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If you want your next adventure to include a parade of wildlife, stunning waterfalls, awe-inspiring views, and an in-person introduction to giant trees found nowhere else on earth, then it’s time to plan 2 days in Sequoia National Park. My Sequoia National Park itinerary will guide you to most of the major sights inside the park, while still helping you get off the beaten path – because let’s face it, that, and connecting with nature, is the best part of visiting a national park.
The giant sequoias the park is named for are simply too stunning for words – people have tried to describe them, but trust me, whatever you’ve read will not prepare you for what you’ll see once you reach Sequoia National Park.
But there’s more to the park than the stunning trees. The rocky domes offer views for days (hello beautiful Instagram pics!), and its high meadows are my favorite places to watch the local wildlife while eating a picnic lunch.
Table of Contents
2 Days in Sequoia National Park
With only a weekend to spend, I’m focusing my Sequoia National Park itinerary on Sequoia National Park only, and not the adjacent, connected Kings Canyon National Park. If you enter Sequoia from the north – through Grant Grove and the Kings Canyon National Park entrance, you’ll get to see plenty of Kings Canyon along the way.
Note: Before planning your visit, always be sure to check the park website for updates on weather closures. Road closures, wildfires, and snowy weather can affect certain areas and/or roads to the park.
Getting to Sequoia National Park
There are few public transport options that will get you to Sequoia National Park, and those options are practically nonexistent from fall to spring. Instead, I highly recommend having a car so you can explore at your own leisure. I rented an SUV and found it to be much easier to get around, but a small car works too!
The easiest way to get to the park is via car. Highway 180 leads to the Kings Canyon National Park entrance and Highway 198 will take you to the entrance for Sequoia National Park. Once inside, the Generals Highway links the two entrances.
Driving in the park can get a little…exciting. These are narrow mountain roads with a lot of switchbacks. Again, be sure to check the conditions before visiting.
The Sequoia Shuttle is only available during the summer and links the towns of Visalia, Exeter, Three Rivers, and Lemon Grove to the park. It also provides a great option for getting around Sequoia National Park with routes to Moro Rock, General Sherman Tree, and others. If you’re feeling a bit hesitant about driving and are visiting during the summer, this is a great transportation option.
Most people will fly into either LAX or one of the San Francisco area airports. LAX is a little closer, but either way, you’ll have a ton of options for other activities to add before or after your weekend in Sequoia National Park. Since I’m based in Los Angeles, it’s easy for me to drive up for a couple of days, though.
There are a couple of smaller airports that are even closer to the park. Fresno Yosemite International Airport is a little over an hour from the Kings Canyon National Park entrance and has a number of car rental options. Alternatively, Visalia Municipal Airport is another option for flights. It’s located closer to the Sequoia National Park entrance.
Where to Stay in and Around Sequoia National Park
Sequoia is giant and where you stay will determine what and how much you’re able to see. At the time of publishing, the in-park lodges (like Wuksachi Lodge or Cedar Grove Lodge) and many campsites are currently closed. The National Park Service doesn’t have any re-opening dates posted at this time. However, these are excellent options that I’d recommend if they’re open and vacant when you’re planning a trip!
Until they reopen (and even after, since in-park lodging books fast), there are some good options for where to stay in Sequoia National Park. For this itinerary, I focused on places that would minimize driving time:
- Campground: Azalea Campground Sequoia Campground & Lodge is conveniently located between Sequoia and Kings Canyon. Alternatively, Lodgepole is an excellent option due to its close location to the General Sherman Tree, but it tends to get really crowded during the summer months.
- Hotel: The Comfort Inn & Suites is one of the best options if you prefer a hotel. This is where I stayed during my first visit and it was comfortable, clean, and had easy access both to Three Rivers and the park itself.
- Lodge: Montecito Sequoia Lodge is located between Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park. Its rooms are simple, but clean and comfortable, and the staff is friendly and helpful. If you want to extend your Sequoia National Forest Itinerary, they provide great activities like horseback riding and kayaking on their small lake.
- Resort: Wonder Valley Ranch Resort offers something for everything, with accommodations that range from rooms and cabins to lodge-style sleeping for larger groups. And if you don’t get enough of the great outdoors from your 2 days in Sequoia National Park, you can book activities like archery lessons, rope climbing, or fishing.
Planning Your Visit
It’s worth visiting Sequoia National Park at any time, but with a little planning, you can make it even better.
