My time in Los Angeles is quickly coming to an end, so last weekend I headed north with two friends to Sequoia National Park. I figured it may be my only chance to step foot in the park known for its giant sequoia trees, so the four and a half hour drive there and back seemed like nothing. My two friends spent the night so we could hit the road no later than 6 am. We made sure our phones/cameras were fully charged and packed sunscreen, a first-aid kit, our swimsuits, a quick dry towel, several bottles of water, trail mix, granola bars, a few apples and bananas, and beef jerky.
If you are interested in going to Sequoia National Park to see incredibly large trees, fantastic views and take a swim in a beautiful glacial lake then follow my directions. To get to the park from Los Angeles take I-5 N to CA-99 N. Take exit 30 for CA-65 to CA-198 E. When you enter the park 198 is also Generals Highway. Follow the winding road up the mountain until you see signs for General Sherman Tree. A large large parking lot will appear on your right. To get to the tree you have to walk a leisurely half mile there and back. There were several hikers and tourists, so it was impossible to miss. The trail is completely paved and about seven feet wide, so it is a very enjoyable walk to the tree and it does not feel cramped even with a lot of people visiting.
When we reached the tree our jaws dropped. The 2,200 year old sequoia did not disappoint. It is the oldest and largest known single stem tree on earth standing tall at 275 feet and with a circumference of 103 feet. That’s comparable to a 26-story building and as wide as a city street! Here are a few shots of General Sherman and another sequoia we stopped by.
Once we finished gawking and admiring the trees, we continued east on Generals Highway until with hit Wolverton Road. Take a right on Wolverton Road and when you reach the parking area hang an immediate left into the first parking lot. Here is helpful map of the parking lot and trail.
In this lot there will be a sign for the Lakes Trail next to a four foot wide trail with a few steps leading into the forest. The sign will also provide the distance to each lake. We hiked to Heather Lake and back which totaled 8.2 miles. The hike should take approximately five hours, but we stopped several times to gaze at remarkable views and snap photos. We also hung out at the lake for about an hour and a half. All in all it probably took us about six and a half hours.
After hiking 1.8 miles you will reach a sign pointing you in the direction to go right for Hump Trail or left for Watchtower. Go left! The Watchtower is easier and provides much better views than Hump Trail. The first few miles you’ll be hiking on a dirt path and the scenery is very green and generally shaded, but it slowly becomes more arid as you approach the Watchtower.
Overall the hike wasn’t terribly difficult. The view from the Watchtower is incredibly surreal and will give you quite the adrenaline rush. If you’re not one for heights, be cautious as you approach the edge of the cliff because it might make your heart stop. I became a little disoriented at first because it’s hard to focus or distinguish how far away the bottom and other side of the mountain really is. Once I sat down and got my bearings, I did manage to crawl to the edge and peer over the cliff to see the bottom. It was frightening!
Past the Watchtower the trail is consistently rocky and instead of multiple trees lining the path large granite boulders stand alongside it. The trail is also only a few feet from a cliff as you hike past the Watchtower toward Heather Lake, so be careful!
Heather Lake is an oasis. After walking along the dry path with hot sun beating down on us, the crystal clear water looked so refreshing. We spent an hour and a half or so swimming, eating and laying in the sun on the warm granite rocks. I really enjoyed watching small fish swimming nearby and jumping out of the water every so often.
If you would rather spend the night, you can camp at Pear Lake which is the furthest lake from the trailhead — approximately 6.2 miles. There is a campsite available, but make sure to make reservations ahead of time.
Hiking in Sequoia National Park was the most beautiful and exciting experience I had while living in California. I will definitely be returning sometime in the future and I recommend all nature lovers and avid hikers to add this trip to their travel bucket list.