Experiencing Sequoia National Park from Under 5,000 ft. Elevation

Back in May, my best friend and I took a mini road trip up to Central California. On a whim, we decided to visit Sequoia National Park, as it was *only* 92 miles out of the way. We entered the park from the Ash Mountain Entrance from Three Rivers. At the entrance, we were told by a friendly Ranger that snow chains were required to go up the mountain and without them, we would not be able to see the famous Giant Sequoias. Unbeknownst to us, there was heavy rain and snowfall up the mountain. Because we had made the decision to visit the park last minute, we did not have chains and definitely did not have any snow gear. However, we had just driven nearly 3 hours out of our way to visit the park, so we were determined to make the most of our trip.

The iconic Seqouia National Park Entrance sign.
Middle Fork Kaweah River

Our first stop was the Foothills Visitor Center, which was one mile up the road from the entrance. From the parking lot, we had beautiful views down the valley and of the Middle Fork Kaweah River. The visitor center exhibits were closed that day, so we just picked up a guidebook and some postcards and then continued our drive.

Our next stop was Tunnel Rock, a popular spot for tourist pictures. Because the weather was terrible that day, we had the tunnel to ourselves! We took our own tourist picture after crafting a “tripod” out of stones before going along our merry way.

Tunnel Rock

Our next little adventure began at Hospital Rock. We parked at a small picnic area across the road and crossed over to a little sign pointing out the landmark. Hospital Rock and the rocks surrounding it tell the story of the Native American people that lived there, with petroglyphs and natural bowls carved into the rock.

Hospital Rock

A few meters south of Hospital Rock was a small trail that didn’t appear to be marked in any way but was clearly maintained. We followed the trail and were greeted with beautiful views of the river and rapids flowing over the rocks through the valley. We continued down the rocky trail to the riverbank. On a clear day, this would’ve been a lovely place to hang out and dip your feet in. However, the fast-moving water coupled with the heavy rain made the area unsafe while we were there.

After Hospital Rock, the air temperature was quickly dropping below freezing. To avoid the possibility of driving on ice, we decided to turn around back to Three Rivers. Along the way, we stopped at Horse Creek campground to take in the beautiful views of Lake Kaweah before heading into town for some food.

Lake Kaweah

Ultimately, while our trip to Sequoia National Park was not what we imagined it would be, we still managed to learn, have a ton of fun, and see the beauty of nature in our short time there. We will definitely have to return one day when we CAN drive up further than 5,000 ft.!

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