In honour of the U.S. National Park Service’s 100th Anniversary, I’ve introduced a feature called “Find Your Park,” named after the popular hashtag the NPS has been using this year to promote the parks. Each unique post features one of the U.S. National Parks that I have had the chance to visit.
Park: Sequoia National Park
Location: Tulare County, CA
Established: September 25, 1890
Size: 404,064 acres
Annual visitors: 1,106,584 (2012)
Entrance fee: $30 /vehicle /week
Times visited: 2
My time in Sequoia National Park’s front country was far too short. It was tied in with a visit to Kings Canyon National Park, and so I really only got a day to visit with the Giant Sequoias. It was certainly enough to give me a taste and to make me want to return and explore the many trails, trees and meadows much more extensively.
We drove into Sequoia National Park from the northern entrance, which first passes through Kings Canyon National Park. Our goal for the afternoon was to visit the largest living tree on the planet: the General Sherman Tree.
The trip was about 15 minutes long and dropped us at a trailhead just north of the General Sherman Tree. It was only a few minute’s walk along a paved pathway to the base of the giant tree. The tree is not the tallest in the world, but the largest by volume. It stands 275 feet high and has a bole volume of 52,513 cubic feet.
The tree is a giant among giants, and so doesn’t necessarily stand out from the forest around it.
It was a busy Satruday afternoon in August and there were lots of other visitors in the main grove. However, after a quick visit to General Sherman, we headed down a trail enjoying a surprisingly quiet and peaceful wander to the Sequoias.
There are over 40 miles of trail in the Giant Forest area of the park. We chose a relatively direct path, hiking about 3 miles from General Sherman to the Giant Forest Museum. Along the way we got to see some awesome stands of sequoia, some Native American made mortar holes and pass by some lovely meadows.
We enjoyed a quick visit at the Giant Forest Museum to learn more about the Giant Sequoias and the park that protects them, and then hopped back on the shuttle to get us back to our car.
With another day or two, we would’ve returned to the Giant Forest, parking in the south end. From there you can climb the 400 steps to the top of Moro Rock for an amazing view, visit Tokopah Falls or wander around the edges of Round Meadow and enjoy the towering trees.
Another frontcountry area of the park to explore is Mineral King, a long glacial valley about 2 hours drive from the Giant Forest. It is considered a remote frontcountry area, and has no services so campers and hikers need to bring in all necessary gear. There are a number of alpine lakes to explore, including Monarch Lakes and Crystal Lake.
Sequoia National Park is a huge park, encompassing thousands of feet of vertical terrain to explore. The main frontcountry area is mostly between 5,000 and 9,000 feet, offering exploration of the montane forest, home to the Giant Sequoias. One day is enough to explore just the Giant Forest, but there are many more valleys, lakes and peaks to visit on day hikes if you can afford a few nights in a campground.