Find your “awe-inspiring” moment.
The northwest region of Tulare County is comprised of Sequoia National Park, Kings Canyon National Park, Sequoia National Forest and Giant Sequoia National Monument.
The combined lands of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, the Sequoia National Forest and the Giant Sequoia National Monument have a dramatic presence and undeniable beauty. Starting in the foothills and stretching across the Great Western Divide, these diverse areas promise to inspire with towering, old-growth forests of giant sequoias, plunging glacial canyons, deep river valleys, pristine alpine lakes, massive granite monoliths and soaring mountain peaks, including the highest point in the contiguous 48 United States – Mount Whitney, at 14,494 feet (4,418 meters).
A lifetime of adventure, exploration and awe-inspiring moments await in this vast national treasure. So, let us help you get started.
Giant Forest Museum is a great starting point for you to explore. Learn the story of the giant sequoias and the Giant Forest on a stroll around beautiful Round Meadow. Trailside exhibits help tell the story of the park on this 1-mile, paved, wheelchair-accessible looped trail.
Big Meadow is located a short drive off the Generals Highway in Giant Sequoia National Monument and Sequoia National Forest. Hiking or horseback riding into the Jennie Lakes Wilderness and fly fishing in Big Meadows Creek are popular activities. Horse Corral Pack Station provides horses for rent and Horse Camp provides overnight camping with horses and mules. Hume Lake, only 15 miles away, offers fishing and non-motorized boating opportunities.
Buck Rock Lookout can be accessed along the road into Big Meadows. Perched atop a granite dome at 8,502 feet, this lookout offers a stunning 360-degree view across the San Joaquin Valley to the Coast Range, and across the mountains to the Great Western Divide, featuring some of the highest peaks in the Sierra Nevada. Built in 1923 and accessed by a series of stairs, this working fire lookout is one of three existing 4-A-style live-in cabs in the world. Open daily to visitors during the summer season (except during extreme weather or fire activity); for more information, visit www.buckrock.org.
The Congress Trail is a 2-mile, mostly paved loop that wanders through some of the most magnificent giant sequoias. After visiting the General Sherman Tree, hop on the Congress Trail and prepare to be amazed by the size and beauty of the trees, including “The President” (third-largest giant sequoia) and the House and Senate trees. Keep an eye out for deer and bears because they appear to enjoy the Giant Forest as much as we do.
Crescent Meadow was one of John Muir’s favorite places and, when you see it, you’ll understand why. The Crescent Meadow Trail is well maintained and not strenuous, so even the little ones can enjoy it. This serene meadow is surrounded by giant sequoias that stand watch and provide some great photo opportunities. Take a short side trip to nearby Log Meadow. The trail will take you to Tharp’s Log, where a pioneer once lived inside the trunk of a fallen giant sequoia. Visit at sunset and watch deer grazing in the meadow as the last light of the day illuminates the tops of the giant sequoias.
Moro Rock is a giant granite dome located near the center of the park. It offers spectacular views of the Great Western Divide, Castle Rocks and the eastern half of Sequoia National Park. Climb to the summit of Moro Rock following a steep quarter-mile railed staircase, where you can enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Crystal Cave – Explore the underground world of Sequoia National Park with a Sequoia Parks Conservancy Field Institute naturalist leading you through this naturally adorned cave of impressive chambers and magnificent formations. Crystal Cave is open late May through November (weather permitting). First discovered by Sequoia National Park employees in 1918, this spectacular cave has been a visitor favorite since tours began in 1940. A variety of tours are offered through the season. Tickets are available by reservation only. For more information, visit sequoiaparksconservancy.org.
Mineral King is a pristine alpine valley, so appealing that in the 1960s, Walt Disney decided it was the ideal setting for a swiss chalet-themed ski resort. His plans were abandoned in 1978 when Congress passed legislation making Mineral King part of Sequoia National Park, protecting the area’s beauty for future generations to enjoy.
Mineral King provides day hikers and backpackers with some of the most direct access to Sierra high country. There are numerous opportunities for day hikes to alpine lakes, with great fishing and towering mountain peaks, but be prepared for a climb as these mountains are steep and rugged. Looking for something a little easier? Just take a stroll up this magnificent valley and turn around whenever you please.
