Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park is the Land of Giants and the home of the General Sherman Tree. It is also home to Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States.
Sequoia was established in 1890, making it the second oldest national park in the United States. It was actually the third national park designated by Congress, since it was preceded by Yellowstone and Mackinac National Park (Mackinac reverted to Michigan in 1895 and was reorganized as Mackinac Island State Park).
Sequoia National Park had nearly 1.3 million visitors in 2017. It ranked as the 20th most visited national park in the country with that level of attendance.
Sequoia has been jointly administered with Kings Canyon National Park since 1943 due to geographical proximity. Kings Canyon was designated a national park in 1940 and is located on the northern boundary of Sequoia.
How much does it cost to go to Sequoia National Park?
The park entrance fee in a private vehicle for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park is $35 for seven days or $80 for the annual National Parks pass.
For a road trip, you are also looking at gas for your car and lodging. For those like us who are farther away, you are looking at a flight into Fresno, a rental car and lodging for the length of your vacation. Either way, you will also need to plan to bring money to pay for food and souvenirs. There is a per person cost to join the Crystal Cave tour in Sequoia National Park or the Boyden Cavern tour in Sequoia National Forest in Kings Canyon.
What is the best time of year to visit Sequoia National Park?
The most popular months to visit Sequoia are July and August. May, June and September also see a fair number of visitors to the park. There are fewer visitors in the winter. Only three campgrounds in the parks are open year-round. Winter brings closures to Crescent Meadow Road and a section of the road to Mineral King. Kings Canyon Scenic Byway is also closed for the winter after the turnoff for Hume Lake.
How long do you need in Sequoia National Park?
Most people spend less than a day between Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park. We visited the parks in June 2019 after Yosemite and we completed Grant Grove, Kings Canyon Scenic Byway, Zumwalt Meadow, General Sherman Tree, Auto Log, Tunnel Log and Moro Rock. We started the day in Fresno, California and finished by camping at Hume Lake in Sequoia National Forest. The areas that we missed out on in the parks were Mineral City, Crystal Cave and Tunnel Rock. The other experience in the park that we missed out on was a good long hike.
If you want to see the highlights of the park, one day is more than enough to race between the popular attractions. If you want to go beyond the tourist experience and enjoy the park, you really should have at least three days between Sequoia and Kings Canyon. One full day for Kings Canyon and two days for Sequoia (with one reserved for a longer hike) would be a better pace to cover them (even though it would still only scratch the surface).
Can you drive through Sequoia National Park?
You can drive through the park but you can not drive across it east-west due to the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Generals Highway runs through Sequoia National Park from Foothills Visitor Center to Kings Canyon National Park and E Kings Canyon Rd / Kings Canyon Scenic Byway. There is also a road that runs from east of Three Rivers to Mineral King. However, the roads cover only a small portion of the park – more than 800,000 acres of Sequoia and Kings Canyon are designated as wilderness.
How long does it take to drive through Sequoia and Kings Canyon?
Driving the speed limit with no stops, it takes about two hours to drive from the Foothills Visitor Center of Sequoia National Park along Generals Highway to exit Kings Canyon National Park near Wilsonia and Grant Grove. This of course leaves much of the park unexplored. Adding the entire Kings Canyon Scenic Byway in Kings Canyon National Park will add two hours and 15 minutes to the trip. To drive to Mineral King and back out of the park at the beginning or end of the journey through Sequoia National Park, it adds about three hours to the road trip.
If you are looking to make a leisurely driving trip through the park with stops in Mineral City, Zumwalt Meadow as well as take a Crystal Cave tour, then you need at least two days.
Are there bears in Sequoia National Park?
Several hundred black bears live in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Note: It is illegal to carry bear spray in Sequoia and Kings Canyon
Is there cell service in Sequoia National Park?
Sequoia National Park has historically had spotty to no cell phone coverage. It approved a plan in 2019 for Verizon Wireless to erect a 138 foot cell tower disguised as a pine tree. The cell tower will be located west of Wuksachi Village and is expected to provide coverage in the surrounding areas including Wuksachi Way and portions of the Generals Highway. Construction will occur in 2020.
How far is Sequoia from Yosemite?
The fastest way between Grant Grove Village in Kings Canyon and Yosemite Valley is approximately 3 hours and 15 minutes. The route takes visitors traveling between Yosemite and Sequoia through Fresno. The distance is approximately 150 miles.
Visitors can take a more direct route between the two by avoiding Fresno. This route is only 144 miles (with more twists and turns) but takes approximately 4 hours.
