Tree enthusiasts who make the trek to the world’s tallest tree deep in a northern California forest will face a fine and possible jail time after park officials declared the remote area off-limits because of damage done by trampling visitors to the tree and surrounding forest, a park official said.
The tree, a 380ft (115m) coast redwood, is in a remote area of Redwood National Park and is not accessible by any trail. But that hasn’t stopped scores of visitors from hiking to the tree, said Leonel Arguello, the park’s manager for natural resources.
Arguello said the tree, known as Hyperion, was ‘discovered’ by two amateur naturalists in 2006. By 2010, visitors started trekking to see the tall, skinny redwood after bloggers, travel writers and others shared its exact location online. In 2019, Guinness World Records declared the tree, estimated to be between 600 and 800 years old, the tallest in the world.
Hikers have bushwhacked off-trail into dense vegetation to reach the tree, making many social trails. The tree has also been damaged by visitors who step on its base. The area around the tree no longer has ferns due to trampling, Arguello said.
“The social trails have grown in number, the amount of garbage has increased, there’s human waste that has been seen, and as more people go up to this tree, they create more social trails and all of that is having damage impacts to the vegetation, to the soils and, and all of the garbage just sits out there,” he said.
Arguello said that Hyperion visitors may be disappointed to realise the tree is not really that much to look at because, from its base, all they can see are branches.
“It’s tall, but it’s not really that impressive to look at from the base because you cannot see the top of the tree. All you can see are the branches of this tall, skinny tree,” Arguello said.