Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Sequoia N.P. hikes run past massive trees

Mount Whitney. Photo courtesy of Sequoia NPS.

Four day hikes lead to park's wonders

Among the best ways to see Sequoia National Park’s major sights is via a day hike. Just four short trails will allow you to enjoy each of the park’s highlights – giant sequoias, a marble cave, the highest mountain in the lower 48 states, and massive waterfalls.

Giant sequoias
This ancient trees from the era of the dinosaurs can grow 26 stories high and live more than 18 centuries. The 2.3-mile looping Congress Trail lets you see oodles of them in the Giant Forest, starting with the appropriately named General Sherman Tree.

Crystal Cave
Though most Sequoia visitors look skyward to be awed by tall trees, you also can get an eyeful looking underground. A variety of ranger-led tours head through a rare marble cavern full of stalagmites, stalactites, and flowstone formations. Tour tickets can be purchased during the summer at the Foothills or Lodgepole visitor centers.

Mount Whitney
The highest point in the lower 48 states, Mount Whitney rises to 14,505 feet. Unfortunately, the shortest route to the summit is 22-miles round trip. The best spot to see Mount Whitney without hiking to it actually is outside the national park: the Interagency Visitor Center at the junction of U.S. Hwy. 395 and Calif. Hwy. 136. A few short interconnecting walking paths are on the center’s side. Just look west – it’s the tallest peak in the range.

A glacier carved Sequoia’s Tokopah Valley, leaving high gray cliff walls that cradle a meadow, creeks, and a pine and fir forest. The 3.8-mile (600 foot elevation gain) Tokoopah Falls Trail leads to its namesake, which with a 1200-foot drop is the national park’s tallest waterfall.

Learn more about national park day hiking trails in my Best Sights to See at America’s National Parks guidebook.