The Giant Forest area of Sequoia National Park is 20 miles from Three Rivers, takes only about an hour’s travel time, and is consistently 20 degrees or more cooler. It’s definitely the place to spend a hot, sweltering summer day.
It’s also an excellent destination for an outing during the Fourth of July holiday weekend. Short of traveling 2,700 miles east to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., in Giant Forest one can stand among ancient, giant monuments dedicated to the nation’s Founding Fathers and other patriots.
The Congress Trail, which pays tribute to the executive and legislative branches of U.S. government, is accessible from the General Sherman Tree area in the Giant Forest Grove of giant sequoias. The trail also may be reached within a couple miles of scenic, relatively easy hiking from the Crescent Meadow parking lot. There is a vast network of trails crisscrossing the Giant Forest plateau so it is possible to travel from and back to your starting point without traveling on the same path twice. Another option is to hike one way, then hop on a free park shuttle for the return trip.
The trees in the grove named for early-day presidents are Washington (1st president), Lincoln (16th), Cleveland (22nd and 24th), McKinley (25th), Roosevelt (26th) and The President (for Warren Harding, 29th) and, unofficially (and unmarked), Adams (John Adams, 2nd; and/or John Quincy Adams, 6th), and Monroe (5th). There is also the Congress Group, located along the paved Congress Trail loop, which includes the House and Senate clusters of Big Trees.
There are dozens of other awe-inspiring giant sequoias to visit in this vicinity; several lush, green, wildflower-filled meadows; fern-lined trails, wildlife, including bears with cubs, deer, and a plethora of hardworking squirrels and chipmunks; birds, often unseen but always filling the forest with beautiful music; tunnels through logs and trees; and three historic cabins. But here’s the topper: the lavender lupine will be at peak bloom this holiday weekend, making the already spectacular scenery absolutely unforgettable.