Tree enthusiasts who visit the world’s tallest tree deep in a northern California forest will face a fine and possibly jail after park officials declared the remote area off-limits because of damage from trampling tourists, a park official said on Monday.
The tree, a 115-metre coast redwood, is in a remote area of Redwood National Park and is not accessible by any trail.
But that has not stopped scores of visitors from hiking to the tree, said Leonel Arguello, the park’s manager for natural resources.
Mr Arguello said the tree, known as Hyperion, was “discovered” by two amateur naturalists in 2006.
By 2010, visitors started trekking to see the tall, skinny redwood after bloggers, travel writers and others shared its location online.
In 2019, Guinness World Records declared the tree, estimated to be between 600 and 800 years old, the tallest in the world.
Hikers have walked into dense vegetation to reach the tree, making many trails. The tree has also been damaged by visitors who step on its base.
The area around the tree no longer has ferns because of trampling, Mr Arguello said.
“The social trails have grown in number, the amount of garbage has increased, there’s human waste that has been seen and as more people go up to this tree, they create more social trails and all of that is having damage impacts to the vegetation, to the soils and, and all of the garbage just sits out there,” he said
The area has no mobile phone reception and if someone were to be hurt, it would take a lot of time and resources to rescue them.
That, paired with the trampling of the tree’s base and the forest, led officials to declare the area closed — and impose a $5,000 fine and up to six months in jail for those who hike there, Mr Arguello said.
He said that Hyperion visitors may be disappointed to realise the tree is not really that much to look at because, from its base, all they can see are branches.
“It’s tall but it’s not really that impressive to look at from the base because you cannot see the top of the tree," Mr Arguello said.
Park officials are encouraging people to visit Tall Trees Grove, where there are established trails and visitors have access to many imposing redwood trees.
“You can walk the grove and then go picnic by the creek and splash and swim in the water," Mr Arguello said.
"You don’t have to scramble and bushwhack up to this tall, skinny tree that isn’t that impressive."