I have been to Sequoia three times in the last four years. Mary and I went out there in 2008; we also took Athen and Arden in 2009; and this past weekend, I took my Dad. Sequoia is his favorite National Park. He lived in Three Rivers, just below the Park, for a number of years and worked in the Sequoia in various positions as a young man.
One thing I really like about the southern end of Sequoia is that all the major attractions are within 15 minutes of each other if you base out of the Wuksachi Village Hotel. Because of the significant snowfall this winter, much of the Park was still covered with a blanket of snow and many of the trails were completely covered. Here is an agenda you can do in a weekend.
Gaze up at a Giant Sequoia
The whole purpose of Sequoia National Park is to protect and show off the Sequoias. The General Sherman Tree is the largest living thing on earth. Some trees are taller; some are wider; some are older; but, none have more mass. If you just want to see the General, there is a quick and easy path. If you want to walk around the Giant Forest, there are several well paved hikes to see many Sequoias in the Giant Forest. This is, by far, the most popular attraction in the Park and can be very crowded. I really like being there early morning and early evening with good light and less people.
Climb Moro Rock
Moro Rock is a prominent granite dome that you see on the Northern slope as you drive up the General’s Highway into the Park from the south entrance. There are a few pullouts where you can get a good snap shot. The climb up to the top is about a quarter mile and 400+ steps. At 6,725 feet high, it will take your breath away. At the top you will have a view down the valley looking west where you just drove from and towards the east to the Great Western Divide of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. This is a fun trip, but tough photography as there is usually a bunch of haze and smog. I did climb up it at 5:30 AM to watch the sunrise, but was stormed-in and got no color or light to speak of.
Across from the road to Moro Rock and the Giant Forest Museum is a large flat boulder called Beetle Rock. It faces dead west and is a wonderful sunset spot. My dad and I spent two evenings there with some other folks and saw two nice sunsets. Mary and I have very fond memories of Beetle Rock because of the spectacular sunsets we saw there. I highly recommend it.
Walk Around a Meadow
Though the highlight of the Park is the Giant Sequoias, there are several beautiful meadows. Two of the popular ones are Crescent and Round Meadows. They are wide open, usually wet because they collect a lot of water, and are essentially drainage areas. They are usually surrounded by the Sequoias because they like to suck up the water. Lastly, bears like to dig up plants to eat in the meadows, especially in the mornings and right after they get up from hibernation in late April and May.
On our trip to Sequoia with Mary and the girls, we saw seven bears. In this last trip with my father we saw six bears, including three cubs. Having a telephoto lens is essential as you need to keep a hundred yards away, as I learned after a Ranger who yelled at me because I got too close.
Hike to a Waterfall
Just outside of the Lodgepole Visitor center and campground is the Tokopah Falls. It is about a 1.5 mile round trip and the trail moves along the Kaweah River. It can be difficult for photography as the falls are in shadow most of the time and the surrounding area can be quite bright with the sun light bouncing off of the granite walls. However, it is a really beautiful relatively flat and short hike.
Explore a Cave
The Crystal Cave is only open in the summer season. You need to hike down a half mike trail (and hike back up). It is not a terribly large cave system, but is easily accessible and still quite stunning. You need to get tickets early because the tours fill up. Get the tickets at the Foothills Visitor Center at the South Park Entrance or at the Lodgepole Visitor Center.
This short blog does not cover the northern end of the Park that has the Grant Grove of Sequoias and the Kings Canyon.
Sunday morning, my Dad and I awoke to a spring snow storm that had dropped six inches overnight and it was still snowing. It was a heck of a drive down the mountain, but what a great experience to see the Giant Red Sequoias bathed in snow …. unforgettable.