The Amazing Giant Forest in Sequoia National Park

Sequoia  004Sequoia  117We stayed in Three Rivers, California while visiting the amazing Giant Forest in Sequoia National Park.  This small town, just outside of the entrance to the park, had lots of interesting structures and other “stuff” throughout.  And many beautiful birds filled the trees.  One thing the town didn’t have was Verizon service.Sequoia  112Sequoia  118Sequoia  113Sequoia  098Sequoia  003

Sequoia  005Sequoia  002Sequoia  099Sequoia  106Sequoia  114Sequoia  107Sequoia  105Sequoia  108Sequoia  116Sequoia  119Sequoia  006Hector still had a pretty bad cough, which was keeping both of us up part of each night.  So instead of going for any of the longer hikes we decided to take it easy and just take a few short hikes.Sequoia  109

The park entrance is in the foothills, at about 1,500 feet above sea level in a chaparral forest.  Chaparral is a plant community that is drought resistant.  Sequoia  001

There were beautiful yucca and other flowers along the way.  As we climbed, there were dogwoods and other types of trees.  And at points the Kaweah river was visible and even accessible via short, steep paths.
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Sequoia  130Sequoia  019Sequoia  024Sequoia  026Sequoia  027Sequoia  029

Sequoia  065Sequoia  074The main road through the park is the General’s Highway, a winding and beautiful road. The drive from the foothills to the Giant Forest crosses from the chaparral forest and climbs to 7,000 feet above sea level at its highest point.Sequoia  018Sequoia  064


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Brenda is on top of the rock, Hector is not

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The Four Guardsmen

The Four Guardsmen – Brenda is standing by tree number 3.

Sequoia  015The Giant Forest is in the Southern Sierra Nevada mountain range, North America’s longest single continuous mountain range. Since driving on the road took some “work”, I did most of the driving to allow Hector to rest up and recover fully from his cold.

Sequoia  03275 giant sequoia groves grow between 5,000 and 7,000 feet above sea level on the west slope of the Sierra Nevada. This is the zone where moist, eastbound air from the Sierra Nevada reaches maximum precipitation.  The trees’ range shrunk to this area 2.5 million years ago, when climates became drier.

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Can you find Hector?

Can you find Hector?

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Sequoia pine cones are tiny

The national park protects 404,063 acres.  And the Giant Forest is aptly named.  In only 2,100 acres it contain four of the five largest sequoia trees and over 2,000 trees over 10 feet in diameter!Sequoia  043Sequoia  030Sequoia  031

Sequoia  048We explored the Giant Forest pretty thoroughly.  Since every photo I saw of the trees only showed a small dot as a person, I decided to break out our tie-dye t-shirts so that we could stand out in the photos. And it mostly worked.Sequoia  045

Sequoia  044Our first hike was around a meadow that John Muir referred to in his writings as the “Gem of the Sierra”.  Crescent Meadow is more than half a mile long and had that beautiful early green color of spring.  Not too many wildflowers yet, darn.Sequoia  058

Sequoia  049Sequoia  050Although this was a very short trail, Hector was having a tough time at 7,000 feet of altitude so we took it really easy.  His lungs just weren’t quite back to normal yet.

The trail leads to Tharp’s Log, a fallen, fire-hollowed giant sequoia, which Hale Tharp, the first Caucasian to enter the giant forest, converted into a summer cabin.  The park has restored the “cabin” to look much like the original.Sequoia  054

We were rewarded for going slow by coming across some deer feeding in the meadow and walking around the giant trees.Sequoia  057

Sequoia  056Another day we hiked to the General Sherman Tree, the world’s largest known single stem tree. It’s 275 feet tall, has a cirumference of almost 103 feet on the ground and weighs 1,385 tons.  Its largest branch is almost seven feet in diameter.

