Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Sequoia National Park, CA

With a nickname as exciting as "land of giants" you can be sure that Sequoia National Park is well worth a visit. Whether you're looking for time spent in nature, or abundant educational opportunities, this park delivers on both fronts.

Following the General's Highway makes for a great day trip if you're short on time. On the other hand the numerous campsites and lodges make this an easy week-long getaway, as well. The opportunities are endless and solely depend on what works best for your family.

Tunnel Rock

When planning your visit, I suggest viewing the driving map that the park provides. Viewing other maps can be confusing because there are many entrances to the park, but most of those entrances don't connect, they simply take you to trailheads. Those looking for a kid-friendly visit will find the driving map to be more straightforward.

There's so much diversity and plenty to do here. A few of the highlights include Hospital Rock where you can view petroglyphs, Crystal Cave where you can see impressive stalactites and stalagmites, and the Giant Forest Museum where you can learn more about sequoias and the park in general.


The park hosts a plethora of Ranger-led programs and talks so be sure to check the calendar to see if any are available during your visit. There's something special about being able to hear directly from some of the people who know and love the park so well.

No trip to Sequoia would be complete without visiting General Sherman. General Sherman is a sequoia who has the distinction of being the largest living thing on earth. Visitors are only permitted to get so close to the tree, but it's an impressive sight and there are various photo opportunities along the path. If you enjoy hiking, you can take a 2-mile hike among these giants.

On our visit, we entered the park from the South West, via the Ash Mountains entrance. The Foothills visitor's center is a good first stop to grab Jr. Ranger books, visit the restrooms, and learn about the park a bit.

Next, I recommend simply following the road up through the park. We tried exploring down a few side roads, but they were very narrow and only lead to campgrounds, trailheads, etc. Save your time and just follow the red line of the map - General's Highway. We stopped at Hospital Rock and various outlooks and then continued on to the museum and General Sherman before stopping in at Lodgepole to eat and turn in the completed Jr. Ranger booklets.

Because it was snowing so much, we weren't able to visit Crystal Cave or the Tunnel Tree, but those are both right off of General's Highway and seem like a lot of fun. If you're short on time, choose one or the other.

What you need to know

Being a National Parks pass holder comes in handy here. The fee is about $35.00 per vehicle. While that does grant access to both Sequoia National Park and King's Canyon, that's still more than most of the parks charge for admittance.

Elevation changes quickly so be sure to check the weather. We visited in May and were not allowed to enter the park until we'd rented snow chains! We ended up having to install the snow chains once we hit the higher elevations due to snow. Make sure you have jackets handy!

Depending on when you visit, certain roads, passes, or attractions may be closed so be sure to check the website for alerts and hours of operations. In addition, Crystal Cave requires tickets so if you're determined to visit that particular attraction buy tickets ahead of time.

There are multiple snack bars and restaurants scattered throughout the park, but there is no fuel so make sure to gas up.

Big Trees Trail makes for a good family hike at just a little over a mile long. Moro Rock is neat, but there are 400 stairs to climb, just fyi!

Some of the roads are very narrow. We took off exploring and started to head down Badger's Pass which turned into a very frightening experience when we came nose-to-nose with another vehicle. The park doesn't recommend long vehicles or vehicles towing trailers to go past a certain point so be sure to plan for that.

King's Canyon is adjacent to Sequoia National Park. While we weren't able to make it there, it looks beautiful. If you have time to spare, consider at least driving the King's Canyon Scenic Byway to take in the views.

If you'd like to see both parks, I'd recommend considering your overall layout and then cutting through the parks; start in one park and leave via the other. You may find that you don't have time to visit the South Fork King's River portion of King's Canyon, but you could still experience a good portion of both parks.


Here's a printable color page.

A fun craft tutorial.

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