Sequoia National Forest, the crown jewel of California, lies in the southern half of the state and measures an incredible 1.1 million acres. With over 1,100 miles of hiking trails, it would take several lifetimes to explore the whole thing, and that’s just on foot. The towering forest envelops over 200 miles of river rapids for brave whitewater rafters. From horseback riding through Jurassic-sized trees to wildlife watching from the protected wilderness areas, there is truly something for everyone beneath this magical canopy.
About Sequoia National Forest
The forest is open to visitors year-round, however most people find the summer months to be the best time to go because the weather is the most consistent from June through August. Worried about the heat? You don’t have to be! The average high in June is 66 degrees, July’s high is 74 degrees, and August’s is 73. The lows, even in summer, can dip down below the twenties, so campers beware! Always bring extra layers of protective clothing. October through April is the rainy season, so if you choose to visit during this time, bring waterproof, hooded jackets and waterproof hiking boots.
While the forest does contain peaks of 12,000 feet above sea level, it is the lower elevations where you will find the world’s largest species of tree, the sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum), a close cousin of the coastal redwood. Not to say that the mountains of Sequoia have nothing to offer; on the contrary, the views from these magnificent cliffs are the stuff of magazine covers and poetry. To gain an eyeful of such views from the comfort of your car, just take Sherman Pass Road, a scenic road that will take you from Kern River up through Sherman Pass, eventually dipping back down into the Mojave Desert. At the peak of Sherman Pass is where you’ll want to stop and take it all in, as you will have a spectacular view of both the Sierra Crest and Mt. Whitney, the tallest mountain in the continental United States.
History of the Forest
As you may have guessed, the forest gets its namesake from the famously huge trees that grow there. The name Sequoia comes from the Native American Chief Sequoia (or Sikwayi), the man who invented the Cherokee alphabet.
The Sequoia National Forest was born from sectioning off a portion of the Sierra Forest Reserve in 1908. One year later, President Theodore Roosevelt added more acreage to the forest, however, one year after that in 1909 a large section was removed from “sequoia” and deemed “Kern National Forest.” The Kern National Forest did not last long, as it was added back to Sequoia in 1915.
If you would like to walk amongst some of the oldest and tallest organisms on earth, you need to see Redwood Mountain Grove. This woodland is located in the King’s Canyon Park section of the forest. This section contains the largest population of giant sequoia trees on the planet. Part of it also lies in Giant Sequoia National Monument (GSNM), a collection of acreage that hosts 38 sequoia groves. This is where the tallest and oldest trees in the entire forest have resided for thousands of years. We don’t mean generations of these trees have been around for thousands of years, we mean that a single sequoia tree can live to be 3,000 years old!
As you travel down the quiet forest paths, you may feel a sense of smallness. Here, you stand amongst organisms that have met with countless other people throughout history who also stopped and stared in awe at the mighty boughs above them.
Recreation in Sequoia ranges from hunting and fishing to boating and beachcombing. For a great day at the freshwater beach, we recommend Hume Lake. The sandy shores are cradled by the massive surrounding forest, providing a quiet, peaceful time on the water. Fisher-folks greatly enjoy this lake, as it comes stocked with trout.
Only non-motorized boats are allowed on Hume Lake (for motorized boat fun, visit the Kern River Ranger District.) Don’t have your own boat? No problem! Boat and canoe rentals are available on site, as well as campgrounds, a gas station, and a market. This site is great to get just far enough into the wilderness to enjoy nature without worrying about forgetting essentials.
Sequoia Forest staff help manage six different designated wilderness areas that are not located entirely inside Sequoia. These wilderness areas extend to neighboring forests as well, so it is a team effort with the surrounding forests’ districts. The wilderness areas accessible from Sequoia are Jennie Lakes Wilderness, Golden Trout Wilderness, Kiavah Wilderness, Monarch Wilderness, South Sierra Wilderness, and Dome Land Wilderness.
It is hard to name the wilderness areas without giving special mention to Monarch Wilderness. This is one of the most beautiful areas in the forest for its variety and bountiful wildlife sightings. The wilderness area begins at 2,000 feet above sea level and ends at 11,000 feet. There are three trails, altogether making 30 miles of hiking terrain. If you choose to give this area a go, you will be treated to views of the dazzling wildflower meadows and mountain streams of The Sierra, the famously massive trees of King’s Canyon, and the ever tranquil Grizzly Lake.
All in all, no matter where you’re from, you can’t go wrong with a visit to this natural treasure. The forest service maintains this beautiful land to be enjoyed by all, and indeed all should see it, if they have the chance.
Want to keep up with the latest Sequoia National Forest news? This is an especially great idea if you are planning a trip soon. This Alerts and Notices page will provide you with important, up-to-date information like trail closures, fire warnings, and weather conditions.
Want more information on another forest? Luckily for you, The National Forests.com is on a mission to cover every national forest in the United States! Keep it in your reading list and watch for new articles about every forest in every state.
As always, have fun, be safe, and leave no trace!
– By Heaven Morrow