In addition to driving along the coast from Carmel-by-the-Sea north to San Francisco, there are some interesting inland sights worth exploring.
After our morning on the 17-Mile Drive and lunch in Monterey, we continued north on route 1 until Santa Cruz when we caught a smaller road that traveled inland and to higher elevations as we moved away from the ocean and into the woods.
We passed through a number of small towns and the traffic got lighter until we entered our destination– Big Basin Redwoods State Park.
California’s oldest state park, Big Basin was established in 1902. According to its website:
In the heart of the Santa Cruz Mountains, its biggest attractions—literally—are its ancient coast redwoods. Some of these giants are more than 50 feet around and as tall as the Statue of Liberty. At 1,000 to 1,800 years old, some may predate the Roman Empire. The park also offers spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean, lush waterfalls, and a fascinating natural and cultural history.
The park was established to combat the logging industry, which was wiping out the coast redwoods at the turn of the century. A coalition of civic leaders formed the Sempervirens Club (an homage to the Cherokee word sempervirens, which means ‘ever living’), which fought to protect both the trees and the park.
We were arriving a bit late in the day and needed to get to the airport for our flight home, but we had enough time to enjoy a short hike through the woods.
We found a parking spot, purchased a day pass to place in our car, changed into our hiking shoes and then hit the trail. We ended up piecing together several small hikes for a very accessible and flat walk in the woods.
There were plaques along the trail with more information about the park and some of the foliage visible from the trail. The coast redwoods in the park are native to the U.S. and can only be found along the coast between southern Oregon and central California.
It doesn’t matter how many pictures you see, nothing beats an in-person experience with these massive trees. Pulling into the forest and seeing these massive trunks along the side of the road with no tree top in sight is really awe inspiring. We didn’t even talk that much as we walked around–it was amazing to keep looking around, and looking up!, and simply taking it all in.
Brian’s favorite part of the visit was learning about the Father of the Forest and Mother of the Forest trees.
Warning: if you have a sensitivity to crude humor–even if it’s result of natural phenomenon–perhaps read no further!
At first as I was reading the information about the Father of the Forest, I truly believed it was a testament to the tree’s size. However, as Brian walked around the tree, he suggested the name might be alluding to something else.
I’ll let you take a look at the pictures below and decide.
I maintained my position until we came to the Mother of the Forest not far away. Again, the plaque described the tree’s size and how it was actually a bit shorter than it had been because it lost its top in a storm.
However, when Brian walked around the tree, he once again burst out laughing and insisted someone with a sense of humor had developed these names.
I can’t really believe it, but again–I’ll let you take a look at the pictures and decide.
At the conclusion of our walk was a wooded amphitheater where the park hosts events. It reminded me of a place we would congregate at a summer camp I attended growing up.
Alongside the seating areas was a gigantic tree that had fallen in January 1983. For the tree to remain intact and continue to show the size and scale of these beasts was so impressive, as was its massive root system.
I wish we’d had more time to explore the park–there were tons of trails ranging from easy to difficult and of varying lengths that would have allowed us to see even more of what the park had to offer.
If you’re in the San Francisco area and looking for a day trip or a break from the city, I would recommend heading north to Muir Woods National Monument or south to Big Basin Redwoods State Park. In either case, you will be blown away by the incredible coast redwoods that are so iconic to California. Enjoy!