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Visiting the Angel Oak Tree in Low Country

January 17, 2015
The Angel Oak Tree

The magnificent Angel Oak Tree is one of the oldest live oak trees east of the Mississippi.

Updated 9/23/18

Paying a visit to the iconic Angel Oak Tree on Johns Island, South Carolina feels very much like making a pilgrimage. People travel from many miles away—sometimes from other states—to visit the three-acre park that sits beside an unpaved road. The park itself is totally ordinary except that it houses one of the most amazing trees you will ever see, the Angel Oak.

A southern live oak (genus: Quercus virginiana), this magnificent tree is thought to be one of the oldest east of the Mississippi. While no one is sure of its precise age, it is estimated to be at least 400 years old. Some claim it is more than 1500 years old. A testimony to resilience, the tree has been ravaged by nature over the centuries, including Hurricane Hugo in 1989, but still manages to survive.

The Angel Oak Tree

The Angel Oak Tree

After parking your car, approaching the Angel Oak by foot is humbling due to its gargantuan size.

  • It is 65 feet tall with a circumference of more than 25 feet.
  • Its largest limb is more than 89 feet long, so heavy that it rests along the ground along with many other large limbs.
  • The canopy creates more than 17,000 square feet of shade.
One of the heavy limbs of the Angel Oak

One of the heavy limbs of the Angel Oak

Almost like a centenarian, the Angel Oak tree needs supports just to maintain its balance. But the various beams, rods and braces that prop it up don’t detract from its grace and beauty.

Hardware on the Tree

“Hardware” on the Tree

Young children run around the massive tree and between its heavy limbs while everyone else snaps photographs and selfies that use humans as props to put the tree’s size in perspective.

Now owned by the City of Charleston, the legendary tree is named after the original owners of the property, Martha and Justis Angel. Its care is overseen by the Charleston Parks Conservancy.

Panoramic view of Angel Oak

Panoramic view of Angel Oak


UPDATE 9/23/18

Earlier this month (September 2018), Hurricane Florence hit the Carolinas, bringing strong winds and heavy rains that devastated many coastal areas of North Carolina. Although the entire South Carolina coastline was placed under a mandatory evacuation order, that state fared far better than its neighbor to the north (although some areas in South Carolina are still threatened with flooding).

My friend who lives on Johns Island near the Angel Oak Tree told me that neither Johns Island or the Angel Oak Tree were harmed by Hurricane Florence.

The tree did get some publicity, however, which may attract more tourists to take a look. Allstate Insurance ran TV advertisements to raise funds for Hurricane Florence Recovery efforts featuring the Angel Oak Tree as a symbol of resilience. Some Reddit users took offense to the use of the iconic South Caroline tree for this purpose since it didn’t actually suffer any damage from this hurricane.


IF YOU GO

  • Located at 3688 Angel Oak Road on Johns Island, the Angel Oak Tree at Angel Oak Park is about one-half hour (around 12 miles) from downtown Charleston.
  • The park is open Monday-Saturday from 9-5 and 1-5 on Sunday. There is no charge for admission and parking is free. A small gift shop, picnic area and several outhouses are nearby on the park grounds.
  • While your visit is bound to be memorable, a half hour is more than sufficient time to spend at the park because aside from the tree, there isn’t much else to see. With the area receiving an average of 75 days of rain a year, the grounds and small parking area are often muddy. Although you’ll be eager to take photos, the DO NOT TOUCH signs placed all around the tree aren’t especially photogenic.
  • Don’t expect peace and solitude. Whenever you go, you are likely to encounter other pilgrims.

THE ANGEL OAK TREE IN PHOTOSPHERE (Use buttons on the right for a 360-degree rotation)

  • Reply
    Marilyn Jones
    January 18, 2015 at 12:04 am

    I am surprised by its sheer size!! What a lovely out-of-the-way destination for anyone visiting Charleston!

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      January 19, 2015 at 9:56 am

      We were visiting friends on Johns Island and they took us here.

