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Marvel at nature masterpieces: a concentration of giant Sequoias nestled in the Sierra Nevada. Fall in love with the « Big Tree » with this one-day excursion. Follow me!
A pinch of history
- The name Sequoia may come from Sequoyah, “son of a Cherokee and German immigrant who developed a written alphabet for the Cherokee language.”
- Giant Sequoias are also called “Big Tree” or “Sierra Redwood”
- Established in 1890, Sequoia Park was the first California national park and the second in the United States (after Yellowstone).
- From 450 visitors in 1905, Sequoia and King canyon attract today more than two million people.
- Mount Whitney is the tallest peak of the 48 states (114,494 feet)
AM – Experience Crystal Cave
Venture into Sequoia’s underground world-touring Crystal Cave. It’s one of the 250 marbles caverns located in Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, and the only one open to visitors.
For one hour, we explore the chambers with a ranger. She explained the history of the cave, the different formations, and minerals. My highlights? The smell of pure air, the silence as you listen to echoes and water, and the complete darkness when the ranger shut down the light.
Plan your visit to Crystal Cave:
- Open from May through September
- Buy your tickets online at recreation.gov or at Lodgepole or Foothills visitor centers (tickets are not sold at the cave)
- Bring a jacket, it’s 50@ Fahrenheit (10 Celcius) inside!
- There is a 0.5 mile (0.8km) trail to access the cave from the parking lot.
- No backpack (possibility to put it before entering to the cave) and no flash photography
- Easy paved lighted path in the cave with some narrow areas.
PM – Marvel at the famed Big Threes
Set your eyes on giant and magnificent Sequoias discovering the following:
Named after General William Tecumseh Sherman in 1879, General Sherman is the largest living tree on Earth. Its volume is 52,500 cubic feet (1,487 cubic meters) and it weighs 1,385 tons (1,256 metric tons). With these impressive measurements, it is still 1,000 years younger than the oldest sequoia estimated at 3,200 years old!
Let’s be reassured, General Sherman is still growing 😉
Did you know? Early explorers cut some sequoias to exhibit them during America’s centennial exhibition or in museums. Cut in 1891, the Mark Twain tree remains in New York and London museums.
General Grant Tree (Grant Gove) :
Named after General Ulysse S. Grant in 1867, the General Grant Tree is the second largest sequoia on Earth and the youngest (1,650 years old). In 1926, it became the « Nation’s Christmas Tree .»
Did you know? Before being protected, Sequoias were cut down to make pencils and grape stakes.
Sentinel and Others
As you’re walking through the forest, admire this unique concentration of sequoias. They may not be referred to as the oldest, tallest, etc but they are large millennial trees.
For instance, the 2,200 years old Sentinel is considered as an « average » sequoia with its 257 feet (78 meters) and 700 tons (635 tons).
After their fall, Sequoias are still resisting decay and can live thousands of years on the floor. Tunnel log and the Fallen Monarch are the perfect examples. Drive through the first one and walk through the second fallen Sequoia.
Below is a picture of the Fallen Monarch taken in 1900…
One of my highlights is to hike in the park (there are more than 800 miles of marked trails). Walk among the Giants, smell their specific scents, observe their burn trunks, and discover wildlife. I observed birds, deers and even saw a black bear cub crossing the road. Early morning or evening is the best time to enjoy some of the 317 species known in the park.
Did you know? Bears are more active in spring and summer
Besides, I’m still impressed by the longevity and survival system of these Sequoias:
- their chemical tannins repulse insects and prevent diseases,
- their fibrous bark insulates the tree and is not very flammable,
- they are still growing despite their scars,
- they need fire to reproduce as the heat opens their cones and releases their seeds,
- according to scientists, the older Sequoia in the park is between 1,800 and 3,000 years old.
PM – Sequoia from above: Moro Rock
Climb 400 steps (0.25 mile) to reach Moro Rock, a large granite dome in the Giant Forest area (6,725-foot elevation). Then, admire the view of the Great Western Divide and other canyons. The landscape is stunning!
TIP: Allow yourself 60 minutes to walk and rest at the top.
You can also enjoy Moro Rock while driving on the General Highway from the park entrance to the Giant Forest Museum (there are some parking areas along the way to stop and take pictures).
Evening – Stargaze
The sky is the limit or not! Gaze at stars, constellations, and planets for a magical night. We participated in the Wonders of the Night Sky program (Wuksachi Lodge). For one hour, a ranger led us to explore the cosmos and hold our imagination with stories. It was a peaceful moment as we contemplated a sky inspiring dreams and wonders.
Did you know: The park is free of light pollution. In the next future, it may be received the International Recognition for Dark Sky (received in 2019 by the Grand Canyon national park).
Sounds like a must-see?
- Location: Sequoia National Park, CA.
- Hours: open year-round 24/7. Some roads can be closed in winter.
- Entrance: $20 per pedestrians/cyclists, $35 per private vehicle or $80 annual pass.
- Refer to the visitor centers for park regulations and safety
- Parking: on-site. Free shuttle during the summer season.
- Only one gas station in the park (check service hours)
- More information available at https://www.nps.gov/seki/index.htm