Hiking the giant sequoia groves
This site is a guide to giant sequoia hiking trails. It has pages for most old-growth sequoia groves north of the Giant Forest; pages for the remaining groves will be added over the next few years. The site also includes coverage of other day hikes in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
The giant sequoia grows in sheltered folds and shallow basins about halfway up the western slope of the Sierra Nevada, mostly in a 70-mile-long band in and around Sequoia National Park. The trees are found in 67 isolated groves ranging in size from six trees to six square miles. About 40 of the groves are in old growth condition.
The sequoias' strikingly massive, stout trunks are an arresting sight, often elegantly fluted and with an appealing light tan or salmon color that seems to glow against the dark foliage and grey trunks of the other trees around it. The canopy is usually open enough that the distinctive appearance of the trees can be fully appreciated. But the big trees are are widely scattered, usually growing as individuals or in small groups, so the forest as a whole tends to look rather mundane &emdash; like an ordinary Sierra pine forest studded with the occasional huge tree.
Hiking in the giant sequoia forests is a much different experience than the coast redwoods. The coast redwood forest, with its orderly garden-like appearance, has a soothing effect, completely enveloping the hiker in lush green walls of redwood foliage and offering welcoming redwood-needle-covered paths. The giant sequoia forests, in contrast, have a harsher, less welcoming appearance, but there's a certain thrill at encountering these magnificent trees that you don't get in the redwood forest. Overall, it's hard to choose a favorite.
The appearance of the sequoia groves varies with elevation. Lower-elevation groves tend to be densely wooded and lush, while at higher elevations they're more open and often have a stark appearance with little or no groundcover. In general the higher-elevation groves are more scenic since it's easier to see the sequoias, which are often some distance from the trail.
Although they're located in the Sierra Nevada, the groves don't look especially mountainous. In fact, in general the middle elevations of the Sierra Nevada aren't especially dramatic; you have to go to the high country to get real mountain scenery.
Nonetheless the groves do get large amounts of snow and are should only be visited for hiking between May and October. June and July can be extremely buggy.
List of giant sequoia trails · List of coast redwood trails
Click on the links below to view the regional, park, and hike pages. Parks are listed from north to south. Each park and trail has been rated from one to five stars based on how enjoyable it is overall.
© 2012 David Baselt