Sequoia National Park is one of my favorite National Parks. From its tall, majestic trees, to its secret underground caves, and its high lofty mountains, it is a National Park that has almost everything an outdoors aficionado could want. Unfortunately, it is located next to a number of other fantastic National Parks - Kings Canyon, Yosemite, Devil's Postpile; and a number of other great wilderness areas. As such, many people who visit Sequoia have a limited amount of time to see the park before they head onward to their next destination. If you're one of the people who is on the Sierra Nevada park circuit, this list and itinerary is for you; but let me say that if you do have the time, Sequoia is a great spot to spent an extra day or two at. But, without further ado, here's my list of the top five things to do at a day in Sequoia National Park!
1. Visit Hospital Rock. Hospital Rock is located seven miles from the Ash Meadow Visitor Center in the park, right off Highway 189. Assuming you enter the park from this entrance station, you will start your journey through the Foothill area of the park, which features different plants and terrain than the Lodgepole and Giant Forest Areas. Hospital Rock is a great area to see some well-preserved Native American petroglyphs before heading up the General's Highway to see the big trees. Bonus tip: the Ash Meadow Visitor Center is one of the locations in the park where you can purchase tickets for the Crystal Cave tour.
2. Drive through the Tunnel Log. How many chances do you get in life to drive through a tree? Much less a Giant Sequoia?!?!? Even better, there's no reason to feel guilty about driving through this tree - it naturally fell back in 1937. The Tunnel Log is a park icon, and, assuming your car fits, its a great photo opportunity and a good time. The Tunnel Log is located just up the General's Highway from Hospital Rock, and is located in the Giant Forest portion of the park.
3. Climb Moro Rock. In my opinion, if you're not out hiking in Sequoia National Park, you're not truly exploring the park. The best day hike is the hike through the Giant Forest of the park to Moro Rock. The hike allows you to pass underneath many Giant Sequoias, and culminates in a steep climb up the granite side of Moro Rock. From atop Moro Rock, you will be able to see the foothill region of the park and the Central Valley to the West, along with stunning views of the Sierra Nevadas to the East and North. This is a great hike that is accessible to all as it is only four miles roundtrip. The trailhead for the hike is located at the Giant Forest Museum in the Giant Forest portion of the park.
4. Explore the Crystal Cave. One of the little known facts about Sequoia National Park is that if the trees did not exist, the area would be protected because of the massive cave network underneath the ground. While many of these caves are hard to get to, or have yet to be discovered, the crown jewel of the cave system is the Crystal Cave, which is accessible to all. Tours leave on the hour; but as it is a popular item, you will need tickets. Be sure to have your tickets before driving out to the cave; and be sure to be prepared to be amazed by what you will see in the cave. Tickets can be purchased at Ash Meadow Visitor Center (Foothills); or the Lodgepole Visitor Center.
5. See the General Sherman. The General Sherman is the largest tree in the world, and a stunning Giant Sequoia. No visit to the park would be complete without seeing it. From the Giant Forest, the General Sherman is located a short drive up the General's Highway in the Lodgepole Area of the Park.
6. Look for Bears. Sequoia is home to many black bears, which are very active during the summer months. While I can't guarantee any bear sightings, both the Giant Forest area (Moro Rock) and the Lodgepole area (General Sherman) are popular with the bear community. Be sure to obey all park regulations and store your food properly while in the park!
7. Go to Mineral King. Although the road to Mineral King is narrow, and appears somewhat treacherous, this area of the park is remote, and very beautiful. Be warned that this drive takes quite a bit of time due to the road conditions, so if you are heading to this region of the park, be prepared to spend a great deal of your day in this area. However, if you have the time, this area of the park is well worth your time, and a great spot to hike.