Last updated: 10/25/2019
Check out all the tips to see the main attractions of Sequoia National Park, an incredible park famous for its giant sequoias in the heart of the state of California. Tips on attractions, accommodation, food and much more!
SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK
Founded in 1890, Sequoia National Park is a park located south of the Sierra Nevada, in central California, near the cities of Visalia and Three Rivers. The park is the oldest in the USA and covers a area of more than 1.6 thousand km² and includes the Mount Whitney, a mountain that stands 4,421 meters above sea level. Sequoia National Park is physically integrated with another national park, Kings Canyon National Park. UNESCO designated the areas a Sequoia-Kings Canyon Biosphere Reserve in 1976.
The park is notable for its giant sequoias, including the General Sherman, The biggest tree on earth in volume. The General Sherman tree grows in the Giant Forest, which contains five of the ten largest trees in the world. The park is crossed by the General Highway, taking visitors from Sequoia National Park to the Kings Canyon National Park, tree home General Grant, among other giant sequoias. A curiosity is that in addition to being very tall, sequoias can live more than 3,500 years! Most visitors enter the park through its southern entrance, near the town of Three Rivers and Ash Mountain. The region has a vast flora and fauna, including many species of wildlife such as lynx, foxes, squirrels, rattlesnakes, deer, coyotes, badgers, sheep, jaguars, woodpeckers, turtles, owls, skunks, beavers, frogs, mice and even black bears.
A LITTLE OF HISTORY…
In the past, the area we now know as Sequoia National Park was the first home of the Monachee Native American tribe, who resided primarily near the Kaweah River in the Foothills region, although there is evidence of some habitation in the Giant Forest. When the first European settlers arrived in the region, smallpox had already spread to the region, decimating Native American populations. The first European settler to settle in the area was Hale Tharp, who built a house out of a fallen giant sequoia trunk in the Giant Forest next to Log Meadow.
Tharp respected the grandeur of the forest and led the first battles against the cut in the area, albeit to a limited extent. The American Forest Service incorporated Giant Forest into Sequoia National Park in 1890, ceasing all logging operations. The park has expanded over the decades, even resisting attempts by the Walt Disney Corporation to buy a former mining site to install a ski resort. This site, known as Mineral King, was later attached to the park. Mineral King is the highest elevation developed site within the park and a popular backpacker destination.
IMPORTANT: SEQUOIA TUNNEL NO LONGER EXISTS
The “Pioneer Cabin Tree” (also known as the “Tunnel Tree”) was an ancient tree, where a tunnel was dug over a century ago. This tunnel became known as the Sequoia Tunnel. In the past, horses, automobiles and pedestrians were allowed to pass through there. Due to a winter storm and flooding in January 2017, it fell and broke on impact with the ground. She was over a thousand years old and measured 10 meters in diameter.
HOW TO GET TO SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK
Sequoia National Park is located about 430 km south of San Francisco and 330 km north of Los Angeles. There are two roads that can be used to reach the park. THE Highway 180, from the town of Fresco, which leads east to the entrance via Kings Canyon National Park and the highway 198, passing through the city of Visalia, leads east to Sequoia National Park via the city of Three Rivers. Inside the parks, Highway 198 becomes Generals Highway, which connects 198 to 180. In winter, Generals Highway usually closes. It is worth remembering that the largest park in the park is not accessible by car, as no road crosses the Sierra Nevada. About 84% of the Sequoia-Kings Canyon complex is considered wild, accessible only on foot or horseback.
- TIP! If you don't want to drive, you can hire a private tour with an expert guide who will take you through the main points of interest in the park.
SHUTTLE SERVICES AT SEQUOIA PARK
During the summer (from the end of May to the beginning of September) there are buses available. There is a paid bus (US$ 20, blue line on the map below) that passes through the neighboring cities of Visalia and Three Rivers and ends at the Giant Forest Museum, inside the park. There are also free shuttles that pass Lodgepole, Wuksachi and Dorst Creek campgrounds via the green, Grey, purple, orange, detailed below.
Green Route 1: Giant Forest
Departs daily every half hour at 8 am and every 15 minutes from 9 am to 6 pm. Stops include: Lodgepole, General Sherman Tree Main Trail and Parking, General Sherman Tree Accessible Trail, and Giant Forest Museum.
Gray Route 2: Moro Rock / Crescent Meadow
Operate us weekends departing from the Giant Forest Museum at 8:00 am and 8:45 am and every 10 minutes from 9 am to 6 pm. during the week days, it departs from the Giant Forest Museum at 8:00 AM and 8:45 AM, then every 20 minutes between 9:00 AM and 6:00 PM. The road Moro Rock-Crescent Meadow Road is closed to private vehicles during weekends and holidays. Stops include: Giant Forest Museum, Auto Log (weekends and holidays), Moro Rock, Tunnel Log (weekends and holidays) and Crescent Meadow.
