10 Incredible Trees You Can Still Visit, Now That Pioneer Cabin Is No More
On January 8, the famed Pioneer Cabin tree, a giant sequoia in Calaveras Big Trees State Park that was carved into a tunnel in the 1880s, collapsed after heavy rains.
When icons crumble they can deal a surprisingly heavy blow, a reminder that even something as mighty as a sequoia can be brought down by water. But across the globe there are other magnificent trees still worth visiting, from a gnarled pine born before the pyramids to a grove of ghostly clones to a Japanese wisteria whose blooms span 1,000 square meters.
Pour one out for the Pioneer Cabin tree, and put these living marvels on your must-see list. Like the tunnel tree, they won’t be here forever.
Angel Oak, Johns Island, South Carolina
Southern live oaks are iconic symbols of the South, their branches dripping with Spanish moss that catches the light in a certain romantic way.
This particular specimen on Johns Island just outside Charleston is a prime example of the species: 66 feet tall and 28 feet in circumference with thick limbs that sprawl upward and outward, casting shade over a camera-frame filling 17,200 square feet. Housed in a free public park dedicated to its viewing, the Angel Oak is a place to ponder the immensity of nature and our small individual place within it.
Avenue of the Baobabs, Menabe, Madagascar
Madagascar made our list of the Best Places to Travel in 2017, thanks to its immense biodiversity and thousands of species that exist nowhere else on Earth.
In between lemur-spotting and shipwreck diving, make a detour to the Avenue of the Baobabs, where around 20 of the odd, towering trees are all that remain of a once great forest. Visit in the early morning to commune with the swollen giants, impressive survivalists that store water in their trucks to resist the dry season but couldn’t resist the destructive power of human development.
While the precise location of the Earth’s tallest tree, a coast redwood dubbed “Hyperion” in Redwood National Park, is kept secret, finding the largest tree in the world as measured by volume is easy.
It’s less than a mile down a paved trail inside Sequoia National Park and marked by a handy plaque. Named for Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman, this tree is a true behemoth: 275 feet tall, more than 102 feet in circumference at its base with a trunk that’s 14 feet across even 180 feet off the ground. And General Sherman isn’t at risk of being out ranked anytime soon—he’s still growing.
Dragon’s Blood Trees, Socotra Island, Yemen
Native to the Socotra archipelago in the Arabian Sea south of Yemen, these distinctive trees cast a bizarre shadow on the landscape: short trunks that end in a tangle of branches crowned with a cap of spiky leaves.
The shape has been likened to an umbrella and a mushroom, but the species’ most notable feature is actually its sap, a crimson resin that seeps from the bark like blood and has been used for everything from dying clothes to varnishing violins to sealing wounds.
The Great Wisteria, Ashikaga Flower Park, Ashikaga, Japan
Every spring, this 150-year-old tree explodes into flower, its blossoms cascading from a 1,000-square-meter trellis like a pastel purple rain. The tree’s bloom kicks off the annual Great Wisteria Festival, from April 15 to May 21, when visitors to Ashikaga Flower Park can revel in 350 wisteria trees in bloom, including 80-meter tunnels of dripping white wisteria and sunny Kibana wisteria (and 5,000 flowering azaleas for good measure).
For an extra dose of enchantment, come during the “lighting up period,” when the trees are illuminated after dark.
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, Kyoto, Japan
Bamboo is technically a grass, but step into among these lofty stalks and you’ll be too busy gasping over the ethereal view to care much about the difference.
Also known as the Sagano Bamboo Forest, walking through the grove isn’t just a visual marvel but an auditory one, too. Search out a quiet spot and take a moment to absorb the distinctive rustling of the canopy overhead, a song immortalized by the Japanese Ministry of Environment as one of the country’s 100 soundscapes.
Methuselah Tree, Inyo National Forest, California
Though this twisted bristlecone pine in California’s White Mountains isn’t the oldest tree on Earth (because that honor belongs to a Swedish spruce that took root more than 9,500 years ago), the Methuselah is a remarkable specimen.
Believed to have germinated around 2832 BCE, this rugged pine is older than the Egyptian pyramids despite living in an unforgiving, high-altitude environment. The U.S. Forest Service keeps mum on which tree is actually the Methusaleh, but you’re welcome to visit the forest of the Ancients—home to a colony of historic bristlecone—and guess which one is the elder statesman.
Pando Aspen Grove, Fishlake National Forest, Utah
This 100-acre stand of quaking aspens looks like your average forest, but Pando means “I spread” in Latin, and that’s exactly what this colony of clones in Utah has done. All of the narrow, white-barked trunks in this sprawling grove are actually sprouted from the same root system, a family of more than 40,000 genetic twins that together make up the largest living organism on Earth.
The best time to pay Pando a visit? Fall, when the leaves turn striking shades of yellow and orange. Just don’t wait; the grove has been under threat in recent years from disease and insect infestation.
Cherry Blossom Tunnel, Bonn, Germany
Every year, the city of Bonn—on the banks of the Rhine River—serves as the canvas for a natural spectacle. Come spring, the cherry trees lining narrow streets in the Alstadt district burst into bloom. The result is a pink canopy that shrouds the town in a rosy glow (and makes the perfect backdrop for your next Instagram post).
Strangler Figs, Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Easily the most well known site on this list, the “temple city” of Angkor Wat in Cambodia is a UNESCO World Heritage tourist magnet, full of visitors who come to gape at its ancient temples and the jungle vegetation slowly reclaiming them. That battle is on display most dramatically at the Ta Prohm temple where the roots of strangler figs and silk-cotton trees trace doorways and walls, enveloping the stone structures in a glorious chokehold.