When to Visit
The best time to visit Sequoia National Park is in the summer – June through August. This is when the park offers the most amenities: rangers lead programs, stores and restaurants are open, and all lodges and campsites are open. Plus, the weather is perfect for camping and hiking, with highs in the 70’s and lows around 50.
After August, the weather gets unpredictable and you might be surprised by early snowfalls. That said, one of my favorite times to visit is in the winter. Seeing the sequoias in snow is like visiting a winter wonderland. Just be sure to bring chains for your tires if driving – the roads can get treacherous. And if you do visit during winter, consider doing an awesome guided snowshoe adventure!
Pro tip: if you want the best of both worlds, visit Sequoia National Park in May. The sequoia groves are usually still pretty snowy, but the meadows are bursting with wildflowers.
Sequoia National Park is open all day, every day, though some roads and services are seasonal. Winter storms can make some roads impassable.
Entrance passes for Sequoia National Park are good for up to seven days and the pass for a single vehicle is $35.00. This pass gives you access to both Sequoia National Park and to Kings Canyon Park (and vice versa). You can purchase them ahead of time or you can buy them at either the Kings Canyon Visitor Center or the Sequoia Visitor Center.
However, if you plan to visit another national park or even Sequoia more than once, it’s definitely worth getting the America the Beautiful Annual Pass. It pays for itself after just 2 national park visits and covers entrance fees to all the national parks in the US plus 2000+ recreation areas!
Things to Know Before Visiting Sequoia National Park
When planning a weekend in Sequoia National Park, don’t forget that you’re heading into the wilderness. These tips for first-time visitors will make the visit far more successful.
The National Park Service maintains visitor centers, restrooms, and stores throughout the park, but some of these are seasonal and all are subject to closure due to weather. Check the current conditions before heading into the park – in winter it’s not uncommon for snow chains to be required.
Most of the trails in the park are well marked and well-traveled, but conditions change season to season, day to day, and sometimes hour to hour. Good hiking boots, layers, rain gear, a flashlight, and plenty of food and water are musts when hiking in Sequoia National Forest.
Keep an eye out for posted areas. The forest service regularly closes areas for conservation reasons or because of hazards.
It’s not unusual to see black bears in Sequoia National Forest. If you see a black bear while hiking, do not approach them and give them plenty of space. This is even more important if you spot cubs (even if you don’t see her, mama won’t be far away!).
Bears have also learned that people equal food. Do not leave any food or scented items in your car. Bears can scent these even if you think they’re safely stowed in a cooler and have been known to break into vehicles to get at it. The park has food storage lockers available throughout the park that you can use – talk to a ranger at one of the visitor centers to get access to one.
Sequoia National Park Itinerary – 2 Days in Sequoia National Park
Two days won’t be nearly enough to see everything in Sequoia National Park – it’ll be just enough to make you know you have to come back. And the best part? You can do this exact itinerary every single time and have a different and unique trip. So without further ado, your Sequoia National Park Itinerary.
Day 1 Itinerary: Crescent Meadow
I like to enter the park using the King’s Canyon park entrance. That puts me on the General’s Highway – the only road through the park. If you don’t stop, it takes about two hours to drive from gate to gate, so be sure to plan accordingly. I recommend stopping at the Redwood Mountain Overlook for a really good look at the sequoias from above.
Giant Forest Museum
The Giant Forest Museum usually opens at 10am and I try to time it so I’m there when it opens. The museum is supposed to be open year round, but opening times can be affected by the weather.
It takes roughly an hour to drive here from the King’s Canyon park entrance on Highway 180. I suggest pre-buying your entrance pass online (or getting the America the Beautiful pass), but you can also purchase it at the park entrance.
I’m always tempted to get out and start hiking right away, but a visit to the museum itself is a great way to get into the right mindset. The exhibits are a great way to learn a little more about the sequoia groves before setting off, and there are usually rangers around to answer questions.
While here, I recommend checking the information board for updates on road and trail closures. Make sure to grab maps here – cell service is spotty (if you can even find a signal) so your phone map won’t always work – and don’t forget to check out the Sentinel Tree that stands right outside. It’s the 13th biggest tree in the park!
Now that you’re well-informed, it’s time to get hiking! Crescent Meadow is a pretty easy, 2-mile hike through sequoia groves. To get there, you’ll take Alta Trail for a little over a half-mile, then turn right onto Huckleberry Trail. This trail is a little less traveled than others, which I love.
A few must-see sights along this route:
- Huckleberry Meadow: This meadow is bursting with wildflowers in spring and summer, and it’s a great place to see deer, turkey, and black bears (keep your distance, and if you don’t bother them, they won’t bother you).
