When visitors talk about traveling to California, they’re mostly thinking about hitting the two big cities, San Francisco and Los Angeles: San Francisco for its hills and cable cars, Los Angeles for its beaches, palm trees and Disneyland. If they have any extra free time, perhaps people will squeeze in a visit to the wine country or maybe a dash over to Yosemite National Park. This is all well and good, but if you really want to experience California, you need to see the redwoods!

Muir Woods is everyone’s preferred redwood grove, just 30 minutes north of San Francisco, and it’s a lovely place, but SO crowded. These days, the parking lot is so full that most people have to park 20 minutes away and take a shuttle! That’s why I’m so enamored with the much-less-crowded, but equally-impressive Armstrong Woods in Sonoma County, about 90 minutes north of SF (and only a half hour from my house).
Armstrong Woods, on the outskirts of Guerneville and the Russian River, has a fairly mystical vibe. The moment you walk into the park, you’re surrounded by a grove of gi-normous trees, so big that it takes several people, hands linked, to wrap themselves around the circumference even one of them. Thankfully, the initial walking path through the redwood grove is only a mile or two in length, well-tended and completely flat, making it accessible to pretty much everybody. Fun fact: redwoods like this are the tallest living thing on the planet, rising 200-250 feet up into the sky. Even more remarkable, they tend to live 500-1,000 years, with some as much as 2,000 years old. In other words, some of these majestic trees were around in the time of the Roman Empire.

What I love most about Armstrong Woods is the network of trails that rise out of the redwood grove. If you like seeing redwoods from ground level, imagine climbing, climbing, climbing up a trail and viewing the trees from above the tree line, with views all the way to the bay on a clear day.
Being in nature always mellows me out, but redwoods fill me with awe with their size, their sturdiness, the way they block out the sun and create a cozy atmosphere.

What represents the redwoods in your life, that place you go to center yourself, to refresh and reset? How often do you access this place, and what’s holding you back going there today?