Giant sequoias, raging waterfalls and Yosemite Valley vistas are just a few of the adventures to enjoy in the Southern Sierra. Families, couples and explorers of all ages will find plenty to discover during this weeklong adventure.
Fresno-Yosemite International Airport is the gateway to three of California’s most beautiful national parks including Sequoia National Park, Kings Canyon National Park and Yosemite National Park. Nine in-terminal car rental agencies as well as taxis, bus services and the V-Line Shuttle to Visalia give visitors options for transportation. Additionally, guided tours can be arranged from the airport to each of the three national parks. Public Transportation to Sequoia National Park from Visalia via the Sequoia Shuttle and Yosemite National Park from Fresno and Oakhurst via the YARTS bus are offered seasonally from May to September.
Start your adventure with a visit the vibrant city of Visalia, just south on Highway 99 . Known for farm fresh dining, shopping, arts and entertainment, and outdoor recreation, Visalia is the gateway to Sequoia National Park.
Begin on Main Street, Visalia’s charming and walkable downtown area for a great selection of restaurants and boutiques. For Mediterranean fare and a huge selection of craft brews, stop at Pita Kabob Gastropub with its friendly atmosphere and casual outdoor patio.
Spend the afternoon exploring friendly downtown Visalia. Valley artists have taken advantage of the concrete canvases on the building walls so that today guests can take a self-guided tour of murals throughout Visalia. History buffs can take a 45-minute stroll and discover the famous historic location of Fort Visalia along with the Little White Schoolhouse and early hotels like the Palace Hotel, and train station. Download a guide for both tours at visitvisalia.com. Boutique shops and art galleries make up a good part of downtown as well, so be sure to spend some time finding the perfect souvenir.
Settle in for the night at Visalia Wyndham Hotel, a full-service hotel with amenities like indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a restaurant, and lounge.
Day 1 Highlights
Courtesy McKellar Family Farms
Rise and shine with a cup of coffee at Tazz Coffee . The restaurant roasts the coffee beans on location to create their own mix of flavors. The menu features breakfast sandwiches, scrambles and pasteries all made with locally sourced ingredients. After enjoying farm fresh foods, head to McKellar Family Farms for an agricultural tour with farmer Bob and learn more about the journey from farm to table. Agricultural tours are by appointment only, so be sure to call in advance.
Baseball fans may enjoy a game at the Visalia Rawhide Stadium during the season from April to September. The Visalia Rawhide is a Class A advance team for the Arizona Diamondbacks. No game tonight? Then head to Planing Mill Artisan Pizza for hearty, flavorful pizzas made with the freshest ingredients, locally sourced whenever possible. From the adventurous ‘Thai Pie’ to the customer favorite ‘Kitchen Sink,’ there is truly something for all types of pizza lovers. After filling up, head back to the Visalia Wyndham for one last night in town.
Day 2 Highlights
Courtesy Delaware North – Kings Canyon National Park
Wake up bright and early and head out on Highway 198 towards Sequoia National Park. Make sure to stop for a photo at the newly restored ‘Indian Head’ Sequoia National Park entrance sign then head to Hospital Rock to view Native American pictographs before heading the Giant Forest.
The Giant Forest Museum is an excellent stop for a basic introduction to the ecology of the area and a resource for the many self-guided interpretive trails in the area. From the museum it is a short hike to Moro Rock and Tunnel Log, both popular in-park destinations. Take ¼-mile climb up the 400-foot granite staircase to the summit of Moro Rock. The granite dome offers panoramic views of Sequoia National Park and the Great Western Divide. Tunnel Log is a picture worthy stop as you drive through the massive sequoia tree.
Of course, you don’t want to miss the famous General Sherman Tree, the largest living thing on earth! Wander the trails in this grove to learn all about these amazing trees.
Lodgepole Visitors Center in the Lodgepole Village is a great place to stock up for the day at the general store and take advantage of the Wi-Fi. You’ll find plenty of snacks and drinks to fill your pack before heading out on a hike from a nearby trailhead.
