While driving along U.S. Route 101 in Northern California, it’s hard not to notice the massive 49-foot-tall Paul Bunyan statue and 35-foot-tall blue ox standing out front of Trees of Mystery near the town of Klamath. This roadside attraction has been intriguing visitors since it first opened back in 1946 and still to this day offers a unique way to experience the area’s renowned coastal redwoods.
They have a large parking lot as well as a flat dedicated lot for RVs across the street (next to the Forest Cafe). Parking is free, as is stopping for photos of the statues out front, but we highly suggest getting tickets for full access to all of their attractions.
Admission includes a gondola ride that takes you high above the redwoods as well as interpretative trails that wind through the woods past several unusually shaped trees. The trails are all well maintained and moderately easy for all ages (except for the optional Wilderness Trail, for those who want a more challenging trek).
Hike through unique trees
First up is their Kingdom Of Trees Trail. This is an easy walk through coastal redwoods, Sitka spruce, and Douglas fir trees that have grown in all different shapes and sizes.
Each point of interest is well-marked with interpretative signs and small podiums with audio presentations. It passes by unique trees such as the Elephant Tree (pictured above), the Upside-Down Tree, a 3-In-1 Tree, a lightning-bolt shaped tree, and the Cathedral Tree—nine living trees growing as one in a natural cathedral formation. Several weddings are hosted here in front of the Cathedral Tree every year.
After the Cathedral Tree, you’ll reach their Forest Experience Trail, which is also relatively short and easy. There are restrooms and picnic tables at the beginning of this trail in case you’d like to take a quick break before you reach the SkyTrail gondola. Also on this section of the trail is the largest tree on their entire property—The Brotherhood Tree—a massive 19 feet in diameter and 297 feet tall.
Take a gondola ride up through the redwoods
The “SkyTrail” gondola ride is also included with your admission ticket. The boarding area is just a short walk from the Forest Experience Trail, however, they also offer a shuttle for those who are not able to easily walk the trails.
Simply hop on board and enjoy the aerial views as you ride up through the trees to the summit. The ride is about 8-10 minutes and leisurely climbs up to 1570 feet in elevation at 11mph. Along the way, it slows down a few times to less than 1mph to allow you to admire the views and get photos. Once you’ve reached the summit, you can get off and walk up to the main observation deck for a sweeping view over the redwoods and the Pacific Ocean.
The optional (and much more difficult) Wilderness Trail begins on the summit and leads a mile downhill all the way back down the mountain. Otherwise, you can hop back on the gondola going back down anytime.
Trail of Tall Tales
After the gondola, the trail continues into its last stretch, designed as the Trail of Tall Tales. Along this trail, you can view incredible redwood sculptures, carved by chainsaw, that detail stories of Paul Bunyan and his friends.
The trail comes to an end at their Gift Shop, where you can find a wide assortment of redwood and California-themed items and keepsakes you can purchase to commemorate your experience. They also offer a variety of fudge flavors—be sure to ask for a sample!
In the back of the Gift Shop is also a hidden treasure—The End Of The Trail Museum. This museum is dedicated to showcasing historic artifacts of Native Americans including baskets, tools, beadwork and more. The exhibits are nicely organized into six different rooms based on tribes and geographical areas.
Trees of Mystery is open every day from 9am to 5pm. Tickets are $18 for adults, $14 for seniors (over 60), $9 for kids 6-12, and kids 5 & under are free. You can learn more information on their website TreesOfMystery.net.
Several campgrounds and RV parks are nearby in the towns of Klamath and Crescent City. Camping is also available nearby in Del Norte Redwoods State Park, Prairie Creek Redwood State Park, and Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park.