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1 day for Sequoias - use tour company or on our own?

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Ballinger, Texas
posts: 3
1 day for Sequoias - use tour company or on our own?

My 17y old son and I will be in California for a very short trip to attend a wedding. I am trying to carve out one day and night to take him to see the Sequoias, as it's the only thing he's asked to see. We will be in Gilroy for the wedding on Sunday, September 29, and I was thinking of leaving that afternoon to head for SNP or KCNP, spend the night and then and see as much as we can on Monday. Our flight back to Texas leaves San Jose on Tuesday morning at 0930, so I'm thinking we should probably drive back that direction on Monday night? One option is to drive from Gilroy to Three Rivers on Sunday evening, and I found an organized tour we could take from Three Rivers that hits the high points and would have us back in Three Rivers by 5 ish, so we could drive back Monday night. Is that my best bet - or should we just drive ourselves through the park? I don't have any preference where we stay on Sunday night, and wasn't sure if the best approach would be on 180 on the North side then drive down through the parks or to start from 198 and head back up north. Any ideas? We'd both love any of the scenery, (caves, waterfalls, Moro, meadows, etc.) but his specific request is to see the "big trees"... Thanks in advance!

Fresno, California
posts: 1
reviews: 5
1. Re: 1 day for Sequoias - use tour company or on our own?

You can drive a loop through the park from Visalia, California to Fresno, California or vice versa.

There are a few lodges up in the hills but I suggest you call ahead as we are nearing the end of the season.

The mountains are very steep and rugged going up from the south side (Three Rivers / Visalia) and the vistas and rock formations are really unique. However, this is a slower/longer way to access the park.

If you have only one day I would suggest going up 180 from Fresno, it is the quickest way into the park. If you spend the night Sunday in or near the park you should have enough time to see most of the northern part of the park. Hume Lake has a general store and place to eat called the "Sugar Shack" that makes a great hamburger and milk shake but, I am not sure if they will be open.

The drive down into the canyon going is very scenic and will not disappoint.

This is a drought year so the water features will not be in thier full glory.

Buck Rock Outlook will involve a short 1/4 mile hike from the pavement but it will be worth the drive/ hike. To get there you need to take highway 198 a few miles after you enter the park. There is also the Cedar Grove overlook and Kings Canyon overlook on the way. The last time I was up there, a small sign marked the turn for Buck Rock and Big Meadow. Make sure you have a map. You can access Hume Lake without having to back track to hiway 180. I think the road is called "10 mile road". From Hume you can access highway 180 without back tracking to highway 198. If you have a map you will see what I am discribing.

Boyden Caverns is a popular attraction but you should check ahead to see if it is going to be open. Normally that time of year is everyone is getting ready to shut down for winter.

On your way out you can stop in "Wilsonia" for food and such.

Don't forget about the General Sherman tree!

I will be up there in the next week and will report back.

San Francisco...
posts: 3,650
reviews: 127
2. Re: 1 day for Sequoias - use tour company or on our own?

Wow. Steve. What a great informative first time post. Looking forward to your TR when you return.

Btw, thee are also big trees at Henry Cowell Redwood SP near Gilroy, just not giant sequioas.

San Diego...
posts: 8,810
reviews: 33
3. Re: 1 day for Sequoias - use tour company or on our own?

You can see the coast redwoods at many state parks including the aforementioned Henry Cowell. To see the giant sequoias you will need to drive to the Sierra Nevada mountains. Probably the 2 closest groves of giant sequoias to Gilroy would be the Mariposa Grove in Yosemite National Park and the Grant Grove in Kings Canyon National Park. The Mariposa Grove is a tiny bit closer but insignificantly so. The driving time is probably the same. The easier one to reach is probably the Grant Grove, just inside Kings Canyon NP. You would drive through Fresno then Highway 180 to the park. The General Grant tree is the third largest tree in the world by volume. About 3.5 driving hours from Gilroy. If your son likes big cats, you might stop at the Sierra Endangered Cat Haven on Highway 180 just outside the park the next morning. http://cathaven.com for more info. $20 per car to enter the park. To drive down to Three Rivers seems to me would take much longer.

