Sequoia National Park has more than stunning scenery. It's also rich in history—Sequoia was designated as a National Park in 1890 to protect the grove of newly-discovered giant trees that quickly generated buzz across the United States.
The enormous trees were further romanticized by famed conservationist John Muir in his celebrated writings. "It took more than three thousand years to make some of the trees in these Western woods, trees that are still standing in perfect strength and beauty, waving and singing in the mighty forests of the Sierra," Muir wrote of the giant sequoias.
To this day, Sequoia is still one of the most popular national parks in the United States. It has a number of tourist-heavy attractions that even the most experienced outdoor enthusiasts need to see, but it also offers plenty of backcountry opportunities, where you can roam in the beauty and never see another soul, outside of an occasional black bear or mule deer.
Located in central California in the Sierra Nevadas, Sequoia National Park encompasses 400,000 acres of land stretching from the western slopes—which is where most people go—to Mount Whitney, on the eastern edge of the park. Sequoia is just south of Kings Canyon National Park, and the two are administered together by the National Park Service.
If you're able to make the trip, here are four attractions you just can't miss.
The number one attraction by a long shot is the Giant Forest, where hundreds of giant sequoias have lived for thousands of years. Located on the western side of the park near Three Rivers, California, the giant forest is easily accessible by vehicle and many giant sequoias tower near the Generals Highway, the main road of the park.
Don't just drive by them; get out of your car and stand under one. The main draw is General Sherman, the largest living thing on Earth. Sherman towers 275 feet tall and is 36 feet wide. It's estimated to be close to 3,000 years old and going strong. Looking up from the base of General Sherman is hard for many visitors to comprehend—or forget.
General Sherman is accessible with just a half-mile walk from the nearest parking lot, and the tree is fenced off so you can only admire it from about 10 feet away.
The sightseeing doesn't stop there, though. General Sherman is just the start of a large system of trails that allow you to explore the Giant Forest by foot. One of the best is Congress Trail, about 2 miles long, featuring two bunches of sequoia trees (The House and The Senate) as well as The President, the third-largest tree on Earth.
There are no fences around these trees or any of the dozens of unnamed sequoias on this trail, so feel free to go up and hug one. At the end of the day, rest your legs at Lodgepole Campground, just 2 miles from the Giant Forest.