Sequoia National Park Travel Guide

Sequoia National Park is not only home to the tallest trees in the world it is quite a spectacular place to visit. As these magnificent trees tower over you, you cannot feel rather small in the grand scheme of things.

The area was secured in 1890 as a national park in an effort to protect these magnificent trees from being logged. The park is situated about 80 miles east of Fresno and is located in the southern Sierra Nevada mountain range and has the distinction of being America’s second national park. Nearby Kings Canyon National Park which was founded in 1940 would become linked to Sequoia National Park.

While the trees are one of the major highlights of the park, one in particular stands 275 feet tall with a 36 foot base in diameter, known as Gen. Sherman Tree. However, there is much more than trees to the park including snowshoeing, hiking and caving. Additionally, the park is open every day throughout the year with every season holding a specific set of charms.

Sequoia National Park Facts

  • More than 1.5 million people will visit Sequoia National Park on a yearly basis.
  • Sequoia trees are naturally resistant to fire. They have an incredibly thick bark that will protect them from burning down during fires. If a tree should burn down, the nutrients will be directly deposited into the ground and feed other trees.
  • Sequoia National Park is home to a multitude of wildlife species. It may be hard to believe, but the area contains 5 native fish species, 26 reptile species, 73 species of mammals and an incredible 200 bird species, with many of these species listed on the endangered species list.
  • In 1976, Kings Canyon National Park and Sequoia National Park were designated through UNESCO as Sequoia-Kings Canyon Biosphere Reserve.

Sequoia National Park Weather

Spring

The combination of mild temperatures and humidity make this a very moderate season. The highest all range from 65°F to 88.8°F with the warmer temperatures occurring later in the season. Rain is typically rare with generally your attitude two days of significant precipitation on a monthly basis. Spring tends to be a slower season for tourism, which makes it a prime time to find particular deals to the area.

Summer

As opposed to most of the country, these months are quite comfortable with high temperatures that are generally warm. This season tends to see the least amount of precipitation was about zero days of precipitation per month. June and August are some the busiest months were Torres and throughout Sequoia National Park, so one should expect lodging more expensive than usual.

Fall

The daily highs during the fall season will range between 61°F and 95° or night which feel strictly nice with the combination of wind and humidity. One can expect 0 to 2 days per month of rain or snow. Tourism will be generally slow throughout these months due to the weather, allowing incredible deals on hotels.

Winter

The weather is generally way too cold to enjoy Sequoia National Park for most people. During this season, the average temperature is between 55°F and 65°F. One can expect an average of snow or rainfall 2 to 4 times per month. Despite the cold temperatures, this is the second busiest time of the year for tourists.

Best Time to Visit Sequoia National Park

One of the absolute best times to visit Sequoia National Park is through them from June to August, when the weather is consistently stable. The park is open all year long 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

However, due to the natural terrain, there are some challenges to keep in mind during certain seasons. In particular, during heavy snowfalls in December, vehicles are required to have snow chains or tires to safely navigate the park roads.

At the beginning of September, the park will cut hours to specific facilities as well as reduce its ranger-led programming. There are specific parts of the park such as Cedar Grove and mineral King which will be close entirely due to access issues.

Sequoia National Park Entrance

If you are searching for the most scenic route to get to Sequoia National Park, it is best to take California Highway 198 through three Rivers until you come to the Ash Mountain entrance, which will typically take about an hour from US Highway 99.

If you’re traveling from the Sacramento area or Northern California, it is best to exit US Highway 99 near Fresno and travel down California Highway 180 E., which will take you about an hour and a half to gain entrance to the Foothills.

Things To Do In Sequoia National Park

Take A Visit With General Sherman

As of today, Gen. Sherman is the largest tree found in the world, it stands over 275 feet tall with an incredible 102-foot circumference. To put that into perspective, the Statue of Liberty stands 305 feet tall. There are two easy to navigate trails that allow you to walk through the Giant Forest to take in the incredible splendor of the 2300-year-old General Sherman tree.

Cool Off During The Hot Summer Months

Imagine a day swimming in a sparkling outline late surrounded by gorgeous forests and sandy beaches. While it may sound like a dream, Hume Lake is very real and well worth a visit.

The area features canoes, kayaks and nearby trails for mountain biking and off-road tours. Additionally, there is a trout stocked lake as well as an incredible rope course and paintball field.