Edited: 1:10 am, September 14, 2013
Ballinger, Texas
posts: 3
4. Re: 1 day for Sequoias - use tour company or on our own?

Thanks to everyone for the helpful info. I was kind of thinking that the loop idea sounded good. I actually found a tour that goes out of Three Rivers so that's why I came up with that. I was, thinking I'd rather drive the longer leg to get there and come back thru Fresno on Monday evening. But it may be better to start at the North end on 180. I chose the sequoias over the redwoods because I've seen the redwoods before, but not the sequoias. We live in Texas (actually 3-4 hours drive from Dallas, San Antonio or Austin, so we have no problems with a lengthy drive. I grew up in California and have been through the Sierras many times as a child.. camping at the Kern River, backpacking and skiing, so the mountain roads don't bother me either. Iwish we had a few more days, but it can't be helped. I also know it's getting close to the end of the season as th shuttle won't be running, etc. That's why I asked whether a guided tour would be better. We'd actually prefer to do it on our own tho, so thinking with all this good input I can plan our day so that we can do it ourselves.

posts: 3,865
reviews: 519
5. Re: 1 day for Sequoias - use tour company or on our own?

Since you basically only have one day I would drive to Grants Grove in KCNP (and stay at the John Muir Lodge) and make that your home base. If you have any daylight left, hike some of the trails near the General Grant tree (these trails are very close to the John Muir Lodge). Get up early the next morning and finish touring the Grant Grove area and then drive an hour to SNP and start hiking in the Giant Forest (starting at the General Sherman tree). Moro Rock is close by so make sure you climb the stairs to the top. Get a good book on hiking trails to make sure you make the most of your short visit and see the most Giant Sequoias.

You will be amazed at how many giant trees you can see in one day in these two parks.

Los Angeles
Destination Expert
for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park
posts: 10,454
reviews: 87
6. Re: 1 day for Sequoias - use tour company or on our own?

I would never go out of my way to Hume Lake on such a trip (not a single Sequoia in sight). 180 is only slightly longer than 198, but the classic entry view of Sequoia is on the 198. If you can possibly stay in Wuksachi Lodge on your one night, you would be 10-15 minutes from the Giant Forest. Driving in by the 180 is the fastest way from Gilroy, but you should consider other variables, such as views (Moro Rock from below, for example, is an outstanding vista and you can see a big part of the Sierras on that drive).

Crescent Meadow, Moro Rock, Beetle Rock, Congress Trail, Round Meadow, and of course, General Sherman tree are the highlights. All can be done with one long vigorous day. You might exit via the 180 (and see Lost Grove or Redwood Canyon on your way).

If Wuksachi is not available/out of your budget, then I agree the John Muir Lodge is an excellent choice (plenty of big trees in Grants Grove, of course, but spend as much time in the big trees in Sequoia as you can).

The meadows in August were far greener this year and the ferns were still in peak form, so while end of September will see a little browning of the greenery, the forest will be still and quiet, with the sounds of woodpeckers and chickarees getting ready for winter. Deer, ground squirrels and bear should be out and about too. These are California Black Bears, not scary grizzlies and they are shy around people (but you might see one near Crescent Meadow).

Have a great time and if any more questions, ask away.

San Diego...
posts: 8,810
reviews: 33
7. Re: 1 day for Sequoias - use tour company or on our own?

If you do stay at John Muir Lodge you will be close to Panoramic Point. The signage is poor. Take the narrow road that goes uphill from behind the lodge. Park in the parking area and walk the 300 yards to the point. The view of the peaks of the Sierra to the east is similar to the view from Moro Rock. It's best in the afternoon, because in the morning you would be facing the sun.

Ballinger, Texas
posts: 3
8. Re: 1 day for Sequoias - use tour company or on our own?

Wow.. thanks so much for all the info... I went ahead and reserved a room at Wuksachi... thinking of going in on 198 on Sunday afternoon/evening.. then back out via 180 on Monday evening. Going to try to see as many of these spots as possible.. can hardly wait!

9. Re: 1 day for Sequoias - use tour company or on our own?

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