Visiting Sequoia was like a dream come true. It wasn't far from where I live, but I'd never prioritized it. Yosemite always won out over Sequoia – because it was a tad closer, and one can never say no to Yosemite. Finally, in the summer of 2020 – we went camping near Sequoia for a weekend during the pandemic. I will reiterate that it is best to not travel during a pandemic. We went camping as it is a low risk option. We took all our own equipment and cooked our food while staying outdoors in a tent.
Here's the itinerary for two days in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. We spent day 1 in Sequoia and day 2 in Kings Canyon. One day each is not enough to see both these parks – but we managed to hit the highlights.
Day 1 (Sequoia):
- Big Trees Trail
- Moro Rock
- General Sherman
- Congress Loop
- Sunset on Generals Highway
Day 2 (Kings Canyon):
- Kings Canyon and Kings River
- Roaring River Falls
- Hume Lake
- General Grant
Now, let's get into the details.
We started late on day 1, and thus, by the time we reached the park entrance – it was almost noon. We got caught in the traffic at the park entrance for almost an hour. Don't be like us and start early – so you can get inside the park by 9 am.
While Generals Highway has some pretty viewpoints, we didn't make a lot of stops or take many pictures because we were already running late. Our first stop was at the Giant Forest Trails near Sentinel tree. We walked around, and decided to do the small loop called Big Trees Trail to check out some big trees 🌲. While the loop itself is under a mile, we took around an hour to finish it (as recommended). We wandered around all the sequoias and read about what climate and soil best suits them in the trail-side panels, which were very detailed. This trail is around a meadow, and we could see that the sequoias enjoy the soil right next to meadows where there is plentiful of water, and enough space to spread their wide roots. We did see some tall and giant sequoias, and while we felt humbled – we weren't awed yet.
Our next hike 🥾was to the top of Moro rock, which is a giant granite rock you can see from the bottom of Generals Highway while entering the park. Since there were no shuttles running because of the pandemic, we had two options – either drive up and try to find parking at the trailhead or hike up around 2 miles from the Generals Highway. We decided to drive by and see if there's parking available, and luckily, we found a spot around half-mile from the trailhead. While I was a little apprehensive of the elevation gain, and potential narrow path – it was unfounded.
While the path is sometimes narrow, usually hikers on one side allow the other side to pass through – so the path isn't overcrowded. The elevation gain was about 300 ft, which isn't hard – but may seem a little more tiresome because of the overhead sun. The views from the top of Moro rock – of cascading mountains in Sierra Nevada range is breathtaking, and certainly one of the best views in Sequoia 🏞️. From the high altitude, you can see where the tree line starts and ends, showing how nature has evolved in this region. I'd recommend this hike!
Next, we moved to General Sherman tree – and despite all the hype, it felt a tad underwhelming. Don't get me wrong, the largest tree by volume on Earth seemed every bit as huge – but the surrounding crowd and the fact that we can't actually touch the tree (for safety reasons, of course) did feel like a buzzkill. We decided to seek quieter pastures, and went to explore Congress Loop which was right next to General Sherman.
The first thing I loved about Congress loop was the lack of crowds. Maybe it was the time when we went (around 5.30 pm), or maybe because it wasn't as popular – but there were hardly any people on the trail. The Congress Loop has three distinct sections - a large sequoia called "The President" and two more sequoia groves called "The Senate" and "The House" . Now, The President itself was humongous, and very much accessible so I got a couple of pictures with it – but The Senate was where I was wowed. This sequoia grove is stunning, and the sun rays on the barks of these trees made them look even more pretty. Nobody else was in the grove the same time as us, so we pretty much had it to ourselves. The time in this grove made me feel like an ant in the midst of giants, and I kept thinking – how many human generations have these trees seen, and how many more will they see. We're so tiny when compared to these giants.
As we moved on to the next grove named "The House" – which was slightly bigger grove than The Senate but just as pretty – I was reminded once again that we are simply spectators in nature's creation. We can only be humbled in such epic company.
After finishing this hike, we returned back to the trailhead – and had to drive down Generals Highway to get to our campsite for the night. It was great timing, because we could see the sunset – and I love sunsets 🌅! We stopped to see the colors in the sky change, and enjoy the view of these cascading mountains during golden hour – and the sight was superb. Although we didn't time it, I'm glad we were at the right place at the right time, and could enjoy a glorious sunset in these mountains.
That was the end of our first day in Sequoia, and my time at Congress Loop made it worth the visit. In the next post, I will describe the Day 2 itinerary in Kings Canyon and how we spent our time there.