10 Amazing Things to Do at Sequoia National Forest CA

Imagine yourself standing among a realm of giants, where time slows down, and the air is filled with the scent of pure Earth and fresh pine. Welcome to Sequoia National Forest, CA. This region is a sanctuary of natural wonder and breathtaking beauty.

The forest is home to towering sequoias, cascading waterfalls, and rugged landscapes. From exploring the iconic Giant Forest to embarking on exhilarating hikes, or camping under the stars in the pristine wilderness, the top things to do in Sequoia National Forest promise an unforgettable adventure.  

In this article, we’ll dive into the top 10 things to do in this special Californian gem!

1. Visit the Giant Forest

a visitor stands in front of a giant sequoia at sequoia national forest ca
A visitor to the Giant Forest stands in front of a massive sequoia tree for scale.

The Giant Forest is a witness to the beauty and power of nature within Sequoia National Forest. Colossal trees, some of the largest on Earth, thrive in this unique area. 

At the heart of the Giant Forest, the sequoia trees tower above, their massive trunks reaching hundreds of feet into the air. Among them stands the awe-inspiring General Sherman Tree, the largest living single-stem tree on the planet.

These giant trees have seen centuries of history. Some have been alive for over 2,000 years, while civilizations have risen and fallen. 

Beyond the trees, the Giant Forest also boasts the magnificent cascading Marble Falls. The sight and sound of water rushing down the rocky steps are a serene contrast to the towering trees.

The Congress Trail is a popular walking path that winds through the Giant Forest, allowing visitors to experience the beauty of these ancient trees. Along the way, you’ll encounter the “House” and “Senate” groves, named humorously after the U.S. Capitol buildings due to the impressive size of the trees.

While the sequoias are undoubtedly the stars of the show, the Giant Forest is also a hub of biodiversity. Countless plant and animal species call this forest home, including wildlife like mule deer and black bear.

Some great interpretive programs and guided tours are available to provide insights into the forest’s history, ecology, and conservation efforts. Park rangers share fascinating stories about the trees, helping visitors connect on a deeper level.

The Giant Forest undergoes mesmerizing changes throughout the year. Lush foliage blankets the forest floor in spring and summer, while autumn brings a symphony of colors as leaves change. Even winter paints a unique picture as snow blankets the landscape, turning it into a serene paradise.

2. Hiking in Sequoia National Forest

Congress Trail in the Sequoia National Forest winds through some of the most well-known sequoia trees in the region
Congress Trail in the Sequoia National Forest winds through some of the most well-known sequoia trees in the region.

Hiking here lets you explore diverse landscapes, from ancient groves of towering sequoias to rugged mountain paths. Stroll amidst the giants or take a challenging ascent to striking vistas. Follow winding trails that lead to hidden waterfalls, pristine alpine lakes, and panoramic overlooks. 

With trails catering to all skill levels, hiking in Sequoia National Forest promises a journey through some of the most incredible terrain the West has to offer. Here are some great trails to consider:

  1. Congress Trail: Wander through the Giant Forest, standing among colossal sequoias, and discover iconic trees like the President Tree and the Senate Group.
  2. Moro Rock Trail: Ascend Moro Rock’s steps to witness sweeping vistas of the landscape, from towering peaks to rolling valleys.
  3. Big Trees Trail: Stroll along an easy loop surrounded by giant sequoias and the quiet ambiance of the forest.
  4. Lakes Trail: Embark on a journey through alpine beauty to reach Heather and Emerald Lakes, where tranquility meets stunning views.
  5. Tokopah Falls Trail: Follow the trail to the base of Tokopah Falls, where cascading water contrasts with the rugged backdrop of granite cliffs.
  6. Alta Peak Trail: Conquer the challenge of Alta Peak’s summit and be rewarded with wide-ranging vistas of towering mountains.
  7. Crescent Meadow to Tharp’s Log: Enjoy an easy hike through Crescent Meadow, encountering history at Tharp’s Log amidst natural beauty.
  8. Crystal Cave Trail: Explore the underground world of Crystal Cave on a guided hike as you marvel at the intricate formations.
  9. Redwood Canyon Trail: Traverse the redwood groves, surrounded by diverse plant life and the calmness of the forest.
  10. Sugar Bowl Loop Trail: This loop allows you to experience lush forests, open meadows, and the possibility of wildlife encounters.

3. Crystal Cave: 

stalactite formations seen growing from the ceiling of Crystal Cave in the Sequoia National Forest
Incredible stalactite formations can be seen growing from the ceiling of Crystal Cave in the Sequoia National Forest.

Crystal Cave is a true wonderland beneath the surface. Guided by experienced rangers, you’ll step into a world of impressive formations, where stalactites and stalagmites dance with the gentle illumination of your lantern. This underground trail showcases extraordinary rooms adorned with shimmering calcite and marble formations that took thousands of years to create. 

