Taking the wrong hike in California can now lead to a $5,000 fine plus six months of jail time. The world’s tallest tree in northern California’s Redwood National Park has been off-limits since its discovery in 2006, but that hasn’t stopped people from trying to find it, according to the Los Angeles Times. Now, park officials hope the new consequences keep visitors at bay.
Named Hyperion after the Greek Titan of heavenly light, the tree was last recorded by Guinness World Records to measure over 380 feet and is estimated to be between 600 and 800 years old. Naturalists Chris Atkins and Michael Taylor put the tree on people’s radar in 2006. By 2010, blogs and Reddit threads revealed the location of the tree, and over the years, more and more visitors have created trails by bushwhacking their way to it. The tree has become degraded due to unwelcome visitors who leave trash and human waste and trample the surrounding area, ruining the vegetation and soil around the tree’s base. Some people even bring drones or try to climb the giant, Leonel Arguello, the park’s manager for natural resources, told The Associated Press. Joanna Nelson, director of conservation planning at Save the Redwoods League, told the Los Angeles Times that only five percent of old-growth redwoods are left that haven’t been used for commercial logging.
Traveling to the area is also dangerous for hikers because it’s completely off the beaten path with no cell service, making it easy to get lost.
But perhaps the most ironic thing about all of the people who desperately seek out the famous redwood is that officials say the tree is just not that impressive in person. Compared to other redwoods that are easier to get to, the trunk is thin and there’s no way for visitors to take in the tree’s massive height. Park officials hope that by further deterring visitors with the threat of fines and jail time, the natural vegetation around the world’s tallest tree will have time to heal.