12 Incredible Things to Do in Sequoia National Park

by Jem
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Sequoia National Park is one of those places that doesn’t need an over-the-top introduction. It’s straightforward: if you love nature, you’ll love Sequoia. Nestled in the southern Sierra Nevada mountains of California, this park is a testament to nature’s grandeur and endurance. Home to some of the largest trees on the planet, including the famed General Sherman tree, it’s a place that makes you feel both humbled and inspired.

But Sequoia is more than its giant trees. You’ve got mountains, caves, and vast wilderness areas that seem untouched by time. It’s a hiker’s paradise with trails that cater to both beginners and seasoned trekkers. And for those who just want to take it easy? There are plenty of scenic drives and viewpoints that require minimal effort but offer maximum rewards.

The diverse ecosystem here supports a wide range of wildlife, from black bears to mule deer. Birdwatchers will be in heaven, with over 200 species calling the park home. I’ve been to Sequoia multiple times, and each visit offers something new. Whether it’s discovering a hidden trail, spotting wildlife, or simply sitting by a campfire under a starlit sky, the park never disappoints. So, if you’re booking a flight to California, you’re in for a treat. This guide will walk you through the best things to do in Sequoia National Park, ensuring you make the most of your visit. To help you make the most out of your next trip, here are my top 12 things to see and do in Sequoia National Park.

The nicest places to visit in Sequoia National Park right now
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Best Places to Visit in Sequoia National Park

Ready to jump into all the coolest things to do in Sequoia National Park? As noted above, there’s something for everyone at this breathtaking vacation spot in California. So keep reading to discover all these unique Sequoia National Park places to visit.

Are you looking to embark on awe-inspiring hikes to witness the colossal Giant Sequoia trees, explore underground caverns, and observe diverse wildlife? Or would you prefer to partake in camping, rock climbing, stargazing and backpacking adventures? Whatever you’re planning, these must-sees in Sequoia National Park can accommodate your needs. Here’s all the best attractions in Sequoia National Park that you should know about.

1. General Sherman Tree

When you think of Sequoia National Park, the first image that likely pops into your mind is the towering General Sherman Tree. And for a good reason. This behemoth is not only the largest tree by volume in the world. It is also one of the oldest, boasting an estimated age of around 2,500 years. Standing at a staggering 275 feet tall, it’s a sight that’s hard to put into words.

Now, visiting the General Sherman Tree is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Sequoia National Park. The trail to the tree is a short, half-mile walk from the parking lot, making it accessible for visitors of all ages. As you approach, you’ll notice the tree’s massive base, which has a circumference of over 100 feet. It’s a popular spot, so expect some crowds, especially during peak times. But don’t let that deter you. The sheer size of this tree is awe-inspiring, and its history makes it a must-visit. While there, take a moment to reflect and think about the centuries this tree has witnessed. It’s a living testament to the wonders of nature and the importance of conservation.

The tall General Sherman Tree is perhaps the first image that comes to mind.
The tall General Sherman Tree is perhaps the first image that comes to mind.

2. Moro Rock

If you’re after panoramic views that’ll leave you speechless, Moro Rock is where you need to be. This granite dome offers a 360-degree vista of Sequoia National Park and beyond. The climb to the top might be a bit challenging for some, with over 400 steps carved into the rock, but the reward is absolutely worth the effort.

The trail itself is less than a half-mile round trip, but it’s the elevation gain that’ll get your heart pumping. As you ascend, you’ll pass through various viewpoints, each offering a unique perspective of the park’s vast landscape. On a clear day, you can even see the Central Valley of California in the distance.

Parking can be a bit tricky, especially during the busy season. Consider taking the park’s shuttle to avoid the hassle. And a tip for those who want the best experience: try to visit during sunrise or sunset. The play of light on the surrounding peaks is something you won’t forget. Moro Rock is more than just a hike; it’s an experience that encapsulates the grandeur of Sequoia National Park.

Moro Rock is the place to go if you want to see expansive vistas that will blow you away.
Moro Rock is the place to go if you want to see expansive vistas that will blow you away.

