Road Trip: Sequoia National Park, CA

Kicking off the summer, my siblings Sean, Steve and I decided to hit up the Sequoia National Park to check out gigantic trees. Husband Matt had to work, so he was unable to join us this trip. I rented a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom house through Airbnb and we made our way up to Three Rivers, CA. The drive took about 3.5 hours from Los Angeles so it wasn't so bad compared to our drive to the Grand Canyon National Park a few months prior. Visiting National Parks is definitely becoming one of my favorite things to do as it's a way to enjoy the outdoors. Here are some helpful travel tips if you plan to make a trek out to Sequoia National Park. 

Plan Ahead:

Sequoia National Park attracts large crowds, especially during peak seasons. Book accommodations and permits well in advance to ensure availability.

Navigation Pro tip: 

Download a GPS-based map app as reception can be spotty once in the park. 

Explore Giant Sequoias:

Marvel at the park's iconic giant sequoia trees, including the famous General Sherman Tree and the Giant Forest.

Hit the Trails:

Lace up your hiking boots and explore the park's extensive network of trails, ranging from easy strolls to challenging backcountry treks.

Consider Shuttle Services:

Utilize the park's shuttle system to access popular trailheads and viewpoints, reducing traffic congestion and environmental impact.

Be Bear Aware:

Practice proper food storage and bear safety techniques to protect both wildlife and yourself during your visit.

Pack Accordingly:

Prepare for varying weather conditions by bringing layers, sunscreen, plenty of water, and sturdy footwear for hiking.

Visit Crystal Cave:

Explore the stunning underground world of Crystal Cave with a guided tour, available seasonally.

Engage with Rangers:

Attend ranger-led programs, talks, and walks to gain insights into the park's ecology, geology, and history.

Enjoy Scenic Drives:

Take a leisurely drive along the Generals Highway or the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway for breathtaking views of the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Respect the Wilderness:

Follow Leave No Trace principles, stay on designated trails, and leave the park as pristine as you found it for future generations to enjoy.

Trip Recap

One of the highlights of the trip was seeing the General Sherman tree, the largest in the world (by volume). It stands 275 feet (83 m) tall, and is over 36 feet (11 m) in diameter at the base. Sequoia trunks remain wide high up. Sixty feet above the base, the Sherman Tree is 17.5 feet (5.3 m) in diameter. We looked so tiny in front of it. 

Before reaching Three Rivers, CA, we decided to make a pit stop in Bakersfield, CA to check out the 24th Street Cafe, home to the best Texas chili in town. The cafe was also featured on Diner's, Drive-Ins, and Dives

On the menu, you can see Guy Fieri's signature and face. 

Upon arrival, we were immediately seated and service was so fast.  

I ordered biscuits and gravy and it was delicious! The bread was light and fluffy while the country gravy was not too salty. Can't wait to go back. 

For breakfast, I had the chorizo scramble with hash browns. It was a bit spicy and I should have asked for tortillas but needless to say, I gobbled it up.

As soon as we reached Three Rivers, CA we felt the sweltering heat as it was 108 degrees! Luckily, we ran into our Airbnb host, who let us check-in early, and she cranked up the A/C. 

Day 2 of the trip consisted of entering Sequoia National Park, where thankfully it was a cool 80 degrees in the park, thanks to the trees. We stopped at a lookout point called, "Amphitheater Point."  

Then, we drove to the Sherman Tree Trail excited to see the largest tree in the world. The drive through the Sequoias was like driving through a different world where we were surrounded by the sights and smells of the forest. I felt like we were in an amusement park but it was 100x better here. 

What we learned at the park: 

"Sequoia and Kings Canyon are two national parks that share the dramatic landscape of the southern Sierra Nevada - huge sequoias, deep canyons, and the towering High Sierra. They also share a vital mission: To protect and provide for enjoyment of these places in ways that preserve them for future generations. 

In addition to their famous features, these parks protect a wealth of other gems. Explore their diverse foothills, marble caverns, and mixed-conifer forests. Learn from American Indian sites, historic logging areas, and the earliest efforts to preserve national parks." 

