We’ve regaled you a-plenty about the natural and cultural riches of Spain‘s green north, including its region of Cantabria. There are still vast, impressive forests blanketing its hills and mountains, including native oaks, oaks, chestnuts, beech, elms, maples, and ash. Not even many Spaniards, however, are aware that this verdant land is also home to an astonishing little forest of giant genus of cypress trees most commonly associated with northern California, USA: sequoia sempervirens – red sequoias (aka California redwoods).
Here’s the backstory. Back in the 1940s, a paper factory in the rural township of Cabezón de la Sal, outside the small town of the same name and a half hour southwest of Cantabria’s capital Santander, needed a new long-term source of raw materials, and the isolationist Franco dictatorship of the time was looking to lessen reliance on imports. So it was decided to plant more than 800 red sequoias on an 2.5-hectare (six-acre) hillside patch.
These are the world’s tallest trees, fast-growing and able to live thousands of years (the genus name sempervirens means “living forever”), and as the local forestry industry evolved, the red sequoias of Mount Cabezón became no longer necessary. Eventually, in 2003 the government of Cantabria declared this diminutive forest a “protected natural area”, and today this majestic arboreal oasis provides nature-loving visitors with the awesome experience of wandering amid some 850 giant evergreens, by now averaging 36 metres (118 feet) high, sometime reaching more than 50 m (164 ft), with circumferences averaging 1.6 m (just over five ft.).
It’s a tranquil, easy hike accessible for all ages, can be done in an hour or less, and thanks to Cantabria’s mild climate can be done at any time of year. Another way to experience the quiet magnificence of nature through some of its most imposing flora. (And while you’re here, by the way, the nearby town of Cabezón de la Sal is also a charmer, with a lovely old quarter and several interesting museums.)