- Squatter’s Cabin: This cabin was built in the late 1800’s by a settler who was trying to claim the land (but it was already claimed).
- Dead Giant: The Dead Giant is located down a spur called Dead Giant Trail. The top of this tree was burned off in a fire, but it’s still huge and definitely unique.
When Huckleberry Trail intersects the Giant Forest Loop Trail, you’re almost at Crescent Meadow. If you turn right, you’ll skirt the edge of the meadow and reach the Crescent Meadow picnic area.
This is a great place to eat lunch. You can find shade under the trees during the summer, and it’s not unusual to see deer and other wildlife here too.
After lunch, head to Tharp’s Log, accessible by using either the Giant Forest Loop Trail or the Tharp’s Log Trail. It was the home of Hale D. Tharp, one of the first non-native settlers in the area.
At first glance, this log cabin might look a lot like the Squatter’s Cabin, but look closer. Tharp actually lived inside a hollowed-out, fallen sequoia!
After Tharp’s Log, rejoin the Giant Forest Loop, then take the Trail of the Sequoias until it reaches the trailhead to High Sierra Trail. This is a challenging hike, so if you prefer something a little more low-key, there’s plenty to see on the Giant Forest Loop.
High Sierra Trail is 73 miles long so you won’t have time to do the entire length. It tends to be less traveled, and the views…have I mentioned views yet?. Be sure to stop at Eagle View, just after the junction with Trail of the Sequoias.
I usually hike this trail for as long as I’m able (or want to), then turn around and retrace my steps to Crescent Meadow. There’s still plenty more to see on the first day of your Sequoia itinerary, so you’ve got to conserve some of that energy!
I like to time my hike back to the car so that I can see the sunset from either Moro Rock or Hanging Rock. Take Sugar Pine Trail – it’s about a mile and a half to the parking area for Moro Rock.
There are a few must-see sights along this route:
- Tunnel Log: Tunnel Log is a massive fallen sequoia with a tunnel cut out of it to let cars drive through. To get to it, you’ll have to take Soldier’s Trail for about a quarter of a mile. It lays over the Crescent Meadow Road, so if you’re short on time, you could skip the trail and walk along the road.
- Moro Rock: The climb to Moro Rock from the parking lot is a tough one and definitely a little scary. But it’s SO worth it. There are stairs and handrails but you’re still walking up smooth stairs to a rocky dome. Just don’t look down, and you’ll be fine. There’s no other view quite like it in Sequoia National Park and it’s one of my personal favorite views!
- Hanging Rock: A little past Moro Rock is a spur that leads to Hanging Rock. I like to do this last (bring flashlights or a headlamp!) and time it so that I can watch the sunset. The rock slopes here, so be careful with your footing, but the views are great from the trail and definitely easier to navigate than Moro Rock when it’s getting dark.
The Moro Rock Trail takes you back to the Giant Forest Museum. It’s still about a two-mile trek, but it’s mostly downhill.
The Peaks Restaurant
Restaurant options are very limited inside Sequoia National Park, but The Peaks Restaurant has some decent options for dinner. It’s located in Wuksachi Lodge and has a really nice outdoor deck in addition to the indoor dining room.
The meal options are pretty standard: salad, pizza, and sandwiches during the day, and burgers and entrees like pot roast and trout at night. If your accommodation isn’t inside the park, then I recommend getting dinner in Three Rivers instead. You’ll have some better and more varied options in the town.
The wonders of Sequoia National Park don’t stop at night. It gets really dark here, and the stars feel close enough to touch. If you want to know more about the constellations you’re seeing, the Sequoia Parks Conservancy offers a program called Wonders of the Night Sky that leaves from Wuksachi Lodge.
Day 2 Itinerary: Giants, Waterfalls & Caves
Get an early start on your second day by walking the 2 mile Congress Trail. It’s an easy hike to see the General Sherman Tree and the Congress Group. This is a popular spot because these trees are iconic, but feel free to wander a little deeper into the grove to find a little more solitude.
A few must-see sights along this route:
- General Sherman Tree: This is the world’s largest tree at 275 feet tall. Seeing this tree is definitely something everyone has to do in Sequoia National Park.
- The House and The Senate: Two clusters of about a dozen trees are called The House and The Senate. It is spectacular to see such big groups of these massive trees.
- Presidential Trees: Scattered along the Congress Trail are several trees named after presidents: Harding, Mckinley, Lincoln, and others. They’re all well marked but it still feels like an adventure trying to track them all down.
