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If you are astounded and awed by giant sequoia trees, visit Sequoia National Park and marvel at their grandeur and ability to persevere forest fires. I highly recommend undertaking this one day Sequoia National Park itinerary as part of a Majestic Mountain Loop road trip where you visit Sequoia, Kings Canyon and Yosemite National Park over three to five days. Start your trip in Visalia, California, the gateway city for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
Use this Sequoia National Park travel guide to find all the best things to do (and see) in Sequoia National Park during a one-day visit.
Sequoia National Park Fun Facts
Established September 25, 1890, Sequoia National Park, is the second oldest United States National Park.
Sequoia National Park is 404,000 acres or 631 square miles (1016 sq km).
Sequoias, the largest trees by volume, only grow at altitudes of 5,000 to 7,000 ft (1,524 to 2,134m) on the Sierra Nevada’s western slopes. Interestingly, giant sequoias can’t withstand the colder temperatures above 7,500 feet or the drier climate below 5,000 feet.
Sequoia National Park Itinerary Stop #1 – Pick Up Food
Since food options are limited inside the park, I recommend stopping for food before starting your Sequoia National Park visit.
Wildflower Café (open 8AM-2PM Tuesday to Saturday)
If you are looking for customizable sandwiches, muffins, brownies, pastries or cookies, Wildflower Café is a good bet. They also offer salads, including chicken artichoke, but they aren’t ideal for all day sojourns. Prefer to sit down and eat before you kick of your Sequoia National Park one-day itinerary? Savor your food and imbibe your coffee on their shaded and welcoming patio and garden.
TOP TIP: If you have an extra 15-30 minutes, walk around downtown Exeter, where Wildflower Café is located, and admire all the murals accenting the buildings.
FUN FACT: Exeter, California, known as the “Citrus Capital of the World,” is revered for its sweet navel oranges.
Main Squeeze Market (open 10AM-6PM daily, except Tuesday)
Given you are in California’s agricultural heart, Main Squeeze Market is a perfect stop for oranges, nuts, local honey or a delectable fresh squeezed lemonade. Enjoy a frozen lemon slushie version as you get ready to use my Sequoia National Park travel guide to explore!
TOP TIP: If you’ve never tried creamed honey, buy some to add pizzazz to your Sequoia National Park day trip. You’ll thank me later! Lather it on a muffin or gobble it by the spoonful. Be forewarned, Nate’s Nectar orange creamed honey is decadent and highly addictive.
They also sell a serrano chili olive oil and a yuzu rice vinegar, which is tasty in stir-fried rice.
Reimer’s Candies (open 10AM-6PM)
The Reimer’s Candies location in Three Rivers, California, just outside the Sequoia National Park entrance, is their very first location. This is definitely one of the best things to do near Sequoia National Park. After discovering this old time candy and ice cream shop on a recent visit to Oakhurst, California, you can imagine my delight when I realized I could satiate my sweet tooth again before my Sequoia National Park visit.
TOP TIP: Order the Three Rivers Wild Blackberry ice cream, which is the specialty flavor for this Reimer’s location.
If you covet caramels like I do, their homemade dark chocolate sequoia sized caramel squares are the BEST I’ve ever had. Reimer’s richness and flavor has set a new bar for caramels. If you quickly exhaust your caramel stash (as I did), fear not. You can restock in Oakhurst, California. And, indulge yet again at Ahwahnee Hotel’s Sweet Shop in Yosemite National Park as part of the Majestic Mountain Loop.
Are you a beef jerky fan? Venture across the street to Jerky This. Locals told me this small stand, with unpredictable hours, offers tasty jerky.
Sequoia National Park Itinerary Stop #2 – Foothill Visitors Center
To orient myself and inquire about the best hikes and any potential closures, my first stop in any United States National Park is the Visitors Center. Park rangers have a wealth of knowledge, often suggesting places or the things to see in Sequoia National Park that might not be on your radar.
TOP TIP: I also stamp my Passport Book with the Sequoia National Park stamp. This makes a GREAT gift for any friends or family members who visit National Parks.
Ask about the Hospital Rock pictograph, which I recommend as your next stop, while you are at the Foothill Visitors Center.
Sequoia National Park Itinerary Stop #3 – Hospital Rock Pictograph
Just after the Visitor Center, admire the ochre colored pictographs at Hospital Rock. Some speculate two shaman brothers drew these in the late 1800s.
FUN FACT: Did you know that pictographs are rock drawings while petroglyphs are rock carvings?
Sequoia National Park One Day Itinerary Stop #4 – Giant Forest Museum
Stop at the Giant Forest Museum to learn more about the differences between giant sequoias and coastal redwoods. Then, choose the Sequoia National Park hikes you want to do and see the Sentinel Tree just outside the entrance.
