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Top 10 things to do in Sequoia National Park, Part I

Great Western Divide
Great Western DivideSteve Mullen Photography

Ask any long-time resident of California if they have heard of Sequoia National Park and they’ll likely say they have. But knowing about it and going there are two different things and for those who like a bit more solitude in nature Sequoia offers vast tracts of wilderness seemingly hidden in the deep folds of the Sierra Nevada in the most populous state in the U.S., for it receives a fraction of the visitors that its neighbor, Yosemite National Park, does. Compared to the 4 million visitors that flock to Yosemite, Sequoia receives only 1 million, while neighboring Kings Canyon National Park, which is administered together with Sequoia by the National Park Service, receives a scant 500,000.

Giant sequoia trees
Giant sequoia treesSteve Mullen Photography

Sequoia National Park, like many of our national parks, is a place of superlatives. In the few areas where visitors are concentrated, within a few miles of the Lodgepole Visitor Center, the main attractions are the massive, ancient giant sequoia trees (Sequoiadendron giganteum) that reside there. A member of the redwood family, sequoias grow only on the western slopes of the Sierra between 4,600 and 6,000 feet in elevation. What makes them special is their size. The largest trees in the world, sequoias have been known to exceed 300 feet in height and 56 feet in diameter. The oldest tree is over 3,500 years old, having towered over countless environmental and social changes in its lifetime.

Beyond the gigantic trees, which attract large crowds of visitors, the 404,051 acre national park, the oldest in California after being established in 1890, holds many other natural treasures. The backdrop behind the groves of sequoias is the Great Western Divide, a spiky other-worldly granite wall with a multitude of overlapping domes and peaks, several of which rise to over 13,000 feet. That’s not the highest point in the park though. Better known than the park it sits in, Mount Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous United States, reaches for the heavens at 14,505 feet. Visitors to the sequoia trees, located on the western edge of the park, won’t see Mt. Whitney, located on the eastern boundary, unless they hike the 70-mile High Sierra Trail, for there are no roads that traverse the entire park, not even one.

Here are the top 10 things to do in Sequoia National Park:

  1. Giant Forest
  2. Moro Rock
  3. Crystal Cave
  4. Crescent Meadow
  5. Tokopah Falls
  6. Alta Peak
  7. Dine or stay at Wuksachi Lodge
  8. General Sherman Tree
  9. Take a field seminar
  10. High Sierra Trail

See Top 10 things to do in Sequoia National Park, Part II (coming soon) for a description of each activity.

Hiking trails, educational programs, backpacking and cave exploration are just some of the activities that can be enjoyed at Sequoia National Park, home of the giant sequoia trees.

Information

Sequoia National Park
86724 Highway 180
Sequoia National Park, CA 93262
SEKI is the combined Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks
559-565-3341

Lodgepole Visitor Center
63204 Lodgepole Road
Sequoia National Park, CA 93262
Open early spring through late fall, may be open weekends in winter.

Sequoia Natural History Association
559-565-3759
Email: snha@sequoiahistory.org

Lodging

Wuksachi Lodge
64740 Wuksachi Way
Sequoia National Park, CA 93262
866-807-3598

Campgrounds
Coming in from Fresno a narrow, twisty road ascends to the Lodgepole Visitor’s Center at 6,700 feet elevation. On the way up, traveling through the adjacent Sequoia National Forest and Sequoia National Monument before reaching the park, many campgrounds can be seen. Sequoia National Park has over 550 sites in several campgrounds.
http://www.nps.gov/seki/planyourvisit/campgrounds.htm

Activities

Most of the attractions are within a short drive of Lodgepole Visitor Center, but guided tours are available through Sequoia Sightseeing Tours.

Getting There

To reach Sequoia National Park from San Francisco by car (approximately 5 hours, depending on traffic and weather):

  • Take the Bay Bridge to Hwy 580 East
  • Continue onto I-205 East
  • Merge onto I-5 North for a short distance
  • Merge onto Hwy 120 East
  • Take Hwy 99 South to Fresno
  • Take 180 East (King’s Canyon Road)
  • Turn right on 198 West (the Generals Highway), following signs to Sequoia tional Park
  • Arrive at Lodgepole Visitor Center at 63204 Lodgepole Road, Sequoia National Park

See Google map

Notes on getting there:

  • The entrance fee to the national park is $20
  • There is no gas station within the park and the lodge is a 45-60 minute drive from the entrance to the park.
  • There are two entrances: The north entrance is approached from Fresno via Highway 180 East, while the south entrance is near Visalia via Highway 198.

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