4. National Forests Camping

There’s nothing like camping in a national forest. There are options for both serene retreats and adventurous escapes. Choose from established campgrounds that offer convenient amenities like fire pits and restrooms, making your stay more comfortable.

For a more wild experience, venture into the backcountry and set up camp in the wilderness. Fall asleep to the whispering breeze and wake up to the sounds of birds greeting the day.

No matter your camping style, Sequoia National Forest provides a chance to disconnect from daily life. Whether stargazing at night or waking up to a sunrise over the trees, your camping adventure here promises unforgettable moments in the heart of the wilderness.

5. Fishing Opportunities

a rushing river with great fishing locations in the Sequoia National Forest
Rushing mountain rivers and streams such as these make for great fishing locations in the Sequoia National Forest.

Cast your line into the clear waters, where trout and other fish await your challenge. Whether you’re a seasoned angler or new to the sport, the forest offers a range of fishing spots suitable for all skill levels. From fly fishing in mountain streams to casting from the shores of alpine lakes, your fishing experience here will be one to remember.

Note: you will need a fishing permit to fish within Sequoia National Forest. California state fishing regulations apply to most waters within the forest. So, you’ll need to obtain a valid California fishing license, which you can purchase from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) or authorized vendors.

Here are some great fishing options:

  • Kern River: The Kern River runs through parts of Sequoia National Forest and offers opportunities for trout fishing. The river has different sections with varying regulations, so it’s important to check the specific regulations for the area you plan to fish.
  • Hume Lake: This is a popular fishing destination with stocked trout. It’s a family-friendly location with accessible shorelines and facilities.
  • Dorst Creek Pond: Located in the Grant Grove area, this pond is stocked with rainbow trout and is often a great spot for beginners and families.
  • Alpine Lakes: Many of the alpine lakes within the forest provide opportunities for fishing, including places like Heather Lake, Emerald Lake, and more. 
  • Various Streams and Creeks: Numerous streams and creeks throughout the forest are home to native and stocked trout. Just be sure to follow regulations and respect the environment.

6. Wildlife Viewing

A black bear cub rests comfortably on a log inside the Sequoia National Forest CA
A black bear cub rests comfortably on a log inside the Sequoia National Forest.

As you explore the area, you’ll encounter a variety of wildlife that call this diverse landscape home. Keep your eyes peeled for a chance to see:

  1. Black Bears: Catch a glimpse of these majestic creatures as they roam through the forest. Remember to practice bear safety and keep a respectful distance.
  2. Mule Deer: Graceful mule deer are often seen grazing in meadows or traversing through the woodlands.
  3. Bald Eagles: Look up to the skies and you might spot the iconic bald eagle soaring overhead, especially near lakes and rivers.
  4. Condors: With a wingspan of nearly 10 feet, the California condor is a rare sight but can occasionally be spotted gliding through the air.
  5. Bobcats: Elusive and adaptable, these small predators might make an appearance if you’re lucky.
  6. Mountain Lions: Though seldom seen due to their elusive nature, signs like tracks or scat might hint at the presence of these top predators.
  7. Various Bird Species: From woodpeckers drumming on trees to colorful songbirds filling the air with melodies, the forest is a birdwatcher’s delight.
  8. Small Mammals: Chipmunks, squirrels, rabbits, and other small creatures are often encountered as they scurry through the underbrush.

7. Scenic Drives

The Kings Canyon Scenic Byway winds through the eastern foothills of the rugged Sierra Nevada Mountains
The Kings Canyon Scenic Byway winds through the eastern foothills of the rugged Sierra Nevada Mountains.

There are some beautiful scenic drives to take advantage of. Here are six great options:

  1. Generals Highway: This iconic road winds through Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, offering panoramic views, stunning overlooks, and access to key attractions like the General Sherman Tree and Moro Rock.
  2. Kings Canyon Scenic Byway: Venture into the heart of Kings Canyon along this winding road, passing towering cliffs, lush meadows, and the impressive Kings River.
  3. Crystal Cave Road: Leading to the entrance of Crystal Cave, this road offers glimpses of the forest’s beauty as you approach the underground wonder.
  4. Big Stump Entrance Road: Providing access to the General Grant Grove, this road offers views of majestic trees and leads to the General Grant Tree, a living symbol of our nation’s heritage.
  5. Hume Lake Road: This picturesque drive takes you to the serene shores of Hume Lake, surrounded by towering pines and the calm atmosphere of the forest.
  6. Dorst Creek Road: Meandering through pristine landscapes, this road leads to Dorst Creek Campground and offers glimpses of the park’s diverse ecosystems.

8. Winter Activities

A thick blanket of snow covers the sequoia trees during the frigid winters
A thick blanket of snow covers the sequoia trees during the frigid winters.

During the winter months, Sequoia National Forest transforms into a winter haven, offering a range of activities that allow you to experience its beauty in a whole new light. 