During the spring, summer, and fall, the National Park Service offers guided tours of Crystal Cave. These get booked quickly and are the only way to see the cave, but it’s worth doing because this is one of the few marble caves in the world.
You can drive to the parking lot and there’s a short hike down the cave that will look different than anything you’ve seen yet – lots of ferns and water! Once inside, the rangers guide you through the various rooms, giving a history of the cave and information on the geology of the area.
There are several different types of tours available. I recommend the 50-minute one if you only have a weekend in Sequoia National Park. That is considered a more leisurely tour, but they offer some extra-adventurous options if that’s more your speed.
By now, you likely only have time for one more hike (especially if you’ve been constantly distracted by the many scenic overlooks and side trails). I recommend your last hike before leaving Sequoia to be to Tokopah Falls. It’s an easy two-mile hike from the Lodgepole Campground so it will likely be a little crowded, but the waterfalls at the end are a glorious payoff.
The Gateway Restaurant & Lodge
If you’re hungry and eager to have dinner as soon as you can, stopping at The Gateway Restaurant & Lodge in Three Rivers is a convenient option. There are several restaurants in Three Rivers, but this one has a varied menu that includes some good vegetarian options, and a really great eating deck that lets you feel like you’ve extended your trip just a little bit longer.
If you time it right, you can get a good look at Tunnel Rock on the way out of the park – a perfect place to remind yourself that there’s much more to see and to start planning your return trip!
What to Pack for Sequoia National Park: The Essentials
Not going to lie – I had NO idea what to pack for Sequoia during my first visit. It was the height of summer but the temperature (incorrectly) said it was cold (probably because I was looking at the temperature at the highest elevation point – oops). Anyway, in typical Sally fashion – I trial and errored it so you don’t have to. You’re welcome. Here are the things you must have in your bag!
- Backpack: If there’s one thing I’m fairly decent at, it’s packing carry-on only. There’s really no reason you’ll need a giant bag for a couple of days, anyway. The Tortuga Outbreaker Backpack is hands down the best carry-on-sized backpack I’ve ever used for travel. Not only is it carry-on sized, but it’s also incredibly comfortable and easy to carry, even for a small-framed person like me. It has tons of pockets and compartments for organization, lockable zippers, and it’s weather-resistant. If you don’t think you can handle packing in a carry-on, the Osprey Fairview 70 Backpack is just as comfortable but a lot larger and what I personally used while on my trip.
- Packing Cubes: I never understood why people needed packing cubes until I got some of my own. They’re the BEST for keeping organized! I can no longer travel without them. Now I avoid what I fondly call “exploding suitcase syndrome” – that tendency for all your things to go all over the place every time you need to get one thing from your suitcase. I’m a fan of these ones made specifically for the Tortuga Outbreaker but if you have a different backpack, these compression packing cubes are pretty great too!
- Daypack: You’re going to be out and about all day so I recommend this daypack to hold all your essentials: it’s durable, comfortable, AND comes with a water bladder (which is incredibly convenient for staying hydrated – trust me).
- Basic temperature regulating t-shirt: No matter what the season, you’ll want your first layer to be a temperature-regulating shirt, like this one or this one. Both of these shirts are specially made to be moisture-wicking and anti-odor and the first one also offers SPF protection. You will definitely need one clean shirt per day especially if you’re going during the summer. I specifically recommend these shirts because they’re made of moisture-wicking fabric, which means they won’t cling to you and make you cold when you get sweaty. Plus, they regulate body temperature well and are breathable so you won’t feel uncomfortable while hiking.
- Long-sleeved temperature regulating top: Depending on how early or late you start your day (or if you’re visiting Sequoia during the non-summer months, I recommend bringing an additional layer. Like the t-shirts, you’ll need one of these tops for each day, especially for the first and last few hours as the weather changes.
- Hiking pants or leggings: I like the durability of hiking pants for super intense hikes (like the Inca Trail) but you can also use leggings if you prefer. I recommend one pair of these (or these if you want the convertible version) – they’re reasonably priced, comfortable, and have lots of pockets. For your second pair, I recommend these pants – they’re cute (and look like regular pants!), comfortable, moisture-wicking, and have SPF protection.
- Hiking Shoes or Sandals: If you don’t already own hiking shoes, buy them now and make sure you purchase quality hiking shoes. They need to be waterproof, supportive and have good traction. I recommend getting fitted at REI if you’re not confident with purchasing a pair online. Either way, make sure you break them in because they’ll be the most important item you wear on the trail. Alternatively, if it’s hot and you want to be extra *stylish* (ha!), check out these Keen sandals. I wore them while hiking in Costa Rica and they’re excellent for the summer months.