Two campgrounds are located along Mineral King Road, with only tent camping allowed. The road to Mineral King is winding and has vehicle restrictions. Access is not possible during winter months. Click here for more information.
The General Grant Tree, estimated to be between 1,800 and 2,000 years old, is the centerpiece of Grant Grove in Kings Canyon National Park. At 267 feet tall and nearly 29 feet wide at its base, it is the second-largest tree in the world. It was named in 1867 to honor Ulysses S. Grant and was designated “the Nation’s Christmas Tree” by President Calvin Coolidge.
Hospital Rock: The Tulare County foothills are dotted with many sites containing Native American rock art known as petroglyphs. Between the entrance to Sequoia National Park and the Giant Forest Museum is the Hospital Rock rest stop and picnic area. From the parking lot, cross the road to explore the enormous shelf-like granite boulder supported by several lesser rocks. This natural formation served as a hospital for early area inhabitants. Look for the reddish colored pictographs on the southern exposure of one of the rocks. The markings are believed to have been made by members of the Potwisha tribe, which settled in the area as early as 1350 A.D.
Summit of Moro Rock
Crystal Cave Stalactites
Mineral King Valley
Designated as “the Nation’s Christmas Tree” by President Calvin Coolidge, the General Grant Tree is the second-largest tree in the world by volume.
Hospital Rock, a natural shelter used by early area inhabitants to care for their sick and wounded, features petroglyphs dating back over hundreds of years.
Whether it’s a weekend or a week, numerous campgrounds are available for RV and tent campers.
Lodgepole Campground, nestled at the mouth of a deep glacial valley, is minutes from the Giant Forest and on the Marble Fork of the Kaweah River. The campground is the trailhead for many day hikes, including to Tokopah Falls and high glacial lakes. Bring your fishing pole and catch some trout for dinner.
Other campgrounds in the area include: Big Meadow, Stony Creek, Hume Lake, Princess and Dorst Creek. At lower elevations are Buckeye Flat and Potwisha.
Feel like getting off the beaten path? Atwell Mill and Cold Springs campgrounds, just minutes from the gorgeous Mineral King Valley, provide tent-only camping. Enjoy day hikes and fishing at the alpine lakes surrounding this pristine area.
For more camping information, visit:
For some, no trip is complete without fishing. The Sierra Nevada offers some of the best trout fishing in California.
Cast a line at Hume or Kaweah lakes, or fly fish just steps away from your campsite on the Kings or Kaweah rivers, or hike to more secluded alpine lakes in Mineral King, Jennie Lakes Wilderness, or the glacial Heather and Pear lakes out of Wolverton.
Hiking & Trail Running
Looking for some fun away from base camp? Here are a few trails you might be interested in for day hiking or trail running.
Tokopah Falls Trail – This is a 3.4-mile out-and-back trail that follows a deep, glaciated canyon out of Lodgepole Campground on the Marble Fork of the Kaweah River. Standing guard over this canyon to the south is the Watchtower, a granite monolith rising almost 2,000 feet above the canyon floor.
Rising 630 feet in total, this trail is an easy and scenic hike. You can enjoy the river as it makes its way along the canyon, but it’s not recommended when the current is swift from snowmelt. The falls are seasonal, so enjoy them in the warmer months as water plunges 1,300 feet in a little over half a mile. In summer, enjoy the cliffs and slick granite play- ground along the river.
The Lakes Trail – An 11.5-mile out-and-back trail, with about 2,700 feet of altitude gain leads to the top of the Watchtower and four glacial lakes. Reach the Watchtower at mile 3.4, Heather Lake at 4.1, Aster and Emerald lakes at 4.7, and Pear Lake at 5.75 miles.
Weaver Lake is a popular destination in the Jennie Lakes Wilderness, Sequoia National Forest. The trail begins at the Big Meadows trailhead and is well marked and easy to follow. At 7 miles round trip, this can be a day hike or an overnight trip, a perfect backpack trip for families, first-timers or more seasoned backpackers looking for a short journey.
Explore the Sequoias in the saddle like a true pioneer.
