Sequoia National Park and The General

NAQBE0369Just getting back from a two week vacation that started off in Sequoia National Park.  Seeing these gigantic trees has been on my bucket list ever since I was a little girl.  I was too busy playing softball to take a trip to a national park like this, however, I don’t regret that at all.  Sequoia National Park was the second established National Park.  The national parks were originally set up to protect certain natural and historic sites across the US.  Sequoia National Park was founded to protect the huge sequoia trees from the logging industry.  You could not imagine how much wood could possibly be processed and manufactured from these enormous trees until you see one up close.  What the logging industry came to find out is that the Sequoia wood splintered to easily and was therefore useless to them as an industry…so it worked out for all parties involved anyway.

IMG_2298I think lots of people skip over this park because you can see sequoia trees in Yosemite National Park.  I’m really glad we made the extra trek further south to see the largest living organism on earth…General Sherman!  Also, Sequoia National Park was infinitely less crowded than Yosemite!  Let me give you some details about these amazing, ginormous trees and then I’ll give you some details on the park and how we planned our trip and what we might have done differently for next time.

Sequoia trees are some of the oldest and largest things living on the earth today.  They can live up to 3,000 years…that’s no small feat!  They can live that long because they are insect resistant, resistant to fungi, drought resistant, and their bark is fire resistant.  The fire thing is what blew my mind…especially as you drive through this area of the country and see that those California wildfires are no joke!  In many of these trees, you can see where they have been burnt…but it’s just the inside…and it doesn’t kill them!  It’s crazy!  If you want more fun facts about sequoia trees check out THIS link.  Sequoia trees are not the tallest, that honor is reserved to Redwoods.  General Sherman, the largest living sequoia by volume, isn’t even as tall as he used to be.  His top got struck by lightning.  However, at the ground, his base is over 100 feet in circumference!  Sequoias only grow in a very, very specific climate.  They only grow in a 260 mile strip, in an elevation between 5,000 and 7,000 feet, on western facing slopes in the Sierra Nevada mountain chain.

photoIMG_4573Now, on to some trip details!  We flew in to San Francisco because San Francisco was our last destination on our little two week hiatus.  It’s a four hour drive from San Francisco to Sequoia National Park.  We chose to stay outside of the park a little ways on this leg of the trip.  We stayed at a Marriott in Visalia, CA because we have hotel points at Marriott and Starwood hotel properties.  For trip planning purposes…Tulare is another bigger city option in this neck of the woods.  It was a beautiful 40 minute drive from our hotel to the park entrance…it would be about 30 minutes from Tulare.  There are lodging and camping options within Sequoia National Park…I’ll link options HERE.  (if you check out this link, make sure to scroll down to the bottom of the page for lodging options that are right outside of the park)  If you plan to camp in the park, there are food options, public shower facilities and laundry facilities, but no gas station….so fill’er up before you enter the park!  Cellular service is also hard to come by inside the park and in the surrounding area…so make sure you have your maps downloaded before you get here.

IMG_4570The shining star at Sequoia National Park is General Sherman and the Giant Forest, but there are plenty of other things to see and tons of trails to hike in this beautiful park!  In one day you could easily at least see most of the well known sites, If you stayed for a couple of days you would definitely be giving yourself plenty of time to go on some beautiful hikes and even go in to Kings Canyon National Park, which is adjacent to Sequoia.  General Sherman is in the Giant Forest part of the park.   There is a large parking lot with restroom facilities at the trailhead.  It’s an easy walk 1/2 mile down in elevation along a paved path to the tree…which means you walk a 1/2 mile up in elevation, which is at roughly 7,000ft high, back to your vehicle!  I’ve never hiked at that elevation before, and even though the path was super easy…my breathing was not!  The area surrounding General Sherman has lots of fun facts, information, history, and it just pretty darn spectacular!  As for other cool sites to see in this national park…Tunnel Rock will be the first thing that you come across after you drive through the entrance, Hospital Rock has ancient Native American pictographs on it, then you start to catch glimpses of Morro Rock…Morro Rock is cool because you can climb on it…something you can’t do at Yosemite on Half Dome, unless you have a permit.  The Giant Forest Museum was definitely worth a visit!  It was super cool how they scaled the giant sequoias to things we see in our everyday life…for example, the base of General Sherman would take up three lanes of highway traffic!!!!  Still blows my mind!  Also in the Giant Forest Museum you can get directions to the Tunnel Tree, which is the only drive through tree in either Sequoia or Yosemite Parks.

We really enjoyed our day in this park!  If we had it to do over here’s a couple of things I might change.  I would probably stay in the park or at least a little closer to it.  You do a lot of driving, the roads are winding…the roads are good, but it’s not a nice leisurely drive, it’s one hairpin turn after another. I know this sounds silly, but it kind of wears you out.  By the time we got to the trailhead for General Sherman, and did the roundtrip hike…we were all ready to basically call it a day because we not only had to get out of the park…we still had our 40 minute drive home…it was just a long day in the car!  So, I would probably stay closer to the park.  I would pack a proper lunch for a picnic.  We had our normal Clif Bars, beef jerky, fruit, and plenty of water, but there were some really lovely picnic areas in the park that probably would have helped break up the day just a little better…plus you know, boys and food…food usually makes them happy!  Lastly, I think I would have liked to have stayed for at least 1, maybe 2 more days to do some hiking and go over to Kings Canyon.  Words, photos, and even videos do not do justice to the beauty and wonder of this park.  I’ll link a couple of videos that helped me prep for this part of our trip HERE and HERE.  I’m by no means a hiking guru, or national parks expert, but I’m happy to share any information that I have, especially if you are looking at planning a trip to Sequoia or Yosemite National Parks.  Happy Exploring!