Engage in activities like snowshoeing and cross-country skiing while exploring snow-covered trails. The towering sequoias draped in snow create a magical scene, making winter photography a rewarding activity. 

As the crowds thin out during this season, you’ll find a sense of tranquility that’s often hard to come by in busier months. Gazing up at the night sky is especially beautiful, as the absence of light pollution provides an optimal setting for stargazing. 

9. Stargazing

stargazing at sequoia national forest ca
A beautiful starry night in the skies above Sequoia National Forest.

The forest’s remote location and high elevation offer distinct advantages for stargazers. Far from the glow of city lights, the absence of light pollution creates a canvas of stars that seem to stretch to infinity. The crisp mountain air ensures clarity, allowing you to witness the intricate details of constellations, planets, and distant galaxies. 

10. Ranger-led Programs

a park ranger shares interesting information about sequoia national forests with a ranger-led program
Park rangers are knowledgeable and eager to share information or answer any questions you may have about the park. NPS/Alison Taggart-Barone

These programs provide a unique opportunity to engage with the forest’s natural and cultural heritage. Led by experienced rangers, you’ll embark on guided hikes, interpretive walks, and engaging talks that unveil the forest’s hidden stories, from its remarkable ecosystems to its rich history. 

Through interactive experiences, you’ll learn about the giant sequoias, the wildlife that inhabits the area, and the ongoing efforts to preserve its beauty. These programs cater to all ages and levels of interest, allowing you to better understand the delicate balance of its ecosystems.

Final Thoughts

Exploring Sequoia National Forest offers a gateway to astonishing landscapes, where ancient giant trees, serene lakes, and diverse wildlife meet. Whether you’re camping under the starry sky, embarking on scenic drives, or enjoying outdoor activities like hiking and fishing, the forest promises a journey filled with wonder.

Be sure to obtain the necessary permits, plan ahead for camping, and respect the regulations that help preserve the beauty of this natural haven. 

National Parks List, Map, and Complete Guide (All 63 Parks + Downloadable List & Map)

Want a FREE complete list and recap of all our US National Parks as well as downloadable maps and other great resources? Check out our US National Parks List and Map guide!

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Visit our complete National Parks Guide for FREE Downloadable National Parks List & Map (multiple versions)

FAQs

Can I camp anywhere in Sequoia National Forest?

No, you can’t camp anywhere in Sequoia National Forest. Camping is allowed only in designated campgrounds or areas.

How much does it cost to camp at Sequoia National Forest?

The cost to camp varies depending on the campground and the type of site you choose. Fees can range from around $20 to $30 per night.

Which campground to stay in Sequoia National Park?

Lodgepole Campground is a popular choice due to its amenities, proximity to key attractions, and beautiful surroundings.

Do you need a permit to camp in Sequoia National Forest?

Yes. To camp in Sequoia National Forest, you generally need a “Campfire Permit.” This permit allows you to use a camp stove, lantern, or other devices that use open flames outside of developed campgrounds. It’s important for fire safety and forest management.

You can secure a Campfire Permit at any Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), or California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) office. Additionally, you can often obtain the permit online through the official websites of these agencies. The permit is typically free and involves a brief orientation about fire safety and regulations.

It’s worth noting that a Campfire Permit doesn’t grant you permission to camp anywhere you want in the forest. You may need to make reservations and pay camping fees separately for camping in developed campgrounds. Always check the specific regulations and requirements for the area you plan to camp in before your trip.

What are the best campgrounds in Sequoia National Forest?

Some of the best campgrounds include Dorst Creek, Potwisha, and Atwell Mill Campgrounds. Each offers unique features and settings.

Does a national park pass work for national forests?

No, a national park pass (like the America the Beautiful Pass) covers entrance fees to national parks but doesn’t usually cover fees in national forests.

What’s the difference between a national park and national forest?

The main difference between the two lies in their primary purposes. National parks are established to preserve and showcase unique natural and cultural features, while national forests are managed for multiple uses, including recreation, timber, wildlife habitat, and more.

How many national forests are there in California?

There are 18 national forests in California, each offering diverse landscapes and recreational opportunities.

What part of California is the Sequoia National Forest?

It’s located in the central-eastern part of California, encompassing the southern Sierra Nevada mountain range.

Is Sequoia National Forest worth visiting?

Yes, this forest is certainly worth visiting. It offers stunning landscapes, giant sequoia groves, diverse outdoor activities, and a chance to reconnect with nature.

Where is the best place to see the sequoias in California?

The best place to see the sequoias in California is in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, particularly within the Giant Forest area, where iconic trees like the General Sherman Tree can be found.

About Me

My husband and I have three precious daughters and live in the Kansas City, KS area. One of our favorite things to do is travel across the country visiting our extraordinary US National Parks!

Let us know what you think about our content and if you have any questions, suggestions, or have any favorite memories or tips you would like to share. We would love to hear from you!

Happy Travels! Sandy

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