General Sherman, Sequoia National Park
California’s Biggest, Oldest & Most Famous Trees
Palm trees, citrus trees, yeah yeah, we already know about those in California – and most everywhere else. But did you know the Golden State is home to some of the oldest, largest, weirdest, and even most famous trees in the world?
Here are six of California’s most unique trees – found from SoCal to Norcal, and everywhere in between.
The world’s largest living things, the sequoia is found all over California’s High Sierras region – and preserved by multitudes of national and state parks – plus the Sequoia National Forest. Definitely the most famous sequoia is Sequoia National Park’s star, the old General Sherman Tree – the largest tree on the planet.
Kings Canyon National Park was established in order to preserve the General Grant Grove – home to the famed General Grant Tree. Standing at 267 feet, 3,000-year-old Grant is said to be the globe’s third largest tree, and is also known as the World's Christmas Tree.
Set in Yosemite National Park, the Mariposa Grove contains roughly 500 mature giant sequoias. The grove is found at Yosemite's South Entrance along the two-mile Mariposa Grove Road.
Redwood National Park
The sequoia sempervirens – better known as the coast redwood, giant redwood, and California redwood – stand on California’s northern coast. The tallest redwood is said to be Hyperion at 380 feet, while the largest is thought to be the Lost Monarch – measuring 26 feet in diameter.
Preserved by Redwood National Park and other sites – mostly near Crescent City – these are trees you’ll have to see to believe. Trek the Avenue of Giants, visit Humboldt Redwoods State Park and Mailliard Redwoods State Reserve, or check out the 315-foot Chandelier Tree along the Redwood Highway at Drive-Thru Tree Park.
Lone Cypress, Monterey Peninsula
3. Monterey Cypress
The Cupressus macrocarpa is endemic to California’s central coast – and more specifically, the Monterey Peninsula. The most famous of these trees is the “Lone Cypress” – set in seclusion against the Pacific Ocean along the 17-Mile Drive scenic roadway.
Though this legendary little guy is all by itself, the Del Monte Forest is not far – and contains 5,300 acres of the Monterey Cypress.
Joshua Tree National Park
4. Joshua Tree
Fans of Dr. Suess will appreciate the Yucca brevifolia – also known as the yucca palm, palm tree yucca, tree yucca, and of course, the Joshua Tree. Named by Mormon settlers, the Joshua tree is said to resemble a human praising the heavens – though it looks like something drawn by a kid.
Even though these knobby, twisty, weirdos are found in Arizona, Utah, and Nevada, the Joshua Tree National Park is the place to go. The park is located in southern California’s desert region – set near cities like Palm Springs, Indio, Yucca Valley, and Twentynine Palms.
Bristlecone Pine, Inyo National Forest
5. Bristlecone Pine
The Pinus longaeva – also referred to as Intermountain, Western bristlecone pine, or Great Basin bristlecone pine – looks like something from mythology. These gnarled, ancient organisms are found in California’s White Mountains, Inyo Mountains, and Panamint Range.
The most famous Great Basin bristlecone pine is Methuselah – a roughly 5,000-year-old tree once known as the oldest non-clonal living organism in the world. Old Methuselah is located in the Methuselah Grove of the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest – found in the Inyo National Forest.
Circus Trees, Gilroy
6. Circus Trees
Though not natural trees of California, the world-famous Circus Trees are definitely worth noting here.
Set in the Santa Cruz area – of course – of central California’s coast, these artistically manipulated treasures were all created by local hero Axel Erlandson. Found in Gilroy at the Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park, the circus features American Sycamore, European Ash, Cork Oak, and more.
Check out impressive exhibits like the Squat Curvy Scallops, two Spiral Staircases, the Four-Legged Giant, and Double Hearts.