Visiting Sequoia National Park

These are the things you must see if you’re planning a trip to Sequoia NP

Visiting Sequoia National Park
One of my favorite viewpoints in the park along Generals Highway — ©Donetta Dalman

We recently took a road trip through the state of California so that we could visit several National Parks. As we travel around the country, exploring nature and seeing wildlife are our favorite things to do so seeing these parks has been a bucket list item for me.

They did not disappoint!

Sequoia National Park wasn’t even really the main park on my radar when I started mapping out a plan for the road trip through California but in some ways it ended up being my favorite one of all the ones we visited on this trip. (I’ll share about the others soon too!)

The views were just incredible everywhere we looked. Even just driving to the park offered some beautiful sights to see — and of course we always have to get the touristy photo at the sign. ;)

But for those who are looking for somewhat of a guide to let you know what to see and do while you’re visiting the park, I thought I’d share my top tips and places to see so you can get all the highlights of the park included in your day.

We got to the park early and spent the whole day just driving around and looking at things so this can be done in one day. If you have more time you’ll be able to do even more and you can choose to go on some hikes and really explore further.

We entered through the Ash Mountain entrance and drove in from the southwest on highway 198 so these are basically in the order we did them based on that. Because of the time of year we were there (and a lot of the park being up high in the mountains) some of it was still closed off for the winter so not everything was open to us. The Moro Loop/Crescent Meadow Road was closed when we were near there in the morning but we got SUPER lucky and when we came back by later in the day it had opened for the season! If you are going through the park and not leaving the same way you came in, you’ll want to do these in a slightly different order. :)

With that being said, here are my top things to see in the park…

Foothills Visitor Center

I’m going to include this as the first place to see but we actually didn’t get to see it until the end of the day. We arrived too early in the park and it wasn’t open yet. They have a little souvenir shop, restrooms, and some displays about the area for you to look at. I always enjoy visitor centers because they each usually have interesting facts about the park and you can learn some cool stuff in them. :)

Tunnel Rock

Next you’ll come across this rock. It used to be a tunnel in the road but now it’s just a walking path under it and the road is to the side. It’s fun to get out and walk around the area, walk through the tunnel, and check out the sign that gives all the info about how it was made.

Giant Forest Museum

This is pretty much just like a visitor center. They had some super cool displays that show how big these trees truly are and it’s pretty mind blowing! They have some souvenirs available and you can get your passport book stamped here too. Also out front is Sentinel — one of the larger trees in the park.

Big Trees Trail

This is a really nice walking path going through the woods and a nearby meadow where you can see some of the huge Sequoias. There are some that have fallen so you can see how massive the base of the tree is and see the root system as well. It’s a .7 mile loop and you can start from the Big Tree Museum or the parking lot across from the museum.

Sherman Tree Trail and General Sherman Tree

This trail is a nice hike and has some great views of the trees — including General Sherman Tree of course. It’s not flat and has some steep spots as well as quite a few steps so be prepared for that. There is a parking lot in a different area if you have a handicap tag for your car and need an accessible path.

The General Sherman Tree is the biggest tree on Earth by volume so it’s quite a sight to see! It’s fenced off to protect it but there is a loop that goes around the whole tree so you can see it from every angle.

If you have more time or you’re visiting the park for multiple days, the Congress Trail splits off from the Sherman Tree Trail and you can head further into the Giant Forest to see even more of the notable trees in the area.

Lodgepole Visitor Center

This was by far the busiest visitor center in the park and it was tough to find a space to park! Once I got inside to check it out I could see why.

Not only was this a place that had information about the park and ways to learn more about the trees, it was also a market where you could get a huge variety of things from groceries to souvenirs to camping items. Plus there were some food places inside as well. So for anyone who spends a few days here — especially camping inside the park — this can be a place where you can stock up on any supplies you might need or grab a bite to eat if you’re hungry. And then you can also grab some souvenirs if you wish. ;) I didn’t even think to take pics of this area so nothing to show you from here. :P

Generals Highway

Driving the Generals Highway from the Lodgepole Visitor Center toward the north entrance of Sequoia National Park is a beautiful scenic drive. It goes further up into the mountains and gives some breathtaking views! There are some pull off areas along the route so you can easily get out and enjoy the view and snap some photos.

We had originally planned to continue on through the park this way and exit through the north entrance but we were told by one of the girls in the visitor center that it wasn’t a good road and it wasn’t a good idea to drive all the way through. We later found out that it actually is a pretty decent road and we could have gone all the way through. I’m not sure if she misunderstood where we were headed or just had bad information but from what others told us after the fact, that road is fine. If you do decide to travel on through, just check to make sure the road is open and safe to drive.

Moro Rock Loop/Crescent Meadow Road

The good thing about being told that we shouldn’t continue along the Generals Highway was the fact that we went back through the park the same way we came in and when we got back to Crescent Meadow Road it was OPEN! At least to Moro Rock Loop anyway. This road is closed during the winter and opens sometime in May based on weather/snow in the area. Well we got extremely lucky and they opened it up the day we were there! This ended up being one of our favorite areas of the whole park.

This road branches off from the main road (Generals Highway) right next to the Giant Forest Museum. The road is a very narrow and winding road but it’s totally worth the drive. Once you get down near Moro Rock you get more amazing views of the mountains plus Moro Rock itself is a pretty amazing sight to behold!

If you’re feeling strong and adventurous, you can climb to the top of Moro Rock. There are steps that go to the top and while I had absolutely no desire to do that whatsoever, it was cool to see others doing it! lol!

You will find Tunnel Log down in this area as well. Not going to lie, this area was a bit of a mess as there was a whole line of cars going around the loop to drive through the log and each one was stopping to take pictures as they drove through. People seemed to be having fun with it though so whatever floats your boat. haha! We opted to park further uphill from it and just walk down to see the area and not get into all that traffic. (We even got lucky and got a pic in between cars so that it looks like the area was empty!)

We walked around this area a bit and came across quite a few amazing things in addition to all the huge trees — a tree that had fallen and broken into pieces so you could step inside and see how massive it was, another huge tree that had fallen with the base still intact and standing, and we also saw quite a few deer just strolling around the area and checking out all the people while they grazed. It was a great area for us to end our day and feel like we saw some amazing things.

As I mentioned earlier, there are some parts of the park that are closed during the winter and that can stretch well into May because of it being up in the mountains. Several of the areas/roads were still closed when we visited so we weren’t able to go into each area of the park. If you visit later in the summer you’ll be able to add even more things to your agenda if you wish.

If you enjoy hiking there are tons of hiking trails available throughout the park so you could spend days here and do tons of things and still not see it all. But if you just have a day or two and you want to drive through and see the highlights of the park, this list will help you do that. :)

One day I want to go back and spend several days here and hike some of those trails. We have visited 30 of the 63 official National Parks so far and I would say this park is in my top 10 for sure and maybe even closer to top 5. It’s truly a beautiful place and seeing these trees is something you just can’t imagine until you’ve been there in person.

Have you been to Sequoia? What was your favorite part?

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