Your Guide to Seeing the California Redwoods

View of California redwoods forest highlighted by sunshine.

If you’re visiting California on one of our Pacific Coast cruises, clear some space on your camera. Not only does this state of superlatives have golden beaches, famous movie stars, and intriguing history, but it’s also home to the world’s tallest and oldest trees – coast redwoods.  

The magnificent coast redwoods and giant sequoias share the designation as the state tree and have reddish-toned bark, but they aren’t found together in nature. Giant sequoias grow in the Sierra Nevada mountains, and coast redwoods stretch from the Southern Oregon coast to about 150 miles south of San Francisco.   

Here are three places to see California redwoods as part of San Francisco cruises.


1. Redwood Groves in Golden Gate Park 

You don’t have to leave the City by the Bay to walk amongst the giants. Golden Gate Park, the third most-visited park of its kind in the country, has several swaths of redwoods. Although planted, they generate the same sense of wonder as the wild California redwood forests.  

Just west of Golden Gate Park’s entrance, the unmarked Hoover Redwood Grove was planted in 1930 to honor war casualties. It is a popular picnic spot amongst locals. Inside Golden Gate Park, the National AIDS Memorial is a place of calm and solemnity. Heroes Grove, planted in memory of those who died in World War I, is another quiet place to enjoy the trees.  

While in Golden Gate Park, admire the San Francisco Botanical Garden’s blooms or the Beach Chalet’s Spanish Revival Architecture.   

View of California redwoods and hiking trail at Golden Gate Park.
Hike through the beautiful redwood forests in California. 

2. Redwood Sightseeing at Muir Woods Monument  

One of the most convenient ways to view the redwoods outside of the city is on the Woods & Sausalito shore excursion from San Francisco. This takes you on a 45-minute drive to one of the last remaining virgin redwood forests. You will also explore Sausalito, a charming suburb of cliffside homes and quirky houseboat neighborhoods. 

In Muir Woods, follow a nature trail to a serene setting – a cathedral of redwoods. Even more impressive than their soaring height is their age range: 400 to 800 years. If the trees could talk, they might regale us with tales of Spanish explorers, the California Gold Rush, and the wilds of the forest before development.   

Redwoods might not talk to us, but did you know they could “talk” to each other? Redwoods and other trees communicate through their roots. They aren’t sharing lighthearted gossip; they are helping each other survive. They send distress signals when lightning strikes or tell each other when insects attack so they can prepare their defenses. Scientists believe they share sugar with neighboring trees, even ones of differing species.   

3. California Redwoods in Santa Cruz  

In the Santa Cruz mountains, about an hour and a half south of San Francisco, Henry Cowell State Park is filled with redwoods living out their golden years at 1400- to 1800-years old. It’s a popular place to photograph redwoods. Stop by the Fremont Tree to get the whole family into its hollowed-out trunk for a picture. 

Though there’s nothing like staring up at the tree canopy, don’t forget to look down at the forest floor, the stomping grounds or “sliming grounds” of Santa Cruz’s beloved banana slugs. There’s a reason the University of California picked these bright yellow gastropods for their mascot. Though cute, they’re fierce – they leave a trail of slime that numbs the mouths of hungry predators.  

Fun Fact: The tallest tree in the world is Hyperion, an almost 380-ft-tall beauty about five hours north of San Francisco.  

Are the California redwoods at the top of your vacation list when visiting The Golden State? Share what excites you the most in the comments below.

Article by Amanda Halm


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  1. Janet May 16, 2024 at 3:54 pm - Reply

    Which California cruises offer Santa cruz redwoods as a shore excursion?

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