Home to four of the five largest sequoias in the world
HIGHLIGHTS: Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks offer more than 850 miles of maintained wilderness trails and more than 723,000 acres of officially designated wilderness. In Sequoia National Park, follow a wheelchair-accessible trail to meet the world’s largest tree, the General Sherman giant sequoia, which is wider than a city street.
ACTIVITIES: Hiking, backpacking, ranger-led programs, cave tours, swimming, fishing, picnicking, bird watching, and plant studying. In the summer, two free shuttle buses take visitors to the most popular sights.
VISITOR CENTER: The Grant Grove visitor center is on Highway 180 south of the town of Cedar Grove. The Lodgepole Visitor Center, which hosts visitors to Giant Forest, is to the south on Highway 198. Both can be reached from the west side of the park on Highway 99.
CAMPGROUNDS: Sequoia and Kings Canyon have 14 campgrounds with a total of 800 sites. All but two of these campgrounds are on a first-come, first-served basis. Lodgepole and Dorst Creek take reservations for the summer. For more information, see the parks’ campgrounds page (external link).
TRAILS: Though it’s far from wilderness, a 2-mile-long paved trail that begins at the General Sherman Tree provides an excellent introduction to the sequoias of Giant Forest. In addition to Sherman (see below) it takes you past Chief Sequoyah, the General Lee, McKinley, and many other massive trees. From the Lodgepole Visitor Center, go about two miles south on the Generals Highway to the trailhead.
MUST-SEE UNIQUE FEATURE OR SEASONAL HIGHLIGHT: The General Sherman Tree is 275 feet tall and has a circumference of 103 feet. In terms of volume (52,508 cubic feet), it’s the largest tree in the world. It’s old, too: between 1,800 and 2,700 years.
HIDDEN GEM: Go underground to explore the polished marble, stalactites and curtains of Crystal Cave. The guided tour involves a somewhat strenuous 1.5 mile hike. Tickets are available at the Lodgepole Visitor Center. The cave itself is off the Generals Highway in Sequoia National Park, between the Ash Mountain entrance and Giant Forest.
FEATURES ACCESSIBLE TO PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES: Most visitor centers, picnic areas, some campgrounds, trails. Free passes for permanently disabled U.S. citizens and permanent residents. Assisted listening devices and Braille transcriptions of park map and guide.
DOGS: On leash 100 feet from roads in developed areas unless posted otherwise. Not allowed on trails.
ENTRANCE FEE: $15 Individual Entry Pass, valid 1 through 7 days
EAT: Savannah Boiano, Education Director at the Sequoia Field Institute, says “Three Rivers locals totally appreciate the ‘fine dining in a sandwich’ at Sierra Subs.” (external link)
Reimers Candies (external link) is the place to get an ice cream cone, especially on a hot summer day.
In the parks, Savannah suggests trying the dinner theater/ living history barbeque. It’s a unique, family friendly dinner experience hosted by Wuksachi Lodge (external link).
STOP: If you are flying into the area, you should take some time to linger among giant sequoias in Yosemite National Park.
Between the parks, Savannah recommends experiencing the excitement of an old-fashioned fire lookout. Buck Rock fire lookout is a popular off-the-beaten-path destination that will give insights into the role fire plays in systems such as the Sierra sequoia groves.
FAVORITE HIKE: In Kings Canyon National Park, Savannah’s favorite sequoia hike is in the Redwood Mountain Grove (external link). The drive to the trailhead is on an unpaved, yet sedan-friendly road. She says, “Descending to the trailhead on this road, the pace immediately brings me to a slower way of visiting an older, less visitor weary park. From the drive to the walk I feel as though I’m touring as done so by the hearty visitors of yesteryear.” This moderately strenuous hike lets one photograph seasonal dogwoods, listen to woodpecker drumming, cross creeks via fallen sequoias and explore the largest intact grove of giant sequoias left in the world. In addition, for those wanting to overnight backpack in a sequoia grove, a simple permit will allow for a very memorable experience!
In Sequoia National Park, Savannah’s favorite sequoia walk lies within the heart of John Muir’s Giant Forest. Round Meadow (external link) lies quietly beyond the shadow of the General Sherman tree. Along this easy meadow-side hike are sequoias with names like Bears Bathtub, the Pillars of Hercules and the Black Arch tree. At this point, one is beyond earshot of enthusiastic visitors and touring cars and yet close enough to reach there in reasonable time to do something else that’s on your park bucket list.
DON’T MISS: Spring in the Sierra foothills is gorgeous. Walking among wildflowers and spring birds is invigorating and inspiring. Savannah likes to take a camera and binoculars, pack a lunch and find any public land or nature preserve to explore, photograph and get rejuvenated. Balch Park (external link), south of the Sequoia National Park, is popular among families. The Trail of 100 Giants is popular for big trees lovers. For water enthusiasts, Lake Kaweah offers spring kayaking. Watch out for bald eagles and great white pelicans. The powerful Kings River and Kaweah Rivers both have plenty of white water rafting and kayaking opportunities.
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Acres Protected by the League: 2,214
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