Sequoia National Park, July 27th 2020.
I flew from my apartment in Jax, FL to Brady’s place in Orange County. From his place in OC it was about 5 hours to Sequoia. It was an easy drive and traffic was light, especially once we got north of LA. As we got closer to the park, the scenery was increasingly more interesting. The one thing that we were surprised to notice, though, was that there weren’t many huge trees as we approached the park. With the lack of big trees at first the traffic definitely made up for it in abundance. As any park/travel blog will tell you, it’s best to get to the parks early. We waited in line for a bit before getting our pass and heading in.
Due to COVID, the visitor’s center was closed so we kept driving along the main road, Generals Highway, until the views started to open up. Still no big trees, but we found the road was running along the edge of the Kaweah River down below. It was a hot, sunny day and the river looked great – so we pulled off on the side of the road and hiked down to the banks of the river.
As the signs will warn, the current here is pretty strong. We plunged into the cold water where it was deep enough to jump into, and then waded across the river to the other bank. From there, we could hike along the edge of the river to get better views and check out the area without getting swept away by the current. Here and there we found areas where the current wasn’t as strong and we’d hop in to cool off.
We didn’t stay here too long, but it was a great place to get out of the car, stretch our legs, and experience our first taste of the Sequoia wilderness.
Back in the car, we continued along Generals Highway until our next stop at Hospital Rock. We wouldn’t consider this one a “hike” because the rock is right across the street from a large parking lot. You can climb on the rock, and walk around it, but there isn’t much to see here. We still weren’t at the higher altitudes, so even from the top of the rock – there wasn’t much to see yet.
As we kept driving further into the park, there were viewpoints to pull over on the side of the road every few hundred feet or so. Some of these looked better than others, so we’d pull out to take in the sights and snap photos. These make for a good way to slightly break up what would otherwise be a slow and windy drive.
Next, we decided to drive into the park as far as we were going to go – to Tokopah Falls. We’d hit the rest of the stops on our way back out. 4 miles out and back hike to … you guessed it, Tokopah Falls. This hike started in the woods following alongside the river. We stopped a few times to hop in and cool off – the water in the mountains is very cold, but refreshing on a hot day. As we continued, it became more of a forest hike – the trees drew closer together and and the soil darker. Finally, as we approached the falls, the trees opened up to a rocky climb to the final destination.
The falls were huge and displayed in a large open valley in the mountains. As we approached the falls, signs were instructing hikers not to climb out onto the falls – many obeyed, but there were also a few groups out on the falls and in the pool of water beneath it. We decided to take our chances and carefully climbed out onto the falls. We sat and had some snacks sitting directly next to the rushing water of the falls – with an amazing view down onto the pool and valley beyond.
This was an amazing hike that took us close to 3 hours, given that we stopped a handful of times along the way. The hike back was the same trail in reverse… except this time there was a bear! We noticed groups of people all stopped along the trail looking out into the woods. As we got closer, a lone bear was picking its way through the trees. Not too close, but definitely within easy eyesight. We had other things to see before sundown, so we didn’t keep an eye on it for too long. But for the next few hundred feet on the way back, we definitely were wondering if we’d run into any of the bear’s friends.
After Tokopah Falls, we headed to the Giant Forest – this contains the largest tree in the world, General Sherman! We pulled into the parking lot and noticed immediately that the pine cones were as big as my head. We could immediately tell why the forest got it’s name.
This one features a paved trail down to the General Sherman tree and through the Giant Forest. On the descent, there’s places to stop and look at the General Sherman tree along the way. We found these views to be better because at the bottom, the line was forever AND you can hardly even see the top of the tree from that close. Although the General Sherman tree is the largest of them all, all of the trees in this forest were massive. In wandering through the forest, we saw trees that had withstood fires, trees that had other little trees growing out of them halfway up the trunk, and trees that were woven together as they grew skyward. In one area, the path took us through two trees that grew together up top. We took a photo between the trees and when we touched them, found that they were unlike any trees or bark we’d ever seen. It felt like the trees were made of incredibly dense, matted down hair. We were quite surprised.
After walking through the Giant Forest, we trekked back up to the car. The paved path is a short hike, but it’s noticeably steep on the way back up!
After the Giant Forest, our final destination was Sunset Rock. This hike took less than an hour, through the woods and out to a huge rock on the mountainside. It offered a fully panoramic view of the surrounding mountains and as it’s name would suggest, was a perfect place to catch the sunset. We arrived a little early, so we didn’t stay until the sun was allll the way down – but this only made it a little easier to see on our walk back. We planned on setting up our hammock, but the rock was so huge we would have had to walk back into the forest to find two trees close enough together to string it up.
The view was still etched in our minds as we headed back out. We were staying in a hotel in Three Rivers, right outside of the park. There’s not a lot of options for food in this area, so we got two pizzas and some wings for the three of us – the bill was $70! I guess when you’re one of the only restaurants in town, its easy to take advantage of the supply and demand. All in all it was a great fun-filled day and all of us were ready for bed.
National Park Rating: 3 out of 5 stars