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Into the Sequoias

The Land of Giants

Ancient and awe-inspiring, these trees are at the root of our history

To walk into a grove of giant sequoias for the first time is to enter a magical landscape. Trees of incomparable size and age tower over the forest floor, their cinnamon-colored columns —some exceeding 100 feet in circumference —stretching 300 feet or more to reach the sky. Able to survive through fire, drought, snow and freezing temperatures, the hardy trees live for millennia; the oldest is thought to be some 3,000 years old. Simply, a sequoia grove is nature’s cathedral, timeless and sublime.

Given the feelings of awe and inspiration these ancient trees evoke, it’s no wonder that the communities of our region —with the influence of naturalist John Muir and associate editor of the local newspaper, George Stewart — advocated for establishment of the nation’s second national park. Sequoia National Park, dedicated in 1890, is truly our backyard, and we love to share it with visitors.

Home to six of the 10 largest trees on Earth, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are a national treasure. The undisputed king of the forest is the General Sherman Tree, not only the largest living tree in the world, but also the largest living organism, by volume. Estimated at 2,100 years old and weighing 2.7 million pounds, it tops out at 275 feet high and 102 feet in circumference at its base. It’s accessed by a half-mile trail, which is lined with benches along
the way.

In Giant Sequoia National Monument and Sequoia National Forest, visitors will find a playground for all seasons. With six wilderness areas, two wild and scenic rivers, a scenic byway, snow play area and other attractions, there is no shortage of activities or vistas.

While the mammoth trees are the main attraction, there is more to explore: Hike deep into the wilderness, climb rocks, and enjoy the wildlife, beautiful meadows, historical sites, lakes, mountains and streams.

In the land of the giant sequoias, perched on a granite dome at 8,502 feet, Buck Rock Lookout offers a spectacular 360-degree view stretching from the Coast Range across the San Joaquin Valley to the highest peaks of the Sierra Nevada.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, Giant Sequoia National Monument and Sequoia National Forest are timeless landscapes preserved by people who understand what truly special places they are. Welcome to our backyard!

This little guy has been collared and tagged so park officials can track his location. Male black bear territories range from 10 to 59 square miles.

While the mammoth trees are the main attraction, there is more to explore: Hike deep into the wilderness, climb rocks, and enjoy the wildlife, beautiful meadows, historical sites, lakes, mountain and streams.

A Monarch butterfly stops to feed on a purple thistle, a brief stop on a migratory path that will cover hundreds of miles.

California lupine and California poppies are local icons of springtime.

What’s the difference between a park, forest, and monument?

National parks are intended to preserve the natural habitat in its purest form for the enjoyment, education and inspiration of current and future generations. Parks are barely altered, and many activities are restricted, such as off-highway vehicle (OHV) use, hunting and most commercial activities.

National forests are established to manage the health, productivity and diversity of forests and grasslands to meet the needs of current and future generations. National forests are viewed as a resource, so more activities are usually permitted in designated areas. These include OHV use, horseback riding, mountain biking, hunting, logging and grazing. Dogs are welcome!

National monuments are established through the American Antiquities Act of 1906 by order of the president, and can be managed by the Park Service, Forest Service or Burea of Land Management. Rules and regulations vary; however, most monuments are intended to protect objects of interest for future generations.  Similar to the Forest Service, our local monument allows hunting, OHV use and dispersed camping.

A wilderness is an area of undeveloped land that is protected to preserve its natural, primeval condition. Development or maintenance of roads and structures, use of mechanical vehicles, commercial enterprises and human habitation are generally prohibited. The only way to explore these wild areas is on foot or horseback, but is well worth the effort.

To alleviate parking problems during the summer, the wheelchair-accessible Sequoia Shuttle offers free rides between the most popular areas of Sequoia National Park between 8 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. There are several stops along the four routes: Giant Forest, Moro Rock/Crescent Meadow, Lodgepole/Wuksachi and Wolverton. View the sights at your own pace and catch the shuttle to the next destination.

Seasonal shuttle service is also offered between multiple hotels in Visalia, Exeter, Lemon Cove and Three Rivers.