In 1980, Redwood National Park, located along the Pacific Coast in northern California, was designated a World Heritage site. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

Some have always been drawn to the mountains, while others are called to ocean shores. But I constantly feel the pull of forests (I’ve even written a book about them).

My particular predilection causes me some mild embarrassment and social discomfort, because what could be more cliché for a baby boomer than being a “tree-hugger”? Those who prefer the peaks or the depths don’t seem to suffer from any such public judgments of banality.

Luckily, however, I can indulge my predisposition when I put on the guise of national park visitor, because our country’s protected areas safeguard some of our grandest and oldest trees. Redwood National and State Parks in northern California is such a place, home to some of the world’s tallest.

The colossal, old-growth, coastal trees in Redwood National Park, which was established in 1968 specifically to protect the redwoods, may take up to 400 years to mature. They can live to be 2,000 years old and grow to heights of more than 300 feet. Descendants of the giant evergreens that grew when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, these trees developed to thrive in moist, temperate regions. They now survive only in northern California and in Oregon.

Through the photos below, take a walk with me through Redwood State and National Parks. We’ll make a stop at the Lady Bird Johnson Grove, where on August 27, 1969, President Richard Nixon dedicated the giants growing here to the former first lady, who was an environmental activist. A plaque in the grove reads:

“One of my most unforgettable memories of the past years is walking through the Redwoods last November—seeing the lovely shafts of light filtering through the trees so far above, feeling the majesty and silence of that forest, and watching a salmon rise in one of those swift streams—all our problems seemed to fall into perspective and I think every one of us walked out more serene and happier.” —Lady Bird Johnson, July 30, 1969

I agree with Mrs. Johnson. At the risk of sounding too hippyish, I know that I feel more peaceful and untroubled when I’m among the trees. After seeing the photos below, I hope you can “tune into some of that vibe,” too.

Here’s to finding your true places and natural habitats,


Fog from the Pacific Ocean keeps the trees in Redwood National Park continually damp, even during summer droughts. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews


In 1994, Redwood National Park combined with Jedediah Smith, Del Norte Coast and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Parks to create the Redwood National and State Parks. At almost 132,000 acres, the combined parks protect about 42 percent of all the remaining coastal redwoods. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews


Coastal redwoods are some of the tallest trees in the world. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews


Some coastal redwoods may be as old as 2,000 years and have base diameters as large as 22 feet. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews


Douglas firs, hemlocks, spruces and sword ferns create a multitiered understory. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews


By monitoring the ferns on the forest floor in Redwood National Park, scientists are learning how climate change may be affecting redwood forest habitats. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews


Native peoples used fallen redwoods to build canoes and homes. However, during the Gold Rush in the 1850s, commercial logging began. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews


The Lady Bird Johnson Grove was named in honor of the former first lady in recognition of her environmental and conservation efforts. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews


Because the grove rests near the top of a ridge that is 1,000 feet above sea level, elevation brings moist conditions and extra rain. That causes the redwoods here to look less red than those found elsewhere on the coast. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews


A footbridge invites you to explore the Lady Bird Johnson Grove in Redwood National Park. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews