The Best Places to Walk Amongst Giant Redwoods in California

Not only can you walk amongst them, you can get a bird's-eye view.

A tiny hiker in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. | Christopher Kimmel/Getty Images
A tiny hiker in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. | Christopher Kimmel/Getty Images

The easiest way to feel like a tiny lil’ ant? Stand next to a redwood tree. The tallest trees on our planet, redwoods can reach an incredible height of 380 feet, with diameters from 10 to 20 feet. A hundred million years ago, these majestic specimens blanketed the Northern hemisphere; now, they are mostly found on a 500-mile strip of the California coast. And with some dating a couple thousand years old, walking among these beautiful giants is truly like stepping back in time.

Now there’s a new way to see them: from above. Open since June at the Sequoia Park Zoo (California’s oldest zoo, in Eureka), the Redwood Sky Walk gives visitors a literal bird’s-eye view of the forest floor from 100 feet high. A quarter mile-long, ADA-accessible wooden bridge leads you through the treetops, with nine viewing platforms to gaze out at all the fungi, ferns, and bird-life. Along the way you’ll learn about history and ecology of the Coastal Redwood region, and for dare-devils, there’s an optional Adventure Segment: a swaying, three-feet wide Indiana Jones-esque suspension bridge.

Tickets are $24.95 ($14.95 for Humboldt County residents) and only available with zoo admission. It’s the longest skywalk of its kind in the western US—and a fitting start to a redwood road trip. Here are a few other places where you can commune with California’s giant redwoods (there are even three spots where you can drive through them).

Some redwoods date up to two thousand years old. | Photo courtesy of Redwood Sky Walk at Sequoia Park Zoo

Crescent City, California
There are no paved roads in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park: here, you’re literally in the thick of things. You will find a 5.6-mile stretch of dirt for driving, and the famed Grove of Titans, a collection of old-growth redwoods housing ten of the world’s largest trees. Named for Jedediah Strong Smith—who in the 1820s was the first white man to explore the interior of northern California—the park contains seven percent of all the old-growth redwoods in the world. There’s also the Smith River for fishing or snorkeling; 20 miles of trails’ and soon, a 1,300-foot elevated walkway to the Grove, expected to be completed by September.

Humboldt County, California
Running through Humboldt Redwoods State Park, the 31-mile long Avenue of the Giants has been called the finest forest in the world, and takes you through 51,222 acres of redwood groves parallelling the Eel river, without even getting out of your car. But you’ll want to, to see these guys up close and utilize numerous trailheads, campgrounds, and fishing or floating on the river. Along the way look for the “Champion Coast Redwood,” topping out at 370 feet, the Founder’s Grove with the felled 362-foot Dyerville Giant.

Up there it's just you and the birds. | Photo courtesy of Redwood Sky Walk at Sequoia Park Zoo

Arnold, California
Established in 1931 to protect two groves of giant sequoias, the delightfully self-explanatory Calaveras Big Trees State Park covers 6,498 of mixed growth and ancient volcanic formations, with trails of varying difficulty including one that deposits you at Beaver Creek, with a beach for a welcome post-hike dip. Here you can also sleep beneath the giant sequoias, at two campgrounds or five remote sites. Don’t forget to stop by the helipad-sized stump of the Discovery Tree, whose felling in the 1850s help spark the conservation movement.

Big Sur, California
Here, in the southernmost habitat of the Coastal Redwoods, the rising banks of the St. Lucia mountains compete with the massive foliage. Though you can see the crashing waves of the ocean, there’s no seaside access. Rather, the 1,000-acre park is centered around the Big Sur River: seek out the Gorge for a truly unique swimming experience. After being badly damaged in a 2008 fire, the Pfeiffer Falls Trail finally reopened this June, spruced up with a 70-foot-long pedestrian expansion bridge and a 0.75-mile trail segment that leads under the redwoods, down to a 60-foot waterfall.

Mill Woods, California
If you’re in San Francisco and short on time, Muir Woods National Monument is only about 12 miles north of San Francisco in the Golden Gate Recreation Area. Named after naturalist John Muir, the “Father of National Parks,” here you’ll find 558 acres of old growth redwoods where you can commune with giants on gentle, easily-walkable trails. It’s the world’s most-visited redwood grove, so come early to avoid crowds.

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Vanita Salisbury is Thrillist's Senior Travel Writer. She often wonders what it would be like to be a lil' ant.