This area is comprised of the southern regions of the Sequoia National Forest and Giant Sequoia National Monument, and four wilderness areas, including Golden Trout Wilderness and Domeland Wilderness, which make this area one of the most geographically diverse and remote in the country.
The spectacular southern region is often less crowded, and offers so much for those looking for adventure, exploration and a diverse landscape. From rolling foothills in the west, into majestic Giant Sequoia groves, across high mountain peaks, steep river valleys, alpine lakes, and the high desert in the east. We welcome you to experience the majestic southern region of the Sequoias in all four seasons and discover what awaits you.
The Trail of 100 Giants, Dome Rock, Bald Mountain Lookout, Balch Park and Mountain Home Demonstration State Forest
The Trail of 100 Giants
The Trail of 100 Giants is a paved, fully accessible path that saunters through a noble stand of Giant Sequoias, some of
which are up to 1,500 years old. Walk atop a fallen giant and gain a true appreciation for the size of these grand trees.
Walk on top of this granite monolith and admire the view. It is accessible to all ages and just off the Western Divide Highway, but be careful on top, there is no railing and it’s a 400 foot drop to the valley below.
Balch Park & Mountain Home Demonstration State Forest
Balch Park and Mountain Home Demonstration State Forest collectively make up some of the largest old growth Giant Sequoia groves in existence, containing more than 2,000 old growth trees. Hike, bike, fish, swim, and camp under the Giant Sequoias in these unique forested areas.
Bald Mountain Lookout
Bald Mountain Lookout provides a stunning 360-degree view of the entire southern Sierra, with views of Mt. Whitney and the granite crags of the Domeland. This mountain is a unique botanical island boasting over 100 different species of plant life, including five species of pine trees, two fir species, and the Western Juniper.
Balch Park and Mountain Home Demonstration State Forest taken together, are a camper’s paradise.
Camp in the shade
of some of the finest giant trees on Earth, and make your trip complete with some excellent fishing opportunities. Well stocked ponds and the Middle Fork of the Tule River are just steps away from your campsite. Numerous campgrounds are available on a first-come basis. Located up Balch Park Road off of Hwy. 190.
Belknap Campground is nestled within the Camp Nelson community on the banks of the South Middle Fork of the Tule River. Enjoy camping under the Giant Sequoias with some great fishing and hiking at your fingertips.
Just up the road from Belknap is Quaking Aspen Campground located just off the highway. Situated just minutes away from
many attractions, this is an ideal basecamp for exploring the Sequoia National Forest. Camp in style and reserve one of the yurts located in the campground.
Camping opportunities are almost limitless within the Sequoia National Forest. Many improved campgrounds are available and dispersed camping is widely permitted. For
a complete list of campgrounds and camping regulations, visit: recreation.gov or www.fs.usda.gov/main/sequoia
You have stumbled upon one of the most exciting natural playgrounds in the world, with over a million acres for fishing, hiking, backpacking, horseback riding, rock climbing, biking, whitewater, and OHV riding.
Hiking & Trail Running
Dozens upon dozens of day hikes are possible in this vast wilderness, which contains hundreds of miles of trails. Here are a couple favorites:
Freeman Creek Trail
Saunter through one of the largest Giant Sequoia groves with more than 800 trees over 10 feet in diameter. Six miles round-trip. To reach this area, take Lloyd Meadow Road from Johnsondale.
The Needles Lookout Trail
A five-mile hike out-and-back to Needles Ridge, a formation of impressive granite spires. The lookout burned down a few years ago, but the scenery is still there. Enjoy views of Mt. Whitney, the Golden Trout Wilderness, and the Kern River Valley.
Backpacking & Fishing
A wonderful series of lakes nestled in the cirques of Maggie Mountain. Enjoy climbs to Maggie’s numerous peaks, great fishing, and pristine water. Leave out of Summit Trailhead and follow the trail 9.3 miles through numerous meadows and some great vistas.
The Golden Trout Wilderness
The Golden Trout Wilderness is named after the elusive golden trout, native only to this area of the Sierras. Backpack or horseback ride into the Golden Trout Wilderness from numerous trailheads with the earliest access from Lloyd Meadows. Bring your fishing pole and fish to your heart’s content (of course, a license is required and special restrictions apply to anglers).
The Domeland Wilderness
The Domeland Wilderness is loaded with awe-inspiring domes, spires, and crags rising out of conifer forests. Domeland is perfect for those seeking a remote and crowdless getaway. Hike or ride horseback through shady forests of pine and fir down into Manter Meadow, the largest meadow in the wilderness. Plus, with its lower elevations, this wilderness is a pretty safe bet in spring and fall, when snow still clings to the high-mountain locales. Great fishing, rock climbing, and wildlife viewing are all available in this road-less-travelled beauty.
