Hundreds of feet high and hundreds of inches in diameter, California's redwoods are the tallest and largest trees in the world. Two kinds of redwood trees are native to the state -- the coast redwoods and the giant sequoias. Their differences are many, pointed up best, perhaps, by their measurements.
The northern coast redwoods are taller, with the tallest measured one -- "the Tall Tree" in Redwood National Park -- at 367.8 feet. Its diameter is 14 feet.
The giant sequoias, found on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada, are considered the largest of the Earth's trees because of their bulk. The largest of the giant sequoias -- the General Sherman Tree in Sequoia National Park -- rises only to 272.4 feet (95 feet shy of the Tall Tree). But its diameter, at 32.2 feet, is more than twice that of the Tall Tree.
Among the parks and forests in California where you can walk or drive among these impressive trees:
Muir Woods National Monument: For most visitors to California, this virgin stand of coast redwoods named for the famous conservationist is probably the most convenient to reach. Less than 20 miles north of San Francisco across the Golden Gate Bridge, this popular park is laced with gentle trails.
Avenue of the Giants: For 33 awesome miles, old U.S. Route 101 (paralleling the new freeway) winds along the Eel River through a series of coast redwood groves that all but turn the road into an evergreen tunnel. The drive begins about four hours north of San Francisco and ends about 30 miles south of Eureka.
Big Basin Redwoods State Park: A delightful little park of coast redwoods, often sought out by campers, it is located south of San Francisco near Santa Cruz -- an easy side trip for travelers heading south on the coast highway to Los Angeles.
Sequoia National Park: About midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles in the Sierras, the park has a number of magnificent groves of giant sequoias. You might consider a night beneath the redwoods in one of the park's comfortable lodge cabins.
Yosemite National Park: Perhaps the country's most beautiful national park, Yosemite is graced by its magnificent valley, towering granite domes and a superb stand of sequoias in the Mariposa Grove. About four hours southeast of San Francisco.