3. Tunnel Log Drive

Driving through a fallen tree? It might sound bizarre, but in Sequoia National Park, it’s a reality. The Tunnel Log Drive is a testament to the sheer size and grandeur of the trees in this park. Back in 1937, a giant sequoia tree, standing at 275 feet tall, met its end due to natural causes. But instead of letting it be an obstruction, park officials saw an opportunity.

They carved a 17-foot wide tunnel through the fallen trunk, allowing cars to drive right through it. Today, it’s one of the park’s most iconic and photographed spots. As you approach the tunnel, it’s hard not to be in awe of the sheer size of the tree, even in its fallen state.

For those interested in the history and ecology of the area, nearby informational signs are available. They delve into the life cycle of the giant sequoias, their role in the ecosystem, and the history of the Tunnel Log. Many visitors also take advantage of the photo opportunities, capturing memories with the colossal tree as a backdrop.

Among the coolest things to do in Sequoia National Park is driving through the Tunnel Log. It’s a unique experience that underscores the park’s commitment to preserving its natural wonders while making them accessible to visitors. It’s a quick stop, but one that’ll leave a lasting impression.

The enormous size and splendor of the trees in this park are demonstrated by the Tunnel Log Drive.
The enormous size and splendor of the trees in this park are demonstrated by the Tunnel Log Drive.

4. Crescent Meadow

If you’re looking for a less crowded spot in Sequoia National Park, Crescent Meadow should be on your list. It’s at the end of the park’s scenic drive, and it’s a great place to start your day. The meadow is surrounded by huge sequoias, but it’s the trails branching out from here that are the real draw.

One of the trails leads to Tharp’s Log, a cabin built inside a hollowed-out fallen sequoia. It’s a cool sight and gives you an idea of how early settlers used the resources around them. Another trail takes you to Chimney Tree, a charred sequoia that stands as a testament to nature’s resilience.

If you’re into wildlife watching, this is a good spot. Deer are common here, and sometimes you might see a black bear from a distance. Just remember the park’s safety guidelines: don’t get too close and definitely don’t feed them.

Overall, Crescent Meadow offers a mix of nature and history. It’s a break from the more popular spots in the park, and it gives you a chance to see a different side of Sequoia.

Crescent Meadow, a less busy area of Sequoia National Park
Crescent Meadow, a less busy area of Sequoia National Park

5. Crystal Cave

If you’re the adventurous type, you can’t miss out on Crystal Cave. It’s not your typical Sequoia experience. While everyone’s looking up at the massive trees, take a detour underground. This marble cave, hidden beneath the park’s giant sequoias, is a maze of stalactites, stalagmites, and other fascinating formations.

You’ll need to join a guided tour to explore it, but trust me, it’s worth it. The guides are a wealth of knowledge, sharing tidbits about the cave’s history, its delicate ecosystem, and even some local legends. And, if you’re hoping to escape the summer heat for a bit, the cave’s naturally cool temperatures are a bonus.

The cave is also home to a variety of unique species adapted to life in darkness. From bats fluttering overhead to tiny cave-adapted insects, the biodiversity within is as impressive as the formations themselves. Don’t be surprised if you spot the occasional salamander or cave cricket during your exploration.

After the cave tour, stretch your legs on the nearby trail. It’s a short walk, but the surrounding canyon views and occasional waterfalls make it a sweet addition to the cave experience. Ditch the crowds and delve deep – Crystal Cave is one of those off-the-beaten-path spots in Sequoia that deserves more attention.

Make a diversion beneath the enormous trees while everyone is staring upward.
Make a diversion beneath the enormous trees while everyone is staring upward.

6. Giant Forest Museum

When you’re in Sequoia National Park, it’s easy to get lost in the sheer size and beauty of the trees. But understanding the history and science behind these giants can make your experience even richer. Enter the Giant Forest Museum. It’s your one-stop-shop for all things sequoia.

The museum offers interactive exhibits. These exhibits dive into the life cycle of these trees, the role fire plays in the ecosystem, and the history of the park. You’ll walk away with a newfound appreciation for these ancient giants and the efforts made to preserve them.

Outside the museum, there’s a short trail that offers up-close views of some impressive sequoias. It’s a great way to stretch your legs and immerse yourself in the forest after soaking up all that knowledge indoors. And here’s a tip: if you’re looking for unique things to do in Sequoia National Park, check out the museum’s ranger-led programs. They often host walks and talks that dive deeper into specific topics.

