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Tips for Braving Summer Crowds at Sequoia National Park

José González | Oboz Ambassador

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It is 6:15 am, and with two cups of coffee and the kids in the back half-asleep/half-awake, we head to Sequoia National Park during one of the busiest weekends of the summer. 

We stopped for gas at the town of Three Rivers and quickly noticed several B&Bs and guest houses available to rent that did not appear on any searches in the most common booking websites, plus a brewery and a nice coffee shop. Which leads me to my first tip: 

  • Tip #1 - Look for a place to stay near the park to avoid the two+ hour drive in the morning. 

With a full tank of gas, we proceeded to the park entrance. 

  • Tip #2 - Buy a national parks pass before going to the park so you can drive in the far-right lane, avoiding the first wait in line

The drive from the Foothills Visitor Center to Giant Forest Museum can take about an hour. Don’t worry, there are several stops you can take along the way to break up the windy, switchback road for photo ops. We decided to stop at Tunnel Rock for a photo on top of the rock and at the lookout to admire Moro Rock and the amazing view from that location.

Tunnel Rock
Tunnel Rock

Since we were traveling with our five-year-old and nine-year-old kids, we decided to park further into the park at the upper General Sherman parking lot and take the shuttle to the museum. The reason for this is also my tip number three:

  • Tip #3 - Park your car at your last stop of the day and if you have kids in tow, get the junior ranger books at the beginning; big disclaimer: we saw the parking at the giant forest museum parking lot was completely full by 10am

We took the shuttle from the upper parking lot to the museum parking lot which took us about 10 minutes. At the museum, we spent about 15 minutes looking at the different exhibits and information they had regarding the park. We took the next shuttle, the #2 bus, to Moro Rock. This was a climb that took us 400 steps to a panoramic view of the park. As an outdoor-educator it was fascinating to watch the dynamic of people going up and down this mountain. Common hiking etiquette, like giving way to those that are going up was not followed by most people.

Hiking Moro Rock
Hiking Moro Rock
Top of Moro Rock
Top of Moro Rock

After a successful hike adrenaline rush for my wife, and reassuring two kids of their safety on some edgy parts, we came down and waited for the next shuttle. From the museum we took the shuttle, the #1 bus, to go back to the upper parking lot. We had our pre-made lunches waiting for us in the car in a (bear-proof) cooler and we found a nice shaded area to enjoy our lunch.

  • Tip #4 - Pack your lunch, as there are no food stores inside the park

Our last hike was to see the General Sherman Sequoia which is the tallest tree in the world. Everyone wants a photo of themselves in front of the tree, so be prepared for a long line unless you want to take it from a different angle that has no visible signage of the “General Sherman”. We chose to do that; we went around the tree and took multiple photos of us from different angles to avoid the long line of befuddled and sometimes oblivious people standing in front of the General Sherman sign.

GS Tree
General Sherman Tree
General Sherman Sign
And here's that sign!

Driving out of the park around 3:30pm, we enjoyed the company and commentary of the Ranger driving behind us, using the megaphone to let people know that they were not parked correctly and they had to move along. Think of Super Troopers.

The Foothill Visitor Center closes at 4:30 pm, and unfortunately we got there at 4:31pm with our Junior Ranger Books completed and missed the opportunity to get the Sequoia NP badge. However, our boys are proud of the hiking and learning that took place at the park. My wife and I also talked about the difference between being somewhere truly wild and out in nature versus appreciating what has been preserved for future generations. 

Don’t be afraid of the crowds. Sequoia National Park, like many other public lands, need to be appreciated and with these tips you’ll have a great time.

In summary, if you are visiting Sequoia during the summer, use some or all of the following tips:

1. Stay near the park and get there early, before 9am

2. Get the National Parks Annual Pass

3. Park your vehicle at your last activity for the day

4. Pack your lunch in a bear-proof cooler

Oboz Ambassador José González has been involved in outdoor education for three decades. His goal is to untapped people’s potential and facilitate human happiness through outdoor adventures. IG: @josehgonzalez

José González

Name: José H. González

Hometown: Grew up in Puerto Rico, now living in Los Angeles, Calif.

Where I’ve Been: I have been an adventurer my whole life. In 1989, I started leading 5-day backpacking trips in Puerto Rico for a Boy Scout Camp. After that, I split my time between New Hampshire, Maine and the Caribbean. In the past, I worked for Outward Bound and now I teach for NOLS Wilderness Medicine. I'm currently an Assistant Professor for Cal State University at Northridge teaching courses in Backpacking, Outdoor Leadership, and Recreation Management. I feel lucky and fortunate to have spent more than 900 nights sleeping in a tent and to have hiked the Sierras, more than 200 miles of the Appalachian Trail, the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of New Mexico, Caribbean volcanos, waterfalls in Costa Rica and Torres del Paine, Chile among others.

Why I Hike: I can take my family with me on adventures, it’s a great way to stay in shape and it’s accessible and very rewarding. 

Lead The Way: In 2019, I am planning to take my students on a backpacking trip to Joshua Tree as part of the Recreation Leadership course. Also, I would like to explore the Backbone Trail in the Santa Monica Mountains, hike Half Dome (if I am selected in the lottery!) and the Narrows in Utah.

Ambassador Focus: #generalhiking

Find Me:

Instagram: @hikingmaverick 

Facebook: @JoseHGonzalezEdD

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