Tucked into the foothills and crest lines of the Sierra Nevada Mountains is Sequoia National Park. Home to giant Sequoia trees, beautiful meadows, and breathtaking vistas the land was incorporated into a National Park in 1890. But man had already done its damage cutting down hundreds, if not thousands, of giant Sequoia trees for logging. Thankfully the same reason loggers wanted to cut down these giants ultimately saved them, that being their uniqueness and size. Growing naturally only in California, these once threatened trees now please thousands of visitors a year.
Upon entering the park from the southern Foothill gate, we were greeted by a large wooden sign dating back decades. Don’t make the same mistake many visitors do — look at the map and figure 15 miles should take 20 minutes. With an 8-9 % grades, hairpin turns, and wild animals crossing, it can take and hour or more to reach the Giant Forest area of the park.
Driving up the windy road, one of the first things we came across was the Tunnel Rock. A throw back to the campy 50’s, we could see tourists lined up to snap photos of their families. Of course Quinn couldn’t pass up an opportunity to stand under the giant boulder.
Climbing along the Generals Highway we passed through the foothills and into the conifer forest. As we entered the forest, the Four Guardsmen trees were hard to miss — four Sequoias that are growing in a line. Driving between these Sequoias gave us a feeling of how massive these trees are.
Speaking of massive trees, no trip to the Giant Forest would be complete without stopping and seeing General Sherman — the largest tree by volume in the world. Coming in at 274 feet and over 21,000 tons, pictures didn’t do justice to their shear size.
The Giant Forest as the name implies, is filled with giant trees. But the word, “giant” doesn’t begin to describe the magnitude of the trees. The bark or skin of the trees can be up to 3 feet thick. It is filled with deep grooves and crevices and is often scarred by huge burns that cut into the trunks 1-4 feet. These scars amazingly don’t harm the trees and the fires aid the Sequoia cones to open and release their seeds.
When a tree is 200-275 feet tall a strong wind, wet soil or damaged roots can cause an other wise healthy tree to fall. In 1937, a 275-foot tree with a trunk 21 feet in diameter fell blocking the road to Crescent Meadow. Work crews cut an opening through the trunk of the fallen tree creating the Tunnel Log and a perfect photo op visitors.
“Gem of the Sierras,” that is what John Muir said of the Crescent Meadow on his visit to Sequoia. This secluded opening in a forest of conifers was truly amazing. Lush ferns, moss covered bark, and oceans of grass and flowers. We found this to be the most picturesque place in the park. It was so calm and quiet; felt like we were the only family sharing nature’s beauty with the animals while the wind whispered through the branches.
Our son loved the old fallen Sequoia we used to cross the meadow. Reaching the roots he marveled at the view raised up above the grass line. The Crescent Meadow has a trail that led around the meadow that is flat and family friendly. Make sure to stay on the trail and keep kids nearby. Although we did not spot in bears signs of bear activity, mostly sheared logs, were widespread. We learned later that Crescent Meadow has one of the most active bear populations in the park.
If you’re not afraid of heights make time to climb Moro Rock. This granite dome-shaped monolith reaches out from the Sierra Nevada’s 6,700+ feet into the air. The stairs leading to the top have nearly 400 steps and are even a U.S. National Register of Historic Places. From the top of the trail you can see almost all of the Sequoia Park and on a warm summer day with the cool alpine wind blowing across was simply amazing. Unfortunately, we had to do our climb in shifts as the kids chickened out half way up.
On our last day at the park we took it easy and hiked the Big Trees Trail. This trail is the only ADA accessible trail we found in the park, so if you have small kids in strollers this is the trail for you. Just like the other trails we visited this one had it all: giant Sequoia trees, lush meadows of grass and flowers, and amazing views. The only difference is this trail had a wooden boardwalk partially covered and descriptive signs that told the story of the Sequoia trees and surrounding area. Overall, we found it a great place to let the kids enjoy the beauty and roam freely through the groves of the world’s largest living things.
Marriott | Visalia, California
Our Sequoia trip was a last minute getaway in the days leading up to 4th of July holiday. Due to the holiday, the park was fully booked which led us to a couple nights at the Visalia Marriott. It’s a modest hotel with a great location. Situated near the freeway and in center of Visalia, we were able to walk to numerous restaurants after a full day at Sequoia National Park. Our room was spacious, clean, and with comfortable furnishings. The staff was extremely friendly and helpful including Gloria. Chatting with us every morning at the Zhuo restaurant, she gave us invaluable Sequoia tips and extremely patient with our restless kids.
Have you visited Sequoia National Park? We love to connect with others, so feel free to leave us a comment and share your experiences! (Disclosure: Burbs2Abroad traveled to the above location as guests and was not compensated for this review. As always, our opinions are our own.)