We loved walking along the Sherman Tree Trail. Heads up, while heading to the General Sherman tree, it's all downhill and with the the altitude, you will be panting and taking deep breaths so take your time. 

Trees towered over us as we heard the sounds of birds, felt the wind, and passed other nature lovers along the way. What surprised me the most was how many people hiked alone. We saw a girl in her 30s, and an older gentleman clearly in his late 70s or even early 80s. We ran into them multiple times throughout the park. 

Pictured below, my bro Sean saw a hornet's nest. I told him not to get too close. 

Below is a cross-section of a tree. We learned you can see the history of the tree through its many layers. You can even see scarring on the rings. 

We took photos of the General Sherman Tree from various angles. 

Showing the scale and size of the trees, we took photos inside a section. 

Remind me never to wear this outfit ever again. LOL! I thought the matching workout gear would look cute but now I realize it looks like a Halloween costume. 

A nice reminder to slow down and enjoy yourself. The sign below says, "The air is thin here at 7,000 feet. Take your time and enjoy the views as you climb back up the trail to the parking lot." 

Based on my Apple Watch stats below, we hiked 1.79 miles for almost an hour with an elevation gain of 307 feet. Hiking in the mountains has always been tough for me. 

Without a doubt, we were winded and out of breath due to the altitude so we took many breaks during our two trails. We heard a middle aged couple say they would sit on every bench along the way back to the car. 

We wanted to see a waterfall so we hiked the Tokopah Valley Trail. Unfortunately, due to the very dry season, the waterfall was more of a stream trickling down the rocks. It reminded me of Najoqui Falls during our Solvang, CA trip where the lack of rain meant we saw a stream of water come down. Nevertheless, it was an amazing journey and made me feel like I was in Lord of the Rings. 

My youngest bro, Steven led the way on the hike as he visited this place back in March. 

One of my favorite views of the park was the grass, trees and mountains paired with bright blue skies. 

I finally tested out one of my hiking sticks and it came in so handy as I climbed up so many rocks and it provided great support on the way down. 

Loved feeling the cold water. We saw people swimming, which must have been a great respite from the heat. 

We heard people screaming as they tried to scare a baby bear away. Steven said he saw it take a dip in the water and then climbed its way up the mountain. Unfortunately, I didn't get to see the cub but it was probably good that I didn't. Not sure I want to be around the cub's mama bear.

I’m proud of the stats above because it shows how far we hiked and how there was an elevation gain of 537 ft. All together we hiked 7 miles (16,278 steps), on our Sequoia trip. Our legs were definitely sore the next day.

Once back at the Airbnb, we enjoyed the hammock we set up in the backyard. 

Before checking out, we spotted a skinny deer. It was fitting since the Airbnb is called, "Deer Ridge."

Saw this mug at the rental and loved the quote so I snapped a photo of it. Overall, the trip was great, the hikes were strenuous and tiring as we weren't used to the altitude. Sean and I fell way behind and took so many breaks. Steven powered through as it was his second time on the Tokopah Falls Trail. The heat definitely played a role in slowing us down so we all agreed to return to this national park when the weather isn't so damn hot. 


Things we missed and need to go back to see: 

Giant Forest Museum - Would love to spend a few more days visiting the park taking our time to learn more about the Sequoias and the giant forest.

Tunnel Log - Short on time, we didn't have a chance to check out the Tunnel Log and drive my car through while snapping a photo. 

Crystal Cave Tour - Post mortem learnings: I totally should have reserved tour tickets far in advance as they were all sold out during our trip. 

Moro Rock - Definitely want to go back and hike this trail but it was just not feasible with the heat during our trip. 

Kings Canyon Overlook - Definitely need to go back and make our way farther north. 

General Grant Visitor Center - I typically like to stop by visitor centers at National Parks to pick up a souvenir or two. I need to go back and actually check this one out. Luckily, I picked up a magnet once back in Three Rivers, CA from the Totem Market & Gifts store. 

General Grant Tree - Since we already saw the General Sherman tree, and the General Grant tree was farther into the park and we were exhausted after two hikes, so we vouched to come back and check this one out. 

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