3 Unexpected Peaceful Places to Marvel at Giant Sequoias

house and Giant Sequoia at Sequoia Crest

Where to See Giant Sequoias in Peace

Giant Sequoias are largely sought after trees. They are unlike any other tree, and you can’t find them just anywhere. These majestic giants are tourist attractions and when you finally reach them there can be some big crowds. I have 3 peaceful places you can be right next to them all by yourself.

 

Where do Giant Sequoias Grow?

Giant Sequoias grow in a very specific climate and elevation between 5000 and 7500 feet. They grow naturally along the Sierra Nevada Mountain range in California. These giants must have a good water source and the mountains do just that. Along with the water source, they have to have soil that can easily drain. The dry mountain air makes it easier for the cones to release the seeds for new Giant Sequoias to grow. 

Their Cousins – The Coastal Redwoods

Many people might mistake Giant Sequoias for Coastal Redwoods. While they are related and both massive trees they are very different, and even grow far from one another. Giant Sequoias are found inland in California, whereas Coastal Redwoods grow in the fog belt on the coast. Miles and miles away from each other.

California Giant Sequoias Map

The climates they grow in are very different. Giant Sequoias like the dry mountain air, but their coastal friends like the nice humidity in the air that the coast gives them. You wouldn’t find them growing next to each other. 

There’s a really awesome kids video that explains the two so simply! Check that out here. 

On a Mission to Find Giant Sequoias

Quick Note: You will need a car to see these places. I had a rental car. All these places aren’t accessible with public transportation.
I decided to run the Yosemite Half Marathon with the hopes of running in a sea of trees. I know all the details of the race, but my inexperience about Yosemite and my lack of knowledge about Giant Sequoias left me a little disappointed that I didn’t get to run next to these ancient beings. 

Only about 5 miles of the Half was in the actual park of Yosemite and the rest was run in the Sierra National Forest. While I loved that race, read more about that here, I didn’t get to see a Giant Sequoia while running. 

If I wanted to see them I had to go to a certain area of Yosemite to the specific grove they grow in. After running a nice half marathon I took a nap, I was up at 3:30 that morning to run that Half! Because of that I decided to head up into the park later in the day.

By the time I got there, because it took a good hour drive from where I was staying, the trolley to see the grove was done for the day. And you could definitely walk the trail to get to the grove, but that sign told me that the trail was a dreadful 2 mile walk away! The ache in my legs just throbbed at the thought. 

That’s 4 miles round trip, and after doing that Half Marathon my legs couldn’t do it in the time before night fell. I did not want to be in Yosemite National Park in the pitch black. I wasn’t prepared at all for a night in the forest. But I did get to enjoy Yosemite nonetheless!

Again my attempt to see Giant Sequoias had failed.

Leaving Yosemite

Maybe a part of me knew that I might not see the Giant Sequoias during the race portion of my trip. My next planned stop I was sure to see them! I was staying in Camp Nelson, CA right in the heart of the Sequoia National Forest. They don’t call it that for nothing! 

I stayed at an Airbnb that specifically mentioned how you are guaranteed to see them. I was sold right away. And I sacrified wifi and cell reception for it!

Camp Belknap

Quick Tip: Try to travel outside of the peak season to avoid crowds
I picked the brain of my host as soon as I got in and asked right away what she knew about the trees, and where I could find them. She enthusiastically told me I could see them right near by in Camp Belknap just a couple miles away. 

With no google maps, I ingrained the directions she gave me in my brain and I went on my way. 

She really was great at giving directions. She knew her town front to back. And I was pleasantly surprised once I got there!

Belknap Campground

Right in Sequoia National Forest, Near camp Nelson  – Camp Belknap Campground can be found: Nelson Dr, Springville, CA 93265 

There was no one around!

I went on this trip in mid-May. It wasn’t quite peak season for traveling yet, but I expected to at least to see some folks, but didn’t. It is a campground and all.

I seen a couple Giant Sequoias and was very happy to spend as much time as I needed to get some selfies! And no fees for this nice little area. 

Giant Sequoia at Belknap campground

giant sequoia at belknap campground

Sequoia Crest

I wanted to wander around Camp Nelson a bit. So, I drove. I drove up the mountain just to see things, take everything in, smell that fresh mountain air, and check things out. I saw a road sign that said “Redwood Drive” and I happen to know that usually streets are named certain things for a reason so I made the turn on the street.

 

Quick Tip: Be careful driving as the roads are pretty narrow, and in some spots there is only one lane. 
I was so confused at what I found, and didn’t understand the area. “Was I allowed to be here?!” I had no idea, but I was taking my chances. I continued driving around, and as the name explains it is a crest shaped area. You can explore and not really get lost because the way you came in is the way you’ll come out.

I was awe-struck at the Giant Sequoias I saw! 

There are no fees for this area. But it should be noted that Sequoia Crest is a residential area. Population: 10

sequoia crest

Sequoia Crest Map

sequoia Crest Giant Sequoia

Sequoia Crest can be found 10 miles north of Camp Nelson, CA. Sequoia Crest, California 93265
You can see such lovely houses towered by these gigantic trees! It’s quite something to see. To be there up in the mountains and seeing the fancy houses and the gorgeous Giant Sequoias had definitely filled my craving to be near those striking trees. I feel like it’s an injustice to call them trees! I feel like they are other-worldly beings or something. 

That rich red tree bark always gets me. 

house and Giant Sequoia at Sequoia Crest
A Giant Sequoia right in their backyard!
Camp Nelson View
Back to Camp Nelson, and I caught a lovely view!

Off to Trail of 100 Giants

My Airbnb host had a lot of maps, and a lot of information for things to do and see nearby. The brochure for the Trail of 100 Giants caught my eye, as if I hadn’t seen enough Giant Sequoias already. 