Enjoy single- or multi-day guided rides offered by stables at Horse Corral in Sequoia National Forest, as well as Grant Grove and Cedar Grove in Kings Canyon National Park, and at Balch Park. Horse camping is permitted at Big Meadow, Wolverton, and Kaweah Lake. Visit:
Hamilton Lakes Trail: This week-long trek is a 31-mile out-and-back trail that leads to some of the best scenery and lakes in Sequoia National Park. The trail takes you past stunning granite formations such as Sugarbowl Dome, Angel Wings and Valhalla Towers, and ends at Hamilton Lake, which has excellent fishing and memorable vistas. Plan ahead to enjoy hot showers, hearty meals and the comfort of a tent cabin on the first night at Bearpaw Meadow High Sierra Camp. For more info, go to: VisitSequoia.com.
Jennie Lakes Wilderness: The 10,500-acre Jennie Lakes Wilderness is a lovely mixture of lakes, meadows, forests and streams. Mostly above 7,000 feet in elevation, this wilderness contains scenic variations of alpine and sub-alpine forests of white and red fir, lodgepole pine, western white pine, and jeffrey and ponderosa pine with an abundance of wildflowers in the spring and summer months. The summit of Mitchell Peak is the highest point at 10,365 feet. Located in the Sequoia National Forest, four trailheads access 26 miles of trails within the wilderness.
The High Sierra Trail: This is a 62-mile point-to-point trail that traverses the Sierra Nevada between the big trees of the Giant Forest and Mount Whitney. It winds through soaring peaks, glacial alpine lakes and plunging canyons. You’ll need to arrange a shuttle from one side of the Sierras to the other, but the effort is worth it. For more information, visit:
Ready to get your pedals turning? Then come enjoy your National Forest land from the seat of a bicycle! Any official trail on Forest Service land allows bicycles, with the exceptions of designated trails in wilderness areas and the Pacific Crest Trail. There are literally hundreds of miles of trails and roads to explore in the Sequoia National Forest, and a bike is a great way to see much of them. Many trails are steep or rocky and may be for advanced riders only; we recommend you contact the local Forest office before choosing a trail to ride.
The Hume Lake area has a number of biking opportunities on roads and trails that venture through giant sequoia groves and include many stunning views.
Converse Basin is crisscrossed with unmaintained mining and logging roads that wind through a giant sequoia grove and offer some great vistas. Take Highway 180 toward the Chicago Stump and Converse Basin.
Please note: Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks do not allow bikes on trails.
There are plenty of opportunities for water recreation, including whitewater rafting, kayaking, canoeing and swimming.
Whitewater offerings are seasonal on the wild Kaweah and Kings rivers because they are not dammed until they reach lower elevations. These rivers are appropriate for experienced and expert kayakers, who will find them technically challenging and rewarding. Watercraft use is restricted in Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks, but is allowed in Sequoia National Forest.
Hume Lake is a fantastic place for non-motorized, flat-water activities, including kayaking and canoeing.
Swimming can be enjoyed at Hume Lake or along rivers where water current is minimal. Fed by snowmelt, water temperatures are very cold. Water levels run high during the spring runoff and are very unpredictable. Please be cautious when you and your family are near rivers, lakes and streams. Even when water appears warm or slow moving, there are sometimes strong currents moving below the surface. It is important to take care when walking on slippery surfaces around or even in the water. A combination of a slippery and uneven river bottom, swift currents, debris and other potential underwater hazards can cause you to lose your balance and sweep you downstream. Water safety for children is especially important. Keep a close watch on children, even if they are far from the water, as they can quickly enter the water when your attention is diverted for only a moment.
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks and Sequoia National Forest have some of the best climbing in California. Much of the rock in the region is similar in quality to that found in Yosemite National Park, but without the crowds and pressure. Most climbs require at least a day’s hike in, including Angel Wings, a majestic granite monolith with an 1,800-foot granite face 18 miles down the High Sierra Trail. For information on rock climbing, visit:
Cedar Grove Village
Located in the heart of Kings Canyon National Park. This lodge is the perfect base camp for exploring the canyon. Nestled on the banks of the powerful Kings River, the lodge offers 21 cozy rooms, a snack bar, a general store and laundry facilities to keep you comfortable with all the amenities of home, while you take in the grandeur of this deep glaciated canyon. Cedar Grove is a 35-mile drive through the Sequoia National Forest from Grant Grove Village.