Visit The Giant Forest Museum

Of course, everyone comes to the area where the trees, however, you can leave with an incredible understanding of just how crucial giant sequoias are in their own ecosystem. Through the efforts of the Giant Forest Museum, you’ll learn the difference between coastal redwoods and sequoias, how to easily identify local trees and explore incredible interactive exhibits.

Revisit Tharp’s Log

Hale Tharp was a California settler who has been given credit for the sharing of the news of the giant forest to other pioneers during 1858 after the local Potwisha tribe guided him through the area.

Years later, Tharp would return to the area and build a summer cabin inside of a fire hollowed Sequoia. He used the tree as a primary shelter after carving out a window, enclosing one into the tree with shingles and even building a fireplace and chimney out of granite stones he hauled.

The National Park Service has been able to restore the cabin to its original condition. A simple hike through Crescent Meadow will take you directly to the structure, which contains an old bed, table and bench.

Skiing Or Snowshoeing Through A Giant Forest

The national parks or a true treasure simply from the ranger guided activities that are offered. These activities are free, fun and family friendly and will provide you a unique look on our national treasures.

During the winter months, you can bundle up and strap on a pair of snowshoes and trek through the park under the soaring trees. If you have more of an adventure streak, can take a cross-country ski trail throughout the Grant Grove and Giant Forest.

Tour Crystal Cave

From May to November, Crystal Cave is open to the public with a variety of tours to suit all types of families. The standard tour will take you through the caverns with inexperienced naturalist as you are able to view the incredible stalagmites and stalactites.

Whereas, if you’re looking for a little bit more of adventure in your occasion, you can try out the wild Cave tour which will take you off trail into the further reaches of the cave.

A Day For Fly Fishing

Any trip to Sequoia would not be complete without a day of flyfishing at Wolverton Creek, Clover Creek as well as the beautiful areas of Kings River. Fishing is permitted at almost all areas throughout the park with a valid license, simply drop your line and relax!

Horseback Riding

This is a truly unique way to explore the park from a new perspective. There are several stables in the area that offer guided rides throughout both Kings Canyon and Sequoia for people of all horse back riding abilities.

You can take a quick ride throughout Grant Grove or enjoy a multi-day trek throughout Monarch Divide or Rae Lakes.

The latter would typically involve a much more strenuous hike, therefore, a trail ride provides a much more accessible way to enjoy the beauty and splendor of the park.

Best Hikes In Sequoia National Park

The Alta Peak Trail

This trail isn’t for beginners, but if you’ve hiked before, get to experience the high altitude and be fascinated with the magnificent view that you see along the way.

As you reach the 11,100 feet, you’ll notice that the hike tends to get steeper all throughout the last 2 miles until you reach the summit. A half-mile away from it, you’ll have to go through rocks and scramble with it.

Regardless of the time of the year, this trail is often covered by ice. Make sure that you are physically and mentally prepared if you are going to take this hike. The foot of the trail starts in the Wolverton parking area.

The total trail distance is 13.1 miles to and from, with a 3,800 foot gain. This could get strenuous – do you accept the challenge?

Lakes Trail

When visiting Sequoia, two of the best trails that you have got to see is the Alta Peak, and the Lakes Trail. You may start setting up camp to it, which is just near the Pear Lake. The Lakes and Alta Peak trails have the same initial trails and the fork lasts up to reaching 1.75 miles.

Get ready to be astounded by the beautiful scenery during the hike as you’ll get to see the Emerald Lake, Pear Lake, Heather Lake, and Aster Lake. Just like the Alta Peak Trail, the trailhead begins at the Wolverton Parking.

The distance is 12.2 miles to and from, with a 2,800 feet gain. This is again another strenuous trail so make sure that you are physically prepared before going on a hike.

Eagle Lake Trail

This trail is known for it being a short hike, but a steep one too! It has more than 2,000′ hike climb that extends for more than 3 miles! Because it is a short hike, it has become popular to go early in the morning so you can enjoy fishing in the tantalizing lake.

Be prepared to meet different adventurers as well, especially if you’re going on a day hike. You may locate the trailhead just at the south end of the Eagle parking lot.

With a short distance of 6.4 miles back and forth, it has a 2,150 feet gain. Another strenuous hike, not for those who’ve come unprepared.

Monarch Lakes Trail

If the workout is one of the main reasons why you’re around the Sequoia National Park, the Monarch Lakes Trail won’t fail you.

