When visiting any National Park Service unit, we try to plan at least one hike. Don’t get us wrong, driving a scenic byway or paddling a wild and scenic river is great. But it does not compare to what we see sometimes from hiking just a mile or two off the main road. Especially when it comes to seeing gigantic trees.
During a recent trip to Olympic National Park we were reminded just how much we enjoy hiking in old growth forests among world record trees. Everything about it sparks a hikers fascination: Standing in the shade of a canopy that towers hundreds of feet above. Contemplating how a tree has stood in the same place during the height of the Roman Empire, the Revolutionary War and the age of Instagram. Imagining the fires, storms and winds that have tested but not defeated each gigantic tree.
One of the many duties of National Parks is to protect these trees for future generations. Our nation’s parks are some of the best places to see gigantic trees. We recommend you add the following record-breakers to your next travel plans:
The Best National Parks to See Gigantic Trees
As the largest living organism in the world, the great sequoia trees of Sequoia National Park have to be near the top of any giant tree list. While not the tallest, the massive volume of these trees definitely make an impression. Be sure to try the General Grant Tree Trail to see General Grant, one of the world’s largest living trees. President Coolidge proclaimed it the Nation’s Christmas tree in 1926.
#2 Congaree National Park, South Carolina
While the East coast of the United States is not well-known for vast areas of wilderness or giant trees, Congaree National Park is an exception. This park preserves giant river bottom deciduous trees, the remnants of the millions of acres of flood plain forests that used to cover many areas in the southeastern United States.
#3 – The Redwoods of Muir Woods National Monument or Redwood National Park
Redwood trees are the tallest species of trees in the world, commonly 250 or more feet tall. The current record holder is the Hyperion tree at just over 379 feet. It is growing somewhere in California – the exact location is undisclosed for the fear that it would become a tourist attraction which would degrade its immediate environment and harm the tree.
#4 – Tongass National Forest, Alaska
The Tongass National Forest is the largest national forest in the United States. While managed by the United States Forest Service, it borders many of Alaska’s premier national park lands. In fact if Tongass became a state, at 17 million acres it would be our 41st largest! The National Forest expanse consists of 19 designated wilderness areas and millions of acres of old growth forests. Tongass is the largest intact temperate rain forest in the world. The forest service gives an excellent description of the area here.
The Olympic Peninsula provides perfect weather conditions for many different types of conifers to grow to record size. This list (here) summarizes the record spruce, fir, and cedar trees that live in and around Olympic National Park. During our recent visit we hiked in the Hoh Rain Forest and the Sol Duc area. These two old growth forests certainly contain gigantic trees!
While these five national areas park areas are all very different, one thing uniting each of the parks are the significant pressures from logging and development in the 20th century. Our generation must continue to protect these gigantic trees and the environments in which they live.