A Guide to Hiking in Sequoia National Park

A view of a valley in Sequoia National Park. See more national park pictures.

If there is such a thing as hiker heaven, California probably comes pretty close. With such a wide assortment of natural wonders, an outdoor enthusiast would be hard pressed to experience all that the Golden State has to offer in a single lifetime. California scenic spots include Yosemite, the Redwood Forest, Muir Woods, Death Valley, and so many more amazing hiking opportunities. It also includes Sequoia National Park, one of the best hiking and backpacking destinations in the world.

What makes Sequoia so special? For starters, there are the majestic snow-capped Sierra Nevada Mountains that tower between glacier-carved canyons and flower-filled meadows. Here, you can explore diverse environments, encountering an astonishing array of wildlife and mingling amidst the giant sequoia trees. And then there are the views – sweeping vistas of rugged peaks set below the clear blue California sky. And while Sequoia is a popular hiking destination, its wilderness settings are somehow both massive and intimate – the park spans more than 400,000 acres (162,000 hectares), but has plenty of nooks, glades, and overlooks for quiet reflection [source: Sequoia Natural History Association].

Humans have been exploring Sequoia National Park's mountains and foothills for at least 6,000 to 7,000 years. Sequoia and its northern neighbor, Kings Canyon National Park, are rich in archeological treasure, containing hundreds of Native American sites and other historic points of interest [source: National Park Service]. In the mid-1800s, European explorers flocked to these forests and soon began to bicker over its riches. In 1890, Sequoia was established as a national park, and today more than 90 percent of it is designated wilderness, which prohibits the building of roads and permanent structures as well as exploitative activities such as logging, hunting, and mining [source: National Park Service and Wilderness Society].

Happily, one of the best features of Sequoia National Park is its accessibility. Like many of California's parks and forests, Sequoia is a short drive from the major metropolitan areas of San Francisco and Los Angeles. This makes it an ideal getaway for millions of people who want to enjoy amazing day hikes, awesome wildlife-watching excursions, and some of the best backcountry hiking in the world. We explore each of these in the next section.