But, what I was missing was the information. While I love to stare up at these trees I want to actually learn more about them. I want more than just the beauty. I wanted to know what the leaves looked like, I wanted to know what they look like as “young” trees, so many questions in my brain!

ponderosa
Elevation 7200 feet! We’re getting up there.

The Trails of 100 Giants was only 25 miles away from where I was staying, but it took me an hour to get there. I was driving up the mountain, and I’m a city gal and driving those mountain winding roads freaks me out so I drove a bit slower than the locals. Plus, I was really taking in everything along the way. The views are stunning. It was a nice, sunny day with clear blue skies, with little to no traffic on the road there.

The Journey

There isn’t much for civilization when you start going on this journey to the Giants. A whole lot of nature is there for you, but a store for a snack  – you shall not find.

I wanted a coffee. My silly city self thought for sure there had to have been a small tiny gas station or something that had coffee going. I was very wrong. In fact, I did stop at exactly what I described above – a tiny gas station with a lit red “Coffee” sign in the window. I did see a dog there, but no humans. Nothing there was screaming invitation.

I got out of my car looked around, got back in my car and continued on my way. 

No coffee to be had. 

gas station dog

Made it There

The Trail of 100 Giants is only accessible during May 15 – November 15. Address: Trail of 100 Giants Trailhead, Co Rte 107, Porterville, CA 93257
The excitement was real when I finally arrived! I was so happy to be there. There is a parking area that costs $5 but I didn’t mind paying. I had no idea what to expect, when you say “trail” I feel like I have to be a seasoned hiker or something. But it really is an easy trail to follow. Long enough to keep you occupied for maybe a good 40 minutes. I was there for about an hour and a half, taking my time taking it all in, relaxing on the benches, and taking in the view along the way. There’s a small stream and pond there as well.

trail of 100 giants sign

gas station dog

I read just about every information stand there was in front of each Giant Sequoia. I absorbed all the information I could, and of course I took all kinds of photos.

fused giant Sequois
Two Giant Sequoias fused together
Giant Sequoia leaves
This is what Giant Sequoia leaves look like!
Giant sequoias with regular pine tree in front
Giant sequoias with your regular Christmas Tree type of Pine in front.
Young Giant Sequoia
A young Giant Sequoia. This guy is about 60 years old.

There were a few people, and when I say a few I really mean only a few. I even took a picture for another solo traveler and his favorite Giant Sequoia. We gotta help each other out right? It’s hard getting those selfies when you’re a solo traveler.

I really took my time. I loved being here. It was quiet, such a nice day, and I wanted to make sure I enjoyed it because this was one of the last things I was to do on my trip. 

I wish it was a longer trail.

fallen giant Sequoia
A fallen Giant Sequoia. It fell in September 2011

Leaving

When I left the Trail 100 Giants I was kinda bummed, but happy I completed my mission to see and learn all I could about Giant Sequoias.

Other Places to see Giant Sequoias

While I loved the spots where I saw Giant Sequoias they aren’t the only ones. I want to include other places to see them. Some of the usual spots people go to see them. They will have way more folks there if you don’t mind that. 

Yosemite National Park:

To get into the park there is a $35 car entrance fee which is valid for a week. 

  • Mariposa Grove: 

This is at the South Entrance to the park. This grove can be reached by the shuttle or by foot. You can’t drive up to it. It is the biggest grove in the park with about 500 Giant Sequoias. This is your easiest option. 

  • Tuolumne Grove:

Located at Tioga Road, at the Crane Flat. This is a little bit harder to get to. There’s a 1 mile hike to get to the grove, and a steep hike on the way back to your car. There’s about two dozen Giant Sequoias here. 2 miles round trip. 

  • Merced Grove:

Located at the Big Oak Flat Road, east of the Big Oak Flat Road Entrance. This is pretty much the same at the grove above with about a mile and a half hike up hill back to your car. 3 Miles round trip. 

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park:

To get into the park there is a $35 car entrance fee which is valid for a week. There’s also a shuttle that takes folks from their hotel to the park to see the Giant Sequoias. $20 round trip. Check that out here. 

  • The Giant Forest

About one hour north of the park’s Ash Mountain Entrance. Home to the largest collection of Giant Sequoias with about 8000 in this area. This is where you would see the famous General Sherman Giant Sequoia – the World’s largest tree (by volume.) They also have a Giant Forest Museum so you can learn more about these awesome trees!

General Sherman Giant Sequoia
Photo credit: hikespeak.com
  • Grant Grove

Just inside the Kings Canyon’s Big Stump entrance on Highway 180, Grant Grove Village. This is a cabin village that has the 2nd Largest Giant Sequoia, General Grant. This guy is 3,000 years old!

On to the Next!

I know with this guide you’ll be able to see these amazing trees. In peace, and some at no cost! Now that I learned a ton about Giant Sequoias I want to learn about their relatives the Coastal Redwoods!

If you ever find yourself near the west coast of the United States make sure to take a trip to California and see these magnificent trees.

Have you been able to visit a Giant Sequoia? Tell me about that experience below. 

 

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5 thoughts on “3 Unexpected Peaceful Places to Marvel at Giant Sequoias

  1. The beautiful nature and trees are just some of the reasons I love living in California. Sequoia National Park is one of my favorite state parks to visit.

  2. Seeing the Giant Sequoias has been a lifelong dream of mine. They look so majestic! I’ve always figured I’ll do a road trip of California and visiting these giants will be one of the stops I make. Thanks so much for this thorough guide and inspo!

  3. Wow, look at those trees, what a mighty sight that must’ve been! Hard to gauge the scale of those majestic trees, but you get a good idea from that fallen tree over the bridge, ooph! Glad you made it to the forest and thanks for sharing these beautiful photos 🙂

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