Many things about Sequoia National Park are big: Not only is it full of massive trees, it’s home to the highest point in the contiguous United States, Mount Whitney (14,494 feet). The park itself spans more than 400,000 acres; when counted together with slightly larger Kings Canyon National Park next to it, you’re talking about combined acreage bigger than Yosemite.
Sequoia trees are among the largest living organisms on earth, and some of the largest are on the slopes of the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains. The park’s Giant Forest has five of the world’s 10 largest trees, so a hike here can be an awe-inspiring experience.
Most of the park is inaccessible to cars, making it a peaceful backpacking getaway just two hours east of bustling Fresno, Calif. The 35-mile High Sierra Trail is a favorite, passing through forests that give way to steep glacial canyons and scree-covered high-elevation slopes. There’s camping at both developed and wilderness sites throughout the park.
Sequoia was one of the nation’s first national parks, designated at about the same time as Yosemite (which was already set aside as protected land but was officially made a national park on Oct. 5, 1890). Native people had lived in the area off and on for centuries; the first white settler, Hale Tharp, carved a literal “log home” out of a fallen sequoia. Tharp and John Muir later were instrumental in preventing logging in the area, efforts that later led to the national park’s formation.