fun to do kids sequoia national park california   Travel for Kids
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  | California | High Sierra | sequoia & kings canyon
     
   

Sequoia National Park

Giant sequoias

In Sequoia National Park, kids will see the General Sherman Tree, the largest living tree on earth, and whole groves of majestic giant sequoias. With curling bottoms like shaggy feet, sequoias can grow 35 ft in diameter, and above 300 ft in height. Sequoias are amazingly adapted to their habitat – look for hollowed out trunks burned by fire, but the trees survive and continue to grow.

Tip: In summer the parking lots get crowded (especially the Sherman Tree parking). Take the park shuttle buses that go between the Giant Forest Museum and Lodgepole Campground and Wuksachi Village. There's also a shuttle bus from Giant Forest Museum out to Crescent Meadow.

   

Giant Forest Museum – Before going to look at the big trees, find out about the life cycle of a sequoia. Watch a short movie of seedlings sprouting up after a fire, look at tree rings with a magnifying glass, play seedling "roulette," and compare the giant sequoia to the Statue of Liberty (which looks shrimpy by comparison).

      In front of the museum is the Sentinel Tree, 257 ft. high. The height of the tree is marked in sections on the sidewalk. Kids can walk the height of the tree, for a real sense for just how high the tree really is.
      Big Trees Trail – Cross over the highway to pick up the Big Trees Trail, a 1.2 mile paved loop trail around Round Meadow (good if you have a child in a stroller). It's a short trail, but full of giant sequoias around the edges of the meadow. In summer, the meadow is filled with wildflowers.
General Sherman Tree
 

General Sherman Tree – The General Sherman Tree is the "world's largest tree" – it's not the tallest, but it has the most wood of any tree. The diameter of the 2,000 year old tree is 103 ft around at the bottom, 275 ft high, and it's estimated to weight more than 1,300 tons!

   

Sherman Tree Trail – It's a short 1/2 mile hike to see the General Sherman Tree. Park at the Sherman Tree parking lot off Wolverton Rd. or use the shuttle. The paved trail winds down through groves of sequoias. Stop at the overlook for an appreciation for the height of the General Sherman Tree below and walk through a cross section of a redwood along the way.

     

At the Sherman Tree, walk all the way around the tree – it's just plain big. Close by, check out the twin and triplet trees, and redwood benches are perfect for a quick picnic.

     

Continue on trail west, where kids can walk through the tunnel tree, lying flat on the ground (a tunnel has been cut out in the middle of the tree). Check out the gnarled roots at one end; as big as sequoias are, their roots are very shallow for their size, and usually die by just falling over.

      Congress Trail – There are more big trees to see. From the General Sherman Tree, pick up the Congress Trail, a 2 mile loop trail with more magnificent sequoias, especially the President Tree and House and Senate Groups.
   

Crescent Meadow & Tharp's log house

Tharp log house
    This is one of our favorite hikes in Sequoia, a loop trail to Tharp's log cabin and back along Crescent Meadow. From the Crescent Meadow parking lot, take the Crescent Meadow, then Log Meadow Trail. It's about .8 mile to the log cabin, then return on the trail that goes by Chimney Trees and down the west side of Crescent Meadow, filled with wildflowers in summer and named "gem of the Sierra" by John Muir.
      Every summer from 1861 - 1890, Hale Tharp brought his cattle to graze in the meadow, and lived in this rustic cabin he built inside a fallen sequoia, hollowed out and blackened by fire! Step into the log to see his stone fireplace, bed, hand-hewn wooden tables and bench.
      Tip: Because there's rather a maze of trails in this area, have a good trail map of Giant Forest Sequoia Grove before starting on this hike.
   

Wolverton Meadows BBQ's – June to August, every night around 6pm is an all you can eat barbeque with ribs, chicken, hamburgers, hot dogs, cornbread, salads, desserts. This is a long-standing tradition, popular with families. Buy your tickets in advance for the BBQ at Lodgepole Market or Wuksachi Lodge, or pay cash when you show up.

   

Lodgepole Visitor Center and Market – In the visitor center, check out the movie the theater, e.g. "Bears of Sequoia," and wall exhibit about animals of the Sierra and early people who lived in the area. Also, purchase your tickets for Crystal Cave at the visitor center.

     

After a hike to Tokopah Falls, stop into the Lodgepole Market for ice cream and cold drinks. If you're camping, there's also a grocery supplies and a laundry.

      Just down the road from the visitor center is the large Lodgepole picnic area.
    Hikes
      Tokopah Falls – Tokopah Valley was shaped by glaciers which left sheer cliffs, polished boulders and massive rocks strewn higglety-pigglety. The trail follows along the river, then climbs up at the end of the valley to an overlook for the falls.
      Park in the Lodgepole Campground, and pick up the Tokopah Valley Trail on the other side of the river (Marble Fork of the Kaweah River). It's 3.6 miles round trip.
     

Tip: Late in summer, when the river is low, the shallow pools are a fun place for kids to play and splash in the water (just keep an eye on them). However, in spring or early summer, the Marble Fork of the Kaweah River runs very fast and high; when the river is up, this isn't a place for kids to play.

Mule deer
    Wuksachi Trail to Silliman Creek – If you're staying at the Wuksachi Lodge, this is a fun hike for kids. From the lodge, walk over the two wooden bridges to the parking lot at the end of the road. The trail goes down the hill to Clover Creek, lined with ferns. Cross the bridge, then hike on through the pine forest to the next creek Silliman Creek (or just go as far as the kids feel like); return the way you came. When we hiked this trail, it was late afternoon and we saw two mule deer bucks, peacefully grazing on the hillside.
   

Lost Grove – Driving along the Generals Highway, the Lost Grove is a lovely grove of giant sequoias, right by next to the road. Less crowded than the Giant Forest or Grant Grove, stop here so kids can run around and hug a sequoia tree.

Crystal Cave
 

Crystal Cave – Go on a walking tour through Crystal Cave, formations in all shapes and sizes, including "cave bacon" and wispy "soda straws." Each room is named for its distinctive formations, such as the Organ Room, Capitol Dome, Cave Dragon, Marble Room, and at one point on the tour, all the lights are turned out and you're in total darkness. May to October.

   

The tour takes about 45 min. and you can bring kids under 5, but it's a 1/2 mile hike from the parking lot down to the cave, and no strollers or baby backpacks are allowed. The temperature in the cave is 49 degrees (which feels great on a hot day), so bring a sweater, and wear comfortable shoes.

      Buy tickets in advance for Crystal Cave at the Lodgepole or Foothill Visitor Center, at least 1+ hour before the tour starts. (You can't buy tickets at the cave itself.) The road to the cave is long and windy, so allow plenty of time to arrive for your designated tour.
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