Sequoia and King's Canyon National Parks are a stunning must-see extending from the Sierra Nevada crests to San Joaquin Valley foothills in central California. Even before you arrive at the National Park gates the diversity of the surrounding landscape takes your breathe away and renders you a bobble-headed dog on the dashboard trying to take it all in. With immense snow-topped mountains, rugged meadows and winding rushing streams, vast caverns and crags, and the world's tallest trees, it's natures playground offering you a myriad of things to do. And it;s California's oldest and America's second oldest after Yellowstone.
Driving through the park in late April, with clumps of icy snow still melting in the shade, we turned the music down in the van, wound down the windows, stuck our heads out and took long slow breaths of fresh air. After battling off bees on the way around Fresno and driving the busy freeways, there's something so open and free about the forest air and sky - Mother Nature's healing at her best. And with nearly 97% of the park designated and managed as wilderness, it's no wonder so many hikers and adventurers have flocked to the area since it was first established in 1890.
“I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.”
- John Muir
Plenty of Places to Sleep
With plenty of places to park an RV and over 1,200 campsites and a variety of lodging accommodation (some look soooo beautiful!), there was no trouble finding a spot this time of year. Lots of the campground sites were still closed and quite snowed in all throughout the park, but the Ranger lets you know which are open when you enter the park gates. We parked right at the bottom of a valley, almost completely secluded from other campers with a mountain behind us, grazing deer, surrounding creeks and tall timbers through which the sunset looked like fire. As you can see by the video thumbnail, getting there is a ride in itself with all the twists and turns in the roads, and we stopped multiple times to take in the stunning views, tranquil moments and plentiful rock formations.
Bear Box Country
This was our first experience with bear boxes and bear country and it was as terrifying as it was exhilarating! They're Black Bears in this area and although everyone else seemed pretty chill about the whole thing, the signage certainly suggested that it's a serious deal. Being active at this time (Spring and Summer mainly), with a keen sense of smell, it was regulation to store everything with a scent including all food as well as canned food, all cosmetics, trash and unwashed utensils in the locked bear-proof box provided. Even the trash cans and toilet doors were heavy and lockable, and with no torch but that on my phone, it very much deterred me from needing to use the loo in the middle of the night. In fact, at one point I woke to what I thought was Ben's heavy snoring, to which I quickly realised it was not! I was too scared to pull open the curtain in the van and startle the creature, which you're also not meant to do. That was a fun night in the van that's for sure!
I found the signage and information boards super interesting here and the walk was a nice stroll down and sweat session getting back up. Unfortunately, some rude tourists who are seemingly oblivious to other people nearly got the best of me here and gave the place some bad vibes for me. We took a walk down to the creek to get away from them all but then saw people walking off the paths, standing on the roots and doing exactly what the signage specifically and frequently told them not to do. It made my blood boil and not even the cute Bambi's about could keep me from wanting to run out of there! I'm not the perfect tourist, but blatant obnoxiousness and disrespect for these delicate landscapes we are so lucky to have access to is so not cool...even if it's your own country! (#endrant!)
Ben at the bottom of the gargantuan Sequoia tree known as General Sherman - the largest tree in the world. They've designed this popular spot well and I especially loved the 102.6 foot circumference of the tree's base laid out in pavers to show a bird-eye view perspective. Although impressive (and the colours spectacular) , I'm fairly certain it's close in size to a tree here in Australia we used to frequent by the name of Big Fella Gum. It actually made me miss home for a minute...that, and the shitty tourists.
Appropriately attired and feeling snow for only the second time ever! The park had only just opened back up for Spring and there was piles of melting snow on the sides of the roads and paths that made everything look just like the movies, but better. To say we were excited was an understatement, though no snowmen were built or snowball fights ensued. But as you can tell, despite the remaining snow, the days were warm enough for shorts and shirts, with the addition of boots and a jacket if doing some on-foot exploring.
Sequoia is one stunning and scenic National Park in the clouds that is clearly cared for with character. From the cute Foothills entry point, every twist and turn is safely edged so you can pull over to drink in the view, and signposted beautifully. Even the campgrounds are so well maintained despite the weather beating they obviously get each year. Australian National Parks are wild and ruggedly beautiful, but I do hope they can be preserved as well when they become as popular as parks like these.
“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”
- John Muir
COME DRIVE SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK WITH US
Been to Sequoia? What did you love most?
It's certainly somewhere I'd go again.
Let us know in the comments below.