Albino Redwood Tree in Henry Cowell Redwoods

Henry Cowell Redwoods


From the issue Cruz on Down

Ghost Buster

Santa Cruz is a mecca for the wonderfully weird, and its trees are no exception. Spot the rare albino redwood (aka "ghost tree") on a magical 5.2-mile (round-trip) hike at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. The journey showcases the varied terrain, landscapes, and natural wonders of the region, including California coast redwoods—the largest and tallest trees in the world—and the albino hidden within. Grab a brochure at the trailhead and set off along the San Lorenzo River, a mile-long stretch that winds under the cover of bay trees and past silver-leaf manzanitas. Leave the trickling river water to course through the thick cover of towering redwoods. Break into the open when you hit the Pine Trail, winding into the open air past Ponderosa Pine and through the remains of an controlled fire zone that still smells of burnt embers. At the hike’s summit, an observation deck offers sweeping views of the green Santa Cruz Mountain Range. Head down the Ridge Road Trail for a mesmerizing descent through the chaparral sandhills, ancient marine deposits that encompass a narrow trail with wall-like sand formations. At the pavement, head right for a final, easy 1.5-mile stretch back along the redwood-shaded Pipeline Road. Before reaching the trailhead, put the icing on your trek with a quick detour around the 0.8-mile Redwood Grove Trail. Herein awaits the muted albino amid the hollowed stumps of massive redwoods. A slow rain season has made the albino even more difficult to spot, so use your brochure to find the tree's exact destination along the trail. Hint: look for telltale white needles along the base of the trunk.

TIP: Camp at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, just a couple of miles down the road from the day-use parking lot. Here, 113 diverse, redwood-entrenched campsites make a woodsman’s paradise. You can even tweak your hike to launch right from the campgrounds (reservations).

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park is located at 101 North Big Trees Park Rd. in Felton. Exit the parking lot on the pavement to the left of the Visitor's Center, turning left at Pipeline Rd. In 0.1-mile veer right on River Trail. Stay along the river until you veer up the Eagle Creek Trail. Turn right again at the Pine Trail for 0.7 miles until you reach the observation deck. Head right down the sand Ridge Trail for 0.5 miles to Pipeline Rd. Turn right and go 1.5 miles to the trailhead where you began. Finish your trek with a quick spin around the 0.8-mile Redwood Grove Trail among the ancient redwoods and glimpse the albino (#14 on the brochure found at the trailhead). Camping costs $35/night. Dogs aren’t allowed on this hike, but other trails at the park do allow dogs. The campground is dog-friendly.

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