Purple Route 3: Lodgepole / Wuksachi
Shuttles depart every 20 minutes between 8 am and 6 pm and stop at Lodgepole Visitor Center and Campground, Wuksachi Lodge and Restaurant and Dorst Campground.
Orange Route 4: General Sherman Tree Trails
Free buses run every 15 minutes between 9 am and 6 pm, connecting the Wolverton Picnic Area and Traihead to the Sherman Tree. Stops are General Sherman Tree Main Trail and Parking, General Sherman Tree Accessible Trail and Wolverton Trailhead and Picnic Area.
WHEN TO VISIT SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK
The park is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. However, some weather conditions can greatly affect your visit, as some roads leading to the park may be closed. Temperatures in Sequoia National Park vary greatly from region to region and the weather can change quickly. Check out the main features of each of the stations.
- SPRING: Spring comprises the months of April to mid-June. It can still snow at this time of year, depending on whether the winter has been harsh. Late spring snowstorms are common, and it's a good idea to check the weather forecasts before your visit. As the snow melts, the rivers and streams become more crowded and dangerous and wildflowers appear.
- SUMMER: Summer in the Northern Hemisphere includes the months of July, August and September. This is the time when most visitors go to the park because all areas and attractions are open extended hours. Temperatures are pleasant in the midst of large green areas.
- AUTUMN: From September onwards, temperatures begin to drop at night, although the days can still be warm. The weather is more unstable, alternating hot days and rainy days. It can snow a little in late October and some of the park's facilities have reduced hours or are closed.
- WINTER: Winter days are cold and snowy. However, it is difficult to predict the amount of snow during the period, and it may snow very little or even have some snowstorms. You may need to use tire chains to ride on the roads. Areas like Mineral King close during the snow season.
WHAT TO VISIT AT SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK
There are an infinity of things to do within Sequoia National Park. In addition to outdoor activities, there are visitor centers, ranger stations and a museum that provide opportunities to explore the park's nature and history, watch informative films and get information on travel planning. On the interactive map below, you will find, in blue, the main attractions of Sequoia National Park and in green, from Kings Canyon National Park, which are described in the post dedicated to the park: California: Kings Canyon Park and the Deepest Canyon in the USA. Accommodation options are at black, places to eat are in red, visitor center and museums in orange and caves in purple.
There are 4 exhibit and visitor information locations within Sequoia National Park. Check out more information about each of them below.
>> FOOTHILLS VISITOR CENTER
This is usually the first stop for anyone visiting Sequoia National Park. The Foothills Visitor Center offers information on planning park tours, hikes, exhibits, first aid, as well as maps, books and nature-related gifts. The center's free exhibition room offers exhibits on hill ecology and human history. Free ranger-led programs are available during the summer from this visitor center. During the summer months, Crystal Cave tickets can be purchased here. There are also public restrooms on site, but there is nowhere to buy a coffee or eat something. Open year-round daily from 8:00 to 16:30 from mid-March to late November and from 9:00 to 16:00 from December to mid-March.
This museum provides a basic introduction to the Giant Forest's main features, including its gigantic redwoods, meadows and human history. The museum is designed to serve as a starting point for visits to the grove, providing an opportunity to learn the history of the giant sequoias and the Giant Forest. There are exhibitions and a film showing in a small room.
Opposite the museum is Sentinel, a massive sequoia 78.5 meters tall and a trunk with a circumference of over 24 meters. To support the museum, the Beetle Rock building was maintained to serve as a classroom and auditorium for educational purposes. Open all year, daily from 9:00 to 16:30 / from 10:00 to 16:30 from January to mid-March.
>> LODGEPOLE VISITOR CENTER
This visitor center is intended to provide information, be an exhibition space, and a place where visitors can find books and maps that can help plan their visit to the park. Some free ranger-led programs are offered from this visitor center. Lodgepole Village offers food service, Marketplace, showers, laundry and post office. The center opens on the second Friday in May and closes on the first Friday in October daily from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm – hours may vary, see here
>> MINERAL KING RANGER STATION
This ranger station is set back from the rest of the park's attractions, located in a mixed coniferous forest at a selection of 2,320 meters. It houses some exhibits on Mineral King's human and natural history. Books, maps and educational items for sale. Generally open Memorial Day holiday weekend through Labor Day holiday weekend, daily 8am to 4pm / closed late September to late May
2. ATTRACTIONS ALONG GENERALS HIGHWAY
>> TUNNEL ROCK
About 2.5 km north of the Foothills Visitor Center, Tunnel Rock is a tunnel carved into a granite rock beside the Generals Highway. Before the road was widened in 1997, cars passed under this narrow passage. Currently, this passage is closed to cars, but it is possible to get to know the place by exploring it on foot.
