What Not to Miss at Sequoia National Park (park guide)!

Sequoia National Park is a treasure trove of natural wonders nestled in the southern Sierra Nevada mountains of California. This spectacular wilderness features towering trees (some of the largest and oldest trees on earth!), rugged landscapes, and breathtaking vistas. In this article, I’ve put together a guide to help you make the most of your visit by highlighting the key attractions and experiences you won’t want to miss. Whether you’re a nature lover, a photography buff, or simply looking to escape the clutter of everyday life, Sequoia National Park has something for everyone. So, let’s check out what not to miss at this remarkable park!

General Information

sequoia trees, which are some of the oldest and largest trees on earth reaching heights over 300 feet
Sequoia trees are special because they are among the oldest and largest living organisms on Earth, with some individuals exceeding 3,000 years in age and reaching heights of over 300 feet.

Let’s first review some key information about the park.

Location and Accessibility

The park can easily be reached by car, with entrances along Highway 198 and Highway 180. If you’re flying in, the closest major airports are Fresno Yosemite International Airport (FAT) and Meadows Field Airport (BFL) in Bakersfield. More distant major airports would be Los Angeles or San Francisco. LAX is about a 3 hr, 45 min drive to the park. San Francisco to Sequoia is about a 4 hr, 15 min drive.

Best Time to Visit Sequoia NP

The best time to visit really depends on what you want to do and see. Summer, from June to August, is the most popular time to visit, with warm weather and clear skies ideal for hiking and camping. However, this is also the busiest time, so expect crowds and limited accommodation availability. 

Spring (April to May) and fall (September to October) offer milder weather and fewer crowds, making it a great time to visit if you prefer a more peaceful experience. Fall is my favorite! Winter (November to March) can be cold, with snowfall possible at higher elevations. Still, it’s a beautiful time to visit if you enjoy snow sports like skiing or snowshoeing.

Entry Fees and Permits

To enter Sequoia National Park, you’ll need to pay an entrance fee. The entrance fees are $35 per vehicle or $20 per person on foot or bicycle, valid for seven consecutive days. If you plan to visit multiple national parks, consider purchasing the America the Beautiful Pass, which grants access to all national parks and federal recreational lands for one year from the date of purchase. Additionally, some activities in the park, such as camping and certain guided tours, may require permits, so be sure to check the park’s website for the most up-to-date information before your visit.

Main Attractions

General Sherman Tree

General Sherman Tree is the largest tree on Earth by volume, located in Sequoia National Park, California
General Sherman Tree is the largest tree on Earth by volume, located in Sequoia National Park, California.

Description and Significance: The General Sherman Tree is a must-see attraction in Sequoia National Park. As the largest tree on Earth by volume, this giant sequoia stands at an impressive 275 feet tall. It is estimated to be over 2,000 years old. Seeing this magnificent tree up close is a humbling experience that puts these ancient giants’ sheer size into perspective.

Best Time to Visit: The General Sherman Tree can be reached year-round, but the best time to visit is in the early morning or late afternoon to avoid crowds. Spring and fall have mild weather and fewer visitors, making these seasons ideal for a relaxing visit to the tree.

Accessibility and Nearby Facilities: The General Sherman Tree is easily reached via a short, paved trail from the parking lot. The trail is also wheelchair accessible. Nearby facilities include restrooms and a gift shop where souvenirs can be purchased to commemorate your visit. If all you see in this park, this is definitely one you don’t want to miss.

Moro Rock

Beautiful shot of the walk up to the top of Moro Rock
Beautiful shot of the walk up to the top of Moro Rock.

Description and Hiking Details: Moro Rock is a granite dome rock formation that boasts awe-inspiring views of the surrounding landscape. To reach the top, you’ll need to climb a steep staircase carved into the rock, but the effort is well worth it for the panoramic views awaiting you at the summit.

Safety Precautions: Due to the steep and narrow nature of the staircase, it’s important to use caution when climbing Moro Rock, especially in wet or icy conditions. Wear sturdy footwear and take your time to make sure you’re safe climbing up and down.

Views from the Top: From the top of Moro Rock, you’ll be treated to stunning views of the Great Western Divide that reaches well over 13,000 feet in some places. And the view of the breath-taking surrounding wilderness makes the climb totally worth it.

Tunnel Log

Tunnel Log, one of the park's most iconic locations
Be sure to stop for a picture at Tunnel Log, one of the park’s most iconic locations.

History and Unique Features: The Tunnel Log is a giant sequoia that fell in 1937. It was then carved out the following year to allow vehicles to drive through it. This unique attraction provides a glimpse into the size of these massive trees and is a popular spot for photos.

Accessibility and Nearby Attractions: The Tunnel Log is located along Crescent Meadow Road, so you can easily reach it by car. Nearby attractions include Crescent Meadow, the Giant Forest Museum, and several hiking trails, making it a convenient stop during your visit.

Crescent Meadow

A beautiful summer day at Crescent Meadows
A beautiful summer day at Crescent Meadows.

