Sequoia National Park Guide

(This post is part 2/6- make sure to read the others. While you’re reading, click anything blue and you will see I attached links and additional images for more information!)

Greg and I traveled from Yosemite National Park to Sequoia National Park to continue our honeymoon. We had 2 full days here and below is what filled our time.

*All times included time spent taking pictures/enjoying the views.

* We visited in the middle of June

Day 1- Monday

We woke up around 5:30am to pack up and get on the road. Initially the GPS said it would take us 3.5 hours to get to Sequoia but it took us around 4.5 (there is cheaper gas the further you drive away from Yosemite). On the way to Sequoia we passed right through Kings Canyon National Park and were able to stop at their Visitor Center and stamp our passport. Driving up and down the mountain we were also able to make a stop at a lookout point that overlooked the canyon. It was nice but had somewhat occluded views. We then drove straight to Moro Rock before checking in at our campground as we knew there was a parking lot on location.

Moro Rock

Distance- 400 steps with a steep incline

Time- 45 minutes  

Shuttle- Route 2

We arrived here around 11:15am and there was a fair amount of people- not over crowded but it may seem that way when you are trying to climb up and down narrow stairs. Once you are at the top, there is plenty of room. Going up, I’ll be honest, I had to take a few rest periods. I never knew how exhausting 400 steps would be and after we got to the bottom, my legs were literally shaking. Don’t let this stop you though, the views are wonderful!

After Moro Rock, we drove back to Lodgepole Campground which took about 25 minutes. Lodgepole is a park campground that offers tent/RV spots for $22 a night- no hook up but there are bathrooms, a laundry facility, the visitor center, a restaurant, gift shop, public library, dumping stations, and many water stations. The RV spots here are very big and also have a fire pit which came in handy.

We ate lunch at the Lodgepole Market and both enjoyed our meals. Greg had a spicy Italian sub and I had a grilled chicken sandwich. We also picked up 2 things for breakfast and our total was $29.00. Not bad!

We hopped on the shuttle in order to get to our next hike to see the General Sherman.

General Sherman Hike

Distance- 1 mile (total out and back)

Time- 30 minutes – can be longer as there is a line to take a picture in front of the tree

Shuttle- Route 1 (Makes 2 stops, 1 for trailhead and another for their handicap accessible route)

Handicap Accessible

The General Sherman was absolutely amazing! It’s so crazy that this tree is the largest on the earth! This is an easy hike (with a steep incline on the way back) and definitely worth it. We arrived around 2:00 and it was pretty crowded. There are many photo opportunities right around this area.

In order to make this a longer hike, we added the Congress Trail to the General Sherman.

Congress Trail

Distance- 2 miles (loop)

Time- 2 hours

Shuttle- Route 1, you must pass the General Sherman to continue onto this trail

The Congress Trail is one of those trails that pictures just do not do it justice. The trees are something you have to experience with your own eyes. They are so big and so amazing. Here you will also see the President Tree which is the 4th largest on earth. We noticed a lot of the sequoias had “scars” or burn marks and later learned that fires are actually good for them- typically after a fire you will see a growth spurt! The entire trail is paved and a lot is shaded which helps on a hot day. We had a blast on this trail and would definitely recommend it if you are visiting as it was nearly empty as we were completing it.

From the Congress Trail, we got back on the shuttle to head to the Giant Forest Museum which is nearby to the Big Trees Trailhead.

Big Trees Trail

Distance- 1 mile total walking from the museum and back

Time- 1 hour  

Shuttle- Route 1

The Big Trees Trail is great to do after you complete a trail like the Congress Trail because you get similar views of the trees but with a different backdrop. This loop circles the Round Meadow and has numerous “stations” that provide tree information regarding: the fires, soil, habitat, water intake, history, etc. (There are bathrooms located at this trailhead)

After completing our last hike of the day, we went back to tour the Giant Forest Museum and were glad we did. This museum is so interesting and provides so much information on the Sequoias. It is great for kids and adults.

Our night ended by the campfire making dinner and eating smores for dessert!

Day 2- Tuesday

We started our day with the Topokah Trail as it was only a 2-minute walk from our campsite at Lodgepole.

Topokah Trail

Distance- 4 miles (total out and back)

Time- 2.5 hours

Shuttle- Route 1

This trail was very interesting to us because when you think of Sequoia National Park, typically the trees come to mind. This trail did have some large sequoias on its route, but the main attraction was the waterfall at the end. My watch clocked this trail at just over 500 feet of elevation throughout but many parts are shaded which allowed for a cooler breeze during the time of our visit. We started this hike at 9:30am and were the only two until our way back when we passed many people heading up. Keep an eye out for animals on this route, no bears for us though.

