Sequoia National Park is located in central California, just northeast of Bakersfield. The entrance to the park is located in a Three Rivers, California, which is a small and quiet town. It is a unique national park, full of natural beauty and incredible scenic views. We visited the park in March and we’re excited to share our top recommendations and tips for visiting Sequoia National Park.
Things to Do
The Giant Forest is a must-see when visiting Sequoia National Park. The trees here are huge, and have existed thousands of years. It’s truly a humbling experience to hike among them.
General Sherman Tree
The General Sherman Tree is the largest living tree in the world, and definitely worth stopping by to see. It’s less than a quarter mile hike from the parking lot to the tree.
This is also a must-see on my list. Moro Rock is located in the Giant Forest and is a quick 300-400 steps up to the top. We visited in March while the area was covered in snow. It’s approximately 2 miles through the Giant Forest to Moro Rock. Once there, it’s a quick hike to the top where you can see some incredible views.
Beware of snow conditions: When we visited Moro Rock, there were portions of the stairs and walkway that were covered in snow. Most people were able to get through it, but it really helped to have the right gear. In our case, we were carrying Stabilicers, which basic snow/ice cleats that you can place on top of your shoes and boots. They definitely helped get through the snow … though I did fall while filming at one point.
As you drive up the mountain from the entrance towards the Giant Forest, there are several scenic stops along the way. These are great places to stop and take photographs, especially if you happen to be driving around sunset.
Where to Stay
You can stay in the park, but we opted to stay just outside the entrance. Specifically, we stayed at the Sequoia Village Inn which has a number of cabins owned by the Buckeye Tree Lodge. Each has their own unique personality and configuration and can be viewed and booked online. The Buckeye Tree Lodge is a small hotel overlooking the scenic Kaweah River.
Where to Eat
In terms of food choices, we sampled two restaurants in the area:
Buckaroo Diner: We did a quick Yelp search, and found the Buckaroo Diner which was highly recommended. It did not disappoint! We loved the ambiance of the place so much that we returned for brunch the following day.
Gateway Restaurant: This was restaurant was across the street from our hotel. The food was decent and basic.
Top Tips for Visiting Sequoia National Park
1. Give yourself plenty of time to get from one location to the other in the park
We made the mistake of looking at the map and thinking that Moro Rock was close to the entrance. In reality, it’s a 45 minute to one hour drive from the entrance to the Moro Rock and the Giant Forest. The roads are very windy, so you won’t be driving very fast through the park.
2. Plan for snow (especially if you’re traveling during Winter)
We visited the park two weeks after a major storm had passed through. Before going, we checked the weather in Three Rivers, and the weather looked warm. However, I didn’t account for the high elevation of the park, especially when you get to the Giant Forest. You don’t want to be hiking through snow in shorts!
3. Get information on road conditions
Snow chains are recommended for the winter season. However, it’s best to ask what roads require them. In many cases, you might not need them, especially if the Rangers have closed down certain roads. A quick stop at the Visitor Center will be able to give you the guidance that you need.
4. Bring appropriate gear
We bought a pair of ice cleats, which really helped with hiking the snowy trails and also climbing Moro Rock. In fact, I don’t know if I would have even tried to go up the rock if we weren’t wearing the right shoes. Keep in mind that you can also rent gear like snowshoes, skis, and sleds at the Lodgepole Visitor Center.
5. Eat early
Most restaurants close early in town. I don’t suggest getting dinner past 8 PM as most places close early.
6. Pick up some produce on your drive out
We stopped at one of the orange fruit stands on the drive out and bought a bag of oranges for only $3. They ended up being some of the most delicious and sweet orange that I have ever tasted.
7. Buy an annual pass
If you plan to visit other national parks, it’s definitely worth buying the annual pass. It costs $80, and can be associated with two different people (which is useful if you want to share it with a visiting family member or friend). Also, it gives you admission a ton of national parks and areas, including those managed by:
- National Park Service
- S. Forest Service
- S. Fish and Wildlife Service
- Bureau of Land Management
- Bureau of Reclamation
- S. Army Corps of Engineers
8. Pack snacks when traveling into the park
Food is sold at the Lodgepole Visitor Center, but it’s a long drive and the food choices were limited. The coffee wasn’t great either. Just a reminder that we did visit during the winter when many of the facilities were closed or limited.
Have you visited Sequoia National Park? Share your top tips and favorite places in our comments section below.