Sequoia National Park covers over 400,000 acres and nearly half of that includes old-growth forests. The park supports several ecosystems due to the variation in elevation from the foothills to the mountains. Most of the park is wilderness and is not accessible by roads. In fact, 84% of the park has to be explored on horseback or on foot.
The foothills are ideal for nature lovers as there is an abundance of wildlife living there such as mule deer, mountain lions, squirrels, bobcats, and rattlesnakes. The river valleys are lush, and many plant varieties flourish there. At higher elevations, the landscape becomes forested and is populated pine, fir, and sequoia trees.
In addition to glimpsing an amazing variety of mammals and birds, Sequoia National Park is also home to many caves, including Lilburn Cave, which is the longest cave in California. In all, there are 240 known caves in the park and more are being discovered each year. Some other notable points of interest in Sequoia National Park include the tunnel log, which is a tunnel carved from a fallen giant sequoia tree, and Tokopah Falls, a 1200 foot waterfall. Moro Rock is a giant dome in the heart of the park that visitors can climb to the summit. A stairway was cut into the rock in the 1930s and is now listed in the Register of Historic Places. The view from the top of Moro Rock is breathtaking, as it spans an amazing vista that encompasses most of the park below it.
Congress established Sequoia National Park in 1890 and it is the second oldest national park in America. The park is open 24 hours daily, every day of the year. There are four distinct seasons with summer being one of the busiest times. Around mid-September, the weather gets chilly and occasional snows start to fall. The trees take on beautiful colors and make for spectacular scenery. The snow falls steadily in the higher elevations from November through April and snow activities become popular. When blanketed under snow, the park offers solitude and beautiful winter scenery. Spring comes early in the foothills, and as it comes into full bloom, the wildflowers become abundant.
Camping is available at various locations throughout the park. For those who only want to drive through, there are scenic routes to follow with designated viewpoints that thrill visitors with valleys bursting with color in the spring and fall months, lush green mountain views in the summer, and peaceful snow covered vistas in the winter.
Great Attractions at Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park is completely dedicated to the trees. The mammoth sequoia redwoods are the largest and most impressive trees in the world. Many of the trees are centuries old and part of a forest landscape that is not matched anywhere in the world. While the park offers many human conveniences including road access to some areas, the bulk of the park is best enjoyed by hikers and horseback riders.
It is not often that a single tree is considered an attraction. But then no tree matches the General Sherman. The sheer volume of the tree makes it the largest single stem tree in the world. This tree was already several centuries old during biblical times. Discovered by a soldier who had served with William Tecumseh Sherman during the American Civil War, the tree stands roughly 275 feet (84 meters) above the ground. Visitors can drive to the tree's location.
Along with big trees, Sequoia National Park contains some big mountains. Mount Whitney stands tallest among all the peaks in the lower 48 states at a majestic 14,505 feet (4,421meters). Adventurous hikers utilize the Jon Muir Trail or the Mount Whitney Trail to reach the peak of the mountain. Climbers are required to have a permit from the National Forest Service before attempting the trip.
The visitor's center houses exhibits about the park and trees and is located at the Ash Mountain entrance to the park. Another museum of interest is the Giant Forest Museum located at the Giant Forest Grove. This includes information particular to the giant sequoia ecosystem and serves as an information center for the trails and trees of the area.
King Canyon National Park
Kings Canyon is technically a separate park although it is located adjacent to Sequoia National Park. Kings Canyon also includes the giant sequoia trees and is home to General Grant Grove. This group of trees features a tree named General Grant. Even though the real General Grant commanded the real General Sherman, in the sequoia world General Grant is the second largest tree and slightly smaller than General Sherman. For fans of the confederacy, the General Grant Grove also contains a tree named Robert E. Lee although it is considerably smaller.
A number of caves are located within Sequoia National Park. Most are not open for exploration by visitors. The exception is Crystal Cave where a concessionaire provides tours.
Getting to Sequoia National Park
The best way to get to Sequoia National Park in California is to drive there. Sequoia National Park is actually bordered by Kings Canyon National Park to the north, and Sierra National Forest and Yosemtie National Park are also located nearby. Anyone driving to Sequoia National Park should head towards Fresno, which is the largest city near the park.
California State Route 99 and Interstate 5 are two major highways that conveniently run through the west side of Sequoia National Park. Interstate 5 can be used by visitors driving from anywhere between San Diego, California and Seattle, Washington. I-5 also runs through California's major cities including Sacramento and Los Angeles, and the San Francisco Bay Area. Running for nearly 900 miles, California State Route 99 is an alternate route that can be used by anyone from the state.
From Fresno, drivers need to head eastward on California State Route 180, which leads to the northwestern entrance of Sequoia National Park. California State Route 198 near the city of Visalia can be used to enter the southern part of the national park. Inside Sequoia National Park Route 180 and Route 198 merge together into the Generals Highway. The first stop at the park should be the Foothills Visitor Center, which provides official information and other directions for visitors.
