Guest Post by Derek Edwards
Sequoia National Park is one of the oldest National Parks, and a favorite stomping ground of John Muir, the naturalist whose passionate writing about our nation’s beauty led to the establishment of the National Parks in the first place.
The enormous redwood trees are Sequoia’s most famous feature, but they’re far from the only attraction here. Learn more about what awaits visitors to Sequoia National Park.
Explore Giant Forest
Talking about what makes Sequoia special can be a little frustrating. Because there’s really no way to say “Go check out these trees!” in a way that accurately conveys the size and scale and grandeur that the redwoods represent. Photos don’t do them justice. Words fail.
Even if you’ve spent your whole life thinking you wanted to see them, or hearing about trees so big you can drive a car through them, there’s absolutely nothing in the world that compares to seeing them up close.
These are some of the oldest organisms alive. Walking among the redwoods and thinking about how long they’ve been here, and how long they’ll outlast us, is deeply humbling.
There’s a powerful sense of what this planet is capable of, and you can almost feel the thousands of years that these trees have lived weighing on you. It fills you with genuine awe, even if you didn’t come looking for it.
See General Sherman Tree
General Sherman Tree is the star of the show here at Sequoia National Park—it’s the tallest tree on the planet, at 275 feet tall. Measuring 36 feet wide, the diameter of this massive tree is a bit too wide for hammock camping. Additionally, this ancient giant is somewhere between 2,300 and 2,700 years old.
Two trails lead to General Sherman—the hike isn’t difficult at all—and a nearby parking lot offers easy accessibility for those who need or want it.
This tree is one of the busier destinations at the park, but you also don’t have to get right up close to it in order to experience its grandeur. At the very least, it’s worth swinging by for as close a look as you’re able to get.
If it does turn out to be too crowded, there’s plenty of other forest to explore. (For instance, General Grant, the world’s second-largest tree at 267 feet, is located at Giant Grove.)
Check Out Hume Lake
Hume Lake was formed with the world’s first reinforced concrete multiple arch dam, back in 1909. The lake was originally built by a logging company, but the area was bought by the United States Forest Service in the ‘30s.
This placid lake is surrounded by lush greenery, and the waters are great for all sorts of family activities, like canoeing with kids and fishing with your family. It’s especially great for introducing the younger members of your family to the great outdoors.
The lake can get crowded, at times. The nearby Hume Lake Christian Camps are one of the largest operators of Christian camps in the world, which adds to the lake traffic.
On the other hand, the fact that there is such a large human presence here only drives home that it’s a great, safe place for family fun.
Visit Crystal Cave
There really is nothing on Earth like exploring a cave. Being surrounded by stone that’s been worn away for millennia can make you feel like you’re on another world. In some ways, you sort of are. The beautiful shapes, textures, and color of the marble formations around you aren’t something you can experience anywhere else.
And you may even catch a glimpse or two of unique wildlife that has adapted specifically for life in caves!
Because of the delicate ecosystem here, the cave is only accessible by guided tour.
You’ll need to grab tickets in advance. The tours run from early May to late November, but if you’re around in that time range, it’s well worth your time.
Wander Crescent Meadow
Famed naturalist John Muir was one of the driving forces behind establishing America’s National Parks. His ardent writing about the Sierra Nevada was particularly powerful, and he once referred to this sprawling meadow as the “Gem of the Sierra”.
The Crescent Meadow Loop is not that long of a trail—just 1.8 miles—but there are several side excursions that you can take to extend the hike, or simply to indulge your curiosity.
One such diversion is Tharp’s Log. Hale Tharp was the first non-Native American to see Giant Forest. In 1861, he built a home in the trunk of a fallen sequoia and stayed there when he was in the area. He hollowed out 55 feet of the trunk with fire, built a cabin entrance at one end, and carved out a window.
Muir stayed at this unusual cabin when he was exploring the region, and it’s preserved today for modern travelers to see.
There’s wintery fun available for people of all experience levels at Sequoia. Ranger-guided snowshoe walks are available for anyone aged 10 and up. You don’t have to have gone on a snowshoe walk before. You don’t even need to bring your own snowshoes.
Just show up in layers, with what you’d regularly take on a cold-weather hike (snacks, water, sunglasses, gloves, sunscreen, etc.) and they’ll do the rest.
For those with a little more experience, there are cross-country ski trails through Giant Forest and Grant Grove.
Those with some experience under the belt can even take an overnight ski or snowshoe trip. If you are planning to brave the overnight cold it will be important to remember to pack a tent heater.
Hike (or Climb) Moro Rock
Moro Rock is one of the most popular hiking trails in the area. This dome-shaped granite monolith was formed over millions of years, and it provides one of the best views of the surrounding countryside, including the nearby mountains.
If the road is open (or if you take the shuttle) the hike is just a quarter-mile, mostly up a staircase that winds up the mountain. If you start out lower, you still only have a two-mile hike ahead of you. The fact that the hike is so short (and so easy) almost isn’t fair, considering the view you’re treated to at the top.
Of course, not everyone wants to do things the easy way, and Moro Rock is also very popular with rock climbers. The gaps and edges in the granite make for a very appealing climb.
The west face is easy to reach, and offers 1,000 feet of climbing. Some areas become off-limits during the nesting season for peregrine falcons, to avoid climbers disturbing their nests. But from mid-August through March, you can climb to your heart’s content.
About the Author
Derek Edwards is a thirty-something nature enthusiast and adventure seeker currently located in San Diego, California.
If you enjoyed this post, check out his previous contribution on Yellowstone National Park.