- Moisture-wicking sports bra and underwear: I always bring this workout bra because it keeps moisture and smells away. Same goes for this underwear (plus, it dries quickly for easy washing). Bring a pair for every day.
- Moisture-wicking socks: These are hands-down the best moisture-wicking hiking socks. They’re perfect for all-day wear without smelly or sweaty feet AND they come with a lifetime guarantee. These are also pretty good. Bring a fresh pair for each day.
- Sunglasses: You’ll want them in the winter too. Protect your eyes from the high UV rays that come with higher elevation.
- Sun hat: Not going to lie – I hate hats with a fiery passion. That being said, if you’re prone to burning, protect ya neck (literally) and face with a hat. If you’re worried, you can also get one with a neck flap. They’re handy for added warmth and skin protection.
- Hand Sanitizer and Face wipes: The bathrooms on The Inca Trail are hit and miss but most of them don’t have soap. You can bring soap sheets with you, but also be sure to pack hand sanitizer for instances when you don’t have water. Technically, you can use body wipes on your face, but I like having face wipes since they’re gentler.
- Travel toilet paper: Toilet paper is usually available, but I have a weird phobia about not having access to it or a bathroom, so I keep it handy in my daypack. You can always bring regular toilet paper but I like to keep some of these small toilet paper rolls in my bag and not worry about it.
- Chapstick: Use it often and buy the SPF kind. If your lips aren’t drying out from the air, they’re getting sunburned from the sun.
- Sunscreen: Pack some high-SPF sunscreen and reapply it. Protect your skin, ya’ll.
- Insect repellent: I sprayed all my clothing with Permethrin spray before I left and used insect repellent and I wasn’t bitten once! This insect repellent specifically was voted number one in consumer tests and I can vouch for the fact that I don’t get bitten while using it. Plus, you can use it on your clothes and your skin and it doesn’t make you feel or smell gross!
- Electrolyte powder: I’m excellent at staying hydrated at home but I struggle to keep it up while traveling. If you’re like me, bring powdered electrolyte packets along. Your body will thank you.
- Snacks: Restaurants in the park are few and far between and they aren’t always open, especially during the off-season. Bring some replenishment like granola bars, unsalted nuts, energy gels, and chocolate. Just don’t bring anything too salty that will make you thirsty.
- Blister Plasters: Just in case your hiking shoes aren’t quite as broken in as you thought, you’ll want to have these blister plasters with you.
- Bengay / Tiger Balm: Bengay or Tiger Balm are particularly helpful for muscle relief, especially if you aren’t used to hiking all day.
- Travel First Aid Kit: I love that this travel first aid kit is small enough to stick in your bag but still has tons of items in it. It’s incredibly handy, especially for outdoorsy things.
- Power bank: We were all fighting to charge our phones in the car, so save yourself the trouble and bring a power bank. Signal is a bit hit and miss, but this way you’ll be able to capture photos and videos along the way. I always carry my Anker PowerCore while traveling. It’s light, holds multiple charges, and charges phones quickly. Win!
- Insulated water bottle or a water bladder: To preface this – if you purchase the daypack I recommend, it already comes with a water bladder. Otherwise, you’ll likely have to purchase it separately as many daypacks don’t come with them. If you prefer a water bottle, I have two recommendations: the CamelBak Insulated Water Bottle, which is particularly awesome because it holds 20 oz and keeps water cold. There are plenty of points to fill it throughout the park. Alternatively, I like Grayl’s water filtering bottle, and it’s the one I use whenever I do hiking / outdoor trips – you can fill and drink directly from pretty much any water source
- Microfiber face towel: If you’re prone to sweat, having a small microfiber face towel with you is handy. I own the Wise Owl Camping Towel and it comes with a bonus face towel. It’s a great item to have regardless as it dries super quickly and takes up almost no room.
- Trash bag: Leave no waste behind. Keep a small trash bag handy in your daypack for any waste you accumulate. You can throw it all away after you leave the site.
And there you have it! Pretty much everything you need to know about planning your first trip to Sequoia! I hope you have an amazing adventure.
Tell me: Have you ever visited Sequoia National Park? Where’s your favorite spot?
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Land acknowledgment: Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park are traditional lands of Indigenous people. I extend my respect and appreciation to the past and present people of these lands.