The towering redwoods of Montgomery Woods create a Cathedral-like quiet and serenity, and upon entering one is filled with a sense of reverence and awe. This is a place of peace, a place where the age of the world can be felt in a visceral sense. These majestic giants have survived and thrived for more than a thousand years, weathering fierce storms, forest fires, and flooding. They seem to look down over you as you walk among them, and it is difficult not to simply place your hand against their trunks and close your eyes, trying to soak in the immensity of what you’re experiencing.
A cathedral of the forest, with towering redwood trees, primeval ferns, and tranquil groves
Nestled off the beaten path, Montgomery Woods State Park is one of California’s most pristine old growth redwood groves. Although it’s a bit of a drive inland from the Mendocino Coast, it is well worth the trip. This is the home of the most impressive redwood trees on earth – including some that have at times held the title for the tallest tree in the world.
The State Park covers more than a thousand acres of preserved land, and a well-maintained trail traverses some of the most majestic specimens. Because of its remote location, it is one of the least-visited State Parks, which can make it an incredibly opportunity to experience the true immensity of the Sequoia. The initial climb into the heart of the park is somewhat steep, but still suitable for amateur hikers. Once in the main body of the central grove, you are on an alluvial flat, and a simple two-mile loop trail will take you among some of the most beautiful redwood trees Mendocino County has to offer. The steep hills that ring in the flat grove give it an island-like feel, and it’s easy to imagine prehistoric creatures ambling their way through the underbrush.
“The redwoods, once seen, leave a mark or create a vision that stays with you always.”
– John Steinbeck
During the light spring rains, and even the heavier winter rains, this can be an especially magical trek. The creeks are flowing wildly, and the dense canopy mostly protects you from the drops of water – while still lending a glistening dewiness and hypnotic sound to the entire experience. During summer months the late afternoon is the best time to visit, as the light filters down through the leaves and makes beautiful patterns on the ferns and moss beds.
From the Mendocino Coast, plan on a bit over an hour to get to the park, taking Comptche-Ukiah Road, just south of the Village of Mendocino. Leave at least two hours to experience the park in fullness.