Today’s “14 National Parks with Big Trees” is a re-post from our August 2016 post about the Best National Parks to See Gigantic Trees. We’ve updated the post with some more parks and fresh hiking links to help plan your next big tree vacation.
During a recent trip to Redwood National and State Park we were reminded just how much we enjoy hiking in old-growth forests among world record trees. Everything about it sparks a hiker’s 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
andwinds that have tested but not defeated each gigantic tree.
One of the many duties of the National Park Service is to protect these trees for future generations. Our national parks are some of the best places to see big trees. Here’s where we recommend you add the following record-breakers to your next travel plans:
National Parks with Big Trees
#1 – Sequoia National Park, California
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 leaves an impression. Be sure to check out the General’s Highway which winds through old-growth sequoia forest and stop at the Giant Forest Museum. It highlights the storied history of the Sequoia and challenges to protect these mighty trees.
#2 Kings Canyon National Park, California
Managed with the same park service staff as nearby Sequoia National Park, King’s Canyon National Park in California is also home to giant trees. Stop in this park for a hike on the General Grant Tree Trail. It leads to General Grant Tree, one of the world’s largest living trees. President Coolidge proclaimed it the Nation’s Christmas tree in 1926.
#3. Mariposa Grove in Yosemite National Park, California
In 1864, Abraham Lincoln protected Yosemite National Park in part because of the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. It was also where John Muir and President Theodore Roosevelt camped together in some of the most famous photos in all of National Park Service history
Located in the southern area of the park, this grove of more than 500 sequoias is the largest in Yosemite National Park. Visitors to the grove can hike to famous trees like the Bachelor and Three Graces, the Grizzly Giant, and the California Tunnel Tree.
- Hiking Yosemite National Park: The Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls Trail
- The Most Visited National Parks in 2018
- 13 Things You Should Know about John Muir
#4 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.
#5 – Redwood National and State Parks, California
Redwood trees are the tallest species of trees in the world, commonly 250 or more feet tall. The largest concentration of these trees can be found in Redwood National and State Parks in northern California.
The current record holder is the Hyperion tree at just over 379 feet. It is growing somewhere in Redwoods National Park, although the exact location is undisclosed for the fear that it would become a tourist attraction, degrading its immediate environment and harming the tree.
- Hiking the Redwoods: Fern Canyon Trail
- Camping in Redwoods NP: The Jedediah Smith Campground
- Hiking the Redwoods: The Coastal Trail to Enderts Beach
- 3 Best Places to See Wildlife in Redwood National Park
- How to Plan the Ultimate Oregon National Park Road Trip
#6 – Muir Woods National Monument, California
Located just minutes outside of downtown San Francisco, Muir Woods National Monument is home to a small but mighty grove of coastal redwoods. Originally protected in 1908 by President Theodore Roosevelt, the original 295 acres of trees became our 7th national monument. Visitors can walk among the same trees that President Roosevelt dedicated way back then.
#7 – Tongass National Forest, Alaska
While technically not in the National Park Service (it’s protected by the U.S. Forest Service), this list wouldn’t be the same without mentioning the Tongass National Forest in Alaska. Tongass is the largest national forest in the United States and it borders many of Alaska’s premier national park lands. Tongass is so large if it 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.
- Visit all the National Park Sites in Alaska
- Alaska Vacation Recap: Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve
- Alaska Vacation Recap: Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve
- Alaska Vacation Recap: Denali National Park and Preserve
#8 – Olympic National Park, Washington
When it comes to National Parks with Big Trees, Olympic ranks among the best. 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. Both have outstanding trails for seeing big trees and experiencing one of the most unique landscapes in the NPS.
- Park Chaser’s Best of Olympic National Park
- Camping in Olympic National Park: Heart O’ the Hills Campground
- Camping in Olympic National Park: The Kalaloch Campground
- Hiking Olympic National Park: The Hall of Mosses Trail
- Hiking Olympic National Park: Sol Duc Falls Trail
- Trip Recap: Olympic National Park
Other National Parks with Trees Worth Seeing
If you’re a fan of trees in general–not just the large ones–the National Park Service is where you can find some other trees of distinction. The next set of trees on this list may not be the largest, but they are some of the most famous around the NPS.
#9 National Christmas Tree – President’s Park, Washington D.C.
On Christmas Eve in
#10 Joshua Trees – Joshua Tree National Park, California
Located in the Mojave and Colorado Deserts of California, Joshua Tree National Park is home to one of the most unique trees in all the National Park Service. Joshua trees are a member of the Agave family, growing in the harsh desert ecosystem. Some of the trees in the park are thought to be more than 150 years old.
#11 Bristlecone Pines – Great Basin National Park, Nevada
The Great Basin Bristlecone pine (Pinus longaeva) are thought to be the oldest living trees on the planet. While certainly not the largest trees, these gnarly, twisted trees win the award for longevity. Some in the park have been measured at over 4,800 years old.
The Bristlecone pines live just below the tree line on some of Great Basin’s highest peaks. Three groves to visit: Wheeler Peak Grove, Mount Washington Grove, and Eagle Peak Grove.
#12 Torrey Pines – Channel Islands National Park, California
Located off the coast of Southern California, Channel Islands is famous for its unique animal and plant life species. Among those is the Torrey Pine, the rarest pine tree in the world. These endearing pines can be found in only two places: Santa Rosa Island within Channel Island Park and in Torrey Pines State Reserve near La Jolla, California. Hiking among these rare trees gives you a sense of what lengths the National Park Service undergoes to protect our most endangered trees.
#13 Mangroves – Everglades & Biscayne National Parks, Florida
Not only are mangroves some of the most unusual trees in Florida, but they are also some of the most vital habitats in the National Park Service. Red and white mangroves thrive in the tidal waters of Southern Florida, including Everglades and Biscayne National Parks. Mangroves are our first line of defense during the storm surge of hurricanes. They are also home to the most endangered species of birds in Florida. All the more reason to visit and see what the National Park Service is doing to protect them!
#14 National Cherry Blossom Festival – Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, Washington D.C.
It’s hard to argue that Washington D.C.’s cherry trees are not among the most iconic trees in all of the National Park Service. Each year millions of visitors flock to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial and other sites around the Tidal Basin in Washington D.C. to see the flowering trees. The most popular times to visit are the last week of March and first week of April depending on the spring weather.
Each of these 14 national parks with big trees