  • Reply
    Lauren
    January 18, 2015 at 1:46 am

    Amazingly beautiful tree. Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply
    Jackie Smith
    January 19, 2015 at 8:08 am

    This reminds me of the large Banyon Tree in Lahaina, Maui that has grown to such a size it is a tourist attraction as well. Beautiful photos – interesting post, Irene!

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      January 19, 2015 at 9:57 am

      Wonder if there are any other tree attractions? Would make a nice collaborative post:-)

  • Reply
    Michele Peterson ( A Taste for Travel)
    January 19, 2015 at 11:05 am

    Wow, what a beautiful tree! I can see why the Angel Oak draws pilgrims – it’s truly inspiring!

  • Reply
    Anita @ No Particular Place To Go
    January 19, 2015 at 12:21 pm

    I would love to visit the park on Johns Island and see Angel Oak Tree – magnificent!

  • Reply
    noel
    January 19, 2015 at 2:13 pm

    I love old trees like this, so wonderful they are taking efforts to preserve the entire tree for future generations

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      January 19, 2015 at 3:31 pm

      In addition, Noel, the acorns from this one have produced other nearby trees!

  • Reply
    A Cook Not Mad (Nat)
    January 19, 2015 at 3:46 pm

    I’m a tree freak, I must see this tree!

  • Reply
    Josie
    January 19, 2015 at 4:05 pm

    Hi Irene,

    I have been to this magnificent tree and you are right — as soon as you step out of your car, the tree draws you over to delight and gaze, take a million photos, (so many angles to explore!), and simply meditate under its canopy. After a good long time doing just that, we then walked away and sat at a picnic table, watching all the newbies arriving as we just had an hour before. We watched them as they gained the tree wisdom, too.

    Thanks for your added facts and inspiration!
    Josie

  • Reply
    Anne
    January 19, 2015 at 5:26 pm

    I’ve always been fascinated by the widespread oaks in this part of the country – will have to mske this pilgrimage!

  • Reply
    Sand In My Suitcase
    January 19, 2015 at 5:31 pm

    Wow! Look at how huge that tree has grown! Hopefully it will just keep on living and growing…

  • Reply
    Patti Morrow
    January 19, 2015 at 9:17 pm

    What a fabulous tree! I will make a point to visit it when I’m in Charleston again later this spring.

  • Reply
    The GypsyNesters
    January 19, 2015 at 10:13 pm

    Love the low country! The live oaks all along the sea islands are incredible.

  • Reply
    Betsy Wuebker | PassingThru
    January 20, 2015 at 2:21 am

    Amazing! The Low Country is so rich in story, a lovely region. Your photos are terrific.

  • Reply
    Jerome Shaw
    January 20, 2015 at 11:05 am

    What a wonderful tree. I visited the world’s largest pohutukawa tree while I was in New Zealand and your article reminded me what a special place trees like this Angel Oak can be. If I ever finally get to South Carolina I’ll put Angel Oak on my to do list.

  • Reply
    Carole Terwilliger Meyers
    January 21, 2015 at 4:13 pm

    What a spectacular tree! I hope to see it in person one day.

  • Reply
    Muza-chan
    January 22, 2015 at 6:32 am

    Beautiful…

  • Reply
    alison abbott
    January 23, 2015 at 11:22 am

    What a lovely spot Irene. We decided to go to Kiawah Island on our day outside of Charleston and it was beautiful also. I feel like we just scratched the surface of all there was to visit there and I can’t wait to get back and explore a little deeper.

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      January 23, 2015 at 11:24 am

      You probably would have passed the road to the Angel Oak on your way!

  • Reply
    santafetraveler
    January 23, 2015 at 1:18 pm

    What a magnificent old tree. I love old trees that have grown in their own direction over the years making an really compelling silhouette. I try to notice these as we drive past them on road trips and whenever possible stop to take a photo. So glad they’re preserving this one.

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