If the only national park you visit in California is Yosemite, you’ll miss seeing the world’s largest living tree, which grows a short drive away.
Just five hours north of Los Angeles, the legendary General Sherman Tree lives in Sequoia National Park. It holds the record for the world's largest tree. Part of the fun is getting there as you drive through the awe-inspiring Tunnel Log, formed when a giant sequoia fell across the park road in 1937.
The General Sherman Tree reaches 275 feet up to the sky and is over 36 feet in diameter at its base. Parking for the Main Trail to the tree is off Wolverton Road. Walk the paved trail with some stairs a half a mile to the tree. If you have a disability parking placard, park in a lot along the edge of the Generals Highway. From there, get on the wheelchair-accessible trail that leads a short distance to the tree.
“People do not realize how close the three national parks are,” says Rhonda Salisbury, CEO of Visit Yosemite|Madera County, referring to Sequoia, Kings Canyon and Yosemite national parks.
In fact, you can visit all three national parks, Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon, in a long weekend.
“With the Majestic Mountain Loop, you can explore three amazing national parks in as little as three days.” says Suzanne Bianco, director of tourism marketing for Visit Visalia.
Visalia is a gateway town to Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks, so en route to the parks, make a stop in its downtown. Check out the Sequoia Legacy Tree in downtown Visalia, a giant sequoia tree that came from the Grant Grove of trees about 80 years ago. Walk the path that surrounds the tree as it is the approximate circumference of the General Sherman Tree, the largest living tree on Earth. Then, head to Sequoia National Park to see it for yourself.
In Kings Canyon National Park, next to Sequoia, you can explore the General Grant Tree. A one-third-of-a mile walk on a paved loop trail brings you to its base. In 1926 President Coolidge designated it the nation's Christmas tree, and every year since, there is a ceremony the second Sunday of December called "Trek to the Tree," organized by the Sanger Chamber of Commerce.
Don't miss Boyden Cave, giving you a rare opportunity to see the Earth from the inside.
A huge bonus is you see incredible natural wonders without the crowds. While more than 5 million visitors flock to Yosemite each year, only 2 million make it to Sequoia and Kings Canyon.
But Yosemite’s beauty is not to be missed, so drive two hours north to the park. Before you get to Yosemite’s South Entrance, stop in Oakhurst to fuel up on supplies, food and gas. Then head to Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad to ride a steam train and pan for gold. By the time you arrive in Yosemite, you’ll have two additional stamps on your National Parks Passport. Don't miss the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias that reopened in June 2018.
For more information:
Majestic Mountain Loop
Visalia Convention & Visitors Bureau
Visit Yosemite | Madera County