When we traveled between Hetch Hetchy and Grant Grove in June 2019, we chose the Fresno route and stopped at In-N-Out Burger. We also found a pretty cheap hotel for the night with a free hotel breakfast near the Fresno Yosemite International Airport.
Sequoia is home to the world’s largest living tree by volume, the General Sherman Tree. Some trees are taller and some are wider, but this 2500 year old sequoia rules the park where five of the world’s ten largest trees sit.
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Things to Do in Sequoia National Park
Auto Log – A famous fallen sequoia tree that became known for photos of cars parked on top of it. It is now closed to such activities, but is still a popular attraction.
Crystal Cave – A marble cavern in the park near the Giant Forest with guided tours offered from spring through fall.
General Sherman Tree – The world’s largest tree sits amidst the Giant Forest, a collection of giant sequoias located in the park.
Moro Rock – One of the most popular trails in the park involves a short climb up 350+ steps to magnificient views of the High Sierra peaks from this granite dome .
Mineral King – This subalpine glacial valley in the southern section of Sequoia National Park is known for its nearby mountain peaks and its car hose and wire eating marmots.
Tunnel Log – A fallen sequoia tree that you can drive your car through just off Crescent Meadow Road near Moro Rock.
Tunnel Rock – A scenic attraction along the Generals Highway. The road now goes around Tunnel Rock rather than under it. Parking on each side of the tunnel provides the opportunity for photos as visitors can still walk under the rock.
Recent Bird Sightings
Current Astronomy Chart
Courtesy of the AstroViewer night sky map.
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Sequoia National Park Campgrounds:
There are two campgrounds in the Lodgepole/Giant Forest area: Lodgepole Campground and Dorst Creek Campground. Lodgepole has 214 sites for tents, RVs and trailers in the summer. Dorst Creek is 10 miles from the Giant Forest and has 218 individual sites and four group sites.
The campgrounds in the foothills of the park include Potwisha Campground, Buckeye Flat Campground, and South Fork Campground. Potwisha has 42 sites for tents, RVs and trailers. Buckeye Flat has 28 tent-only sites. South Fork is for primitive tent camping and has ten (10) sites.
Campgrounds in the Mineral King Area include the Atwell Mill Campground and Cold Springs Campground. Atwell Mill has 21 tent campsites available on a first-come, first served basis (no reservations). It is typically open from mid-June to late October.
There are also campgrounds in Sequoia National Forest and the Grant Grove and Cedar Grove areas of nearby Kings Canyon National Park. When we stayed in the area in mid-June, we ended up with a two night reservation at Hume Lake campground.
Sequoia National Park Hotel and Lodging Options:
Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park contain several hotel and lodging options.
Wuksachi Lodge is the signature Sequoia National Park hotel and is located near General Sherman Tree and Moro Rock. The mountain lodge is located at an elevation of 7200 feet and contains 102 guest rooms, a full service restaurant, cocktail lounge and retail shop. It was built in 1999.
Wuksachi is centrally located in the Kings Canyon and Sequoia area near the Lodgepole Visitor Center and the General Sherman Tree. It is located about 25 miles and 45 minutes southeast of the Grant Grove Village in Kings Canyon National Park.
In the Mineral King area is Silver City Mountain Resort.
Among the options in Kings Canyon are the John Muir Lodge, Grant Grove Cabins and Cedar Grove Lodge. John Muir and the Cabins are located in the Grant Village area while Cedar Grove is located near the Road’s End.
Outside of the park’s southern entrance, there are several motel and hotel options between Three Rivers and Lake Kaweah including a Comfort Inn & Suites. There are also a handful of motels and lodges outside of the entrance to Kings Canyon National Park near Squaw Valley.
Visalia and Fresno present options for those entering or leaving the park. Visalia is located about 45 minutes from the southern entrance and Fresno is located about an hour from Grant Grove Village.
Sequoia National Park Airport
The closest airport to Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Park is Fresno Yosemite International Airport. It is located about 50 miles away from the start of Generals Highway in the northern section of the park. It has two runways and the airport code is FAT. In 2018, the airport served more than 1.7 million passengers. About 50 to 60 percent of the passenger traffic to and from the airport is on SkyWest.
The Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is about 210 miles from Sequoia National Park and San Francisco airport (SFO) is about 240 miles. This puts them both about four hours away from these major California airports (depending on traffic). If you are planning to stop first at Yosemite, San Francisco makes a decent option. If you have already done Yosemite but have a desire to fit in Joshua Tree and the Channel Islands into your vacation, Los Angeles makes a decent starting point for a road trip.