>> ROCK HOSPITAL
Hospital Rock is a large quartz rock located just off Generals Highway. In the past, the site was once home to 500 Native Americans from the Potwisha tribe. Archaeological evidence shows that settlements were made in the area before 1350 and even today it is possible to find petroglyphs. The Amerindians used this place mainly in the winter months. Currently, Rock Hospital is a public archaeological site. Leave the car parked in the area where there are picnic tables and cross the road on foot to reach Hospital Rock.
>> AMPHITHEATER POINT
This is a roadside lookout that offers a great side view of Moro Rock along with views from the foothills of the mountains to the alpine peaks. It is worth stopping for a while to admire the beautiful views if the day is sunny.
>> MORO ROCK
Moro Rock is a granite dome rock formation over 2,000 meters high. It is located in the center of the park, at the head of Moro Creek, between Giant Forest and Crescent Meadow. A 400-step staircase was built in the 1930s so visitors can walk to the top. The road to Moro Rock is closed in winter and visitors need to walk more than 3 km to reach the viewpoint. Since 2007, on summer weekends, the road is closed to private vehicles and free buses are the only way to reach Moro Rock.
>> TUNNEL LOG
Tunnel Log is a tunnel built through a fallen redwood tree along Crescent Meadow Road in Giant Forest. The sequoia is known to have fallen by natural causes in 1937. When it fell, it was about 83.8 meters high and 6.4 meters in diameter at the base. It is believed that, at the time, the age of the sequoia could exceed 2,000 years. The tunnel, which remains in use today, is about 5.2 meters wide by 2.4 meters high.
>> CRESCENT MEADOW
Crescent Meadow is a site that houses a large picnic area and a trail looping through a large crescent-shaped meadow located at the edge of the picnic area. To get to the place, you need to take a trail (unnamed) or a longer one, called Tharp's Log, where the trunk of a giant sequoia tree is used as a shelter by the first residents who pioneered the place. When we visited the place, there was a wedding ceremony taking place there (with wedding dress, heels and all!)
>> GENERAL SHERMAN TREE
The General Sherman Tree is located in the middle of the Giant Forest Grove, a forest of giant sequoias, where you can find a huge trunk that you can walk through, cut parts of a sequoia to get an idea of the size of the tree's circumference, totem poles information, among many other attractions.
General Sherman is a giant sequoia which, by volume, is the largest known living trunk on the planet. The General Sherman tree was named in 1879 in honor of General William Tecumseh Sherman of the American Civil War. With a height of 83.8 meters, a diameter of 31.1 meters on the ground, weighing around 1,300 tons and an estimated age of between 2,300 and 2,700 years, General Sherman is one of the tallest, widest and longest of all. the planet's trees.
It is possible to reach the place through two trails. Main Trail parking is located on Wolverton Road between Sherman Tree and Lodgepole. The trail is about half a mile up the tree, passing through the Giant Forest. Exhibits along the trail explain the natural history of giant sequoias. The walk back is a beautiful climb. Another option, if you do the initial downhill hike, is to park on the Main Trail, walk to the General Sherman tree, then continue to the bus stop along Generals Highway. A shuttle service can take you back to your parking area, avoiding the entire climb on foot.
During the winter, as a lot of snow falls in the area, the main parking area on Wolverton Road closes and the accessible parking area on Generals Highway is available to all. The path from there to the tree is not steep, but it can get very snowy.
3. CRYSTAL CAVE
Crystal Cave is one of over 240 well-known marble caves within Sequoia National Park. It is located in the Giant Forest area between the Ash Mountain entrance and the Giant Forest Museum. The cave has a temperature of 9ºC and is only accessible through guided tours. Tickets can be purchased online (high season recommended) or at the Foothills Visitor Center or Lodgepole Visitor Center. It is necessary to make a trail to reach the place where the tour begins. The trail is very beautiful, with waterfalls along the way. However, the walk back is a very steep and tiring climb. We are going to write a post dedicated to our visit to Crystal Cave with all the details of what the tour is like.
- Address: Sequoia National Park, Three Rivers, CA 93271
- Schedules: tours available from late May to late September
- Entrance: only through guided tours – buy online in this link
- Available tours:
- Discovery Tour: 1h30 for ages 13+ / US$ 25
- Family Caver Tour: 1h30 / US$ 50
- Family Tour: 50 minutes, for all ages / US$ 16
- Family Tour (13+): 50 minutes / US$ 16
- Thirteen and Older Tour: 50 minutes for ages 13+ / US$ 16
- Life on Other Worlds: 270 minutes / US$ 17
- Wild Cave Tour: from 4h to 6h in duration, over 10 years old and in good physical condition / US$ 140
- Available tours:
WHERE TO EAT AT SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK
Our recommendation is that you are prepared to have a picnic in the park. There are few options for places to eat and they are far away. In the summer, as it is necessary to leave the car in a parking lot and walk around the park with the internal buses, you will not want to waste time commuting to get to a place to eat. Don't forget that it's law not to leave food in the car and store it in the big brown bear-proof cupboards, which are shared. Either way, check out some dining options within and around Sequoia National Park.
