Ever since we were kids, tall trees have sparked our imaginations. As we grow older, sadly that sense of wonder begins to diminish. It’s not until you step into the land of the Giant Sequoias and look up at these towering titans do those dreams suddenly re-ignite. It’s as if you transport back to the old English fairy tale of Jack and the Giant Beanstalk. This summer, bring back your childhood excitement and check out these Giant Sequoia adventures in the High Sierra.
Calaveras Big Trees State Park
Oldest Tourist Attraction in California
In 1852, August T. Dowd discovered the first specimens of the giant sequoias while tracking a bear through the forest. Once the world knew about the largest living things in existence, demand was immediate. Tourists began arriving at the Calaveras North Grove by 1853 which later became part of the Calaveras Big Trees State Park. Once home to the largest specimen to date, the 2000-year-old Pioneer Cabin Tree fell during a storm in 2017. Even with this historic tower sadly gone, you’ll still understand why this is the oldest tourist attraction in California as you peer up at these wondrous behemoths. The North Grove Trail, open year-round, is stroller and wheelchair friendly and gives close access to the giant sequoias. The South Grove, a 5-hour round-trip hike has the greatest abundance of giant sequoias, including the largest in the park.
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite’s Most Secluded Groves
Massive, ancient giant sequoias live among three groves in Yosemite National Park. While the most visited grove is the Mariposa Grove of the Giant Sequoias, as it’s the easiest to get to and has the largest number of mature sequoias, the Merced & Tuolumne Groves offer you the most seclusion. Taking around three hours, both of these 3-mile round trip hikes have a 600-700 foot elevation gain and offer a chance to see these wonders in a peaceful environment. NOTE: Mariposa Grove reopened to the public on June 15th, 2018 after a massive $40 million restoration.
Sequoia National Park
Attention! See the Largest Tree in the World
While there are taller and wider trees in existence, General Sherman in the Sequoia National Park is the head honcho in volume. Standing over 273 feet tall and 36+ feet in diameter, this leviathan has an estimated bole volume of 52,413 cubic feet. While it might be the largest, we recommend checking out the adjacent Congress Trail too. The 2-mile loop travels through dozens of sequoias with diameters the size of your living room! On this walk, you’ll see what used to be considered the second largest tree in existence too. Unfortunately after a lightning fire, the upper reaches were burned making it no longer in the top 30.
The California High Sierra is famous for its soaring mountains, deep canyons, roaring waterfalls and the only NATURAL home of the giant sequoias. Existing only on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada, these groves of giant redwoods must be seen in person to really capture their grandeur. If you haven’t been, we highly recommend a trip to see John Muir’s “Big Trees” in person.
Author: Alex Silgalis
Alex Silgalis is an outdoors travel writer who enjoys snowboarding, mountain biking, or having a cold one from a local mountain brewery. See more of Alex’s work at https://localfreshies.com
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