Magazine article American Forests

Go See a Champion: Take a Road Trip to Seek out the Biggest Trees in the Nation!

Magazine article American Forests

Go See a Champion: Take a Road Trip to Seek out the Biggest Trees in the Nation!

Article excerpt

In the process of seeking out some 200 national champion trees to photograph, write about, appreciate, and sometimes nominate, I have had my share of misadventures. I have searched for trees in the wrong places, chased the ghosts of those that had long since died, found the tree only to discover that it had been mis-identified or mis-measured, and been denied access to trees on private land. Once, in Alabama, I was frisked and nearly arrested when I was mistaken for some degenerate who had been threatening the locals and impersonating an officer (the landowner's suspicions had been aroused when I requested to be met at the isolated locked gate of his property before dawn).

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In this magazine, and in the National Register of Big Trees, we try to convey the wonder and beauty of big trees in prose, statistics, and photographs. But we all know that seeing and touching a big tree is a far better experience. Fortunately, you don't have to be an expert big tree hunter, have the wilderness skills and acumen of Daniel Boone, own the tree itself, or go through the hassles I've been through to find and appreciate some of our finest big trees.

It's true that most national champion trees are on private property or hidden deep within natural areas with no sign posts and sometimes no trails. But many national champions can be seen from a road or are on public lands and easy to approach. Here then, is a guide for you to have your own experiences with 26 incredible trees that you can drive or hike to without much trouble. Enjoy!

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PACIFIC NORTHWEST

Western Redcedar (931 points): Outside of California, the Quinault Lake Cedar is one of the biggest trees in the world, although it is quite hollow and the above ground living tissue is restricted to a two-foot-wide strip of bark that services one of the smaller upper trunks. From Highway 101 near the southwest corner of Olympic National Park, Washington, turn east onto North Shore Road (on the north side of Quinault Lake) and in about 4 miles look for the "Big Cedar Trail" sign near the Lake Quinault Resort. The half-mile trail to the tree involves a bit of uphill hiking.

Sitka Spruce (883 points): This giant, the country's fourth largest champion, is on the property of Rain Forest Resort but they graciously allow anyone to walk the 1/4 mile level trail to the tree. It is a short drive from the champion Western Redcedar. From Highway 101 west of Olympic National Park in Washington, drive about three miles east on South Shore Road (south of Quinault Lake) to the Rain Forest Resort and the trailhead.

Bigleaf Maple (543 points): The nation's biggest maple, and our third biggest broadleaf tree. You can easily find it just off the west side of Highway 103 about a block south of the intersection with Highway 202 and the tiny town of Jewell, which is about 50 miles northwest of Portland, Oregon.

Black Cottonwood (506 points): This tree grows along Mission Lake, an old channel of the Willamette River, in Willamette Mission State Park, 10 miles north of Salem, Oregon. It was dethroned in 2008 by a Washington tree just 9 points bigger but it will probably reign again because it has not been measured for over 25 years. You can reach it by walking on a level trail for about 100 yards. Ask at the visitor center for specifics.

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Port-Orford-Cedar (773 points): The Elk Creek Champion is the sixth biggest champion in the country. To find it, drive 9.8 miles southeast of Powers on Elk Creek Road in the Siskiyou National Forest in southwestern Oregon. Contact the Powers Ranger District for further details.

CALIFORNIA

Giant Sequoia (1321 points): If you love big trees, you must make a pilgrimage to the biggest in the world. In Sequoia National Park, every tree seems like a big tree. You can get to the biggest of them all, the 2500-year-old General Sherman, via the Generals Highway, Wolverton Road, and a half mile hiking trail (gain and loss of 200 feet elevation). …

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