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 a local newspaper publisher – 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 6 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 Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, 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.
Climb the 400 stone-carved steps to the top of Moro Rock for 360-degree views of the park, the High Sierras, canyons and perhaps even sightings of peregrine falcons that nest on the rock.
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, and Sequoia National Forest, are timeless landscapes preserved by people who under- stand 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.
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, as opposed to congressional approval needed to create a national park. Restrictions within national monuments may differ from each other; however, monuments are intended to preserve the natural habitat, much like national parks. OHV use is allowed on designated routes.
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.
PICTURED ABOVE: BALCH PARK’S SCENIC PONDS ARE GREAT FOR FISHING, WALKING THE BANKS OR SITTING IN QUIET CONTEMPLATION.
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. When you’ve seen the sights at your own pace, catch the shuttle to your next destination.
Seasonal shuttle service is also offered between most hotels in Visalia and the park for a fee. Reservations are required.