What to see in Sequoia whether walking or driving…
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are 95 percent wilderness, meaning there are more trees and trails than roads and buildings. In total, there are more than 800 miles of trails within the boundaries of these side-by-side parks. Here are some day hikes of varying lengths and difficulty (late spring to late fall; not accessible without skis or snowshoes when there’s a snowpack).
SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK
Wuksachi Lodge to Cahoon Meadow /Twin Lakes
Park in the park back parking lot at Wuksachi Lodge by the trailhead. It’s 3.8 miles with a couple creek crossings but not much elevation gain to reach Cahoon Meadow, a peaceful alpine grassland. It will take a little more time and climbing to reach Twin Lakes (7.2 miles), located just beneath Mount Silliman (the prominent mountain that towers above Wuksachi Lodge). Moderate-Strenuous (depending on distance).
General Sherman Tree to Congress Trail Loop
The Congress Trail can be hiked as a loop and is about 2 miles in length. You’ll get the best bang for your buck on this trail if it’s giant sequoias you want to see. There are The House, The Senate, and The President trees, and so, so many more. There will be wildflowers and, hopefully, a bear sighting. There are many trail options that lead from this trail to make the hike as long and adventurous as you like. Heck, you could hike to Mount Whitney from here — the highest mountain in the contiguous 48 — without ever leaving Sequoia or crossing a road! Easy to moderate (or difficult if you go all the way to Whitney).
Round Meadow Loop
Near the Giant Forest Museum, this trail is a one-mile loop around an open meadow surrounded by Big Trees. Easy.
Crescent Meadow Loop
John Muir called Crescent Meadow the “gem of the Sierra.” This two-mile loop trail starts at the end of the Crescent Meadow/Moro Rock Road, and passes beneath some beautiful giant sequoia specimens as well as Tharp’s Log, which is a downed sequoia that was used as a summer home ca. 1856 by Hale Tharp, the first non-indigenous settler to explore the Giant Forest. Easy.
Lodgepole Campground to Tokopah Falls
A 3.5-mile, out-and-back trail that parallels the Marble Fork of the Kaweah River and ends at a waterfall.This is a good hike to try if you want to see a bear. Moderate. Little Baldy Near the north boundary of Sequoia National Park, this hike provides the most scenic reward for the effort expended. There is trailhead parking along the Generals Highway that provides easy access to the 3.5-mile, out-and-back trail. Moderate.
Wolverton to Pear Lake
This 13-mile, out-and-back trail travels past Heather, Aster, and Emerald lakes before reaching Pear Lake (9,200 feet elevation), which is tucked beneath the east slope of Alta Peak (the main mountain seen up-canyon from Three Rivers). This is a rewarding hike that also takes trekkers along the Watchtower for spectacular and sheer vertical views of the Marble Fork canyon 2,000 feet below. Strenuous.
Wolverton to Alta Peak
A 15-mile roundtrip to the summit of Alta Peak (11,204 feet elevation) offers a challenging dayhike. The scenic trail climbs out of the forest at Panther Gap, then contours the ridgeline above the Kaweah River’s Middle Fork canyon. There is a 2-mile steep climb above treeline to conclude the trek to the summit. Strenuous.
It is recommended that while in Sequoia, you visit Moro Rock, Crescent Meadow, the Sherman Tree and, if time allows, Crystal Cave (Open May to October).
Moro Rock and Crescent Meadow
From Giant Forest Museum, the base of Moro Rock is a 1.5-mile drive. From the parking lot it’s only 400 more dizzying steps (about a quarter mile) to the summit of the monolith. On the clearest of days, those who make this trek will be rewarded with views of the highest peaks of the Sierra’s Great Western Divide to the east and, looking west, the Central Valley and the Coast Ranges. Crescent Meadow has a picnic area, is the trailhead for the famous High Sierra Trail, and is surrounded by beautiful giant sequoias that are accessed by a network of trails.
General Sherman Tree
From Wuksachi Lodge, head south (left) 2.5 miles on the Generals Highway. Turn left (east) on Wolverton Road. Follow the signs to the Sherman Tree. The road ends at the parking lot. The Sherman Tree, the largest tree on the planet, is accessed via a half-mile trail. It is all downhill to reach the tree, but what goes down must come up. There are benches along the way for resting. For those with a disability placard, there is parking along the Generals Highway with an all-access trail to the tree.
The Crystal Cave Road junction is 2 miles below the Giant Forest Museum. From here, it is 6.5 miles to the parking lot, then a half-mile trail to the cave. Sequoia has a large network of marble caverns, and Crystal Cave is the only one open to the public. Guided tours of this underground wonderland are offered several times per day during the summer. Tickets are not available at the cave; purchase in advance at Lodgepole or Foothills Visitor Center. Bring a jacket; although it might be sunny and warm outside, the cave’s temperature is a consistent 50 degrees or so.
If not staying there, a full day must devoted to exploring this beautiful, remote valley in southernmost Sequoia National Park. Mineral King is reached via a 25-mile, narrow, winding road that takes about 1.5 hours to navigate. It is an incredibly beautiful place, full of history, and has many hiking trails.