When I was planning our summer road trip and plotting all of our stops at roadside attractions and tourist destinations, there was one place I wanted to visit that was non-negotiable — one place that we had to go no matter what…
Located in the heart of California’s famed redwood forests, at the very center of Redwood National and State Parks, adjacent to the world famous Klamath River is Trees of Mystery, a tourist destination that has been entertaining visitors since 1946.
Billed as the premier Nature Attraction on California’s North Coast, Trees of Mystery features massive towering redwoods, unusual and weird tree formations, easy walking trails, an aerial tramway providing gondola rides to an observation platform atop the mountain, a museum, a giant gift shop, and of course, enormous statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe The Blue Ox!
Taking photos with Paul and Babe was totally the main reason for our visit to Trees of Mystery, but we were wowed by the spectacular trees along the walking trails, the redwood art and sculptures, the free six-room end of Trail Museum, and the aerial gondola ride!
Paul Bunyan And Babe The Blue Ox
Visible from US Highway 101, are the absolutely massive statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe The Blue Ox, welcoming visitors to the Trees of Mystery.
The two legendary friends stand in the parking lot and while guests are walking toward the entrance and posing for pictures near his 10′ tall boots, Paul Bunyan waves his hand and speaks, offering salutations, jokes, and riddles, comments on your clothing, and he may even ask you questions!
The original Paul Bunyan statue was built in 1946 but its papier mache construction only lasted a year — when the winter rains came, Paul’s head melted and collapsed. The following year, a 24 foot tall replacement Bunyan appeared, crafted with wood framing and concrete. The present Babe has been there since 1952 and by 1959, a new even larger Bunyan was built just in time for the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair. Both statues are constructed of wooden beams, wire and cement stucco.
- Paul Bunyan is 49’2″ tall and weighs 30,000 pounds. His waist measures 52′ around and his chest measures 66′ around. His arms measure 27′ in length and his boots are 10 feet tall!
- Babe the Blue Ox is 35′ tall at the horn tips and also weighs 30,000 pounds.
A funny thing about Babe:
Babe’s head used to nod and blow smoke from his nostrils, but it scared children and was discontinued. Babe also has a few details a normal oxen doesn’t have! Babe was built from a kit and the builder was from the city and didn’t know enough to realize it. It was decided to leave Babe as he was built, even if he’s not anatomically correct, and today it’s a very popular photo op!
The History Of Paul Bunyan and Babe
The first tales of a 6’4″ Paul Bunyan were told by French Canadians around the time of the Papineau Rebellion in 1837 but they were never published. In 1906, James MacGillivray published his own story mentioning Bunyan called The Round River Drive in the Oscoda, Michigan, Press. It was the first mention of Paul Bunyan in literature. Soon other authors published tales and outrageous stories that grew the legend and Paul Bunyan became an 8′ tall, 300+ pound giant.
In 1916, advertising writer William Laughead, introduced Paul Bunyan in an ad campaign for Red River Lumber Company, telling of the enormous Paul Bunyan and his blue ox Babe who were big enough to stride across the Mississippi and strong enough to dig the Grand Canyon as an irrigation ditch. Laughead’s campaign also created the first printed pictorial representations of Bunyan and many stories have been told and written since.
One story tells of Paul Bunyan creating the Great Lakes because he needed a watering hole large enough for Babe to drink from. Other stories say the 10,000 Lakes of Minnesota were formed from the footprints of Paul and Babe while they wandered blindly in a great blizzard.
The Incredible Redwoods Trees And Trails
Trees of Mystery bring to you, the Trail of Mysterious Trees, a trail system that stretches just under a mile and winds through awe-inspiring, magical old-growth Coastal Redwoods and odd redwood tree formations like the Candelabra Tree that was formed by a fallen tree with younger trees sprouting from it and the Elephant Tree that resembles an elephant’s trunk with multiple limbs branching from its base.
We entered the Trees of Mystery Trail System in the courtyard in front of the gift shop, just behind Paul and Babe. From here, we wandered along three sections of trail, including:
- The Kingdom Of Trees Trail:
See extraordinary specimens of Coastal Redwood, Sitka Spruce, and Douglas Fir along the trail, enjoy informational displays and audio presentations, and visit the Cathedral Tree. The Cathedral Tree is nine living trees growing in a semicircle out of one root structure. It is the worlds largest cathedral tree and a popular wedding location.