INSIDE SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK
- The Peaks Restaurant at Wuksachi Lodge
- Lodgepole Deli, Market, and Snack Bar (works from mid-April to mid-October)
- Montecito-Sequoia Lodge
- Stony Creek Lodge (open between May and October)
- Silver City Resort (open from late May to mid-October)
INSIDE KINGS CANYON PARK
RESTAURANTS OUTSIDE THE PARKS
WHERE TO STAY AT SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK
There are five main areas of these parks where camping, lodging and other services are offered. Year round services are provided at Grant Grove, Foothills and Giant Forest & Lodgepole. The Mineral King and Cedar Grove areas are open from spring to fall. See all information about camping in this link and, below, about the hotels available:
INSIDE SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK
- Wuksachi Lodge
- Pear Lake Winter Hut (works between December and April)
- Stony Creek Lodge
- Montecito Sequoia Lodge (we stay)
INSIDE KINGS CANYON PARK
OUTSIDE THE PARKS
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SUGGESTION: ITINERARY TRAVELERS
Now that we've talked about all the park's attractions and lodging and food options, we'll talk a little bit about how we set up our itinerary to get to know Sequoia National Park. Living in California, we took the opportunity to get to know the place on a sunny weekend in August. At the time we visited the site, we lived a little less than 400 km from the park.
>> FRIDAY: OVERNIGHT AT THREE RIVERS, PARK ENTRANCE
We left on a Friday afternoon and stayed at the The River Inn, a very simple 2-star hotel in the city of Three Rivers, gateway to the park. The hotel was not the best option in the region, but it was the cheapest option and still had vacancies. The room had a fridge, coffee maker and microwave, which helped a lot to prepare our breakfast, as it is not served at the hotel. We already have bread, cake, a heart of palm pie, chestnuts and cookies from home. We also took a cooler with some things to put on our bread in the morning and chopped fruit. We highly recommend that you already bring some goodies for a picnic. As we said before, it won't always be easy for you to go to a restaurant inside the park. Prevent yourself and go prepared.
>> SATURDAY: SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK + CRYSTAL CAVE
We woke up early to enter the park without all that crowd of visitors. As we had previously purchased the annual pass For all national parks in the United States, we don't need to buy the ticket on the spot, but if you don't have it, just pay the ticket price at the park entrance.
We had already booked a ticket to take the guided tour of the Crystal Cave still in the morning. We didn't do long trails and used the free shuttle in the park to visit the attractions located on the gray and orange lines. Always have the shuttle map with you (at the beginning of this post) to know which one you should take depending on the attraction you want to visit. We were only able to park in the Wolverton Picnic Area and had to take shuttles to get around the park.
We ended the day having dinner at Montecito Sequoia Lodge, hotel located inside the park where we stayed from Saturday to Sunday night. The park has a meal plan included, so we had dinner and breakfast there, which were already included in the rate.
>> SUNDAY: KINGS CANYON NATIONAL PARK
After breakfast, we stopped at two viewpoints: the Kings Canyon Overlook and the Redwood Mountain Overlook.
Leaving there, we continue on the road to visit the attractions of Kings Canyon National Park, which is right next to Sequoia. The full itinerary for the park can be found in the post: California: Kings Canyon Park and the Deepest Canyon in the USA. We have to confess that we liked this last park much better. It was a great surprise because we didn't have high expectations and we were very positively surprised. The park was much quieter, the Visitor Center is brand new and well organized, the views are incredible and there is a huge variety of cool places to visit: redwood forest, a huge canyon, the road that borders the Kings River, cliffs of granite, a very nice waterfall and much more! We had a picnic on the river side and relaxed to the sound of the strong current. The day ended with our return to our home in Silicon Valley.
- Address: HERE 93271, United States
- Schedules: the park is open 24 hours a day all year, visitor centers and museum hours vary
- Foothills Visitor Center: year round daily from 8:00 to 16:30 from mid-March to late November and from 9:00 to 16:00 from December to mid-March
- Giant Forest Museum: open all year, daily from 9:00 to 16:30 / from 10:00 to 16:30 from January to mid-March
- Lodgepole Visitor Center: opens on the second Friday in May and closes on the first Friday in October daily from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm – hours may vary, see here
- Mineral King Ranger Station: open generally Memorial Day holiday weekend through Labor Day holiday weekend, daily 8:00 am to 4:00 pm / closed late September to late May
- Entrance: US$ 35 valid for up to 7 days, includes entry of 1 non-commercial vehicle (see more details in this link) in Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park | US$ 80 Annual Pass to All US National Parks – Read More here
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