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What to do in Sequoia National Park

When I first heard about this park near Fresno California I had no idea what to do in Sequoia National Park. After visiting with our 4 kids, I have the perfect itinerary to hit all the must-see sights in an efficient itinerary.

One of the most awe-inspiring, magnificent views is at Sequoia National Park.  It is unbelievable how big, beautiful, unique and bright the Sequoia tree is.  No wonder people in the early 1900s called it the ‘California Hoax’ when they were told of the giant forest.  It really isn’t something that can be described or photographed.  The massive trees are best observed with wonder and amazement!

If you have a full day in the park, here is a perfect itinerary.

  1. Foothills Visitors Center
  2. Overlook stop
  3.  Auto Log
  4.  Moro Rock Hike
  5.  Parker Group and Tunnel Log
  6.  Crescent Meadow Hike, including Tharps Log and Chimney tree
  7.  Giant Forest Museum
  8. General Sherman Tree

    1. Foothills Visitors Center

Get advice for hikes and a perfect itinerary for your time and group abilities.  Get up-to-date information.  Pick up Junior Ranger books for the kids. Learn a bit about the 4 different elevations and habitats that exist at each one.   This is a small place but will get you started on the right track for a great day.

2. Stop at the overlook

The road through the park is very winding and climbing elevation quickly.  In about an hour, you climb from 1000 feet in elevation to 6000 near Moro Rock. Part way through the climb, there is a u-turn in the road that has a parking lot.  Behind you, there is  Moro Rock and in front is great vast views of the valley and the mountains in the distance.  This is a great place to rest if the kids are feeling a bit motion sick (ours were!)

3. Auto Log

The root system of auto log
Look at the kids on top of Auto Log. It’s hard to capture the enormity of these trees!

This log is only a few hundred feet off the main road out to Moro rock, but not to be missed!!  Make sure you turn off the road to Moro Rock and see this.   The first thing you see as you drive up is the root system fully exposed.  The roots are about 25 feet high!  Park and walk on top of the giant tree.  In the past, cars were allowed to drive onto this giant felled Sequoia tree.  It is now blocked off, due to the tree crumbling in places. The kids and I loved walking over the log and seeing just how high off the ground we were.  At one point, I walked in a crack of the trunk and the kids were still more than an arm’s length above me as they jumped over the crack!

 

4. Moro Rock Hike

Moro Rock view of the canyon
The view from the top of Moro Rock

Parking is limited.  This hike was just perfect for kids.  Not too long or too steep, but just long enough.  It is very narrow in places, so we had to wait our turn.  But I felt safe with all the rails in place.  If I had a toddler, I would stay very close to them though because the rails wouldn’t keep a little guy in!

Parkers group of sequoias
Parkers Group- Can you find the baby at the base?

5.  Parker’s Grove and Tunnel Log

One of our favorite stops wasn’t even listed on the Park’s map.  Right after Moro Rock, you’ll find a clump of giant trees with the name “Parker’s Group” The kids were complaining of hunger, so we got out and ate in the shade of these mighty trees.  We found hollowed out trees, burned out areas, fallen logs to climb and rocks to scale. The kids loved the giant pinecones, sticks, and rocks and their imaginative play went wild.  It was nice to have a place for them to play freely while we loved the scenery and their giggles.

Within a few minutes of Parker’s trees, is the log that is fallen over the road.  As long as your vehicle is under 8 ft tall, you can drive right through it.  My son even touched the sides of the tree as we crept through it.

6.Crescent Meadow Hike, Including  Tharps Log and Chimney tree

Crescent Meadow hike
Peaceful meadow in the midst of the Giant Forest

Crescent Meadow is at the end of this road.  I read that the hike around the meadow was a mile.   I’m still not sure which path I read about because we hiked nearly 2 miles!  Luckily, it was a level mostly paved area.

You start on a paved trail and head out to Tharp’s log which is .8 of a mile.  It was a gorgeous mixture of forest, giant sequoias, and a peaceful meadow on the side.   One of our first sightings was two deer eating peacefully as we walked within a few feet of them.

Tharp’s log is a fallen sequoia hollowed out into a log cabin with a door.  You can enter the cabin, but the table and beds are blocked off and the kids were disappointed they couldn’t play there.

We then continued off of the paved trail and onto a dirt path toward Chimney tree (.3 mi away).  Chimney tree is a standing sequoia that is completely hollowed out.  You can enter the middle of the trunk and look up for over 100 feet out to the sky above.  It is an incredible sight.

