First established in 1890, Sequoia National Park is one of the oldest national parks in the United States. Before the end of the 19th century logging of the massive Sequoia trees, the largest trees in the world, was commonplace. Once the uniqueness and importance of these grand trees was recognized, steps were taken to conserve this national treasure, and Sequoia became one of the first protected areas of the American wilderness.
General Sherman and Centennial Stump
Sequoia National Park is also one of the best places in the country for hiking. Walking amidst these gentle, millenia-old giants allows you to experience the full glory and power of nature in all of its beauty. Within the confines of the park also resides a world landmark: the General Sherman Tree. Named by a pioneer in the late 19th century who had served under the general during the Civil War, it is over 2,100 years old. It stands 275 feet tall, has a circumference of 102.6 feet and has a volume of 52,500 cubic feet.
Beginning at the base of the General Sherman Tree is the Congress Trail, one of the easiest and more popular hiking trails in the park. The trail is 2 miles long and takes between 1 and 2 hours to complete. There are several interesting stops along the way, showing young Sequoias, fire-damaged Sequoias as well as fallen Sequoias, a fascinating look at the trees in many stages of development.
At the western entrance to the park one can see the Centennial Stump, the stump of a Sequoia chopped down in 1875 to celebrate the Centennial in Philadelphia. There is also another short, pleasurable 1 mile trail here, called Big Stump Trail. This trail shows the devastation caused by the extensive logging of the Sequoias that took place prior to the beginning of preservation in the late 1800’s.
As one moves further into the park, the wilderness grows more immense and all-encompassing. Hiking trails abound in the midst of Sequoia National Park, offering up exciting views of the mighty trees and accompanying wildlife.
The newest addition to Sequoia National Park is Mineral King, which joined the park in 1978. It was named in the 1870’s by prospectors still seeking that famed California gold and believing it to be found in the hills buried in the Sequoia forests.. Unfortunately for them they were incorrect. The area passed through many hands over the years before finally becoming an official part of the park.
Mineral King is one of the less frequently visited areas of the park, in part due to some of the rough roads on the way there. This makes the area quite popular among hikers, however, who are glad to get away from some of Sequoia’s more crowded areas.
Elevations in Mineral King are higher than in the rest of the park: all of the trails in the area are above 7,500 feet above sea level, so hikers should be warned of the thinner air and be ready to adjust accordingly.
One good beginners’ hike is Eagle Lake Trail. It starts off gently then grows more steep as it takes you up into the mountain by Spring Creek. About 2 miles up you can see the Eagle Sink Holes and watch the water disappear before your eyes just as quickly as it gathers. If you are feeling adventurous you can hike another 1.5 miles up to see Eagle Lake itself, for which the trail is named.
Backpacking in Sequoia National Park
Great importance is placed on conservation in Sequoia National Park, and this includes monitoring the activities of backpackers in the area. The numbers of visitors allowed to travel the backcountry is limited and closely regulated.
Backpacking through Sequoia is an amazing experience, and if you wish to make a backpacking trip in the area it is best to make a reservation, although it is not required. All backpackers in Sequoia must first acquire a permit, however, whether or not they make a reservation. The permits are free, but they are issued on a first come, first serve basis so if you arrive too late you will not be allowed to set out that day.
If you make reservations you will be assured a permit, however there is a small fee for making reservations. To ensure your ability to go out and explore the wilds of Sequoia National Park, it is well worth the time and the money required to make a reservation.
Camping in Sequoia National Park
One of the best ways to fully explore Sequoia National Park is to stay at one of the many camping grounds and take a week or two to hike through the numerous areas of the park. There are seven campgrounds in Sequoia, three of them open all year: Lodgepole, Potwisha and South Fork. During the busy season between June and September there is a 14-day limit in these campgrounds. Lodgepole also requires reservations, although the others do not.
Dorst, located in the western portion of the park, also requires reservations. It is open, along with the other three campgrounds in the park, between May and October. Fees for the campgrounds are minimal, between $6-$12 a night.
For any visitor to the park there is also an entrance fee: $5 per vehicle a day or $10 per vehicle a week.
Campers as well as backpackers especially should also be wary of bears in the area. Although attacks are incredibly rare, bears do wander the area and have been known raid campsites and rummage through unsuspecting campers’ food supplies. All campsites are equipped with bear boxes to store food in.
Sequoia National Park is one of the most beautiful parks in the United States, and also one of the best for hiking. Beautiful trails, well-preserved wildlife, a multitude of sights, sounds and smells, Sequoia has it all. This American landmark in northern California is a true wonder of the world.