In a park filled with natural wonders, the Giant Forest Museum is a highlight. It’s an essential stop for those keen to understand the world of the sequoias.

Your experience can be enhanced even more by these giants.
Your experience can be enhanced even more by these giants.

7. Big Trees Trail

If you’re looking to truly immerse yourself in the heart of Sequoia National Park without tackling a strenuous hike, the Big Trees Trail is your answer. This easy, paved loop is about a mile long and offers some of the most scenic views of the park’s iconic sequoias.

The trail circles Round Meadow, and as you stroll, you’ll be surrounded by a collection of massive trees, each with its own story. Informational signs dot the path, giving insights into the ecology of the area and the life cycle of the sequoias. It’s an educational experience, but not in a boring classroom way. Instead, nature is your classroom, and every step offers a new lesson.

What makes this trail a must-visit is its accessibility. It’s suitable for visitors of all ages, including those with mobility challenges. Plus, if you’re a bird enthusiast, keep your eyes peeled and ears open. The meadow attracts a variety of bird species, adding another layer to your adventure.

For those looking to get a taste of the park’s beauty, the Big Trees Trail is perfect. It doesn’t require a hefty time commitment and delivers in spades. It’s a snapshot of everything that makes Sequoia National Park special.

Provides some of the most picturesque vistas of the famous sequoias in the park.
Provides some of the most picturesque vistas of the famous sequoias in the park.

8. Lodgepole Village

Lodgepole Village is more than just a convenient spot for campers and visitors. It’s a hub of activity and serves as a gateway to some of the park’s most iconic trails. Located near the Marble Fork of the Kaweah River, this area is a blend of natural beauty and essential amenities.

When looking for Sequoia National Park things to do, Lodgepole often serves as a starting point. From here, you can access the Tokopah Falls Trail, a straightforward hike leading to an impressive waterfall, especially during the spring runoff. The village itself has a visitor center where you can gather valuable information, get trail recommendations, or attend ranger-led programs.

For those not camping, there’s a market to stock up on snacks or grab a quick meal. And if you’ve been on the road for a while, the shower facility might just be the refreshment you need. Lodgepole strikes a balance, offering modern conveniences while still keeping you deeply connected to the wilderness that makes Sequoia so captivating. It’s a testament to the park’s commitment to making nature accessible to everyone, no matter their travel style.

A center of activity and entry point to several of the most well-known trails in the park.
A center of activity and entry point to several of the most well-known trails in the park.

9. Mount Whitney

Mount Whitney stands as the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States, and it’s right on the park’s eastern boundary. For many, reaching its summit is a bucket-list achievement. The trail to the top is challenging, but the views? Absolutely worth every step.

Starting from the Whitney Portal, the hike is about 22 miles round trip. It’s not for the faint-hearted. You’ll gain significant elevation, and the altitude can be a challenge for many. But if you’re prepared and acclimatized, the journey offers some of the most breathtaking vistas in the country. Along the way, you’ll traverse alpine meadows, granite cliffs, and shimmering lakes.

The wildlife on Mount Whitney is equally captivating. Marmots, known for their playful antics, can often be seen sunning themselves on rocks. Pika, with their distinctive calls, inhabit the higher elevations, while golden eagles soar overhead, scanning the terrain for prey. The pristine streams and lakes along the trail are teeming with trout, making it a favorite spot for anglers.

While the hike can be completed in a day by experienced hikers, many opt for a different approach. They choose to break it up with an overnight stay, allowing them to better enjoy the surroundings and acclimate. Remember, permits are required for both day hikes and overnight trips, so plan ahead. If you’re looking for a true adventure in Sequoia National Park, Mount Whitney might just be the challenge you’re after.

The highest mountain is Mount Whitney.

10. Tokopah Falls Trail

One of the best things to do in Sequoia National Park is hiking the Tokopah Falls Trail. This trail is a favorite among visitors, and it’s easy to see why. Stretching just under 4 miles round trip, it offers a moderate hike that’s suitable for most fitness levels. The path follows the Marble Fork of the Kaweah River, leading hikers through dense forests and past rugged granite cliffs.