We continued on for another .6 mile back to the parking lot.  We were pretty worn out after hiking a mile further than planned (with no water!) but the kids were still energetic enough to climb all over the rocks near the parking lot.

7. Giant Forest Museum

Museum Exhibit
Giant Forest Museum Display of the largest, tallest trees

After heading back to the main road, the Museum is just a few feet up the road.  You can do this before turning off to Moro rock if it fits better in your itinerary.  The name of this place is a bit deceptive.  I wondered if there was an entrance fee and expected a much larger museum.

It is just a visitors center!  It’s free but there is a gift shop).  You’ll find answers to so many questions like what the tallest, widest and thickest trees are.  The kids loved the cave with a fake fire burning.  They liked the seed spinning wheel to see if their ‘Sequoia’ seed would survive and grow into a mature tree. I like the map of the park showing the many different groves of Sequoia and learning why they only grow in this area.

8. General Sherman Tree

Playing at the base of General Sheman Hike

This is the highlighted sight to see in this park.  It is the largest tree in the world.  However, because of its popularity, it is crowded.  Even in October when we visited the parking lot was SO packed.

There is an accessibility route, which is nice for the stroller.  However, the parking lot is about 2-3 miles of driving away and 1/2 mile of walking.  My husband dropped the kids and me off and then we met up and hiked back to the car together.  I don’t know if I would recommend this since there is no cell service and it is a bit difficult to know how long it takes to do it all, but it worked out for us.  The kids loved playing on a fallen log at the accessibility entrance.

Climbing back up to the car was pretty steep and the kids were really exhausted and winded (that being said, they had already hiked Moro Rock (.5 STEEP mile) and Crescent Meadow (2 miles).

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Other stops if time permits

If your schedule permits, it would be perfect to stay at Wuksachi Lodge or Lodgepole Visitors Center and then spend the next day heading up to Kings Canyon (another 1 hours drive from here).  We drove nearly 2 hours back to Visalia and ate dinner there and still had time to hit the pool before bedtime.   (We started our journey to the park at 7:30 am from Visalia).

If you have 2 Days in the park I would spend more time at each location mentioned above and add these excursions as well.

  • Crystal Cave ($16/ adults $5/kids) 13 years and older 1.5 miles and 1 1/2 hours.  Buy tickets at the visitors center prior to heading to the cave.
  • Big Trails hike (just outside of the giant forest museum)
  • Hike from Crescent Meadow to General Sherman (2 miles)
  • Drive 1 hour from General Sherman to Kings Canyon National Park to see the 2nd largest tree, General Grant. Read more about Kings Canyon Here.

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8 Comments

  1. I have always wanted to go visit Sequoia national park. What beautiful scenery. It amazes me the size of these trees. You had mentioned on the Moro Rock Hike that it was narrow in some spots. You did mention that it wasn’t too steep also, so was this like a regular hiking trail with rails or did the sides of the trail fall off, where you could look straight down? Would you recommend this trip to someone that doesn’t like heights?

    • Moro Rock was a bit steep, but all the other hikes mentioned in the article were nice and flat. Moro rock does have rails and guides all along the way, I wasn’t afraid, even with 4 young kids hiking along side me. At the very top, there is a rail that goes on top of the rock and it is pretty high up, but I didn’t feel afraid. I think you’d be fine! but you could decide not to go all the way out on top if you were feeling nervous.

      • I have a toddler (1.5yo) and he will be in a hiking carrier, will the hike to Moro rock be safe with him on my back? Thank you in advance for the feedback.

        • Great question, this is a scary age for this type of hike. If he is in the backpack you will be totally safe. Let him out to climb around the rocks that high up would be a bit scary, but I let my toddler crawl around on the rocks for a while and we just stayed very close or kept her in a safe area. I like to allow my kids space to be in Nature.

  2. Wow, this makes me want to plan a trip to Sequoia! My husband would love it. The itinerary looks awesome. When you say “if you have a full day” how many hours does that actually mean? I also assume that you had a picnic somewhere, is there a spot on your list that you would recommend?

    • We left Visalia at 7 am (it’s a 1 1/2 hour drive to the park) and returned by 5:30. If we stayed closer to the park or spent the night in the park you’d have more hours to explore. We did have a picnic at Parker’s group (written about in the itinerary), but that just happens to be where we were when the kids were hungry. There would be lots of gorgeous groves to stop and eat in. Crescent Meadow had picnic tables at the trailhead which would make for easy eating.

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