California Travel Articles
Giant Forest - Sequoia National Park (northern section)
The Lodgepole Visitor Center provides information for visitors to Giant Forest and the northern section of Sequoia National Park, our country's second oldest National Park. Giant Forest is one of the main visitor destinations in Sequoia. Four of the world's five largest sequoias grow here, and scenic meadows dot the area. High ridges to the east of the area culminate in Mount Silliman and Alta Peak, both over 11,000'. Popular foot trails lead to glacial lakes, and a side road winds down to Crystal Cave, a beautifully decorated marble cavern.
General Sherman Tree:
The General Sherman Tree is 274.9' (83.8 meters) tall, and 102.6' (31.3 meters) in circumference at its base. Other trees in the world are taller: the tallest tree in the world is the Coast Redwood, which averages 300' - 350' (91.4 - 106.7 meters) in height. A cypress near Oaxaca, Mexico has a greater circumference, 162' (49.4 meters). But in volume of wood, the Sherman has no equal. With 52,500 cubic feet (1486.6 cubic meters) of wood, the General Sherman Tree earns the title of the World's Largest Living Thing.
The Congress Trail:
This 2 mile stroll begins at the Sherman Tree, and follows a paved trail through the heart of the sequoia forest. It is recommended for first-time visitors to the Giant Forest, and for visitors with limited time. Famous sequoias along this trail include the House and Senate Groups, and the President, Chief Sequoyah, General Lee and McKinley Trees. An informational trail pamphlet is sold at the Sherman Tree or at the visitor center book store.
The Big Trees Trail:
This paved trail begins adjacent to the Giant Forest Museum, and forms a 1.2-mile loop around Round Meadow. Signs along the way describe sequoia ecology, and this sequoia-lined meadow is a good place to view wildflowers during the summer.
Hazelwood Nature Trail:
The Hazelwood Nature Trail begins on the south side of the Generals Highway, adjacent to the Giant Forest Lodge. Along this gentle 1 mile loop, signs tell the story of man's relationship to the Big Trees.
The Moro Rock-Crescent Meadow Road
The Moro Rock-Crescent Meadow Road leaves the General's Highway from Giant Forest Village and travels for 3 miles through the southwest portion of the Giant Forest. It dead-ends at a trailhead and picnic area. This road is not recommended for trailers or RV's. In the winter, the road is closed to vehicles, but open to cross-country skiing. Several famous attractions are located along this road.
The Auto Log:
Early visitors to the Giant Forest often had difficulty comprehending how big the giant sequoias are. To help give a sense of their size, a roadway was cut into the top of this fallen tree. The Auto Log is located 0.9 miles from Giant Forest Village on the Moro Rock-Crescent Meadow Road.
The parking area for Moro Rock is 2 miles from the village. A steep 1/4 mile staircase climbs over 300' (91.4 meters) to the summit of this granite dome. From the top, you will have spectacular views of the western half of Sequoia National Park and the Great Western Divide. This chain of mountains runs north/south through the center of Sequoia National Park, "dividing" the watersheds of the Kaweah River to the west and the Kern River to the east. Also on the eastern side of the divide is Mt. Whitney, the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states. Unfortunately, because many of the snowcapped peaks in the Great Western Divide reach altitudes of 12,000' (3657 meters) or higher, it is impossible to see over them to view Mt. Whitney from Moro Rock. The summit of Alta Peak, a strenuous 7-mile hike from the Wolverton picnic area, is the closest place from which to see Mt. Whitney.
The Parker Group:
The Parker Group is considered one of the finest clusters of sequoias which can be reached by automobile. It is 2.6 miles from the Giant Forest Village.
The Tunnel Log:
Sequoia and Kings Canyon have never had a drive-through tree. The Wawona Tunnel Tree, the famous "tree you can drive through", grew in the Mariposa Grove of Yosemite National Park, 100 air-miles north of Sequoia and Kings Canyon. It fell over during the severe winter of 1968-69. Visitors to Sequoia National Park can drive through a fallen sequoia, however. In December 1937, an unnamed sequoia 275' (83.8 meters) high and 21' (6.4 meters) in diameter fell across the Crescent Meadow Road as a result of "natural causes". The following summer, a Civilian Conservation Corps crew cut a tunnel through the tree. The tunnel is 8' (2.4 meters) high and 17' (5.2 meters) wide, and there is a bypass for taller vehicles.
The Crescent Meadow Road ends at a parking and trailhead area less than 100 yards (91.4 meters) from the edge of Crescent Meadow. A popular hike from Crescent Meadow is the 1-mile stroll to Tharp's Log, a fallen sequoia that provided a rustic summer home for the Giant Forest's first Caucasian resident, Hale Tharp. Another easy 1 1/2 mile trail circles the meadow, which is an excellent place to view wildflowers in the summer. Some lucky visitors to this and other meadows in the park may also have an opportunity to see a bear. Because Crescent Meadow is a fragile environment, please stay on designated trails and walk only on fallen logs for access into the meadows.
Crystal Cave is located off the Generals Highway in Sequoia National Park, between the Ash Mountain entrance and Giant Forest. To reach
the cave, drive down the scenic, winding, paved road to the cave parking lot. Hike down the half-mile trail along beautiful Cascade Creek, where you will be met by a guide at the cave entrance.
The trail to Tokopah Falls starts just beyond the Log Bridge in Lodgepole Campground. It is an easy 1.7 mile (one way) walk along the Marble Fork of the Kaweah River to the impressive granite cliffs and waterfall of Tokopah Canyon. Tokopah Falls is 1200' (365.8 meters) high, and is most impressive in early summer, when the run-off from the melting snowpack in the Pear Lake region upstream is at its peak.
Little Baldy Trail:
The trail to the summit of Little Baldy begins 11 miles north of the Giant Forest Village on the Generals Highway. This trail is 1.7 miles one way, and climbs 700' (213.3 meters). At an elevation of 8044' (2451.8 meters) the granite dome of Little Baldy is an excellent location from which to study the terrain of the Giant Forest Region.
The Lakes Trail:
The popular Lakes Trail begins at Wolverton picnic area and ascends steeply to a chain of glacial lakes. Heather Lake, the first lake on the trail, is 4 miles from Wolverton. Camping is not permitted at Heather Lake, but backpacking permits are available for Emerald and Pear Lakes, 5.7 miles and 6.7 miles respectively from the trailhead.
Alta Peak Trail:
"Alta" means "high" in Spanish, and Alta Peak provides some of the best views and high-country scenery within day-hiking distance of the Lodgepole/Wolverton area. On a clear day, you can even see across the Great Western Divide to Mt. Whitney from the summit of Alta Peak (11,204'/3415 meters). However, the steep grades and high altitudes along this trail make it one of the most strenuous in the western half of Sequoia National Park. Don't try this hike unless you are in good physical condition. The 13.8 mile round-trip hike to Alta Peak begins at the Wolverton picnic area. Backcountry permits are also available for this trail.
Information provided by:
National Park Service