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The Best of Sequoia National Park in One Day

The most trees in the shortest amount of time!

a hiker underneath a hollow sequoia tree at Sequoia National Park

Friends, I’ve spent most of my adult life wanting to see Sequoia trees, but I spent many trips to California thwarted by weather. When I visited San Francisco in my early 20s, bad weather derailed my escapade across the bay to Muir Woods. When my siblings moved out to the Fresno area, I was certain that a trip to Sequoia National Park would be on the books, but first two times I visited them, the trees were either snowed in, or on fire.

My third trip out to visit my family in California finally resulted in a trip to Sequoia National Park. And it was everything I wanted it to be! The trees are so big they almost don’t seem real, and the views from the overlooks high in the mountains are astounding.

Generally, I believe that a single day isn’t nearly enough time to explore any National Park. But sometimes, you have to make do with a day trip. If that’s your scenario for Sequoia NP, like it was for me, there are two trails you can take that give you a brilliant sampling of the best the park has to offer. These two trails, one long and one short, are easily completable in a single afternoon. My siblings and I did just that while toting my two-year-old niece with us. It’s the best of Sequoia in one day.

Ready? Here’s the first trail:

Moro Rock Trail to the Soldiers Trail

a trailhead sign  at Sequoia National Park

You’ll start by parking your vehicle in the lot near the Giant Forest Museum. There’s a little bit of parking at the museum itself, and several larger lots on the other side of the road. Several trails take off from this point, so there’s a lot of available space. Try to arrive by mid morning at the latest to make sure you get a good spot! The drive in is beautiful in its own right, winding up the side of the mountains, and you’ll get your first glimpses of the gigantic trees before you even leave your car!

The trail you want is called the Moro Rock Trail, and it officially takes off into the trees from the opposite side of the road. It’ll quickly take you into the forest, showing you some giant Sequoias up close, and giving you stunning vistas as they appear between the giants. 

Before long, you’ll start seeing directional signs for two landmarks: Moro Rock, and Hanging Rock. You’re going to want to visit both!

a hiker and a child sitting in front of the view at Hanging Rock at Sequoia National Park

Hanging Rock is a bizarre geological formation with a huge rock just chilling on a flat precipice. This landmark is just a short jog off the Moro Rock Trail, and it’s well worth the out-and-back detour. The rock itself is cool to see, and the view from the plateau is stunning. Plus, since it’s such a large, reasonably flat plateau, it’s a great place to stop and eat some trail snacks. Doing exactly that is what resulted in what remains my favorite photo of myself and my niece.

When you’re done at Hanging Rock, it’s time to continue on to Moro Rock. The start of the Moro Rock climb is just a short distance from Hanging Rock. You’ll reach it in minutes. Moro Rock is one of the better scenic viewpoints in the park, and friends, it’s a CLIMB. It’s stone stairways all the way to the top. Pace yourself, admire the scenery when you stop to catch your breath, and you’ll do just fine! From the top, you get a panoramic view of the mountains and valleys that comprise the park. It’s a hell of a view.

Moro Rock does have a dedicated parking lot if you don’t feel like hiking in and out, or if you’re short on time. But if you have the time and the stamina, do the full hike! It’s worth it!

After your climb, you’ll return to your parking lot via the Soldiers Trail. This trail winds back through a different section of forest than you came up through, and the sheer concentration of sequoia groves in this area is epic! There will be dozens of them, and you can go right up to them and get lost in how huge they are.

Make sure you’ve got a map in hand for this section of the trail. There are a lot of trails that cross each other in this area. If you don’t pay attention to your paths, you may end up on a much longer hike than you planned! But for the perfect mix of vistas and sequoia groves, it doesn’t get much better than this loop.

Visit General Sherman

You’ll be tired by the time you return to your vehicle, (if the hiking doesn’t drain you, the altitude certainly will!), but you can’t visit Sequoia National Park without seeing General Sherman. 

a traveler in front of General Sherman at Sequoia National Park

General Sherman is the largest tree in the world by volume. He’s a popular destination in the park, so he makes an easy extra stop, with a huge parking lot and a paved trail all the way down.

Please do notice that I said down. General Sherman is downhill from the parking lot, so make sure you leave enough time to complete the high-altitude climb back up when you’re done!

The whole area around this insane tree is paved and perfect for exploring. After your strenuous hike on the Moro Rock loop, this is the perfect place to meander and admire the forest. And take a ton of pictures in front of a fuckin huge tree!

These are the Best Hiking Trails in Sequoia National Park!

If you only have one day to experience the majesty of Sequoia National Park, you can still see the best of the best on these two glorious trails. Admire these trees and let them change your worldview. They’ll do it.

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Love and Shenanigans,


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