SIGHTS TO SEE WITHIN A
FEW MILES OF OUR HOME
Sequoia National Parks is a masterpiece created by nature. Here you
can walk up to the largest tree on the globe. The following are just a
few of the many sights to see in the park.
Named in 1875 by explorer and conservationist John Muir, Giant Forest
is celebrated for its beautiful meadows and its sequoia grove, the
park's most famous attraction. The first thing to do in Giant Forest is
to go to the Giant Forest museum, where exhibits and park rangers will
help you understand the story of this beautiful grove. The
cinnamon-colored Big Trees, members of the redwood family, may be seen
today as Muir found them, "Giants grouped in pure temple groves, or
arranged in colonnades along the sides of meadows." The northern fringe
of the grove is guarded by General Sherman and a few of his troops,
including the 246.1-foot-tall Washington Tree, the world's second
largest. The two-mile looping Congress Trail provides access.
General Sherman Tree
This gargantuan sequoia, while neither the tallest nor the widest
tree, is considered the largest living tree in the world because of its
volume. It weighs approximately 2.7 million pounds, and it is believed
to be approximately 2,100 years old. Its height is 274.9 feet, and its
circumference at ground level is 102.6 feet. The diameter of its largest
branch is 6.8 feet. Every year, it adds enough wood to make a
60-foot-tall tree measuring one foot in diameter, and it's still
growing. It was named in 1879 by James Wolverton, a pioneer cattleman
who had served under General William Tecumseh Sherman in the Civil War.
The tree is located two miles north of Giant Forest museum along the
Moro Rock is a large granite dome also found in the Giant Forest
area. Common in the Sierra Nevada, the dome was formed by exfoliation,
or the casting off in sheets of rock layers on otherwise unjointed
granite. Outward expansion of the granite results in exfoliation. Taking
a quarter-mile trail, you can climb nearly 400 steep steps to the top of
the barren rock (6,725-foot elevation). It offers an unparalleled view
(especially at sunset) of the Great Western Divide and its verdant
canyons. The Moro Rock parking area is 1.5 miles from the Giant Forest
museum. RVs and trailers are prohibited on this road.
John Muir is said to have called this lovely, grassy, open area the
"gem of the Sierra." It is located one-and-a-half miles east of the Moro
Rock parking area. A hike on the trail around the meadow takes about an
Hale Tharp, the first non-Native American settler in the area,
established a cattle ranch among the Big Trees. He also built a simple
summer cabin from a fallen, fire-hollowed sequoia log in the 1860s. It
is the oldest pioneer cabin remaining in the park. Muir called it "a
noble den." The cabin is located in the Giant Forest area, a mile
northeast of the Crescent Meadow parking lot.
The parks protect more than 200 caves, including Crystal Cave. Formed
of limestone that has been metamorphosed into marble, it is decorated
with curtains of icicle-like stalactites and mounds of stalagmites. To
reach it, you must drive to the end of the twisting, seven-mile road
heading west from Generals Highway two miles south of the Giant Forest
Museum. Trailers, RVs and buses are prohibited because of the road's
narrowness. Then, from the parking area, it is a 15-minute hike down a
steep path to the cave entrance. The cave can be toured in summer only.
Sequoia Natural History Association offers daily, 45-minute guided tours
every half-hour between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. from mid-June to early
September (less often in early May and late September). A jacket or
sweater is recommended. Please call (559) 565-3759 for more information.
Tickets are not sold at Crystal Cave and must be purchased at Lodgepole
or Foothills visitor centers only.
From Highway 198, three miles east of Three Rivers, is a 25-mile
winding road leading to Mineral King. Because of 698 tight turns, the
drive takes about one-and-a-half-hours. The glacial valley, added to
Sequoia in 1978, was named by 19th-century prospectors searching for
silver. To see Mineral King at a leisurely pace, it's best to stay at
one of the two area campgrounds, Atwell Mill or Cold Springs (no
trailers permitted). With 11 different trails, Mineral King is a hikers'
heaven. Avalanches have mowed down trees on the valley floor so lowlands
are covered with wild meadows. Woods of lodgepole pine, and white and
red fir are at higher elevations. The rocky landscape is colorful:
rusty-red shales, white marble and granite, and a black metamorphic
shale. Alpine trails begin at the 7,500-foot elevation and climbs are
Hospital Rock, about six miles northeast of the Foothills Visitor
Center, was the home of a subgroup of the Monache people until the
1870s. You can see pictographs as well as nearly 50 grinding spots used
by Monache women to grind acorns into flour.
Crowning the Sierra Nevada, majestic Mount Whitney stands 14,494 feet
tall. It is the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States. You
can see it only from the eastern reaches of the backcountry of Sequoia
or from Highway 395, near Lone Pine, outside the park. To reach Mount
Whitney from western trailheads, backpackers take a 70-mile, eight-day
trek. It takes one to two days from eastern trailheads. The trek is so
popular that special permits are required.
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