Sequoia National Park Itinerary : The Best Things to Do for a Weekend Trip
Whether you’re a California resident looking for your next weekend getaway, or visiting California for the first time and want to hit all the best spots, Sequoia National Park should definitely be on your itinerary. Sequoia National Park is located in the Southern Sierra Nevada mountains in California, and is known for its massive Sequoia trees, including the largest tree in the world. Keep reading for my Sequoia National Park itinerary to help you plan your weekend trip!
PTO/Vacation Days Needed: 0
Sequoia National Park Itinerary:
Day 1: Little Baldy Trail, Tokopah Falls
Day 2: General Sherman Tree, Tunnel Log, Crescent Meadows, Moro Rock
Getting to Sequoia National Park:
Driving: The drive to Sequoia National Park from Los Angeles is about 5 hours without traffic. The actual park entrance is about 4 hours away, but it takes about 1 hour of driving through the park to get to the central area where most of the campgrounds/sites are. The vehicle pass for entrance to the park costs $35.00, and is good for 7 days.
Instead of driving to Sequoia late Friday night after work from LA, we drove there early Saturday morning, and arrived to our campground around noon
Flying: If you are coming from out of state, the closest airport to fly into is Fresno, which is about a 2 hour drive to the central part of Sequoia National Park. Or, you can fly into LAX or SFO for a cheaper flight but a bit longer drive.
Where to Stay in Sequoia National Park:
I definitely recommend camping at Lodgepole Campground. This campground is central to some of the best trails and is well-maintained. There is a visitor center/market when you first drive in, where you can stop and buy any last-minute food items or firewood. The campground is scenic- with big trees surrounding it, and the beautiful, clear Kaweah River flowing right next to the campsites to swim in after a long day of hiking. Also, the trailhead for Tokopah Falls starts from Lodgepole Campground, which is very convenient. Lodgepole Campground is one of the most popular campgrounds in Sequoia National Park, so you’ll have to book pretty far in advance on Recreation.gov.Campsites are about $20/night.
If you aren’t able to get a spot at Lodgepole campground, there are plenty of other campgrounds in the area. I recommend booking one in this specific area around Lodgepole. There are a few campgrounds pretty close to the entrance to the park, which would mean you would have to drive about an hour further into the park each day to go on most of the hikes, so just make sure you don’t book one of these!
Being there on a Saturday in August, it was very crowded, and there were shuttle buses packed with tourists taking them to the most popular hikes- General Sherman Tree and Moro Rock. To avoid the crowds, I recommend saving these iconic hikes for Sunday morning, and instead starting your first day doing the much less trafficked Little Baldy Trail.
Little Baldy Trail is about a 15 minute drive from Lodgepole Campground. Hop in your car and turn right out of the campground, and drive for about 7 miles until you see the sign for the trailhead on the left side of the road, and park alongside the road.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Don’t make the same mistake that we did- even though the sign for the trail is on the left side of the road, the trailhead is on the RIGHT side of the road. We made this mistake and hiked down the trail next to the sign on the left side of the road, and hiked about 1.5 miles in the wrong direction! Once we realized our mistake and hiked back to our car, we met some other hikers who had done the same thing, so it seems to be a common misconception.
Little Baldy Trail is about a 3.4 mile out-and-back hike, with a 700 foot elevation gain. The trail starts out with long switchbacks, and then flattens out a bit for the last half of the hike. Little Baldy Trail is beautiful, and not well-known, even though it is so close to the main area of the park. Being there midday on a Saturday during the busy summer season, we only saw 2 other hikers on this trail! You’ll walk through a section of the trail that looks like a little Christmas tree farm, pictured below:
At this point, you’re almost there. Keep hiking and you’ll reach the magnificent granite plateau, overlooking the Sierra Nevada mountains. The best part is- you’ll likely get to enjoy this beautiful view all by yourself!
