The Magical Candelabra Trees of Northern California’s Lost Coast

Photo by Stephen Leonardi

One of the most beautiful places on the planet sits in Northern California and you’ve probably never heard of it.

The elusive candelabra trees of Shady Dell are some of the most unique in the world and that’s probably why they still stand today. During the logging era of the 1800’s, the awkward shapes of the tree limbs were nearly impossible to transport. With small branches twisting and turning up from their large trunks, loggers chose to leave the trees standing in their place, a welcomed decision for today’s outdoor adventurer.

“The candelabra trees are unforgettable,” said Louisa Morris, Director of Conservation and Trail Programs at Mendocino Land Trust. “You’ve never seen redwood trees like these.”

Photo via Save the Redwoods League/Paolo Vescia

The trees are a part of the Peter Douglas Coastal Trail in the Sinkyone Wilderness State Park, sitting in the northern stretches of Mendocino County. The area is as rural as it gets in California, sitting far away from any major municipalities, limiting the exposure the trees receive from visitors. In fact, the area was purchased by the Save the Redwoods League in 2011, and the trail to visit the candelabras just opened in 2016. Not many have been in the presence on these magical trees.

Photo by Stephen Leonardi.

While the hike along the Peter Douglas Coastal Trail is just a half a mile from the Usal Beach Campground, getting to the trailhead can be a journey. After you’ve arrived in the deep coastal area of Mendocino, you have to drive on a one-lane dirt road for 6 miles. Four-wheel drive and high clearance vehicles are recommended, and the road can be impassible in wet conditions.

Once on the trail, you’ll get unparalleled views of some of the most unique trees on the planet. It’s believed these trees were able to salty ocean air and harsh winds, with the broken limbs continuing to grow up into the sky without separating from the trunk. This is the only location this type of swirled growth occurs in the NorCal redwoods.

Due to its remote location, the adventure to Shady Dell might not be for everyone. But if you’re willing to make the trek to NorCal’s Lost Coast, you’ll never regret seeing the magical candelabras.

Active NorCal

Telling the Stories of Northern California

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