After visiting Sequoia, I was surprised that Sequoia doesn't enjoy a more prominent spot among the national park spotlights.
We drove up from Los Angeles on a Saturday and arrived at Visalia. This was our overnight stop, and the "closest" town, 40 miles away from the park. Then we kept on going on highway 198, passing Kaweah Lake, and the cluster of small hotels and restaurants around Three Rivers, before arriving at the entrance to Sequoia.
After paying for the $10 fee, we proceeded ahead, driving through the winding road.
The first stop on the General's Highway, the main road that courses through Sequoia and Kings Canyon, was Hospital Rock. This is where we stopped briefly at the picnic area, took a few photos of the surrounding, before heading out on the General's Highway again.
Soon, we passed by another attraction, the infamous "Tunnel Rock" on the left. This is where the original road cut through a rock thats big enough to have a car pass through. We decided not to stop and kept on heading north along the highway until we arrived at the Foothills Visitor Center. This is where we purchased the $10 ticket for the Crystal Cave tour that afternoon.
Since our tour was just 2 hours away and the trek to Crystal Cave takes 1 hour from the Foothills Center, we decided to take our time touring Sequoia as we drove to the entrance at Crystal Cave.
As we drove deeper into the forest, suddenly, the scenary changed. Now, instead of the usual pine forests, we were surrounded by giant Sequoia forests. Every where we turn, there were Sequoias the girth of a car and height of mini sky scrapers. Very impressive. We drove up to the Museum (didn't have time to visit) as time alotted, before heading back down the Generals Highway again and took the 6-mile side road that lead to Crystal Cave.
Crystal Cave, as it was explained to us by our guide, is a limestone cave discovered 100 years ago. It is a giant cave with three main chambers that are connected by narrow corridors. Each chamber contained extraordinary limestone tubes, domes, folds, beds, ponds--so much so that we couldn't decide where to look. It was also fun to squeeze through the tiny corridors as some places were so narrow, we had to walk sideways. This memorable tour took 1 hour to finish and was very worth the admission price and the hike down (and up) to the cave.
We then got back on to the General's Highway, and came across a view point a few miles up north. We took a brief break at this stop. Here, we got a unbeatable view of the Moro Rock (which we later will climb), and the valley of Sequoia. Quite a scenic spot.
As we drove towards our next stop, the autolog, we came across two baby black bears playing in the woods along side of the road. We parked our car next to them and enjoyed a close up of the bears before arriving at the autolog.
We have all seen pictures of it before but seeing it up and close gave the proper perspective of just how big the tree is. Its a Sequoia that has fallen on a road, and was cut through its trunk to allow cars to pass through. We weren't so adventure inclined, but several teenagers from other cars climbed up the tree and took a picture of them on top of the tree with their cars in the middle of the tree. We were just happy to take a picture of it before moving on.
Our third stop was the Moro Rock, a giant "rock" that peaked at ~6000 feet. But in order to get to the top, we had to finish a steep 100 meter climb to the top. The hike was easier than I thought as there were already paved stairs with guard rails leading up to the top. The climb up took me about 10 minutes. After arriving at the top, I was rewarded with an amazing view to the mountain ranges to the East and the Sequoia valley underneath me. An amazing spot. Thsi climb up and down took me ~ 30 minutes to complete.
But the main attraction is still waiting for us, the General Sherman Tree. It is easliy accessible from the parking lot and after hiking down a 0.5 mile trail, we arrived at the bottom of the gigantic tree. It is determined to be >2000 years old, 10 meters wide, and 100 meters tall. Its just gigantic. Very impressive. We took several photos at this spot and enjoyed the fresh air at this prestine place before hiking back up to the parking lot.
By then, we were starving. So we took a brief lunch/dinner break at Lodgepole Visitors Center, the half way point along the General's Highway, where we also bought a few souvenirs at its gift shop.
As the day began to end, we finally arrived at our last stop, The General Grant Tree. The trail leading up to it from the parking lot is quite mild and there was a designated "photo spot" for taking pictures. Along side of it, is a fallen "Monarch" (a fallen Sequoia). The inside of it has been rotten away and we were able to walk through its trunk to the otherside. The trunk was ust huge, even with our arms fully extended, we didn't even come close to touching both sides of the walls of this "smaller" Sequoia.
As the day got darker, we stopped at the last stop of the day at Muir Center for last minute souvenirs before heading out highway 180 to head back to Visalia.
We didn't have time to finish the Kings Canyon portion of the General's Highway. But we were so impressed by the park that we will definitely visit Sequoia again, soon. And next time, we will definitely stay in the park, as travel to and from Visalia is actually quite time consuming (almost 1 hour due to the winding roads).