In the winter, trails are open to snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Rangers offer guided snowshoe hikes for a chance to see the forest blanketed with snow. Wuksachi Village and Lodge features 102 guest rooms with a full service restaurant and cocktail lounge and is open year round.
Day 3 Highlights
Courtesy Boyden Cavern Adventures & Tours Inc.
Enjoy a camp breakfast or a quick snack at Wuksachi Lodge before driving highway 180 towards Cedar Grove. The Cedar Grove visitor center is the best stop for last minute supplies, guidebooks and souvenirs before hitting the trail for the day. The visitor center is open daily from Memorial Day until Labor Day.
Visit the Cedar Grove Snack Bar with meals served from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Burgers, quesadillas, chili and Caesar wraps are just a few of the items found here. Offerings change seasonally.
For a different view of the parks, saddle up for a guided horseback tour at Giant Grove Stables. Tours include some of the most scenic vistas in the park as well as a visit to the General Grant Grove of Sequoias including the General Grant Tree, which has been dubbed the Nation’s Christmas Tree in honor of the men and women of the armed forces.
Settle in for the night at the John Muir Lodge. The stone and timber retreat offers a rustic cabin feel with the amenities of a modern lodge. Open year-round, the lodge’s 36 rooms are the perfect place to unwind.
Day 4 Highlights
Courtesy of Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad
After breakfast, begin the drive toward the Yosemite southern Gateway community of Oakhurst via Highway 41. Just outside of Oakhurst, take a small detour along the Sierra Vista Scenic Byway for a view of the Nelder Grove of Giant Sequoia. Keep an eye out for the Bull Buck Tree.
Continue on to the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad. This 4-mile ride on a restored steam engine takes guests back in time to the location where locomotives once hauled massive log trains through the Sierra Mountains. Tour offerings range from 30-minutes to an hour depending on interest. The seasonal Moonlight Special is a 3-hour dinner tour that includes a meal and live entertainment. Onsite there is gold panning, a museum, gift shop, a book store and sandwich shop.
Afterwards, check into the Narrow Gauge Inn, conveniently located right next to the railroad station. Enjoy fine dining at the seasonal Narrow Gauge Restaurant while overlooking thick groves of trees. Settle in for the night in one of the scenic, comfortable rooms.
The Ascent Spa at Tenaya Lodge is the perfect place to unwind after nearly a week on the road. Choose from spa packages including deep tissue massages, facials and anti-aging embellishments. Childcare is available for those with small children, however, spa treatments are open to participants ages 14 and older.
After achieving a Zen balance, continue through the South Gate of Yosemite and spend the afternoon exploring the historic Wawona Lodge. The lodge is the perfect starting point for hikes and bike rides in the Valley. The Wawona Lodge has housed former presidents, diplomats and celebrities throughout history. Participants may explore the Pioneer History Center or enjoy a round of golf, a game of tennis, guided hike, horseback ride and even a stagecoach ride available. In the winter, nearby Badger Pass Ski Area is a popular destination for winter sports enthusiasts.
Spend the evening in the Big Tree Lodge and enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner featuring an array of seasonal specials.
Day 6 Highlights
Fill up at the Big Trees Lodge Dining Room and head into the heart of Yosemite Valley. Pack a camera and enjoy stunning views of the magnificent Half Dome from Glacier Point. A free shuttle provides rides to all the must-see spots in the valley including Yosemite Falls, the trailhead to the Mist Trail and Mirror Lake. Bike rentals are also available at the Yosemite Lodge if you prefer to cruise the canyon by bike. For those who’d like to get a taste of rock climbing, lessons are offered by Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides.
Enjoy the views from the Yosemite Lodge at the Falls, and don’t forget to pick up a Yosemite souvenir from one of the several shops at the Lodge.Have dinner in the Mountain Room Restaurant which boasts views of the impressive 2,424-foot falls as guests dine on fresh seafood, sizzling steaks and tasty pasta. Enjoy one last night watching the stars over the mountains before heading back to Fresno in the morning.