After the Topokah Trail we hopped on the shuttle to get to the Crescent Meadows/Tharp’s Log Trail– from Lodgepole it took us 50 minutes to get to this location.

Crescent Meadows/Tharp’s Log

Distance- 2 miles

Time- 1 hour

Shuttle- Route 2

This trail is mostly shaded and circles around the Crescent Meadow, we added a little bit to see Tharp’s Log so we saw views of Log Meadow as well. Keep an eye out for marked trees such as “Chimney Tree”!

OTHER PARK INFORMATION

SHUTTLE SYSTEM- The free shuttle system at Sequoia is great but make sure you know what time the last shuttle is. The shuttles at this location stop around 6pm and you do not want to get stuck at a trailhead.

VISITOR CENTER- Definitely make a stop here, the rangers can provide you with any information or questions you may have. You can also buy souvenirs at the gift shop, grab free maps (we lived off of using ours), and get a stamp for your National Park Passport! We added to our National Park stamp collection here.   

SERVICE- We had absolutely no service at during our entire time at Sequoia, not even for a minute. I would 100% recommend loading the directions from one place to another on your phone beforehand and taking screenshots- this helped us!

FOOD- We packed a lot of snacks for our hikes including trail mix, crackers, etc. Having the RV available after each hike was very convenient for meals as well. I would recommend packing sandwiches for the longer hikes. The Lodgepole Market also has great food as I mentioned above.

LAUNDRY- Lodgepole has a laundry facility (not sure if there are any others in the park but this was open to the public). We paid $1.25 to wash our clothes and $.50 to dry our clothes for 20 minutes.

WEATHER– The weather here fluctuated. We woke up freezing and even the start of some hikes were cold but by the end of the day we were hot. Wear layers that you can remove.

TRAILS- If you are limited on time, plan out your top trails and do them first; you might be surprised that you have extra time in the day that allows for more adventures.

FIREWOOD- You are allowed to use branches/wood that you find on the ground for firewood here, no breaking off trees.

OUR NUMBER 1 RECOMMENDATION– Pack for the cold, even in the summer the nights can get very cold.

OUR NUMBER 1 RECOMMENDED HIKE- Congress Trail!

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Planning a National Park Honeymoon

Planning a trip to a National Park or planning your honeymoon, I am here to help! I have already done the work and hope you can take something from this. Be aware, this is long but can be helpful!

Greg and I have always loved to travel, especially together- we met in Europe, vacationed in the Bahamas, traveled back to Europe together, and went on many local weekend trips together. While talking about our honeymoon we realized we have seen more of Europe than the USA. We decided our honeymoon would consist of renting an RV and traveling to various National Parks out west.

I am writing this before we go on our honeymoon- this was the planning process and our itinerary, I will write another post after the honeymoon regarding tips, things I wish we knew, what I would do different, etc. (Stay tuned!)

The first part of our planning process was deciding when to visit. We knew we wanted to visit during the warmer season but also had a lot to think about: summers at the National Parks are crowded (people have said they felt like they were at Disney, not appealing to us!), some parks remain closed up until the end of May or beginning of June due to the snow not melting, traveling during a holiday probably isn’t the best idea, and deciding when we could afford to take 3 weeks off work was huge. After much talk, we decided our trip would be June 2019.

Second. We have set the dates, now what? Where do we want to go?… or should I say where can we really go during our 18 days without being on the road every day and being able to relax… I mean this is our honeymoon. We looked at a map and realized in order to get the most out of our days, starting in California will be best.
After researching multiple parks, we decided our trip will include: Yosemite, Sequoia, Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce, and Grand Teton while making a day stop at Horseshoe Bend (20-minute detour while traveling from Grand Canyon -> Zion). Now, if you are reading this thinking “What, why aren’t they going to (INSERT PARK HERE)?!”, listen, if we could, we would literally quit our jobs and visit every park but that is not possible right now… we will visit every park, just give us time; our 2nd trip is already in the works.
Thanks to Google Maps, we were able to see the distance between each park and plan how long we could stay to make the best out of our time. Planned is: 10 days of no driving AT ALL and 8 days that requiring driving (average of 3 hours with 2 days that have a 10-hour drive).

Third. How do we get around? Okay this process was much more stressful than anticipated mainly because we were not planning a “round trip”, we knew we wanted to start in 1 state and end in another. CRUISE AMERICA offered this option but we had to get special permission as they must keep specific inventory at each one of their rental locations (this is much more complicated than “special permission”, it required us to change our trip about 10 times… no lie, before they gave us permission). Their cheapest RV to rent was the 7 passenger RV but that was 1: way too much space for the two of us and 2: way too big of an RV for us “first time RV drivers” to drive. The rental we ended up booking was the 19-foot compact RV that holds up to 3 people (much more expensive than the 7 passenger- around $2,000)- don’t worry, it has a shower, a toilet, and a small kitchen!