Scenic Beauty and Wildlife: This phenomenal section of the park features a picturesque meadow surrounded by towering sequoias. The meadow is also home to various wildlife, including deer, bears, and numerous bird species.

Trails and Hiking Options: Crescent Meadow is the starting point for several hiking trails, including the High Sierra Trail and the Crescent Meadow Loop. These trails have opportunities to explore the park’s diverse landscapes and encounter its wildlife up close.

Picnic Areas and Facilities: Crescent Meadow has picnic areas where you can enjoy a meal surrounded by nature. Restrooms are also available nearby, making it a convenient spot to take a break and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

Off-the-Beaten-Path Gems

On another note, while the main attractions in Sequoia National Park are undeniably impressive, there are also some hidden gems that are worth exploring. Here are a few of my favorite off-the-beaten-path treasures:

Crystal Cave

The Crystal Cave is one of the park’s most overlooked attractions.

Description and Tour Details: Crystal Cave is a marble cavern located deep beneath the surface of the park. The cave is known for its jaw-dropping formations, including stalactites, stalagmites, and helictites, all formed over thousands of years. So, for those interested in spelunking (caving), this is a great option.

Tickets and Availability: Due to limited capacity, tours of Crystal Cave are popular and often sell out in advance. It’s recommended that you purchase tickets online or at the visitor center as soon as you arrive at the park to secure your spot.

Tips for Visiting: To fully enjoy your visit to Crystal Cave, wear sturdy footwear and comfortable clothing made for walking on uneven surfaces. The cave can be chilly, so a light jacket or sweater is also recommended. Photography is allowed, but be mindful of other visitors and the delicate formations in the cave.

Tokopah Falls

Tokopah Falls is the tallest waterfall in Sequoia, standing at an impressive 1,200 feet in height
Tokopah Falls is the tallest waterfall in Sequoia, standing at an impressive 1,200 feet in height.

Hiking Trail Details: The hike to Tokopah Falls is a moderately challenging 3.4-mile round-trip trek that takes you through beautiful forests and along the Marble Fork of the Kaweah River. The trail is well-maintained but can be rocky in places, so sturdy footwear is recommended.

Best Time to Visit for Optimal Views: The best time to visit Tokopah Falls is in the spring or early summer when the snowmelt from the surrounding mountains causes the waterfall to flow at its fullest. The falls are also beautiful in the fall when the surrounding foliage is ablaze with autumn colors.

Safety Considerations: The hike to Tokopah Falls is relatively short. Still, staying on the designated trail and being aware of your surroundings is important, especially near the river and waterfall. The rocks near the falls can be slippery, so use caution when exploring the area.

Big Trees Trail

A lovely boardwalk that cuts across the grassy meadows and Sequoia Trees along the Big Trees Trail
A lovely boardwalk cuts across the grassy meadows and Sequoia Trees along the Big Trees Trail.

Description and Accessibility: The Big Trees Trail is a short, easy loop trail that takes you through a grove of giant sequoias. The trail is wheelchair accessible and is great for visitors of all ages and abilities.

Educational Opportunities: Along the Big Trees Trail, you’ll find informative signs that provide details into the life cycle of giant sequoias and the unique ecosystem of Sequoia National Park. The trail offers a great opportunity to learn about these majestic trees and their environmental importance.

Wildlife Highlights: In addition to the giant sequoias, the Big Trees Trail is home to a variety of plant and animal species. Keep an eye out for native wildflowers, such as the Western azalea and the Sierra lily, as well as wildlife like deer, squirrels, and a variety of bird species.

Outdoor Activities

Furthermore, Sequoia National Park boasts many fun outdoor activities, from camping beneath the towering sequoias to hiking through extraordinary alpine landscapes. Here’s what you need to know to make the most of your outdoor adventure:

Camping

Campgrounds and Reservations: Sequoia National Park has several campgrounds, including the popular Lodgepole and Dorst Creek campgrounds, which are open seasonally. Making reservations in advance is recommended, especially during the peak summer months. Campsites can fill up quickly. Reservations can be made online or by calling the park’s reservation line.

Backcountry Camping Options: If you’re looking for a more rugged camping experience, Sequoia National Park has some backcountry camping options. Permits are required for all overnight stays in the backcountry. Be sure to get these at the visitor center or ranger station. Also, familiarize yourself with the park’s backcountry camping regulations and Leave No Trace principles before setting out.

Camping Regulations and Tips: When camping in Sequoia National Park, it’s important to follow all park regulations, including proper food storage, to prevent wildlife encounters. Pack out all trash and leave your campsite clean for the next visitors. Additionally, remember to respect quiet hours and be mindful of other campers.

Hiking

Popular Trails and Difficulty Levels: Sequoia National Park contains a variety of hiking trails, ranging from easy walks to challenging treks. Popular trails include the Congress Trail, which takes you through the heart of the Giant Forest, and the Lakes Trail, which has outstanding views of alpine lakes and meadows. Be sure to choose a trail that matches your skill level and fitness level, and always check trail conditions before setting out.