As you make your way along the trail, the sound of rushing water grows louder, hinting at the spectacle to come. The climax of the hike is the stunning Tokopah Falls, which cascades down a sheer granite face. The sight of the water tumbling down amidst the backdrop of towering peaks is something you won’t soon forget.

The trail is accessible year-round. However, the best time to visit is in the spring or early summer when the snowmelt enhances the beauty of the falls. Whether you’re an avid hiker or just looking for a leisurely stroll in nature, the Tokopah Falls Trail is a must-visit when in the park.

It makes sense that this trail is a favorite thing to do in Sequoia National Park.
It makes sense that this trail is a favorite thing to do in Sequoia National Park.

11. Mineral King Valley

If you’re the kind of traveler who loves to veer off the beaten path, then Mineral King Valley in Sequoia National Park is your kind of place. It’s less crowded than the park’s main attractions, giving it that untouched, raw beauty vibe. The journey to get there? A bit of a twisty challenge, but totally worth it for the views alone.

This isn’t your typical park destination. Think alpine meadows, clear streams, and a backdrop of towering peaks. And let’s talk wildlife: marmots lounging on rocks, deer grazing in the meadows, and if you’re lucky (or maybe unlucky?), you might spot a black bear. The valley’s got history too, with old cabins hinting at its silver mining days.

Sure, there are trails for the hikers, but just being there, away from the crowds, feeling the cool mountain air? That’s the real draw. If you’re thinking of camping, plan ahead; spots fill up fast. Mineral King Valley is a reminder that sometimes the best places are the ones fewer people know about.

It feels more unspoiled and unadulterated than the park's major attractions because of its lower crowding.
It appears more unspoiled and unadulterated than the park’s major attractions.

12. Sequoia National Park Foothills

The foothills of Sequoia National Park might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the park, but they’re a gem in their own right. With a warmer climate than the park’s higher elevations, the foothills offer a completely different experience.

Among the coolest things to do in Sequoia National Park, exploring these foothills is a must. The landscape here is dotted with oak trees, and the Kaweah River runs through, carving its path and creating picturesque spots. The Marble Falls Trail is a standout, leading you to a cascading waterfall after a rewarding hike. And for those interested in the park’s diverse ecology, this area is rich in plant species not found in the higher regions.

For those looking to relax and rejuvenate, the foothills have several picnic spots, perfect for a leisurely meal amidst nature. The sound of the Kaweah River, along with the gentle rustling of leaves and the chirping of birds, creates a serene ambiance. This makes it an ideal place for meditation and reflection.

Visiting the foothills is like getting a bonus round in your Sequoia adventure. It’s a testament to the park’s diversity, showing that every corner, whether high or low, has its unique charm and beauty. Don’t miss out on this lesser-known but equally captivating part of the park.

There are multiple picnic areas in the foothills that are ideal for enjoying a leisurely dinner in the company of nature.
There are multiple picnic areas in the foothills that are ideal for enjoying a leisurely dinner in the company of nature.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the Best Things to Do in Sequoia National Park

Looking for more content on the top things to do in Sequoia National Park? Here are some popular questions (and answers) I get that will help you plan your trip to Sequoia National Park:

Why is Sequoia National Park famous?

Sequoia National Park is renowned for its colossal sequoia trees, especially the General Sherman Tree, the largest tree on earth by volume. But it’s not just about size; the park’s diverse landscapes, ranging from mountainous terrains to meadows and caves, make it a haven for nature lovers and adventurers alike.

How many days do you need at Sequoia National Park?

While you can get a glimpse of the park’s highlights in a day, ideally, you’d want at least 2-3 days. This allows time to explore the giant sequoias, hike some of the trails, and truly immerse yourself in the park’s natural beauty. If you’re an avid hiker or nature enthusiast, even a week might feel short!

Is Sequoia National Park open year-round?

Yes, Sequoia National Park is open 365 days a year. However, some areas, roads, or facilities might be closed or have limited access during winter due to snow. Always check current conditions before your visit.

Where is the best part of Sequoia National Park?