- The Forest Experience Trail:
Further up the hillside, this trail has many interpretive signs sharing redwood facts, as well as the largest tree on the property, the 2,000+ year old Brotherhood Tree, which measures 19 feet in diameter and 297 feet tall. You’ll also see the Towering Inferno, a tree struck by lightning in 1996 and burned out from the inside. This trail also provides access to Brotherhood Station and the SkyTrail.
- The Trail of Tall Tales:
This trail is devoted to the exploits, tales, and adventures of Paul Bunyan, Babe the Blue Ox. Paul, Babe, and other characters from forest lore and legend are depicted in approximately 50 chainsaw carvings and sculptures on huge, milled redwood timbers and slabs.
Near the end of the Trail of Mysterious Trees experience, sits the Cross Section of History. Created in 1962, this redwood slab’s growth rings and labeled to show how big the tree was for the Crusades (1096), Magna Carta (1215), Columbus (1492), and the Pilgrims (1620).
After spending a couple days looking at giant redwood tree after giant redwood tree, it was fun to check out the weird tree formations, and unique trees and redwood sculptures and art at Trees of Mystery. It was unlike any other redwood attraction we visited on the entire road trip and well worth the stop, especially because it also includes an awesome SkyTrail gondola ride up the mountain!
The Trees Of Mystery SkyTrail
Once inside the Trees of Mystery, you can walk any one of the trails to reach the SkyTrail Brotherhood Station. Here you can board a SkyTrail gondola and travel up the mountain to a large observation deck. At 742 feet elevation, the observation deck provides spectacular views of the surrounding mountains, the towering redwoods below, and the Pacific Ocean in the distance.
The SkyTrail aerial tramway opened in 2001. Each of the eight Gondola Cars carry up to six people, are fully enclosed, and handicapped accessible. Each day, they continuously make the nearly 0.3 mile, 8-10 minute, 1570 foot trip up the mountain at 11 mph.
I’ll admit, we were a little nervous on the gondola as it traveled up the mountain and looking down through the glass at the trees below made my stomach flutter a bit, especially at the points when the aerial tram slows down to 0.5 mph in each direction so you can take photos! Overall, the ride up and down were awesome, as was relaxing up on the observation deck overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
Brian and I were surprised the SkyTrail ride was included in the single ticket for Trees of Mystery and not an additional upcharge like it is at most other places we have visited where the gondola ride is $30.00/person on its own. That made it super affordable for our family!
Know Before You Go
Trees of Mystery was created as a natural history theme park in 1931 by Carl Bruno. Returning from service in World War II, Ray Thompson bought the property in 1946. He moved his family from San Francisco to run Trees of Mystery and the park has been owned and operated by the Thompson family ever since.
- Trees of Mystery, at the center of Redwood National and State Parks, is located at 15500 US Highway 101, Klamath, California 95548 in Del Norte County. It is just 16 miles south of Crescent City, 36 miles south of the Oregon border, and 126 miles from Grants Pass, Oregon.
- Download the Trees of Mystery brochure.
- Trees of Mystery is open every day except Christmas Day. On Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Eve, it is only open for a half day.
- The End Of The Trail Museum, curated by Marylee Thompson, displays a large private collection of Native American art, clothing, crafts, masks, totem, baskets, dolls, and tools. It is free to visit and open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.
- The Gift Shop, with souvenirs, food, toys, gifts, books, home decor, holiday items, redwood items, and so much more, is open from 9:00 am to 5:30 pm.
- The SkyTrail, Forest Experience Trail, Wilderness Trail, Trail of Tall Trees, and the Kingdom of Trees are open from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm.
- Paid admission includes all trails and is $18.00/adult, $14/senior 60+, $9.00/kids 6-12, and children under 5 are free.
- To board the SkyTrail gondolas at Brotherhood Station, you need to follow one of the trails through the park. A shuttle is available for those who cannot easily walk the trail to get to the station.
- Across the highway is the Trees of Mystery Motel and the Forest Cafe.
- Plan to spend a few hours here. There is way more cool stuff to check out than you think!
- Pets on leashes are very welcome on the trails and on SkyTrail!