Hiking Trails

Hiking near the world’s tallest sequoia now results in a $5,000 fine

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The tree recognized as the tallest in the world is now forbidden to visitors.

The National Park Service announced last week that it was discouraging hikers from visiting Hyperion, an ancient redwood tree in Northern California that holds a Guinness World Record for height at 380 feet, 9.7 inches, according to a 2019 measurement Those caught in the closed Redwood National and State Parks area could face a $5,000 fine and six months in jail, according to the NPS.

The tree, which was “discovered” in 2006, is located off designated trails and in the midst of dense vegetation that requires extensive brush clearing.

“Despite the difficult journey, the growing popularity due to bloggers, travel writers and websites of this off-road tree has resulted in the devastation of the habitat surrounding Hyperion,” a National Park Service bulletin reads.

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According to the park service, the number of people trampling the area over the years has caused the base of the tree to decay and wipe out the ferns that normally surround it. Garbage and human waste were also found littered across the path to the world’s tallest tree.

In addition to damage and litter, getting to Hyperion can be dangerous as hikers must go completely off the trail to access it. The tree is rooted in an area that has no cellphone reception and has spotty GPS coverage, according to NPS, so sustaining a small injury could be scary and dangerous.

In its statement, the park service discourages people from visiting Hyperion by pointing out that it’s not as exciting as it sounds.

“A view of Hyperion doesn’t match its hype,” the NPS statement said, adding that the tree’s trunk is small compared to many other ancient redwoods and its height cannot be observed from the floor.

The “tallest tree” label is a sort of moving target. Years ago, the park created a Tall Trees Trail so hikers could see a tree then designated as the tallest tree in the world. This tree no longer holds the title, but the trail has many redwoods that top 350 feet, NPS says.

It’s common for redwoods to lose sections of their crown – the section above the trunk of the tree – to wind and lightning.