Sequoia National Park, known for its giant sequoia trees, offers several areas that are considered highlights of the park. Here are some of the best areas in Sequoia National Park:

  1. Giant Forest: This area is home to five of the ten largest trees in the world, including the General Sherman Tree, the largest living tree on Earth by volume. The Giant Forest Museum and several trails, like the Congress Trail, offer a great introduction to these magnificent trees.
  2. Moro Rock: A granite dome offering panoramic views of the park, especially stunning at sunset. The climb to the top involves a steep staircase.
  3. Crescent Meadow: A picturesque meadow surrounded by sequoias, often referred to as the “Gem of the Sierra” by naturalist John Muir. It’s a great starting point for several trails and is particularly beautiful in the spring and summer.
  4. Lodgepole Area: This area has a visitor center, campground, and is the starting point for several trails. It’s a good place for amenities and information.
  5. Mineral King Valley: A more remote area known for its alpine scenery and challenging hikes. It’s great for those looking for a more rugged experience.
  6. Tunnel Log: A fallen giant sequoia that visitors can drive through, offering a unique photo opportunity.
There are several things to do in Sequoia National Park that you'll surely enjoy!
There are several things to do in Sequoia National Park that you’ll surely enjoy!

Can you camp inside the park?

Absolutely! Sequoia National Park offers various campgrounds. Some are first-come, first-served, while others require reservations. Camping is a fantastic way to experience the park’s nocturnal beauty and wake up amidst nature.

Is it safe to hike alone in the park?

While many solo travelers hike in Sequoia, it’s essential to take precautions. Always inform someone about your plans, stick to well-trodden paths, carry a map, and be prepared for sudden weather changes. The park’s wilderness can be challenging, so always prioritize safety.

What do people do at Sequoia National Park?

At Sequoia National Park, visitors are captivated by the massive sequoia trees, particularly the iconic General Sherman Tree. The park offers a plethora of activities, from hiking trails that range from easy walks to challenging mountain treks, to exploring the Crystal Cave. Many also enjoy camping under the starlit sky, wildlife watching, and capturing the breathtaking scenery through photography. Winter brings opportunities for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

Is it worth visiting Sequoia National Park?

Absolutely! Sequoia National Park is a testament to nature’s grandeur, boasting some of the world’s largest trees and diverse landscapes. The park’s unique ecosystem, combined with its vast wilderness and stunning vistas, makes it a must-visit for nature enthusiasts, hikers, and anyone looking to escape the hustle and bustle. Whether you’re seeking adventure or tranquility, Sequoia offers an unparalleled experience.

Is one day enough for Sequoia National Park?

One day in Sequoia National Park is enough to see some of the major highlights, but it won’t allow for extensive exploration, especially given the park’s large size and the variety of attractions it offers. If you have only one day, here’s a suggested itinerary to make the most of your visit:

  1. Morning: Giant Forest and General Sherman Tree
    • Start your day early in the Giant Forest area. Visit the General Sherman Tree, the largest tree on Earth by volume. The short walk from the parking area to the tree is filled with impressive sights.
    • Explore the Congress Trail if time permits, a loop that takes you through a stunning grove of giant sequoias.
  2. Midday: Moro Rock and Tunnel Log
    • Head to Moro Rock, a granite dome offering panoramic views of the park. The climb involves stairs and can be steep, but the view from the top is worth it.
    • On your way back, drive through Tunnel Log, a fallen sequoia tree that has been cut to allow cars to pass through.
  3. Afternoon: Lodgepole and Crescent Meadow
    • Have lunch at the Lodgepole area, where you can also visit the visitor center for more information about the park.
    • After lunch, go to Crescent Meadow. This picturesque meadow is a great place for a gentle walk and to enjoy the serenity of the park.
  4. Late Afternoon: Drive Through the Park
    • If time allows, take a scenic drive through the park. The Generals Highway offers stunning views and numerous pullouts for photo opportunities.

Final Thoughts on Exploring Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park captivates visitors with its majestic trees and vast landscapes. Every corner of the park offers a new adventure, from challenging hikes to serene spots for reflection. The towering sequoias, some of the oldest living things on Earth, stand as silent witnesses to countless travelers’ awe and wonder.

For those seeking a mix of excitement and tranquility, Sequoia is the perfect US destinations. As you explore, remember to tread lightly, respecting the park’s natural beauty. By doing so, we ensure that its wonders remain untouched for years to come. Dive into the experience, and let Sequoia’s magic leave an indelible mark on your traveler’s heart. Safe journeys!

The top things to do in Sequoia National Park for all types of travelers
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