Another way to reach Sequoia National Park is to take an Amtrak train to the Sante Fe Passenger Depot in Fresno, California. This station is served by the Amtrak San Joaquin line, which runs between Bakersfield, California, and Oakland, California. This Amtrak service also stops at at Sacramento. Transfers to other Amtrak lines such as Coast Starlight and California Zephyr can be made through the San Joaquin line. From the Fresno train station, visitors can either rent a car from a local company or use private taxi services. There are several car rental facilities available in Downtown Fresno near the Santa Fe Passenger Depot station.
Tourists can also take a flight to the Fresno Yosemite International Airport, which offers connections to major destinations throughout the west and southwest regions of the United States. FYI Airport has several on site car rental companies that offer a smooth transition between the airport and Sequoia National Park. Visitors can use local Fresno taxis and shuttle services for transportation between Sequoia National Park and the city's hotels. Such a transportation plan obviously requires that tourists do not camp overnight at the national park.
Sequoia National Park Shopping
Wuksachi Lodge Gift Shop
Bring home memories of your trip to the Sequoia National Park with souvenirs from the Wuksachi Lodge Gift Shop. This fine gift store specializes in Native American themed gifts for the whole family. Browse through a wide selection of apparel, local handcrafted goods, toys, postcards, coffee mugs and magnets. This store is open year-round, enabling visitors from around the world to shop for special Sequoia gifts whenever they choose to visit the National Park.
Alta Market and Ski Shop
The Alta Market and Ski Shop is known as one of the area's top stores for winter season apparel. This popular outfitter carries everything from cross-country skis to water-proof jackets for a comfortable day on the slopes. Purchase all of the supplies that you will need to fully enjoy your ski vacation. In addition to purchases, the Alta Market and Ski Shop also carries ski and snowshoe rentals in sizes for both adults and children.
Lodgepole Market, Deli and Gift Shop
The Lodgepole Market, Deli and Gift Shop truly carries everything that you could possibly need during your trip to the Sequoia National Park. Find grocery supplies for preparing a home-cooked meal, snacks and deli sandwiches for a quick bite to eat, outdoor rentals and equipment for purchase and souvenirs to remember your time at the Sequoia National Park.
Sequoia Gifts and Souvenirs
Just outside of Sequoia National Park is the Sequoia Gifts and Souvenirs shop. Because this store is located directly outside of the park, visitors will find amazing bargains on fun gifts and souvenirs. Bear-themed items are one of the top sellers at this gift shop. Other popular merchandise that can be found for sale at Sequoia Gifts and Souvenirs include t-shirts, artwork, wooden boxes with hand-painted designs, wind chimes, and cards. Also fine unique hand-crafted jewelry from the Sequoia people.
Reimer's Candy, Gifts, and Ice Cream
Those with a sweet tooth will want to make a stop at Reimer's Candy, Gifts, and Ice Cream. Located just south of the Sequoia National Park, Reimer's offers a huge choice of sweets for any candy lover. This family-owned business was built from the ground up and continues to be a popular shop in the area among tourists and locals. Stock up on candies for the car ride through the National Park and don't forget to try their ice cream, available in lots of different and delicious flavors.
Anyone who loves jazz music will want to make sure that Jazzaffair is on the calendar this year. Musicians perform in four different performance venues, all of which offer food and beverages throughout the festival. Tickets include access to all of the venues as well as shuttle service between venues and on site parking for motor homes.
Hidden Gardens of Three Rivers Tour
Enjoy six beautiful gardens in the Sierra Nevada foothills during the Hidden Gardens of Three Rivers Tour. This self-guided tour includes local cuisine samples, art demonstrations from local artisans, and music. Meet former Master Gardener Society Executive Members and well known local gardeners. All of the tour proceeds go forward to the Three Rivers Union School.
Family Picnic with Bathtub Race
One of the best ways to support charity around Sequoia National Park is to participate in the Family Picnic with Bathtub Race at Lake Kaweah. This is a gorgeous area to enjoy a picnic while viewing white sand, verdant hills, stunning wildflowers, granite boulders, and snow on the mountains. When you've finished eating, you and your team will work to convert a cast iron bathtub into a navigable "boat" that will float across the Kaweah Recreation Area lagoon. All of the team fees and donations received during the event go toward local charity.
Annual Redbud Arts and Crafts Festival
Are you looking for opportunities to support handmade artisans? You won't want to miss the Annual Redbud Arts and Crafts Festival. More than 50 artisans participate every year. In addition to a wide variety of handmade wares for sale, the event includes local musicians and foods. As the festival is well attended by the Three Rivers population and other local community populations, this is a great chance to network. Proceeds from the Redbud Festival go toward Arts Alliance of Three Rivers activities and the Lorraine Young Memorial Scholarship Fund.
In Three Rivers, restaurants, artisans, and vendors have a town wide celebration on the first Saturday of each month. Festivities and promotions take place throughout the afternoon and early evening. Each month has a different theme for the decor, artwork, and food. For example, a fall theme might be oak trees. During 1st Saturday, some local artists choose to open their studios to the public for the day. This is a unique opportunity to get some insight into the minds, lives, and works of artists. Every month is different, which makes it well worth it to participate multiple times.
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