The world’s tallest tree is no longer open to visitors, and those who try to visit it anyway could be fined $5,000 and have to serve up to six months behind bars.
The tree is called “Hyperion,” a 379.1-foot tall coast redwood estimated to be anywhere from 600 to 800 years old. It’s located in a secluded area of California’s Redwood National Park with no defined trail leading to the tree. The park’s manager for natural resources, Leonel Arguello, said people have still made their way to it, per The Guardian.
Arguello reportedly said Hyperion was “discovered” by two novice naturalists in 2006, and visitors started hiking to view the tree by 2010 after its precise location was shared online. Guinness World Records established the tree as the tallest in the world in 2019. Its remote location lacks cell service, which presents challenges if someone is injured en route to Hyperion.
“If someone were to get hurt down there, it’d be a while before we could get to them and extract them,” Arguello said, reported SFGATE. “These are all reasons why we’re playing it safe and protecting our resources.”
“I hope people understand that we’re doing this because our eye is focused on protection of resources and safety of the visitors,” Arguello said, per The New York Times. He noted that the National Park Service decided to impose the rule, which went into effect in March after people created their own trails and climbed Hyperion.
People have visited the tree by hiking through the forest and bushwhacking into overgrown areas, creating their trails. The National Park Service’s website explains that the area surrounding Hyperion doesn’t have ferns anymore because people have walked through the site. People have also damaged the tree by walking on its base. According to SFGATE, Arguello also reportedly said it’s likely the tree won’t be the tallest in the world for much longer, which is a reason the park hasn’t created a trail leading to it.
“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,” Arguello said.
“It’s the most unimpressive tree you’ll ever see,” he said, reported The New York Times. “I’ve worked at this park for 33 years now, I’ve seen most of the old growth in this park, and this particular tree is not that impressive at the base. It’s just really tall.”
“When you can’t see the top 150 feet of tree, it doesn’t really matter how tall it is,” Arguello added.
Authorities are pressing visitors to visit instead Tall Trees Grove, which has many trails and redwoods.
“You can walk the grove and then go picnic by the creek and splash and swim in the water. You don’t have to scramble and bushwhack up to this tall, skinny tree that isn’t that impressive,” Arguello noted.