In a remote area of California’s Redwood National Park, a coastal redwood dubbed “Hyperion” towers at 380 feet and is considered to be the world’s tallest living tree, a distinction that has made the redwood a popular attraction among hikers.
Since the tree was first discovered by researchers in 2006, it has drawn many visitors despite its location off trail and a trek that requires hiking through dense vegetation and “heavy bushwhacking.”
As a result, National Park officials are now warning that the influx of people has resulted in the devastation of the habitat surrounding the giant tree, and those attempting to visit Hyperion can face stiff penalties, including a $5,000 fine and six months in jail.
“As a visitor, you must decide if you will be part of the preservation of this unique landscape — or will you be part of its destruction,” the National Park Service said in a statement.
Officials said visitors stepping on Hyperion has resulted in degradation of the tree’s base and that the area around the tree no longer has ferns because of trampling.
“The forest around Hyperion has been trampled and damaged by ill-informed hikers,” park officials said.
“Redwood roots are incredibly shallow, reading down 12 feet on average. Soil compaction due to trampling negatively affects these centuries-old trees…The redwood forest is a delicate ecosystem. Hiking off trail tramples sensitive understory plants and disrupts the redwood forest ecology. Trash and human waste has been found littered on the way to Hyperion,” the statement said.
Park officials also emphasized the risks associated with hiking off trail to catch a glimpse of the tree, as it’s located in an area with no cell phone reception and spotty GPS coverage where a “small injury could be dangerous.”
Hyperion is estimated to be between 600 and 800 years old and was certified to be the world’s tallest living tree by the Guinness Book of World Records. The Redwood National Park is also home to the second and third known tallest trees, Helios and Icarus.