Free Things To Do in Sequoia National Park
- #1View all PhotosfreeGiant Forest#1 in Sequoia National ParkNatural Wonders, Free, SightseeingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDNatural Wonders, Free, SightseeingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Visitors to the Giant Forest use a lot of the same words to describe it, including "awe-inspiring," "amazing" and a "must-see." The large sequoia grove is located between the Marble and Middle Forks of the Kaweah River and is home to more than 8,000 sequoias – the most of any other grove in the park.
Start your visit at the Giant Forest Museum, which offers an overview of the giant sequoias, meadows and human history in the region. The museum is housed in the historic Giant Forest market building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. There are a series of hikes in the Giant Forest, ranging from short one-hour jaunts to daylong treks; the National Park service lists a few on its website. Visitors recommend longer hikes, such as the Alta Trail or the High Sierra Trail, to escape the crowds, especially in the summer. The Redwood Canyon and Muir Grove also great places for longer treks. The Giant Forest is also home to the famous General Sherman Tree, the largest living sequoia in the world.
- #2View all Photos#2 in Sequoia National ParkFree, SightseeingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDFree, SightseeingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
To visit Kings Canyon by car, the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway (otherwise known as Highway 180) is the only option for vehicles. The 50-mile route, which is full of twists and turns, takes visitors to one of the deepest canyons in North America.
Visitors call it "breathtaking" and "beautiful," but also caution that drivers prepare for the route's many curves, and allow plenty of time to stop for photo ops. The route begins in the foothills outside of Fresno, California, enters the Grant Grove area of Kings Canyon National Park, then descends through the Sequoia National Forest, finally ending at the Cedar Grove area of Kings Canyon National Park. Along the way, highlights include hiking to the General Grant Tree, touring Boyden Cave (in the summer) and visiting the gorgeous Grizzly Falls.
- #3View all Photos#3 in Sequoia National ParkNatural Wonders, Free, Hiking, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDNatural Wonders, Free, Hiking, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
The General Sherman Tree – the world's largest tree by volume – stands 275 feet tall and measures more than 36 feet in diameter at its base. Visitors call the tree magnificent and humbling, but warn that lines can be long to take photos by the tree. Many advise arriving early and having patience.
Travelers can see the tree via two trails. The Main Trail can be accessed from a parking lot off Wolverton Road and it's a half-mile walk downhill to reach the tree. Along the way, you'll pass through the Giant Forest and spot exhibits explaining the history of giant sequoias. After you've snapped your photos at the General Sherman Tree, you'll have to walk back uphill. While this trail is paved, there are a few steps. If you'd rather avoid the uphill walk, you can continue downhill to the shuttle stop along Generals Highway. The shuttle will return you to the parking area. There is a wheelchair-accessible trail, which starts from a parking lot along the edge of Generals Highway. From there, it's a quick trip to the tree. The 2-mile-long Congress Trail, a paved loop that begins near the General Sherman Tree, is another hiking option and offers the chance to take in even more views. Visitors say it is well worth it and report that it's not a difficult hike.
- #4View all Photos#4 in Sequoia National ParkFree, Hiking, RecreationTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDFree, Hiking, RecreationTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
There are any number of trails in Sequoia National Park for all abilities and ages. In the Giant Forest, the Congress Trail, a paved 2-mile loop that begins near the General Sherman Tree, is a big hit with visitors, who call it a beautiful, relatively easy walk. A shorter hike, the Big Trees Trail, is a 1-mile loop that goes around a meadow and features interpretive exhibits about the natural history of giant sequoias along the way. Make sure you have a map in hand (cell service is spotty in the park), plenty of water and stay alert for bears. While encounters are rare, hikers should always be aware of their surroundings. Also, plan for the weather, with the proper gear in hand.
For those looking for longer hikes, treks to scenic places like Mist Falls include an 8-mile round-trip journey through forest and chaparral, past rapids and cascades, to finally reward hikers with views of one of the largest waterfalls in the park. To learn about all the hikes available, stop at one of the park's visitors centers. You can pick up maps and get advice from rangers about which of the many trails would be the best fit for you. Trails are accessible 24/7 and free for all visitors. For more information about hiking trails, visit the National Park Service website.
- #5View all PhotosfreeMoro Rock#5 in Sequoia National ParkFree, Hiking, Recreation, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDFree, Hiking, Recreation, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
This granite dome rewards hikers with a breathtaking view of the Great Western Divide and the western half of Sequoia National Park. Though there are about 400 steps that lead 300 feet up to the top, visitors declare it completely worth the workout to enjoy the amazing views at the summit. The hike can be a little strenuous, especially for anyone not used to the higher elevation. Handrails should be used and adults should keep an eye on children, as there are steep drop-offs. Make sure to bring water and take breaks when you need to.
How hard visitors have to work to get to Moro Rock depends on the season. In the summer, when the Moro Rock parking lot is typically open, travelers just have to climb the steps to reach the summit. Free shuttles also run from the Giant Forest Museum to the Moro Rock parking lot in the summer. If the lot is closed, which is often the case in the winter, then visitors are in for a 2-mile walk from the nearest parking area.
- #7View all PhotosfreeTunnel Log#7 in Sequoia National ParkNatural Wonders, Free, SightseeingTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDNatural Wonders, Free, SightseeingTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND
The Tunnel Log, located along the Crescent Meadow Road in the Giant Forest, offers a fun photo op for park visitors. This enormous tree, which fell across the road in 1937, was 275 feet tall and 21 feet at the base when it collapsed. The tunnel was cut through the tree the following year and ever since, visitors have been drawn to the novelty of it. The park service believes the tree is at least 2,000 years old.
Recent travelers recommended going early in the day to avoid the crowds of people posing in front of, below and even on top of the Tunnel Log. Only vehicles shorter than eight feet tall can drive through the 17-foot-wide tunnel (larger vehicles can go around on a bypass lane). Access to the Tunnel Log is included in park admission. For more information, visit the NPS website.
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