Access @ Trees of Mystery in Northern California

Driving along scenic Highway 101, it’s a little startling to come upon the Trees of Mystery, a commercial roadside attraction with a 49-foot-tall statue of Paul Bunyan and his 35-foot high companion, Babe the Blue Ox, towering over its entrance. The 120-acre private park offers the Sky Trail, an accessible gondola ride through a redwood forest canopy; the Kingdom of Trees Trail; and the End of the Trail Native American Museum. I highly recommend visiting at least the free museum; a fee is charged for the other attractions. Although it’s not publicized, admission is free for wheelchair and scooter riders.

The nine-minute gondola ride to Ted’s Ridge, some 745 feet high, is not recommended for those afraid of heights. At the summit is a large observation deck with gorgeous views of the Klamath backcountry to the east and of the ocean to the west. A wheelchair-accessible shuttle is available as an alternative to the challenging nearly one-mile hike along the Kingdom of Trees Trail to the gondola embarkation station. 

Kingdom of Trees Trail
see access criteria for definitions
Trailhead: Next to the gift shop
Length: 1-2 total miles
Typical Width: 4 ft. & above
Typical Grade: Mostly level or gentle
Mostly level or gentle with some steep sections
Terrain: Moderately Firm
In some downhill sections the terrain is loose and it’s hard to get traction in a motorized wheelchair.
Obstacles: The approach to the trail is extremely steep and will likely require assistance.

Description

Although staff here describes this trail as accessible with assistance, I found it extremely challenging in a motorized chair. The continuous cross-slope and unstable surface made my chair slide close to the trail’s edge—where at times the drop-off was several feet and there was no barrier except for my companion. Someone with good upper body strength in a manual chair might find it less challenging, but I couldn’t enjoy the hike because I was too concerned about navigating the trail. 

Wander with awe on this arduous trail, where unusual coastal redwoods, Sitka spruce, and Douglas fir are highlighted with informational displays and audio descriptions (none were working on my visit). Some of the trees you’ll see and learn about include Elephant Tree, Cathedral Tree (nine trees that grew out of the stump of a fallen tree and formed a circle), and Brotherhood Tree. The approach to the trail is extremely steep, but if you can manage it, you should be able to manage the other, less steep inclines. Much of the trail climbs gently uphill to its end at the gondola embarkation station, but there are level places to rest and enjoy the forest. Trilliums and tree limbs draped with moss were plentiful on my visit in late April.

Accessibility Details
The facilities listed below meet all of our access criteria unless otherwise noted.

Accessible Visitor Center: Yes
Walking through the large gift shop to reach the End of the Trail Museum heightened my appreciation of the museum’s Indian artifacts. In contrast to the mostly mass-produced gifts, the handcrafted artifacts demonstrate the skill, time, and resources it took to make them. Marylee Thompson, owner of the museum, collected the clothing, pottery, weapons, baskets, jewelry, instruments, and other items on exhibit here over 40 years; many were gifts. The small but packed museum is divided into six rooms. The entry room showcases ceremonial caps worn by women, and cradle boards, which were sometimes placed in trees to keep babies safe as they watched their mothers at work. The other five rooms are organized by geographic area rather than tribal affiliation; among those represented are tribes from the Pacific Northwest, California, the Great Basin, the Plains, and the Southwest. You will learn much about the lives of Native Americans from the exhibits’ informative labels and placards.
Accessible ParkingYes
Large lot at entrance
Accessible RestroomYes
Located in a separate building by the parking lot
Accessible Picnic TablesYes
Several tables are near the parking lot by the restrooms, but if you have a ticket for the Sky Trail gondola ride, plan your picnic for the summit, where an accessible table on a deck provides dramatic views overlooking the forest.

Additional Information
Hours: Gift shop and trails: June–Aug., 8 am-7 pm; Sept.–May, 9 am-5 pm.
Museum: June–Aug., 8:30 am-6:30 pm; Sept.–May, 9:30 am-4:30 pm.
Map: See here.
Fees: Trails and Sky Tour
Dogs: Allowed in restricted areas, including on trails and gondola

Bonnie Lewkowicz Bonnie Lewkowicz (59 Posts)

I has worked for more than 30 years advocating for, and educating about access to outdoor recreation and tourism for people with disabilities. I hold a degree in Recreation Therapy and was a travel agent specializing in accessible travel for many years. In this capacity, and now as Associate Director at Wheelchair Traveling, I consult with the travel industry about accessibility, conducts disability awareness trainings and writes about travel and outdoor recreation. I also authored a book titled, A Wheelchair Rider's Guide: San Francisco Bay and the Nearby Coast, about accessible trails and has produced several access guides to San Francisco. My most current project is a website of accessible trails along the entire California Coast (www.wheelingcalscoast.org). My extensive experience as a wheelchair rider combined with her professional experience has provided me with in-depth knowledge about inclusive tourism and outdoor recreation.


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