FUN FACT: Despite towering 257 ft (78 m), the Sentinel Tree is nowhere near as tall as the other gargantuan giant sequoias that reside throughout the park. Starting with this 2,200 year old tree provides a fantastic comparator for the other giant sequoias to come.
Four of the world’s five largest trees reside in the Giant Forest near the museum!
Did you know that fires resulting from lightning strikes have burned every three to nine years in Sequoia National Park?
Fortunately, during the KNP Complex Fire in September 2021, dedicated firefighters wrapped General Sherman’s base and other giant sequoias with protective fireproof aluminum blankets. These heroes worked tirelessly to protect these historic behemoths and sequoia groves.
Sequoia National Park Itinerary Stop #5 – Beetle Rock
After the Sentinel Tree, venture across the road and follow the signs for Beetle Rock. This paved .5 mile (.8km) trail takes only 15 minutes. If it’s a clear day, you can gaze westward across the San Joaquin Valley towards the Coast Range, 100 miles in the distance.
Sadly, pollution and haze often obscure this view. While I could see the Coast Range’s layers, I also saw smog hovering above them. In order to minimize pollution and protect our national parks, climate and trees, decreasing our use of electricity, gas powered vehicles and plastics is imperative. If you are seeking some creative eco-friendly solutions to minimize your environmental footprint, check out my Sustainable Travel Essentials ideas.
TOP TIP: Assuming the view is clear, this is a nice place to enjoy a snack or picnic. You could also stop here for sunset at the end of the day too.
Sequoia National Park 1 Day Itinerary Stop #6 – Big Trees Trail
After Beetle Rock, explore the placards along the paved Big Trees Trail and admire the sequoia trees around Round Meadow. Give yourself 1.25 to 1.5 hours to appreciate the grandeur and absorb the information along this leisurely and flat 1 mile (1.6 km) trail.
Some FUN FACTS you will learn along the trail include:
- The oldest, mature giant sequoias stand 250 ft (76m) tall. They have rounded tops that look like broccoli and are known as “Monarchs.” Older sequoias don’t have lower branches.
- Younger giant sequoias (age 25-100 years old) are 100 ft (30m) tall. They have a pointy “spire top” that looks like a Christmas tree, with branches spanning their entire trunk.
- Sequoias in moist areas have a “flared base” for greater stability in softer soil. Conversely, sequoias in drier areas have a “straight base.”
- Most mature sequoias have sustained numerous fires during their lifetimes. Giant sequoias have two fire protection mechanisms: thick bark and minimal bark sap (which makes them less flammable).
Sequoia National Park Travel Guide Stop #7 – General Sherman Tree
After augmenting your giant sequoia knowledge at the Giant Forest Museum and walking amongst giants on the Big Trees Trail, prepare to be awestruck by the General Sherman Tree, the largest tree on Earth! The General Sherman Tree has earned this title based on its trunk volume, 52,500 cubic ft (1,487 cubic m). Understandably, this famous icon is the most popular Sequoia National Park attraction.
Since you are at 7,000 ft (2,134m), be prepared for the thinner air. Don’t be surprised if you are more winded while walking back uphill from this 1 mile (1.6km) round trip jaunt.
FUN FACTS ABOUT THE GENERAL SHERMAN TREE:
- Height = 275 ft (84 m)
- Age = 2,200 years old
- Base circumference = 103 ft (31m)
Given that the General Sherman Tree is one of the most famous trees in the world, the parking lot is often full since this is one of the most popular things to do in Sequoia National Park. However, if you are patient and circle a few times, spots will open up as people are constantly coming and going.
TOP TIP: Visit the General Sherman Tree after 3PM when people start wrapping up their Sequoia National Park one-day itinerary.
Sequoia National Park Visit Stop #8 – Congress Trail
After marveling at the General Sherman tree’s impressive stature, continue on the 2 mile (3.6 km) Congress Trail to appreciate some other giant sequoias grouped together throughout the trail.
TOP TIP: Hiking this trail in the late afternoon results in beautiful light, fewer crowds, and interesting shadows. I personally loved the ability to walk amongst these beauties in relative solitude from 3:30-5:00PM.
When hiking along any of these trails, it’s critical to “Leave No Trace” and stay on the trail. Going off trail can result in damage to the giant sequoias’ delicate tree roots.
Highlights along the Congress Trail include:
- a tiny cascading stream
- walking beneath a giant sequoia that has fallen across the trail and been hollowed out
- McKinley Tree – an impressive lone sentinel
- The House – an awe-inspiring group of giant sequoias all similar in age
- The Senate – a second grouping of six behemoth giant sequoias
TOP TIP: Bring layers for your Sequoia National Park visit as the temperature is cooler at this altitude, particularly early and late in the day. My super light Arc’teryx Cerium LT hoody is always in my daypack.