Next stop- Tokopah Falls
After Little Baldy Trail, hop back in your car and head back to Lodgepole Campground to the Tokopah Falls trail head. This 3.4 mile there-and-back trail follows the Kaweah River upstream until you reach Tokopah Falls at the end- which is the tallest waterfall in Sequoia National Park. There are areas to swim, so definitely wear your swimsuit on this hike! The trailhead starts right past the bridge pictured below:
The best part is- after completing this hike you are already at your campground (if you are staying at Lodgepole) so you can walk to your campsite and relax for the evening!
Sequoia National Park Itinerary- Day 2:
To avoid the crowds, get up early, pack up your campsite, and drive to the General Sherman Tree trailhead to arrive there by 7:00am. Turn left out of Lodgepole Campground and you will arrive there in about 3 miles. The park shuttle buses start running at 8:00am, so getting there an hour before that means you’ll have the trail mostly to yourself!
General Sherman Tree is the largest tree in the world by volume, and is about 2,200 years old! The paved trail to get to the tree is about 1 mile, but from here, you can walk along the 2-mile Congress Loop trail after you have seen General Sherman Tree to walk among more giant Sequoia trees.
After this trail, head back to your car and drive for about 2 miles until you see signs for the Giant Forest Museum- park in this lot. You’ll then have to hop on the shuttle bus. I tried to avoid the shuttle bus the whole trip, but on the weekends in summer, the only way to get to Moro Rock and Tunnel Log is via shuttle bus. They do not allow cars to drive up that road during the weekends since it is so busy, and it’s a narrow road. This was a slight bummer- as we wanted to drive our car under Tunnel Log! However looking at the bright side- we got lucky and saw a bear from the shuttle bus as we were riding up. The driver stopped so that we could take pictures (from the safety of the shuttle bus, of course). So cute!
Take the shuttle bus up to Tunnel Log first- the bus will probably wait for you as you jump out and take a few pictures. Honestly, I thought that Tunnel Log looked smaller in person than it did in the pictures, but it was still a cool site to see!
Hop back on the shuttle bus, and get out at the top of the hill at Crescent Meadow for a 1.6 mile loop taking you through a peaceful meadow surrounded by wildflowers and Sequoia trees.
After this, hop back on the shuttle bus and go down the hill towards Moro Rock trailhead, for your last hike of the weekend! Although Moro Rock trail was crowded by the time we got there, it was still super cool and totally worth it. The trail is only 0.6 miles there-and-back, however you are climbing up 350 stairs to get to the top of this massive granite rock-face. The stairs are narrow- so you’ll have to step aside to let others going down get through- however there are railings so it is safe the whole time. The views going up are fantastic, and once you get to the top- the panoramic view is breathtaking!
After this, you can either walk the 1.5 miles back down to the Giant Forest Museum where you parked your car, or you can hop on a shuttle bus going that direction. Time to make the drive back home!
Tips for Sequoia National Park
Buy your park pass online beforehand, so you can skip the line of cars upon entrance to the park! Make sure you either print it out, or save to your Apple Wallet since you won’t have cell service
You won’t have cell service the whole time- make sure you plan accordingly. Tell your family and friends where you will be, do your research ahead of time for what trails you want to do (hopefully this blog post helps!) and make sure you have a mapMake sure you put everything that smells (food, toiletries, etc) in the bear box provided at your campsite to avoid attracting bearsDon’t wait until you are closer to the park to buy your groceries for the weekend- the only grocery store we found was in Three Rivers, a few miles before the park entrance, but it was a small market and was overpriced. You’ll save money if you go to your local grocery chain close to your house before starting your trip.
If you have longer than a weekend in Sequoia National Park:
Explore the Crystal Cave– check out the cool underground formations in the Crystal Cave but note- you can only access via guided tour, which you need to book in advance.
add Kings Canyon National Park to your itinerary. You can see the second largest Sequoia there- General Grant Tree- about an hour drive from Sequoia National Park