I have lived in California for my entire 27 years, and I have never been proud of my home – until I ventured up to Sequoia National Park on Mother’s Day.
It was so breathtakingly beautiful and life-changing that I bought an annual pass on my way out and have been back three times in the past month.
When people think of California, I’m sure the images of Hollywood, Disneyland, and the beach are the first to come to mind. If someone happens to associate a National Park with our wonderful state, maybe Yosemite is mentioned.
I live a mere 45 miles from the gate at Sequoia National Park, and I am ashamed to say I had never been. It is because of this that I would like to share my journey (so far), and hopefully inspire you to make Sequoia National Park your next vacation destination.
The entrance fee is just $20 and is good for seven days in both Sequoia and Kings Canyon. You can also purchase an annual pass for $30. Here are my favorite parts and experiences of the park:
1. Tunnel Rock: My first stop once I got in the park on my first trip was Tunnel Rock. It was an easy way to get my kids excited about being at a park with no swings or slides! I found a trail leading up to the top of the rock and decided to brave the climb. Once we all got to the top it was an incredible view. Little did I know it was only the beginning of our journey.
2. Hospital Rock: One of the first picnic areas and bathroom stops off the main highway is Hospital Rock.
Native Americans used this area and you can see the beautiful cave art they left behind on a rock just across from the picnic area. My favorite thing to do here is take the trail down to the river.
There is a beautiful spot to relax and have lunch and take in the scenery and sounds of the rushing water.
3. Crystal Cave: There is a visitor center right after the park entrance where you can purchase tickets to Crystal Cave.
The cost is $15 for adults, but only after you listen to a lengthy speech of the risks and requirements for this activity.
It is a 90 minute drive (took me an hour) from the visitor center to the parking area for the cave. The drive on General’s Highway is fine, however once you take the turn-off for the cave, the road gets rough. I do not recommend going in a lowered car, such as I did. I think I must have bottomed out my car a dozen times.
Once you arrive at the parking area, you check in with a park employee. You then make the 15 minute hike down to the cave.
This is the easy part. I recommend wearing pants however – I wore capri leggings and had a fear of touching poison oak!
The walk is about 1/2 mile, and the tour guide informed me it is the equivalent of 30 stories down.
So keep all of this in mind when you have to walk back up on the way out (yes my legs are dying as I type this).
Once you get to the cave entrance, along with the rest of your group, your tour guide leads you in. It is dimly lit, but still very dark. It is not recommended to anyone who is claustrophobic, or has anxiety or heart conditions.
The walk is a 1/2 mile loop through the cave, and lasts about 45 minutes. At one point, our tour guide turned off the lights and we stood in total darkness for a couple minutes.
It was umm, fun. The cave is absolutely beautiful, and its amazing to imagine that it started forming over 1.5 million years ago.
Crescent Meadow: Next to the Giant Forest Museum is a road leading to Moro Rock and Crescent Meadow. Once on that road, follow the signs to get to the meadow.
I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived, and that made it that more spectacular.
The meadow trail is about 1 mile long, and circles around the meadow itself. You can also find more Giant Sequoias, including a fallen one that stretches the entire width of the meadow.
I got the idea to climb the tree and walk across it back to the other side. It might be my favorite photo from the entire day (this was on my third trip).
Moro Rock: Also along the road to Crescent Meadow is Moro Rock.
Here you can climb that massive rock that you’ve been staring at on the drive up. There is almost 400 steps leading to the top, and the climb is grueling.
However once you make it, you will find it is absolutely worth it. You can see all the way into the
Central Valley, after you focus your eyes through the smog.
As a resident it was painful to look at, but tourists enjoyed it. My favorite view was towards the majestic mountain peaks to the East. You can also look out over the Giant Forest and Lake Kaweah.
Giant Forest: The most popular draw for tourists to Sequoia National Park seems to be the giant trees.
The General Sherman tree is the largest living thing by volume on the planet. At over 2,500 years old, it has been around since before the days of Christ. Therefore it is quite majestic to look at.
There isn’t just the General Sherman to look at however, there are thousands of Giant Sequoias. There are several trails that you can venture on to marvel in all their beauty.
Even though I have traveled to the park three times, there is still so much more that I am desperate to explore.
Kings Canyon National Park is attached to Sequoia, and I am anxious to start exploring that as well. I hope you will return to read about Part Two of my journey soon.
What are you favorite places you’ve traveled to?