Fourth. Yay, the “when and where” is booked, now time to book the flights. Let me tell you, the app SkyScanner is AMAZING. Enter your: From/To locations and your travel dates and the app will do the rest including: tell you when prices are expected to rise/go down, and give a 1-10 point rating based on details such as when you will arrive, if there is a layover, price, etc. Check it out, you won’t be disappointed.
For our trip, we will be flying from Tampa to San Jose and then Salt Lake City to Tampa (we got our flights for $193 each heading to San Jose and then $177 each heading home to Tampa).
Our flights also were based on where rental locations for Cruise America were located (Newark, CA and Salt Lake City, UT). 

Wait, where are we going to sleep?  Yes, we have the RV but where will we park? The fifth part was booking RV sites. If you are reading this and plan to travel within the next 6 months, book now, Yosemite National Park fills up the day they open reservations!!! For real, call or look on RECREATION.GOV for more information- we found it was way easier to call rather than look on the website (877- 444-6777), you can talk to someone who knows more about the area and they can do a search of multiple campgrounds at once. We booked our trip 6 months out and only got into 2/4 National Park Campgrounds, Lodgepole Campground at Sequoia for $22 a night and Mather Campground at Grand Canyon for $18 a night (they are much cheaper than regular RV parks and campgrounds so we would have liked to get in more- Bryce National Park and Grand Teton are “first come first serve” so we will be heading there… still unsure of where we will sleep if they are full).
** Call the number above even if it says the campground is full, especially if you are staying more than a night. We have to change campsites at one location but we are able to be in the park.
** Make sure you research the rules of the campground ahead of time and plan, most do not let you run an RV generator during the night.

Sixth. The big details are done but now, what are we going to do to fill our days? How are we doing to enjoy the parks in the time we have?
So… I am a planner, I like to do my research, and spend way too much time looking up information but can you blame me? I want to make sure we are making the most out of our time. I wrote down each park name followed by certain information including: best time to visit, average temperature in June so we know what to pack/wear, common attractions, best things to do, where to stay, tips, things to remember, etc. (Greg and I also bought a National Park Adventure Guide off of Amazon that has the “Top 10 Things to Do” in each park, find it here -> NATIONAL PARK GUIDE BOOK).
Here is what we have planned at each park knowing this will not take up our entire time but will allow for free time to explore and get recommendations from locals:

  1. Yosemite National Park- Mirror Lake Trail, Bridalveil Falls, Sentinel Dome/Taft Point Loop, Tunnel View
  2. Sequoia National Park- Moro Rock Trail, Congress Trail, Big Tree Trail, Tunnel Log, Topokah Trail
  3. Grand Canyon National Park- Ooh Aah Point/Cedar Ridge, Bright Angel Trailhead, Mule Barn, Grandview Point Lookout
  4. Horseshoe Bend- Sightseeing
  5. Zion National Park- Narrows Hike, Angels Landing, Emerald Pool Hiking Trail, Canyon Overlook Trail
  6. Bryce National Park- Navajo/Queens Garden Loop, Sunset Point, Tower Bridge Hike
  7. Grand Teton National Park – SNAKE RIVER LUNCH RAFT TRIP, Colter Bay Village Marine kayak/boat rental, 42 Mile Scenic Route.

** Greg and I have done some leisure hikes while we lived in NJ so all of these listed above are at most considered “moderate”, like I said I will be writing another blog about our trip/hikes once we return.
** Some hikes in the park require a permit, do some research before you go… none of these require a permit.

Seventh, packing list. I think this is the worst part, right? Each park has a different average temperature listed in June so I know I am going to over pack, not like anyone ever does. Other than clothes, here are some essentials: backpack (preferably one with a water bag to stay hydrated), hiking shoes, bug spray, flashlight, copy of you license, rain jacket, hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, camera, portable battery pack, medication (you don’t want to get a headache or feel sick while you are on a 6 mile hike), National Park annual pass (worth it if you plan on going to 3 or more parks in a 1 year period), snacks, first aid kit., etc.

Eighth. RELAX BECAUSE YOUR TRIP IS PLANNED AND START A COUNTDOWN!

Things to remember: make sure someone has a copy of your exact itinerary, you’ll want to plan on checking in but be aware you may not have service everywhere you plan to go, let them know!