People love finding new ‘selfie spots’ in Mendocino County, and we’ve been asked a lot where some of the best places to take photos are. Beyond the usual (pretty much everywhere on the coast has a stunning backdrop, as do the inland valleys with their rolling vineyard-covered hills), we think there are some great oddities sprinkled around the county that are worth seeing (and sharing with your friends).
Perhaps the most iconic of these is the Chandelier Drive-Thru Tree. This is a towering, living redwood tree (we’ll discuss the actual height later – but it’s big!), with a massive hole carved in it, large enough to drive a car through (and you can!).
The grove itself has been owned by the Underwood family since 1922, and it’s a beautiful piece of land, with massive Coast Redwoods adorning the property. We highly recommend going to see the Drive-Thru Tree – but plan on spending a few hours on site exploring the rest of the land. Trails are sprinkled throughout the 200 acre virgin redwood grove, and are open to visitors. This is also a perfect place to picnic, with a comfortable meadow next to a pond offering ideal views of the redwoods.
The opening to the tree was cut in either 1936 or 1937, by Charlie Underwood, to create an attraction for visitors on the Redwood Highway, and it has continued to serve guests over the intervening decades. It gets its name (Chandelier Tree) because its branches actually jut out from the trunk of the tree and then turn upwards, giving it the appearance of giant chandelier.
How tall is it? The sign at the base says 315 feet (and 21 feet wide), but that’s open to some debate. Arborist M.D. Vaden, using a laser rangefinder, claims the tree is actually 276 feet (and 16 feet in diameter). But really, that extra 40 feet isn’t noticeable either way – it’s a truly gigantic tree, and dwarfs even the largest cars that pass through its opening. The tree is also believed to be right around 2,000 years old!
Although there are a number of drive-thru trees in California, we genuinely believe the Chandelier Drive-Thru Tree in Leggett is by far the most beautiful and scenic – and we’re not saying that just because it’s located in Mendocino! Do keep in mind that cars in the 1930s were more narrow than some of the widest today, and the largest SUVs may not be able to make it through the aperture in the tree (which is 7 feet wide).
After taking the requisite photos of yourself inside the large tree’s opening, and after touring the property, be sure to check out some of the nearby attractions. Confusion Hill offers a bit of fun for the whole family, and the Famous One Log House is just a short drive away.