California’s redwood trees are native to the state and like nothing you’ll see anywhere else on the planet, and the best places to experience these giants are in the many state and national parks. If you're an adventure lover, consider these three ways to explore Northern California’s redwood forests, all located near Santa Cruz.
1. Zip-line with Mount Hermon Adventures
To appreciate the full scale of trees that tower over 300 feet (100 meters) tall, take the leap from terra firma and head to Mount Hermon Adventures to zip-line between them. Here you’ll be nearly 150 feet (50 meters) above the ground, whipping through the redwood canopy at speeds of up to 40 mph (60 km/h). Take a moment to look down as you zip around—it’s when you’re dangling (safely) from your harness that you’ll grasp the sheer height of these gentle coniferous giants. You can even lean out from the tree-top platforms to test your bravery, looking down at the forest floor below.
2. Hike in Big Basin Redwoods State Park
For a more laid-back journey among the giants, you can’t go wrong with a hike along the many trails that criss-cross California’s state parks. In Big Basin Redwoods State Park, a little over an hour south of San Francisco in the Santa Cruz Mountains, these hikes can range from short, hour-long meanders to more intense, 10-mile (16-kilometer) treks that take you up and down over 2100 feet (600 meters) in elevation change. Even the shortest hikes showcase impressive sights such as the Chimney Tree, which has been hollowed out by fires, and the 328-foot (nearly 100-meter) Mother of the Forest tree. Keep your eyes peeled for funky banana slugs, the bright yellow mascots of UC Santa Cruz.
3. Mountain bike through the Forest of Nisene Marks State Park
Further south, you’ll find The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park in Aptos. This parcel of land was cut and cleared at the beginning of the 20th century by loggers, but now stands as a testament to natural forest rejuvenation and protection. As part of its management, there are more than 30 miles (48 kilometers) of single-track trails that wind between mammoth trees and along the Aptos Creek. Dipping and jumping over the rugged territory will put a smile on the faces of riders of all levels. Want to be sure you can find trails that suit your ability level? Turn to local bike experts The Ride Guides for a guided experience.