Tulare County and its public lands in the High Sierras and foothills offer an abundance of back country roads and scenic trails that are perfect for an hour, day, week, or month in the saddle. Riders can bring their own horses to explore the area, or they can choose from authorized outfitters who offer a variety of trips deep into the Sequoias. Facilities vary, so check with the National Forest for specific details. Many of these sites are located at or near trailheads leading into the many wilderness areas—where the only access is by riding or hiking.
For permits and regulations, check out: fs.usda.gov/sequoia
The Giant Sequoia National Monument is one of the only places in the world where you can bike along trails through groves of Giant Sequoias (and even ride through a tree). A network of trails near Quaking Aspen accommodates cyclists of all experience levels. Bike rentals and shuttle services are available out of Camp Nelson to take cyclists directly to the trailheads. SequoiaMountainAdventures.com
The Kern River is one of the best whitewater locations in California. Whitewater rafting and kayaking is popular along the numerous Class IV and V runs. Whitewater rafting outfitters are available out of Kernville. Experienced kayakers only. Swimming is popular among the numerous forks of the Tule River and in the Kern River, with plenty of opportunities to plunge into deep pools from the rocks above, slide down natural granite waterslides, or just wade in a calm, wide pool. Of course, extreme caution is recommended when entering any river as they can be deadly, so be smart and make sure you know what you are getting into by scouting the section of river you plan on swimming and knowing your limitations.
World class rock climbing can be found throughout the Sequoia National Forest and Giant Sequoia National Monument. The Needles, Dome Rock, and Elephant Knoll offer some of the best crack and face climbing in the Sierras, without the crowds and easily accessible. Check out Church Domes in the Domeland Wilderness for a series of domes and spires, and climb some well bolted routes. fs.usda.gov/activity/sequoia/recreation/climbing
There is no finer location for off highway vehicle recreation in the Sierras than the Kern Plateau within the Sequoia National Forest. Riders of all levels are accommodated on this network of over 300 miles of trails ranging in elevation from 2500–9900 feet. With easy access to numerous OHV trailheads, nearby OHV campgrounds, and excellent signage on trails, this is the playground you’ve been searching for. The Kern River Motor Vehicle Opportunity Guide is an excellent publication that outlines vehicle regulations and contains an excellent map of the area. Download a PDF version here: fs.usda.gov/main/sequoia/maps-pubs
Now it’s time to sit back and enjoy nature’s symphony as the wind rushes through the trees and water trickles down a mountain stream.
John Muir said it best, “Come to the woods, for here is rest. There is no repose like that of the green deep woods…Sleep in forgetfulness of all ill. Of all the upness accessible to mortals, there is no upness comparable to the mountains.”
WAIT NO LONGER, COME AND BE UPLIFTED.
Fully outfitted cabins and rooms are available for rent in various mountain communities along Hwy. 190 and the Western Divide Highway, including Camp Nelson and Ponderosa. Located amid numerous trails and attractions with general stores nearby, don’t worry about having to rough it, you’ll enjoy all the comforts of home in the glory of this great forest. The Sequoia National Forest also has cabins available for rent at different locations throughout the forest. Some have electricity and are furnished, while others do not. Find out more at: fs.usda.gov/activity/sequoia/recreation/camping-cabins. Combine the best experiences of tent camping and cabin life; stay in a cozy yurt at Quaking Aspen Campgrounds or Aspen Meadow. Modeled after the ancient shelters used by Central Asian nomads, these yurts will insulate you from the elements and contain a bunk bed and futon for comfy nights.
Break out the snow pants and insulated boots and head up the hill. Quaking Aspen and the Kern Plateau are fantastic areas for sledding, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling.
Quaking Aspen Meadow
Quaking Aspen Meadow is a popular area for snow play, while a network of roads nearby offer great cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. Over snow vehicles are required to stay on roads within the Giant Sequoia National Monument. Visit the following website for winter recreation maps: ponderosaca.com/snow/SnowMaps
Kern Plateau is equally accommodating for snowmobiles as it is for off-highway vehicles. Over a dozen trails are open and well-marked for over snow vehicles, and hundreds of miles of trails and roads are open for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. For more information on winter recreation in the Kern Plateau, visit: fs.usda.gov/activity/sequoia/recreation/wintersports