home to a herd of Roosevelt Elk. The park’s forest is filled with coastal redwoods, standing tall and majestic. The park’s Fern Canyon is a popular destination for visitors, known for being used as a backdrop in Jurassic Park. Within the park you can also find multiple campgrounds, scenic drives, tons of hiking trails, and a 19-mile bike loop.
Angeles National Forest
Located about 50-miles northeast from L.A., the sprawling Angeles National Forest (part of the U.S. National Forest system) contains over 700,000-acres of protected woods that are tucked into the San Gabriel and Sierra Pelona Mountains. There are plenty of options for camping here, with local favorites including Buckthorn Campground, Horse Flats Campground, and Crystal Lake Campground, and are great areas for trailheads, picnics, and campfires. Hiking in the Angeles Forest contains many lovely day hikes, such as the Burkhardt Trail up to Cooper Canyon Falls and the famous Pacific Crest Trail. And with bouldering activities, swimming holes, horseback riding opportunities and more, the Angeles Forest is an excellent place for outdoor entertainment.
San Bernardino Forest
The beautiful San Bernardino Forest is to the west of the Angeles National Forest and is a slightly larger park. Coming in at over 800,000-acres within the San Bernardino, San Jacinto, and Santa Rosa Mountains, San Bernardino boasts plenty of wilderness fun for the whole family to enjoy. Waterfall enthusiasts will love the Big Falls and Bonita Falls, the tallest waterfalls in southern California. And for those who are looking to swim, you can also take a dip in the Deep Creek Hot Springs, a unique, clothing optional spot accessed by a hike along the Freedom Trail. San Bernardino is also home to many scenic campsites and includes Boulder Basin Campground at 7,700-feet, which has great views and giant boulders for campers who are lucky enough to score a site at the top of the campsite loop. A short hike away from the campground leads to the nearby Black Mountain Fire Lookout, which gives a 360-degree vantage point over the stunning mountain range. And for campers who prefer lakeside access, the Serrano Campground near Big Bear Lake is an ideal spot for families and visitors looking for fishing, swimming, and easy day hikes.
Los Padres National Forest
At 2,000,000-acres, the Los Padres National Forest is the largest of the bunch and runs along the Pacific coast northeast of L.A. all the way from Santa Barbara to San Luis Obispo. The coastal views and gorgeous plant life are major draws to this enormous forest and include the popular Kirk Creek Campground, which is nestled on a high bluff above the ocean for fantastic sea views. For those looking to explore the incredible range of plants and wildlife in the forest, the Wheeler Gorge Nature Trail near Wheeler Gorge Campground is a great choice for an adventure through different forest zones. And to wind down after a long week in the city, the Big Caliente Hot Springs is a beloved dipping spot for relaxing and letting loose in this scenic national forest.