I never saw a Big Tree that had died a natural death. Barring accidents they seem to be immortal, being exempt from all diseases that afflict and kill other trees. Unless destroyed by man, they live on indefinitely until burned, smashed by lightning, or cast down by storms, or by the giving way of the ground on which they stand.” wrote John Muir. He was also known as John of the Mountains, as he dedicated all his life to the Sierra Nevada Mountains. His efforts contributed to the creation of Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks and many other protected areas. What to see in Sequoia National Park?
SEQUOIAS – THOUSANDS YEAR-OLD GIANTS
What makes the giant sequoias in the park so special? First of all, they are gigantic – they dominated the list of the largest trees in the world in terms of trunk circumference. In terms of height, they come second, just after their ‘relative’ – coast redwood (you can see them in northern California, in the Redwood National Park). When colonists in the XIX century discovered this place (of course, Native Americans knew about sequoias for hundreds of years), no one believed in their tales about giant trees. Unfortunately, this has contributed to the felling of several sequoias – slices of the trunk began to circulate around the world, as a proof of giants’ existence. You can see one of them, from “Mark Twain” sequoia, in the British Natural History Museum. These trees are also live very long – the oldest one discovered was about 3000-year-old!
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To be able to survive thousands of years, sequoias need fire. Yes, despite fire is considered to be a rather destructive element, it makes sequoias reproduce and helps to provide all necessary vital sources. Historically, forest burned because eg. lightning struck the tree. It naturally cleared and fertilized the ground around sequoias and improved the soil composition, allowing seeds germination. But in the first place, fire opens sequoia cones, letting seeds fall down on fertilized soil. Thanks to evolution, sequoias developed a special type of fiber, very soft when touched but very thick, which provides insulation against the flames. Currently, the park staff carries out additional controlled prescribed burns. These treatments, combined with naturally occurring fires, are also intended to avoid catastrophic fires which could evolve in an uncontrolled manner. Don’t be surprised, if some roads in the park are closed for this reason during your stay.
WHAT TO SEE IN SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK?
You can start visiting Sequoia National Park from the north (California State Route 180, then 198) or south (the reverse route). We chose the second option. All major attractions are very well marked, so you won’t have any problems finding them. So, what to see in Sequoia National Park?
“General Sherman” Sequoia
The biggest giant in the park. It measures 84 meters in height and its trunk diameter equals to 11 meters at the base. When in 1978 one of its branches fell off, it was 43 meters long and weighed only 22 tons. So better not park your car under the trees here…
Local bears are another danger. Do you remember the Yogi Bear stealing picnic baskets from tourists in Yellowstone? This is somehow true. Everywhere in the parking lots, you will find warnings to store all food and fragrant items in special anti-teddy-bear containers. Bears quickly become addicted to the food provided by humans, and over time they may start behaving aggressively towards people to get something to eat. Have you ever seen what a 500-kilo bear can do with the car? Not to mention the fact that feeding them with human food isn’t necessarily best for their health. Typically, a bear which becomes too familiar with the human food must be shot. Don’t feed the bears and secure the food!
“General Grant” Sequoia
The second largest giant of the world is actually next to the first one, approx. 20 minutes by car, in the neighboring Kings Canyon National Park. This one is “only” 81.5 m high and has about 1650 years. It is also the world’s biggest Christmas tree – in 1926, President Calvin Coolidge named it “National Christmas Tree”. Every year, on the second Sunday of December, you can join a festive march “Trek to the Tree”.
This is 84-meter sequoia which fell down. People decided to cut a tunnel in it to allow the further use of the road. It was much easier than moving the tree blocking the route! Another fantastic spot to add to your “what to see in Sequoia National Park” list!
It is a very picturesque meadow, surrounded by sequoias, a perfect place for a picnic. John Muir called it “gem of the Sierra.”
The highest mountain in the continental USA (US minus Alaska and Hawaii). Maybe you should consider climbing this more than 4 km high mountain during your stay? Climbing takes approx. 18h, and along the way you have to deal frequently with such ‘attractions’ as altitude sickness.
How much time do I need? One day is enough as long as you don’t climb Mt Whitney 🙂
Where to stay in Sequoia National Park? There are camping spots as well as lodges in the park, but you must book in advance. Most people stop in Bakersfield or Fresno (which is also a good base for Yosemite). We stayed in Ridgecrest, as the day before we visited Death Valley.
Fee: ticket valid for 7 days – 25$ per car. If you plan to visit more national parks in the States, consider purchasing America the Beautiful Annual Pass for 80$. You get unlimited access to all parks until the end of the year!
Important: Before you hit the road, check updated conditions and warnings in Sequoia National Park (eg. roads closures). Also, remember to wear few layers of clothes – it was very cold in September! It’s hard to believe that hot Death Valley is just a few hours driving from here!
Are you going there? Have you decided what to see in Sequoia National Park?
For more our adventures in the US, click here!
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