John Muir Lodge
Nestled in the midst of Grant Grove Village, surrounded by towering sequoias and just a quick walk from the General Grant Tree. The lodge has provided an authentic Kings Canyon experience for two decades. But as of late 2014, even longtime loyalists can get a new perspective on the year-round destination, courtesy of a comprehensive renovation. Guests can now enjoy everything from new soft goods, such as carpeting and bedding, to fresh furniture, lounge chairs and headboards.
Sequoia National Park’s newest and most modern hotel accommodation. This lodge has spacious rooms, a full-service restaurant, and a retail and ski shop in its impressive stone and cedar lodge. It is open year-round.
Montecito Sequoia Lodge
Located off the Generals Highway in the Giant Sequoia National Monument, this lodge has cabins and lodge rooms available. Set on a private lake, enjoy swimming and paddling, or soak in a hot tub. Meals are provided, so you can just relax and enjoy the scenery.
Stony Creek Lodge
Nestled in the Giant Sequoia National Monument between Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Stony Creek is a great location for guests to explore the area. This small rustic lodge offers 11 rooms with private baths, and has a snack bar, market and seasonal gas station on-site.
Sequoia High Sierra Camp
This is the perfect place to get a taste of the backcountry without having to rough it. You will discover 32 luxurious tent cabins overlooking Kings Canyon after a short, mile-long hike through stands of red fir and lodgepole pine. Wake up to a hearty breakfast buffet and get a picnic lunch to enjoy later whether you’re on a trail, fishing a stream or reading a book at camp. Enjoy a five-course dinner prepared by the camp chef, and retire to a comfortable bed in your private tent cabin suite whenever you please.
Bearpaw High Sierra Camp
This rustic tent cabin camp is located 11.5 miles down the High Sierra Trail, deep into the Sequoia National Park backcountry. Bearpaw offers six tent cabins perched atop a granite saddle overlooking the Great Western Divide. A home-style breakfast and dinner are served daily, so you’ll have all the energy you need to explore some of the finest alpine terrain in the Sierra Nevada.
Silver City Mountain Resort
For those who want to unplug and unwind, this remote getaway is just a few minutes from Mineral King Valley. A historic mountain settlement, Silver City is off the grid and, for 10 hours each day, generates its own power. At 10 p.m., the lights go out and the lanterns are lit. A variety of chalets and family cabins with full kitchens are available to suit any need. The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, and a store is available for your convenience. Guided hikes and fly fishing trips into Mineral King by local experts are also available.
Closer to Civilization
If you like staying closer to civilization, Three Rivers is just down the hill, and offers quiet, riverside getaways and lodging. An abundance of lodging and fine dining are also available in Exeter, Tulare and Visalia, just under an hour’s drive from Sequoia National Park.
John Muir Lodge & Wuksachi Lodge
John Muir and Wuksachi lodges include great snow play areas and also offer ski and shoe rentals. Free ranger-guided snowshoe tours are available (weather permitting). Wolverton Meadow is a fantastic area for sledding, and is also the winter trailhead for cross-country ski and snowshoe excursions to Pear Lake Ski Hut.
Pear Lake Winter Hut
This historic cabin is available to the public from December to April (weather and trail conditions permitting). The advanced-level ski/snowshoe trail offers a chance to explore the beautiful wilderness of the Sierra Nevada mountain range during the winter months, with a cozy cabin waiting at the end of your day. Begin your trip at Wolverton (7,200 feet) and ascend a steep seven miles east to the Pear Lake area (9,200 feet). The hut sleeps 10 people and offers many amenities to lighten your load. Advance reservations are required.
Snowmobilers will find their paradise within Sequoia National Forest at the Cherry Gap, Big Meadow and Millwood winter trailheads. Plow through the snow among the giant sequoias, and savor the breathtaking scenery of the High Sierras in winter. Make sure to check regulations and stay on designated routes.
For more information on winter recreation, visit: