While incredible, there’s a whole lot more to see in Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks than unfathomably giant trees.
From caves and canyons to waterfalls and towering peaks, there’s a whole lot to discover around Sequoia’s gigantic, ancient trees. The park’s fascinating history compounds this, too. For example, if you’re wondering what’s going on with that wildly dated entrance sign, our Top 10 Things to Know About Sequoia National Park has you covered.
But if you’re looking for the can’t-miss stops for your excursion to America’s second-oldest national park, then read on as we break down the Top 10 Things to Do in Sequoia National Park.
10. Zumwalt Meadow Trail
Those are some big trees. Many visitors flock to trails that allow them to see these giant sequoias up close. But seeing their entire majesty from afar – as Zumwalt Meadows allows – is something else entirely.
Zumwalt Meadow Trail is an easy walk, and a good trip for the whole family. It’s not a loop, but the views are just as majestic coming out as they are in. You’ll travel through ancient forests, cross the South Fork of the Kings River via suspension bridge, and scout out scenic canyon views, as well.
9. Sequoia Underground: Crystal Cave
A magnificent marble cave awaits you beneath Sequoia National Park. Part of a far larger cave system, Crystal is the only section accessible to visitors – and it’s well worth the venture.
A gorgeous array of stalactites, stalagmites, and varying geologic features provide incredible viewing. Many species of cave-adapted wildlife – some found nowhere else in the world – call Crystal Cave home, too. The park offers a wide variety of tour options to experience all of the above, ranging from standard guided tours to caving expeditions.
To see Crystal Cave, you’ll need to visit Sequoia from May to late November (weather and conditions permitting). To do so, you must register in advance online. And remember: no pets allowed.
8. Sight-seeing from Crescent Meadow Loop
There’s a whole lot to see from this easy loop trail. From the incredible, hollow Chimney Tree to the famous Tharp’s Log pioneer home, Crescent Meadow is an excellent destination that’ll knock several items off your Sequoia National Park bucket list.
A 1.3-mile loop, it only takes about 30 minutes to complete Crescent Meadow as a walk. Factor in ample time for sight seeing, however. The meadow is also excellent for birding and hiking, as multiple trails branch out from the loop.
For the bext experience, visit this area from May through October. And again, no pets allowed!
7. Waterfall Chasing in Sequoia National Park
Located in Sequoia national Forest, Grizzly Falls is a sight to behold. At 80-feet-tall, it’s one of several impressive falls that makes for great waterfall chasing in the parks.
To get to Grizzly, you’ll only need to travel 4.6 miles (7.4 km) from the Cedar Grove Visitor Center. Once to the picnic area, Grizzly Falls is only a short walk away. It swells in early spring, too, so plan accordingly.
Don’t miss Roaring River Falls, either. The waterfall has its own trail, which is a short walk via paved pathway in Cedar Grove. Once to the falls, you’ll witness one of the most powerfully-churning water features in the park. And if you really want to track down a hidden gem, Outsider’s own John Jamison, a veteran of Sequoia tours, says Tokopah Falls is a roughly 4 mile, moderate roundtrip hike that leaves straight from the Lodgepole campground, and it’s a gorgeous sight in spring and early summer when snowmelt feeds the waterfall.
But please note, access to certain areas via Highway 180 closes for the winter in mid-November. Access typically reopens the fourth Friday in April.
6. Hike Kings Canyon, Drive Scenic Byway
Looking for some of the best hiking in the Sierra region? Kings Canyon National Park is the perfect hiking destination, and offers countless gorgeous views as rewards for conquering trails.
Want to see the park without hiking? Take to the 30-mile Kings Canyon Scenic Byway. Running between Grant Grove and Cedar Grove Village, the byway offers plenty of pull-overs to take in stunning scenery. You’ll spend ample time with the Kings River, too, as it flows alongside the byway. In fact, both Grizzly and Roaring River Falls are accessible off the drive, so it’s a great way to make that waterfall chasing happen, too.
5. General Grant Tree Trail, Grant Grove
Fancy an easy walk to meet the General Grant Tree? The titular trail is the way to go, as it offers spectacular sight-seeing through the Grant Grove of sequoias. Plenty of historical plaques give context to the land’s history, and you can walk straight through a fallen giant sequoia along the way.
Once you reach General Grant, prepare to share company with the second-largest tree in the world by volume. Grant stands a staggering 267-feet-tall, and is about 29-feet-wide at the base of his trunk.
General Grant resides in Grant Grove of Sequoia’s partner park, Kings Canyon National Park. It’s a 1/3-mile (05. km) paved loop trail that leads to the tree, so it’s an easy adventure for the whole family. You’ll meet other trees in the grove, too, like the Fallen Monarch, the Centennial Stump, and other landmarks like the Gamlin Cabin.
4. Hike Congress Trail
Located in Sequoia National Park proper, Congress Trail remains a true favorite of visitors over 100-years later. Once you enter the park, be sure to grab a map at the Visitor Center, then head for General Sherman Tree (more on him later). Don’t stop there and continue along to Congress Trail.
You wont’ be disappointed. Congress Trail gives visitors access to some of the most inspiring, vividly beautiful forest on Earth. This is an ancient place full of gigantic living things – and you will truly feel their awe-inspiring presence.
Keep an eye out for plaques and signs for certain named trees, but know that each organism here is worthy of wonder.
3. Panoramic Point
A highly underrated destination, Kings Canyon’s Panoramic Point is a must-see for anyone visiting Sequoia and her partner park. Head towards Grant Village and you’ll find a narrow road (and signs) leading to this hidden gem.
Thankfully, it’s not a difficult walk to get to the top. And when you do, you’re met with unrivaled views of Kings Canyon in an intimate setting.
It’s tempting to come to the point for sunset, but keep in mind that the best, most open views are East. This means making it out for an early sunrise will be much more fruitful.
If sunsets are more your thing (and time), however, there’s plenty of other spots along the trail that open westward. Regardless, the views are stunning, and the entire trail is paved and offers multiple elevation points to stop at.
2. Moro Rock Trail
Giant sequoia trees get all the attention in their national park, and for good reason. But Sequoia features one of the coolest hikes in America that often gets overshadowed: Moro Rock Trail. Located centrally in Sequoia National Park proper, you’ll find the trailhead and parking lot just south of the Giant Forest Museum.
It’s hard to explain how phenomenal an experience Moro Rock provides – if you’re up to some steps, that is. The trial itself is less than half a mile, but boy should you be ready to climb some steps. Almost 400, in fact. Once you do, you’ll be at 6,725 feet in elevation and rewarded with unparalleled views of famous peaks, miles of valleys, and an immense section of the Great Western Divide.
The steps you’ll climb are one of the best aspects of Moro Rock, too, as they’re carved directly into the (you guessed it) rock. Concrete steps were made to compliment them, as well, and it all adds up to a truly incredible adventure to the top.
1. Meet General Sherman in the Giant Forest
This may be a very predicable #1, but how could you ever visit Sequoia National Park and not meet the General Sherman Tree? You’d be completely ashamed, and we’re here to make sure that doesn’t happen.
He’s worth the hype, too, Outsiders. General Sherman is the largest living thing on our planet. Let that sink in for a moment. He may be, for all we know, the largest living thing in the universe. Regardless of whether that’s true or not, General Sherman is, in fact, the largest tree by volume on Earth. And once you see him up close and feel his presence (which you will truly feel), you won’t question why millions flock to meet him every year.
But the wonders don’t stop with the general. The entirety of the Giant Forest surrounding him is beyond worth your time. Even driving through can be life-changing. If you can make the time to hike amongst these giants, however, you’ll never forget it.
To learn more about General Sherman and the incredible legacy behind Sequoia National Park, head on over to our Top 10 Things to Know About Sequoia National Park next.