Safety Tips and Preparation: Always check the weather forecast and trail conditions before hiking here. Wear sturdy footwear and bring plenty of water, snacks, and sunscreen. Letting someone know your hiking plans and expected return time is also a good idea.

Guided Hikes and Ranger Programs: If you’re looking for a more guided hiking experience, there are ranger-led hikes and programs. These guided hikes provide a deeper look into the park’s history, geology, and wildlife. Ranger programs are available throughout the summer months and cover a variety of topics, so be sure to check the park’s schedule for upcoming programs.

Dining and Lodging

Additionally, after a day of exploring the wonders of the park, you’ll want to relax and refuel. Here are some dining and lodging options to consider:

Lodgepole Visitor Center

Dining Options and Hours: The Lodgepole Visitor Center has a cafeteria-style dining option, serving a variety of hot and cold dishes, snacks, and beverages. The dining area is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with hours varying by season. It’s a convenient spot to grab a bite to eat before or after your adventures in the park.

Gift Shops and Amenities: The Lodgepole Visitor Center also features gift shops where you can purchase souvenirs, books, and other items to remember your visit. Additionally, the visitor center has amenities such as restrooms and water fountains.

Nearby Lodging Options: While there are no lodging options at the Lodgepole Visitor Center itself, there are several nearby options to choose from, including the Wuksachi Lodge and a few different campgrounds. 

Wuksachi Lodge

Accommodation Details and Reservations: The Wuksachi Lodge is the premier lodging option in the park, with comfortable rooms and suites in a phenomenal mountain setting. Reservations are recommended, especially during the peak summer months, and can be made online or by calling the lodge directly.

Dining Experiences: The Wuksachi Lodge features a full-service restaurant serving up delicious meals made with locally sourced ingredients. The restaurant has breakfast, lunch, and dinner options, as well as a full bar with a selection of wines and craft beers.

Special Events and Packages: Throughout the year, the Wuksachi Lodge has special events and packages for guests looking to make their stay even better. These may include guided hikes, photography workshops, or seasonal events. Be sure to check the lodge’s website for upcoming events and packages during your visit.

Final Thoughts

To wrap things up, let’s briefly highlight some of the park’s best attractions and how to plan your trip accordingly.

Summary of Key Attractions and Activities:

  • Stand in awe of the General Sherman Tree, the largest tree on Earth by volume.
  • Climb to the top of Moro Rock for breathtaking views of the Great Western Divide.
  • Drive through the Tunnel Log and witness the sheer size of the giant sequoias.
  • Explore the scenic beauty of Crescent Meadow and encounter its diverse wildlife.
  • Discover off-the-beaten-path gems like Crystal Cave, Tokopah Falls, and the Big Trees Trail.

Final Tips for a Memorable Visit to Sequoia National Park:

  •  Plan your visit during the spring or fall for fewer crowds and milder weather.
  •  Make reservations for camping and tours in advance to secure your spot.
  •  Practice Leave No Trace principles and respect the park’s natural beauty.
  •  Be prepared for changing weather conditions and dress in layers.
  •  Follow all park regulations and stay safe while exploring the wilderness.

Ultimately, Sequoia National Park offers an unforgettable experience with its towering trees, marvelous landscapes, and rich biodiversity. Whether you’re looking for adventure or a moment of tranquility in nature, Sequoia National Park has something for everyone. Plan your trip to this incredible land of giants today! 

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FAQ’s

What is the best part of Sequoia National Park?

My favorite are the towering sequoia trees, such as the General Sherman Tree. Others may enjoy the astonishing vistas from Moro Rock or the peacefulness of Crescent Meadow.

How much time do you need to explore Sequoia National Park?

The amount of time needed to explore Sequoia National Park depends on how much you want to see and do; however a single day can allow you to visit key attractions like the General Sherman Tree and Moro Rock. Having said that, to fully experience the park, you will want at least 2-3 days. That would also allow you to do some hiking and camping.

What is the prime attraction of Sequoia National Park?

The prime attraction of Sequoia National Park is often considered to be the giant sequoia trees. These ancient trees, including the General Sherman Tree, the largest tree on Earth by volume, are a major draw for visitors to the park.

What not to miss in Kings Canyon National Park?

In Kings Canyon National Park, some of the attractions not to miss include the towering granite cliffs of the Kings Canyon, the impressive waterfalls along the Kings River, and the ancient sequoia trees in the Grant Grove area.

What is the most scenic hike in Sequoia National Park?

Popular hikes with fabulous views include the Alta Peak Trail, which provides panoramic views of the Great Western Divide. The Congress Trail, which takes you through the heart of the Giant Forest, is another great option.

Which park is better, Redwood or Sequoia?

Whether Redwood National Park or Sequoia National Park is better depends on what you’re looking for in a park. Redwood National Park is known for its coastal redwood trees and stunning coastline. In contrast, Sequoia National Park is known for its giant sequoia trees and mountainous landscapes

How long does it take to drive through Sequoia National Park?

Driving through Sequoia National Park typically takes 1.5 to 2 hours without stopping. However, to explore the park fully and visit key attractions, plan for at least a whole day or more.

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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