The world's largest tree

The world’s largest tree

Although the Sherman Tree is among the tallest, widest and oldest trees in the world, it is neither the tallest, the widest nor the oldest tree in the world.   It is the largest in total trunk volume, which is 52,500 cubic feet. Sequoia bark is fibrous, furrowed, and may be up to three feet thick.  The trunks remain thick high into the branches, making them almost conical when mature.Sequoia  083Sequoia  088

We returned for another walk along a trail with a large concentration of some more of the largest sequoias, including the President Tree and the House and Congress groups.  The trail’s name, the Congress Trail, honors the fact that all the national parks in the United States have been created by our Congress.Sequoia  089Sequoia  090

Sequoia  039Sequoia  038Much of the signage around the park and in the Giant Forest Museum focuses on the preservation of this beautiful forest.  And while we were there we saw another solemn swearing in of our newest Junior Rangers.  So cute.Sequoia  095

Sequoia  036Sequoia  040Sequoia  041Although chemicals in the wood and bark of the Sequoias provide resistance to insects and fungi, they have a shallow root system.  Soil moisture, root damage and strong winds can lead to toppling, the main cause of Sequoia deaths.

To protect them, many trails allow you to get very close to the largest of the trees but fencing surrounds them.  Many signs ask that everyone remain on the trails.  And the forest is largely undeveloped, with the Giant Forest Museum the only remaining structure of a tourist area that previously included a hotel, market and other structures that have since been removed.

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Sequoia  059Sequoia  061There is also lots of focus on the fact that the Sequoias need fire to continue to survive.  Up to the 1960’s the park’s staff thought that extinguishing all fire was the way to protect the forest.

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Sequoia  097Nowadays controlled burns help to restore fire’s natural role in the forest by clearing and fertilizing the ground under the big trees, leaving excellent soil for seed germination.  Fire also opens sequoia cones, so that seeds are released.  Lastly, fire removes shade-loving vegetation that can crowd out young sequoia seedlings.

And so thanks to the park’s care, these magnificient trees may be around for others to enjoy as we have.

~ BrendaSequoia  096

26 thoughts on “The Amazing Giant Forest in Sequoia National Park

  1. I loved the beautiful photography! I want to go there right now! Hope Hector feels 100% soon. Take care. -Linda

  2. Stunning…..this is high on my must see list. I’m just now getting back into hiking and feeling more like myself after that flu bug which left me with a lingering cough and compromised lungs. Keep the pace slow to avoid a relapse. Happy trails 🙂

  3. Beautiful! I have long wanted to visit Sequioa NP, and all your gorgeous photos almost make me feel like I just did:) Great idea to wear the bright colored t-shirts. You really do stand out among the trees. Hope Hector is feeling better. That high elevation can be tough when you already have congested lungs.

  4. Awesome header photo!!!

    Stunning photos of the giants:) Thanks for taking us along. I love the redwoods. We did lots of our touring on the motorcycle which just added to the beauty.

    Hope Hector feels better real soon.

    • Hi Nina! Thanks … hard to shoot they are! Glad you liked the results. Hola to Paul. Hoping to see you in Oregon …

  5. Thank you Brenda for taking me back to where we used to live, only three hours away from the park. No cough nor sickness can hamper any of Hector’s stunning photography. But I sure hope he is mending quickly as there are more beautiful sceneries and hikes ahead at Yosemite.
    Being there with the giant really makes you small, very small.

    • Hi Mona Liza! I’m feeling much better after a vigorous coughing festival. Glad you like the photos. Cool forest. Amazing sights all around. We are in Yosemite now .. wifi limited, we are WAY behind on posts. Hope you are having a blast back east.


  6. Wowee!!!! Amazing post as always!!! Thanks so much for giving context to the massiveness of these beautiful trees. Your recount just so inspires me to visit this part of our amazing world!!! And in one photo, Angel looks just so peaceful and happy. Thanks, too, for wearing bright colored clothing; otherwise, I wouldn’t have realized how big those beauties truly are!!!! Love you both very much and thank you, as always, for sharing!!!!

    • Love it when we get a “wowee” 🙂 It isn’t every day when we break out the tie dye! Angel absolutely loves zooming around in the car. Shame pooches aren’t allowed in National Park trails …


    • Hi Mary! You are most welcome 🙂 Crazy trees … hard to photogragh! Miss you guys. Hi to Scott.


  7. Thanks for the memories….Worked there in the early 90’s for a couple of months. Forgot about the never-ending beauty of the place. Thanks, you two.
    Still coming to Oregon, we hope.

    • Yes, Hector is a wonderful photographer and he worked to get those photos (no bias here).

    • Highly recommended, our next post will have a little on Kings Canyon as well. Our lists just keep getting longer, not shorter, don’t they?

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