California Adventures: Visiting Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks
Nature can have a powerful impact on you, just as it did in my recent trip to some of California’s most beautiful National Parks. My manfriend and I took a trip to Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks for New Years, and where there are hundreds of things to do, the following are a few of the things we did, but worth a mention. So if you are thinking or ever wanted to visit these pristine national parks, add the following to your list.
Yosemite National Park is well known, not everyone has visited it but most have heard about this magical place. There are the common touristy things to do, such as hike Half Dome (which is still on my list, it’s closed during the winter months), check out the waterfalls, bike the valley, roam through the Ahwahnee Hotel and raft down the river. All those things are wonderful and if you’ve never been before, a must do. Just make sure to apply for a permit to hike Half Dome if that’s your thing.
We have a thing for trees… big trees at that. When driving in from hwy 41, just after you pass through the park entrance, look for the signs that point you to Mariposa Grove. There you will find families of giant sequoias, specifically one tree named the Grizzly Giant. There will probably be a ton of people scampering around taking selfies in front of the tree. I suggest to sit there for awhile and take in the magnitude of the Grizzly. That tree has been there for thousands of years and most people look at it through a camera lens.
Once you get back on the road and head to the valley floor, you’ll go through a long tunnel. On the other side you’ll find the “tunnel lookout”. If you’ve never visited Yosemite, it’s the grandest view of the valley and it’s surrounding mountains and cliffs. There will be a few dozen people taking photos. Stop there. I suggest it, it’s worth it, but when you get tired of the tourists, head across the street and look for the Inspiration Point trailhead. Follow the trail and signs till you get to the top. You get the same view as the lookout but with less people, just more trees. There wasn’t anybody up there when we hiked it. Sit for a bit and breathe in the silence, let the mountain air fill your lungs. It’s 2.6 miles roundtrip and if you’re only visiting Yosemite for a day, it’s a do-able hike, only taking about an hour or two to accomplish.
I always prefer to tent camp, but when it’s freezing at night, I have no interest in sleeping that close to the ground. Next best thing? The canvas tents at Curry Village. They are equipped with heaters and beds, and if you bring a couple extra blankets you are set. I thought it was very cozy and romantic, and it beat freezing our asses off in a regular tent.
One word. Chili. In the Curry Village cafeteria. Get it. That is all.
After two days in Yosemite we traveled south to Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. This was the first time for the both of us visiting these preserved lands. The snow plowed road lead us up the mountain in the dark to the John Muir Lodge (great place to stay btw). The next morning we went to Grant Grove to explore and see some big ass trees. This ended up being our favorite part of the trip.
Stop and visit with the General Grant Tree for a bit. He’ll be happy to see you. Afterwards keep walking past him and look for a split in the walkway with a wooden sign that says “To the stables” with an arrow pointing to the right and “Boundary Trail” with an arrow pointing the left. Go towards the stables first. If for some reason you can’t find the trail or are hiking it in the snow (like we did) look for the green circle trail markers nailed to the trees. Just follow the circles and they will lead you in the right direction.
The General Sherman Tree in the largest living tree in the world by volume. The thing is huge and a must see, the only downside… as you may of guessed… lots of people. You have to take a shuttle to visit the tree (theres no parking) but it’s worth it. My brain couldn’t register the sheer size of the tree. It’s been around since the Roman times. It’s like looking at living history.
Once you’ve seen all the giant trees, hiked a few trails, visited the Giant Forest Museum, stop at Beetle Rock. Plan it right and you can catch an epic sunset. It makes for a great place to have a picnic as well.
I could go on for days of the plethora of things to do and explore in these stunning parks, but you can read all about them (and in more depth) in the pamphlets they hand out or on the internet from some other blogger that has visited. What I do want to add to all of this though is to notice the small things.
When visiting these places take notice of just not the massive cliffs and trees, the wild life and flowing water, but the lush green moss on the trees and rocks, the tiny mushrooms pushing their way through the earth’s soil. Take notice to the several varieties of pinecones sprawled out on the forest floor and how the sun beams it’s way through the think canopy of the branches overhead. Notice the stains in the cliff sides where water once traced the curves of the stone and how bright the stars sparkle at night.
These parks are preserved so that generations to come can see that life isn’t all about city streets and electronics. So soak it all in, every last morsel of it, and allow yourself to be moved and transformed by nature.