If you’re a fan of steep trails, take this hike and get to enjoy the picturesque view of the lakes from the Mineral King Valley. If you’re feeling a bit adventurous and don’t mind spending another day or two, you also have the option to explore the 25-mile trail as you climb the entire area.

The trailhead starts at the parking area of the Timber Gap. With an 8.9-mile distance out and back and a 2,550 feet gain, this is another strenuous trail you do not want to miss.

Franklin Lakes Trail

Found in between the tall ridges of the popular Great Western Divide, the Franklin Lakes trail showcases the beautiful meadows, amazing waterfalls, and creeks as you make your way to the top.

Trailhead begins just along the Mineral King Road parking lot.

Another strenuous hike, it has a 12-mile hike from the trailhead and going back, it has a 2,700′ gain.

Moro Rock Trail

A short trail, you can hike and explore the dome-like trail and reach the summit by climbing a quarter-mile of stairs.

Explore and enjoy the beautiful views overlooking the Great Western Divide and the Sequoia National Park. You may find the trailhead along the Crescent Meadow Road.

A short 0.4 miles trail out and back with a 300 foot gain. This one is an easy trail perfect for beginners.

Giant Forest Loop Trail

From the name itself, expect to see some towering trees, and be prepared to see the most popular General Sherman tree. This trail has combined all of the best trails in the park.

You may find multiple trailheads for this loop, but the most common and the most popular is by the Sugar Pine. This is situated along the Crescent Meadows parking area – fewer people, making it a better start for those who don’t want to start with a large group of adventurers.

With a 7.5 mile loop and a 600′ gain, this is a moderate trail that takes you to a picturesque view of the beautiful trees and trails in the park.

Tokopah Falls Trail

You’ll reach the top of the Tokipah waterfall as you gradually hike up to 1,200 feet. You’ll get to experience the glaciers surrounding the valley and the picturesque view is worth the hike. The trailhead starts at the Lodgepole Road just right after you go past the visitor center.

The trail’s out and back distance is 3.7 miles with an easy 550 foot gain. Great for new hikers and beginners.

Marble Falls Trail

If you prefer trails that gradually inclines, this is another trail that’s right for you. With a little bit of similarity to the Topokah Fall Trails, it features a steep and narrow drop off around the area.

While gradually inclining, the path tends to be slippery so make sure that you’re careful. You may find the trailhead right above the Potwisha Campground.

Out and back distance of 6.3 miles, this moderate trail has a 1,500′ gain.

Sequoia National Park Camping

If you have the time and are given the opportunity to set camp, take this moment. After your long trails and after walking around the large sequoias, end your day by setting camp in one of the park’s most popular campsites. Set up a camp, enjoy the starry skies, and just doze off along with nature.

If you’re looking for a tranquil place to stay, relax, and just stay close to nature, there are multiple campgrounds found within the park. This is one of the best ways to enjoy and appreciate the beautiful nature around you. Because it is a famous tourist spot, you’ll often find these campgrounds full.

Fret not, you may also find similar campgrounds with views that are similarly as fascinating in Sequoia National Park, and they’re just along Kings Canyon National Park.

Lodgepole Campground

Enjoy sitting in between the Kaweah River and the Marble Fork – enjoy nature with a view of the campground featuring large boulders. If you like to see the largest sequoias, this campground is just two miles away from the Giant Forest Area – this is where you’ll find these giant sequoias.

Additionally, it’s location is strategic and nice as it lies behind the Lodgepole Village Visitor Center.

Whether you’re planning on setting up a tent or if you have your RV with you, this campground can accommodate 200 slots. Don’t worry if your RV is too big, as long as it’s not more than 42 feet – otherwise, you’re welcome to stay.

The campground is commonly open during the months of April up until November, but may also vary depending on the snowy weather conditions.

If you’re interested, you can book for a reservation, especially during the peak months during summer, from between May to September. Anything before or beyond those dates, the campsite is open on a first-come, first-served basis.

Dorst Creek Campground

The Dorst Creek Campground is the second-best option to set camp in the Sequoia National Park. From the Kings Canyon National Park, this is the very first campsite that you’ll see, which is not too far from the Giant Forest area. A 10-mile walk and you’re ready to experience the large sequoias in the park.

As compared to the Lodgepole Campground, it is larger and has the capacity to accommodate 281 campsites. The campsites can also accommodate RVs of all sizes and pull-throughs.