One of the other fascinating stops along the trail is a 2,200 year old sequoia tree stump where you can see fire scars. Looking at the rings and scars, researchers estimate this hearty sequoia survived 80 fires!
Sequoia National Park 1 Day Itinerary Stop #9 – Moro Rock
Undoubtedly, Moro Rock is one of Sequoia National Park’s highlights. Soak in breathtaking 360-degree views of the Coast Range 150 miles west and alpine peaks to the east.
If you share my abject fear of heights, you’ll feel protected and hugged by the rocks and handrails while ascending the 350 steps to 6,725 ft (2,050 m).
FUN FACT: In 1917, wood steps were initially built to ascend Moro Rock. In 1931, these were replaced with stone steps.
TOP TIP: Since Moro Rock’s parking lot is small (~20 cars), visit at the end of the day when the crowds have dispersed. Also, don’t get fooled as I did and park in an earlier area along the road with spots for ~15 cars unless you desire extra hiking mileage. You’ll know you are in the correct spot if you see a restroom in the parking lot and stone steps directly in front of you.
Also, due to snow, be aware that the road to Moro Rock and Crescent Meadow is typically only open from mid to late May until late October/early November.
Best Things to Do in Sequoia National Park Stop #10 – Crescent Meadow
Access Crescent Meadow via an offshoot road near Moro Rock. If you have time after Moro Rock, this is a nice place to visit for a short 1.8 mile (2.9 km) hike. I’ve heard that black bears are sometimes spotted in the meadow.
If you enjoy historic buildings, be sure to add on a short detour to Tharp’s Log. Mr. Tharp built a small home in a fallen Sequoia tree.
Sequoia National Park One-Day Itinerary Stop #11 – Tokopah Falls
Do you adore waterfalls? If you got an early start, you might have time to visit Tokopah Falls on a 3.4 mile (5.4 km) hike. With only 639 ft (195 m) elevation gain, this is a moderate hike.
TOP TIP: The Tokopah Falls hike is best in spring and early summer when the water is flowing strongest from melting snowpack.
Places to Visit in Sequoia National Stop #12 – Tunnel Rock
Tunnel Rock reminds me of Arch Rock in Yosemite as it’s a rock balanced over a walkway.
TOP TIP: Although this is one of your first stops driving into Sequoia National Park, it’s a popular location for selfies. So, I recommend visiting Tunnel Rock on your way out.
On my next Sequoia National Park visit, I look forward to exploring Crystal Cave and Mineral King.
Things to Know Before Your Sequoia National Park Day Trip
Sequoia National Park Fees
If you will be visiting all three parks (Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Sequoia) as part of the Majestic Mountain Loop, definitely purchase the America the Beautiful annual park pass from NPS.gov or REI.com for $80. Since each US National Park costs $30-$35 to enter, this is the most economical option if you will visit more than two United States National Parks in twelve months.
Distances to Sequoia National Park (What Airports to Fly Into)
Wondering how far Sequoia National Park is from San Francisco or Los Angeles? If you are looking for the closest airport, Fresno is your best bet.
- Fresno airport (FAT) 83 miles (1.5 hours)
- Sacramento airport (SMF) 256 miles (4 hours)
- San Francisco (SFO) airport 264 miles (4.25 hours)
- Los Angeles (LAX) airport 210 miles (4 hours)
Do You Need a Reservation to Visit Sequoia National Park?
Nope, you don’t need a reservation. However, arrive as early as possible to avoid lines at the Ash Mountain entrance. Prepare to wait an hour on the weekends. It’s refreshing that this park is far less busy and congested than other national parks I’ve visited recently, including Death Valley, Grand Teton, and Yosemite.
How Much Time Should You Spend in Sequoia National Park?
One full day is sufficient to explore Sequoia National Park, unless you’d like to do some longer hikes.
Best Time to Visit Sequoia National Park?
Given the altitude (4000-7800 ft/1200-2400m), Sequoia National Park gets snow and some of the park roads are closed from late October to May. Therefore, to maximize seeing everything in the park, I recommend visiting from May to October.
Where to Stay to See Sequoia National Park
I recommend basing yourself in Visalia, California. Use my best things to do in Visalia, California, article to find delicious restaurants, hotels, murals and shopping.
I hope this Sequoia National Park one day itinerary and travel guide helps you plan a memorable trip to this impressive United States National Park. If you have time, I highly recommend adding on Kings Canyon National Park and Yosemite National Park and completing the full Majestic Mountain Loop.