Sequoia National Park is one of the nine national parks in California. The state of California has the most parks and includes some favorites such as Yosemite, Joshua Tree, and Death Valley. Sequoia is home to the world’s largest trees. In fact, the park was built to protect these massive trees that grow at between 5,000 and 8,000 feet in elevation. There are many things to do in Sequoia National Park and you can stay for days. However, you might not have the time so here is how to spend one day at Sequoia National Park.
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Things to Know When Visiting Sequoia National Park
Whether it’s your first visit to the first time in a long while, here are some good things to know when visiting Sequoia National Park.
The park has an entrance fee of $35 for private vehicles. If you’re arriving on foot or by bike it’s $20 per individual. However, if you enjoy going to national parks and plan to go to three or more a year then get the annual National Parks pass for $80.
There are two entrances to park, Ash Mountain in the south and Big Stump in the north which leads you directly into Kings Canyon.
You can purchase food at Grant Grove, Lodgepole, and Cedar Grove visitor centers located inside the park. However, if you want more options, or have dietary restrictions you should bring food with you. There are a few markets on your way into the Ash Mountain entrance. Fill up a cooler and you can even stock up on ice at most the markets. Definitely take some snacks with you but hide any food when you leave your vehicle parked. This is recommended to keep wildlife from trying to get into your car.
There are no gas stations inside the park so fuel up before entering. Gas will be a bit more expensive just outside the entrances so if you can fill up in one of the larger cities before driving in.
Where to Stay
There are a total of 14 campgrounds at Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks. Most are first-come, first-serve but you can book some in advance. If camping isn’t for you there is lodging available just outside the park in Three Rivers or you can opt to stay in the closest “city,” Exeter which is about an hour away from the entrance.
One Day Itinerary for Sequoia National Park
Start your trip by entering through the Ash Mountain entrance. This makes the most sense if you’re coming from anywhere south of Bakersfield or driving in from Las Vegas. However, if you’re coming from Northern California or Reno you may want to enter through the Big Stump entrance.
Take in the View at Moro Rock
If you’re up for a short hike that has killer views then Moro Rock is for you! Take the nearly 400 steps up the granite dome and you’ll be greeted with a breathtaking view of the Great Western Divide and the western half of Sequoia National Park. It is a bit of a steep climb and definitely a workout but completely worth it. It’s about 2-miles from the parking lot and back.
If you’re not much of a hiker but want to would like to do it more check out my hiking tips for beginners.
Drive Through the Tunnel Log
You might see more on foot than from your car but the coolest things to do while driving is going through the Tunnel Log. The Tunnel Log at Sequoia National Park is a fallen sequoia laid on its side. It has a carved out hole that’s large enough to let most private vehicles through. On weekends there may be a line of cars waiting to go through and take photos but if you’re lucky you might have it to yourself for a few minutes.
The Giant Forest – Walk with the Giants
Taking a hike, no matter how long (or short), is a must when visiting the park. There are a couple of shorter trails including Hazelwood Nature Trail which is a 1-mile loop. The trailhead is at Trail Center near Giant Forest Museum. Or you can hike the Big Trees Trail which is a 1.2-mile loop trail loaded at the Giant Forest Museum parking lot. The trail is paved which makes it great for anyone who requires ADA compliant accessibility or if you have a stroller.
Say Hello to the World’s Largest Tree – General Sherman
Did you know that the world’s largest tree is inside the park? Meet General Sherman, a tree so big that your camera can’t even capture it. This is probably the most popular attraction at the park and does draw in crowds. It’s definitely a cool sight to see!
Have a Picnic in the Park
There are plenty of places to have a nice picnic. There are many day-use areas that have picnic tables and benches. I had a picnic by the Marble Fork Kaweah River at the Lodgepole Picnic Area. You’ll turn into the picnic area to park and walk down to the river. It was summer so the water was low and we were able to sit on the rocks. There are plenty of tables and benches where you can sit if you don’t want to walk down to the river. This is also a good place to cool off if it’s a hot day.
The Lodgepole Market & Grill is located nearby but we brought in our own food and stored it in a cooler. Be aware that it’s common to see wildlife while at the park and there are signs on the picnic tables that warn you about bears.
Drive Through Kings Canyon National Park
If you have the time and enjoy a scenic drive you can opt to drive through Kings Canyon National Park and exit though the Big Stump Entrance. This will detour you a bit if you’re heading back south or east but the drive is beautiful. And it was the perfect way to end our one day itinerary for Sequoia National Park.
Sequoia National Park Facts
- Sequoia National Park is actually two parks! Its official name is Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks. The parks were combined in 1940.
- There are 866 miles of trails inside the park! In fact, mart of the famous John Muir Trail (JMT) runs through the park.
- There are 297 native and 20 non-native known wildlife species in the park.
- The park is home to the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states. Standing tall at 14,505 feet (4,421 m) is Mount Whitney on the eastern border of Sequoia National Park and Inyo National Forest. Hiking Mount Whitney is a bucket list item for many hikers that love chasing summits.
There are many things to do at the park and these are just some of the best things to do if you have one day at Sequoia National Park. Enjoy your visit.
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