The campsite runs on a first come first served basis before the months of June and after September. In between those months, you may call for reservations.

Buckeye Flat Campground

Along the south of the Sequoia National Park, you’ll find the Buckeye Flat Campground. This site is just along with the Hospital Rock.

This small campground offers 28 small, yet comfortable campsites with a picturesque view of the Kaweah River. Surrounding the area are magnificent and towering trees.

With a low 2,800′ elevation, this is by far one of the lowest sites among the others in the area. With that being said, it could be a bit warmer during the summer season, with a more pleasant and comfortable temperature in spring.

The said campsite is open from April to September – and if you’re planning on going here, given the small space provided, you can book your reservation six months in advance.

Stoney Creek Campground

If you wanted to visit both the Sequoia National Park and the Kings Canyon, the Stony Creek Campground is right for you. It is situated just south the Kings Canyon Park.

Smaller than the first two campsites we’ve discussed, it can only accommodate 50 campsites, surrounded by thick forest trees, boulders, and hills.

Be fascinated and enjoy the sound of the river found alongside the campsites. Although heavily shaded and small, you may see that these sites are still comfortable to stay in.

This campsite is best for smaller tents and RVs, with a few facilities including but is not limited to shower areas, picnic tables, flush toilets, storage lockers for your foods, and even fire pits provided in every campsite.

Potwisha Campground

Among all the other campsites that we’ve talked about, the Potwisha has probably the most unique feel and ambiance. Located in the Sierra Foothills, this campground has an open feel with a grassy meadow as compared to the closed campgrounds filled with large trees and bushes.

Just like the Stoney Creek Campground, you can also see the Kaweah River’s middle fork at the campsite, with beautiful scenery of the distant mountains. This is by far the lowest campsite in the area, with an elevation of 2,100 feet. With that being said, this is also the hottest among all the other sites, making it ideal for colder seasons.

Unlike others that are only open during certain months of the year, the Potwisha Campsite is open all year round, with 42 large campsites. It can accommodate both RVs and tents. The only downside is that there’s not much privacy given that the space is much open. You can find flush toilets in the facilities, but no showers. You may reserve your spot 6 months before.

Big Meadows Campground

If you’re unable to secure any one of the nice campsites in the Sequoia National Park, you’ll find the Big Meadows Campground which is just North of the said park. This campground is also near to the Kings Canyon National Park – which is something that you’d also like to take a look at.

With a mid-high elevation of 7,600 feet, this campground is just 5 miles away from the General’s Highway. It can accommodate 40 sites, allowing a 6-month advance in reservation. If you’re going there on short notice, you may try your luck and see if there are available dates at least 3 days in advance before your visit.

Each campsite has a fire pit, picnic table, storage locker for foods. However, there is no potable water with vault toilets available in the area.

Sequoia National Park Lodging

For those who wanted to experience lodging in the park, rather than staying in one of their campsites, it’s possible. However, you have to remember that finding accommodation especially during the peak season might be difficult. Often times, you always have to book in advance.

If you’re looking for lodging in surrounding cities, sorry to disappoint but there are no cities nearby. You may find lodging options that may already be too far from the Sequoia National Park. Right now, here are your best lodging options:

In The Park

Located in the middle of the large sequoias, the Wuksachi Lodge is the perfect place to be. The said location features a beautiful lodge that’s made of stone and cedar, with a nearby restaurant and beautiful guest rooms. With an elevation of 7,050 feet, be surprised with the setting and what you’re about to see based on the month of the year that you’ll stay.

Montecito Sequoia Lodge & Summer Family Camp

This is the next best option, situated just in the middle of Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Park. An amazing option if you’re traveling with kids as it has different kinds of activities that are perfect for the entire family.

Three Rivers

Just south of the Sequoia National Park, you’ll see the Three Rivers town which highlights the famous General Sherman Tree. It is an hour away from the city with amazing choices for your hotel. Here, you can find the Lazy J Ranch, Sequoia Kings, and the Comfort Inn & Suites.

Fresno

While this is a little bit farther than the ones discussed above as it only takes a 2-hour drive to arrive at the main tourist destinations. Great for sight-seeing and perfect for those who wanted to just stay for a day. You can find budget hotels and lodging options such as the Days Inn Yosemite, Fresno Riverpark, La Quinta Inn & Suites, and the DoubleTree.

Brian

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