Often overlooked by travelers in favor of its more famous neighbor Yosemite, Sequoia National Park offers everything Yosemite can and more, save for a few famous landmarks.
The Sequoia trees of its name are just one of many reasons I loved visiting the park. Here are some of the things I loved about this beautiful place, as well as some tips on where to stay and a suggested hike.
1. Giant Sequoias
Sequoia is home to General Sherman who is estimated at 2300-2700 years of age. Unfortunately, his fame as the ‘worlds largest tree’ means this poor old guy is always surrounded by hoards of tourists. Take a walk off into the park away from the concrete trails and onto the more undeveloped trails (which are still mapped and completely safe), and you’ll be rewarded with your own private viewing of these magnificent trees. Although General Sherman is ‘largest’ by mass, he isn’t the tallest or the widest. The trees a little further away from the car park are awe-inspiring and it’s incredible to stand under something that’s lived there for over 2000 years before you were born and will likely survive long after you are gone.
2. Wildflower Meadows
If fairies were real, I’m certain they would live in the wildflower meadows and pockets of wildflowers that pop up around the brooks, springs and streams in Sequoia National Park. A highlight of our trip was hiking through the magical Mehrten Meadow on the Alta Peak Trail.
3. Incredible Vistas
After a challenging uphill trek first thing in the morning, views from the top of Alta Peak made it all worthwhile. Although this part of the trail was notably busier than the rest of our hike (it can be accessed via several different trails), the views were incredible.
4. Wild Swimming
Even in June, snow was still melting off the highest mountains and into Sequoia’s rivers. This meant that a wild swim in the Kaweah river post-hike was blissfully cool and refreshing.
5. Peace and Quiet
Between mile 5 and mile 10 on the route we took, we didn’t see another soul. There was a rumored (but unconfirmed) sighting of a bobcat by my husband, but we didn’t see another hiker for hours.
Hiking the Alta Peak Trail
We hiked the Alta Peak Trail, which climbs through beautiful forests and wildflower surrounded streams to reach an incredible vista point at Alta Peak. It then winds back through Mehrten Meadow and via giant sequoia trees.
All Trails recommends this trail only for “very experienced adventurers”, so it isn’t the easiest route! Alta Peak is at over 4000ft elevation, but the climb to get there is slow and steady, winding through some of the most beautiful woodlands I’ve ever seen. The views at the top make the climb worth it!
This is a great hike for nature lovers. We saw deer, a possible bobcat and lots of bear poo (but no bears), as well as plenty of birds, butterflies and less desirable insects and mosquitos.
We started the hike at sunrise, getting into the park as early as possible. The early start meant the trails were quieter and we avoided the afternoon heat.
Where to Stay Near Sequoia National Park
We stayed in a cozy Airbnb in Three Rivers, which is a 15-minute drive to the entrance of the park and approximately 45 minutes from the start of the Alta Peak hike.
This came with our very own private swimming spot, far more refreshing than any hot tub after a day hiking in the intense Summer heat!
What to Pack When Day Hiking in Sequoia
- Insect Repellant!!
- Money (we forgot the entrance fee and needed to go back for our wallets)
- Packed lunch and snacks
- Plenty of water
- Hand sanitizer/wipes (the trail is dusty)
- Layers – even in the height of summer mornings can be chilly