Sequoia National Park; home of the giants and sister to Kings Canyon!

General Sherman Sequoia, 40' in diameter and largest tree in the world, attacts crowd while ranger shares highlights!

Huge grove of Sequoias stands as sentinels to entrance to General Grant Grove.
Our Scotty at Sequoia overlook, with sister park Kings Canyon and Sierra in background.
Our Scotty teardrop trailer is right at home with the big boys in Lodgepole Campground!

 

Susan Viall stands in front of downed, 20′ diameter Sequoia.
The Tunnel Tree is a favorite for picture taking; here our Focus passes under!

Several things impress as you approach this majestic park and its neighbor, Kings Canyon National Park, from Visalia, CA (we arrived on Hwy 198 at the Ash Mountain entrance).  They include the rapid and scenic rise from near sea level in the San Joaquin Valley to 7,000 feet in the Sierra, the frequent number of immense Sequoia groves throughout the two parks, and incredible views of the High Sierra, particularly in the Kings Canyon!

The majesty of the Giant Sequoias caused Valley residents to petition Congress for protection (both to save the huge trees and to preserve the watershed) and Sequoia became America’s second national park in 1890.  John Muir explored the Giant Forest, home to four of the world’s five largest trees and climbed nearby Mt. Whitney, at 14,500 feet the tallest peak in California, bringing renewed attention to the stunning vistas and huge trees.

We were camping on a recent visit (towing a small teardrop trailer), and made for a reserved spot in a delightful Sequoia campground, Lodgepole Camp, complete with village store and visitor center. Nearby is a marvelous hotel, The Wuksachi, complete with great restaurant and cute bar. At night, the stars were like bright diamonds in the Milky Way; but lock up your food from marauding bears!

Once settled into our campsite, we began our tour of the park by driving a few miles to the General Sherman Tree Grove, and hiking downhill to see these over-sized trees. First impressions count, a lot – one is amazed that around every turn is a monster Sequoia, measuring 12 to 35 feet in diameter and topping out at almost 300 feet.

One does not expect to be so awed by the General Sherman itself, but it is “that much larger” than its neighbors, measuring 40 feet in diameter, 275 feet in height, and, in total volume of wood, the largest tree in the world! It makes for big crowds, as the most known feature in the park.  The General Grant Sequoia, almost as daunting, is the anchor attraction in the General Grant Grove in Kings Canyon Park.

Nearby, a side road takes you to Moro Rock, worth the short hike for marvelous views, past the Auto Tree (where cars once drove up upon the huge downed trunk) and to Tunnel Log, where one can drive your car or truck through the hollowed-out trunk. It makes for great photos!  Another option, in summer, is the road to Crystal Cave, for you spelunkers! While driving, keep your eyes open for mule deer, skunks, coyotes and black bears!

The adjoining Kings Canyon National Park offers its own share of stunning revelations, though the park’s size and scope of its features require several days to fully explore! Plan a long weekend trip, or a week if you want to hike, for touring Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks; you will forever want to return for deeper exploration! 

How to get there: From Stockton, the park is 205 miles and about 4 hours; we took Hwy. 99 to Visalia, then east on Hwy. 198 to the park entrance.  

When to go: Just about any time of the year, though biggest crowds hit in summer when school is out.  The park’s main attractions are located around 6,700 feet; temperatures stay pretty cool, even during most summer days, and get nippy at night (often deep snows cover the landscape in winter).

What to see while there:  Stop first at one of several visitor centers for displays that offer the historic insights on this stunning landscape.  And, hikers will regret not hiking the General Sherman Trail and General Grant Trails; the park offers scores of other trails through the Sequoias and into the High Sierra backcountry.  And, kids young and old will enjoy driving in the car under Tunnel Log!

What’s nearby: Fresno and Visalia are not far off your route; Visalia has a cute and walkable historic downtown worth touring.  Of course, the park shares a common border with Kings Canyon, so plan to visit both parks!

What to take: Camera and binoculars, of course, good walking shoes or boots, sunscreen and sunshade hat, and water bottles or a canteen if you plan to hike the park’s spectacular trails. 

Where to stay (including camping): Fresno and Visalia offer lodging and dining options outside the park.  Wuksachi Lodge and Stony Creek Village (in adjoining Sequoia National Forest) offer lodging options; each, as well as Lodgepole Village, offer dining options.  Camping is offered at a number of sites within the park like Potwisha, Buckeye Flat, Dorst Creek and Stony Creek; we camped at Lodgepole Campground during our last visit.

For more info: Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, PO Box 47050 Generals Highway, Three Rivers, CA 93271-9700; www.nps.gov/seki; or phone  559.565.3341 for insights into the park as well as hiking and camping. Camping can be booked through www.recreation.gov, or by calling 877.444.6777.

For additional travel destination inspiration, see my blog: http://blogs.eSanJoaquin.com/Valley travel; or contact me, tviall@msn.com.  Next week, a feature on Sequoia’s sister park, Kings Canyon; until then, happy travels in the west!

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