California’s official state tree is the redwood—it’s the world’s tallest tree—but the geological breadth of the Golden State allows for a variety of other, equally impressive arbors. Some are also known for their size (sequoias are voluminously large, rather than just tall) and others for their unique aesthetics. Either way, they’re all gorgeous. Here are five tree types you could build a whole trip around.
1. Coast Redwoods
The planet’s tallest trees soar to 379 feet, the height of a 35-story building. But these arboreal Goliaths possess other compelling qualities, says Jessica Carter of Save the Redwoods League. “There’s a calm quiet in the redwood forest that feels magical. Your senses awaken.” Experience the trees’ chill vibes at Redwood National and State Parks near Eureka and Crescent City. (more)
2. Joshua Trees
An icon of the high Mojave Desert, the spindly, cartoon-like Joshua tree is not a tree at all, but a yucca that grows up to 40 feet tall. Living for 150 years or more, Joshua trees provide critical habitat and food for desert birds, lizards, and insects. They're Joshua Tree National Park's namesake flora, but you can also find them in Mojave National Preserve and Arthur B. Ripley Desert Woodland State Park. Beyond the trees, here are more ideas for what to see in Joshua Tree National Park.
3. Ancient Bristlecone Pines
Follow a winding mountain road from Bishop or Big Pine to visit the world's oldest trees. These photogenic icons with gnarled trunks, contorted limbs, and bushy needles grow at 10,000 feet in elevation in the arid White-Inyo Mountains. The oldest tree dates back 4,800 years—about the time the Egyptian pyramids were being built.
4. Giant Sequoias
Even linebackers feel tiny standing near the General Sherman Tree, the largest living thing on earth by volume. This giant sequoia boasts a 102-foot circumference, weighs 2.7 million pounds, and keeps on growing in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. (They also live more than 3,000 years!) You can see more of these colossal trees in Yosemite National Park, Calaveras Big Trees State Park, and the Sierra National Forest.
5. Torrey Pines
North America’s rarest pine tree makes its home in only two spots—Santa Rosa Island at Channel Islands National Park and around Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve in San Diego. Battered by coastal winds, Torrey pines mature into twisted, bonsai-like shapes. Only about 9,000 of these graceful conifers exist today, but eons ago they may have populated much of the West Coast.
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