Olympic National Park’s Tree of Life seems to defy all logic. The grand Sitka spruce sits almost in midair with all of its roots exposed and hanging below.
Perched between two steep slopes, the tree holds on by only a few of its roots while the rest hang below, inexplicably staying standing and gaining enough nutrients to not only survive but to fully thrive. As a Sitka, it is the largest type of spruce, and its wide and tall trunk leads to a lively and green group of leaves — all without any soil to support this growth.
Located above the aptly named Tree Root Cave, the tree itself has no official name. Instead, it’s sometimes referred to as the Runway Tree or the Kalaloch Tree. However, it is understandable why “Tree of Life” is its most popular name.
As the park’s Kalaloch Lodge explains, the Tree of Life “goes against all the rules of science and biology. It shouldn’t be standing. It shouldn’t be alive.” But somehow, the tree lives on.
The tree, of course, was not always like this. It sits on a coastal bluff, right on the beach, resulting in continuous water erosion. Water erosion slowly removed the base from where it sat, forming what is known as Tree Root Cave. Inside the cave is a flowing stream, which regularly exits out into the nearby ocean. This continual running water keeps any sediment from ever returning or rebuilding below the complex of roots.
Part of the draw of this attraction is the assumption of its limited lifespan. No one can say for sure how long the tree will continue its remarkable triumph, as with every passing year, the water continues to erode the beach bluff, and it is likely that someday, the gap below the tree will widen too much for the roots to reach both sides. It is already a visual marvel, and every year it stays standing makes it even more so.
This incredible sight is located just south of Forks, Washington, and is part of Olympic National Park’s Kalaloch Lodge, where visitors can stay overnight for quick access to the tree and its surrounding attractions, or simply pass through on their way to explore.
Once at the nearby Kalaloch Campground, tourists need only a brief hike to find the logic-defying tree. After viewing the tree, additional surrounding attractions include beaches, lakes, hiking trails, and guided historical tours. For even more area inspiration, consider