Sometimes referred to as “a land of giants,” Sequoia National Park is home to the world’s largest trees. It is the second-oldest national park in the United States, created by Congress in 1890, only second to Yellowstone, which was created 18 years earlier in 1872. Both Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks are located right next to each other in the southern Sierra Nevada, east of the San Joaquin Valley. They are two separate parks but are essentially run together by the National Park Service and both include some enormous sights to see.
It’s the giant sequoias that draw many visitors to Sequoia National Park. The General Sherman sequoia tree at the north end of Giant Forest is a definite highlight—it’s the largest living single-trunked tree on earth. You need to see it to truly appreciate it, but the numbers are still mind-blowing. At 275 feet (83 meters) tall, its trunk is 36.5 feet (11.1 meters) in diameter and 109 feet (33 meters) in circumference at the base. At 120 feet (36 meters) in the air, General Sherman’s trunk is 17 feet (5 meters) in diameter. It’s said to be large enough to build 120 average-sized homes.
More than 200 caves have also been discovered in this corner of California. Some are open to the public, but most are located in isolated areas of the two parks. Be sure to stop at the Visitors Center to get the latest information on events and activities in the parks, including tours of Crystal Cave. If all this isn’t enough to jumpstart your trip planning, Sequoia and Kings Canyon also have more than 850 miles of maintained wilderness trails.
If you want to spend the night, there are many options inside the parks. Along with a few lodges, there are an assortment of cabins, a tent hotel and a ski hut. There are also more than a dozen campgrounds, most being first-come, first-served, while a few others accept reservations.
Access to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks is provided by Highway 180 and Highway 198. Once you’ve arrived at Sequoia, you can park the car and forget about it. A free, in-park shuttle runs from late-May through early September and on a limited schedule during the winter holidays.