I live fairly close to Sequoia National Park and frequently go visit for day trips.
The Sierra Nevadas are home to Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the continental United States. They include stunning views, such as the ones found in Yosemite, Kings, and Sequoia National Parks. Sequoia National Park is home to the General Sherman, the largest tree in the world. Unfortunately, Sequoia National Park is overshadowed by Yosemite, which is a few hours up the road.
For those of you interested in traveling to the Sequoias, I recommend making Visalia your pit stop. From there, you can rent a car, take a shuttle, and find great accommodation! Seriously, it’s the best place to stay, you don’t want to stay in Three Rivers. Three Rivers is kind of small and sketchy. Stay in Visalia.Where to stay: Hampton Inn Visalia
I recommend renting a car to explore Sequoia National Park. It’s the most efficient way to see the park, in my opinion. Another option is to take a shuttle that runs from the Visalia train station. It will drop you off inside the park where you can take another shuttle to the major sites.
I have a national parks pass and am able to get in to the park for free, which is a definite bonus! If you are visiting multiple national parks, I suggest investing in one.
The first stop of the day should be the visitor’s center. Despite living in the area, I have only actually visited the visitor’s center once. Ironic, isn’t it? It was neat to check out, and then afterwards, it’s a quick drive to get to Moro Rock, the granite behemoth that somebody thought would be fun to climb. It actually is climbable and has stairs leading up to the top. It might seem like a bit of a hike, but if you’re physically able to, I highly recommend it. There were even a few older women making the trek and if they can do it, I’m sure you can.
Be sure to watch the weather and dress appropriately. The last time I visited, I wore jeans because it was supposed to be in the 70s. I regretted wearing jeans so much by the end of the day. It was warm, at least 85 degrees. And for some reason, I left my water bottle in the car. BAD IDEA. Don’t be like me; bring your water. When I finally made it up to the top, I was shocked at how beautiful the Sierra Nevadas were. The smog that usually plagues the valley will sometimes hide the mountains from us. Now, I had front row seats to the beauty of nature.
The museum is also pretty nice to visit. I had never been to the museum before, so I parked in a parking lot to walk to the museum down the bluff. I decided to take the scenic route so my boyfriend and I could enjoy looking at the scenery. We soon learned that there wasn’t a museum on that side of the road. It was back where we had parked. Nevertheless, we enjoyed the scenery that we found. It goes to show how getting lost can sometimes yield the greatest results.
Despite the little detour, we finally arrived at the museum. It was small, but very informative. We knew our next stop was going to be the General Sherman Tree and I was excited to see it again. On our way, we saw a bear walking through a meadow so I slowed down so we could take pictures. It was so cool to see one up close. It was also very cool to see one from the comfort of a car in case it decided to charge. Me vs. bear would not have ended up well.
We finally reached the General Sherman, or at least the parking to see the tree. It turns out that we had to hike down a pathway to get to the tree. The descent was fine but climbing back up was no easy feat. The altitude is several thousand feet above sea level, so even minute activities can make you feel out of shape. I did make one very insightful discovery though. If you want to take a picture of something very tall (e.g. a tree or skyscraper) put your phone on panorama mode and take a panorama horizontally. It will let you capture the entire subject in just one picture! That’s the key to taking a picture of the entire General Sherman – take a panorama!
By this point, it was getting late, so we decided to head for home. We stopped at Reimer’s Candy and Gifts, the best ice cream known to mankind. Reimer’s is a candy shop, ice cream shop, and Christmas shop. If you go to the Sequoias, you have to stop at Reimer’s. The Christmas shop is only open on weekends but the ice cream will give you so much life.
It’s a shame that Sequoia National Park is overlooked in lieu of larger California parks. Sequoia has its own treasure trove of natural beauty that can take days to explore. Your time there can be as long or short as you want, depending how much time you want to spend there. I can’t recommend it enough!
Author: I’m Marisa, a broadcast journalism student at Pepperdine University. When I’m not busy documenting the dramatic sunsets over the beaches of Malibu, I can be found dedicating myself to the sisterhood of Kappa Alpha Theta sorority or reporting the news on NewsWaves32. I love traveling and have currently visited all 50 states in the U.S.A. and 35 foreign countries, although I’ll always call California my home.