One-Day Trip Guide To Sequoia National Park

My family and I have visited Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks for more than 10 times. No exaggeration. We live in Hanford, California which is about an hour from the southwest entrance of the park, but to be honest, we still haven’t been able to explore the whole SEKI parks. It would take days, or maybe weeks, to be able to explore the whole park  which also requires hours and hours of hiking. 

Every time I talk to some tourists during our visits, they would always say that they are in the area just for a day or two. So, we thought, maybe we should come up with a list of must-see quick stops and trails in the Sequoia National Park that you and your family can enjoy if you are only visiting Sequoia National Park for a day.


(1)    At the gate, you have to pay $35 for a vehicle pass, $30 for motorcycles and $20 for individuals on foot or on a bike. You can also buy your tickets online in advance HERE. Note that this fee includes both Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks, and this is valid for up to 7 days. If you plan to visit all the National Parks in the US, I suggest getting The National Parks Pass ($70) which allows unlimited entry into all national park areas for one year. 

NOTE: Active members of the US Military are FREE. For the RETIRED Military with a disability, you can also get a free pass. We got our FREE Pass from the entrance of Sequoia National Park.

 (2)    Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks are open 24 hours a day, whole year round. Road closures can happen during winter time due to snow and can cause limited access to some areas of the park.

(3)    If you are just visiting the park for a day, be at the park as early as you can to avoid the crowd. I would suggest getting there at 7 or 8 in the morning.

(4)    Bring some food or snacks, and a lot of water. It’s important to stay hydrated as you will be spending your whole day hiking around the park. 

(5)    Please clean as you go. It's sad to see people just throwing their trash everywhere. 


INDIAN HEAD (photo-op/quick stop)

Coming from Hanford, the starting point for this itinerary is the Sequoia National Park Ash Mountain Entrance in Three Rivers. 0.1 mile from the main entrance, be ready to have a quick stop at this Indian Head for a photo-op. I think this is a must stop as this is considered as the welcome sign for the Sequoia National Park.

P.S. If you would like to explore more, this area has a nice 0.4-mile quick and easy hike with good views of the rushing Kaweah River from the trail.  

If you have a national park passport, you can get your stamp in here.


The Foothills Visitor Center is 0.8-mile from the Indian Head (1-mile from the main entrance). Though the park has 3 visitor centers, I would suggest stopping here before you start your tour. The rangers and the staff in the visitor center can help you should you have any questions, and they surely have a huge amount of information that they can share with you to make your visit worthwhile. 

P.S. You can get your tickets to enter Crystal Cave from this visitor center. This is an important note if you are interested in exploring the cave. 

TUNNEL ROCK (photo-op/quick stop)

From Foothills Visitor Center, drive for another 1.4-miles and you’ll find this place for another photo-op. Note that you can climb the rock at your own risk. It’s a bit steep and can be dangerous, but the photos you get when on top of the tunnel rock makes it worth it.


If you are visiting Sequoia National Park for the first time, I would say stopping at the Giant Forest Museum is a must. This would be a good way to start your visit to Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks. You'll find a small gift store and park information desk inside the museum. The displays and dioramas are wonderfully informative. A big display on the wall shows all the other areas in the Sierras where sequoia groves grow. Here, you'll get better ideas about the trees, the wild animals, and even human history around the parks.

GENERAL SHERMAN TREE (trail / 0.5-mile hike)

The General Sherman Tree is one of the most famous spots in the Sequoia National Park. This 2,200-year-old tree is considered the world's largest tree by volume with a circumference of 103 feet and soars as high as 275 feet, and it’s still growing. Each year the tree grows wider, adding enough wood to equal another good-sized tree.

It gets really crowded around the tree towards mid-day up to afternoon, so getting there as early as you can should be your goal to avoid the crowd.

P.S. This 0.4-mile trail is steep, and the altitude is high. From the upper parking lot, the General Sherman Tree is located at an elevation 212 feet below that area. The walk back to the parking lot is steep but there are benches along the way where you can rest and enjoy the view at the same time.

If you are visiting with older people or family members with a disability, you can park at the lower parking area. This parking area has easier access to the General Sherman Tree. 

Before heading back to the parking lot, you can continue exploring around the General Sherman Tree. Just a couple of minutes from it you’ll see a fallen tree tunnel which would be good for a photo-op.

You can also continue hiking towards the Tough Twins, and hike more towards the Congress Trail, a 2-mile loop. You’ll also find the House and Senate groves near the end of the loop trail.

AUTO LOG (quick stop)

You can skip this one if you are running out of time. But this sweet quick stop features a fallen tree with a base diameter of 21 feet that was turned into a somehow log driveway. 

TUNNEL LOG (drive-thru/photo-op)

Driving through this fallen Sequoia tree is truly a fun experience. It's pretty awesome that this Sequoia log has been here since 1937. It fell across the Crescent Meadow Road, and instead of completely removing the tree, they wisely created a hole through the log and turned this into a visitor attraction. 

HANGING ROCK TRAIL (short hike/easy trail)

This trail 0.35-miles (round trip) might be one of the easiest trails in Sequoia National Park, but definitely worth checking out. About 20 steps from the trailhead, you’ll find a giant sequoia that has been burned out like a chimney with gaps big enough to go in and out of (photo below). 

When you make it to the Hanging Rock, you'll see some of the park’s best views including the Middle Fork of the Kaweah River, and  Moro Rock, which is Sequoia’s most famous granite dome.

MORO ROCK (0.3 hike/climb)

Moro Rock is one of the famous spots in Sequoia National Park, and I must say that climbing to the top is a must thing to do when visiting Sequoia National Park. Rises 6,725 feet above sea level, you can easily see this prominent granite protrusion when driving up the Generals Highway into Sequoia National Park from the south. You have to climb about 350 steps to make it to the top. The hike/climb to the top is short but steep. The vast panoramic views make the climb so worth it though.

CRESCENT & LOG MEADOWS (1.7 miles lightly trafficked)

This would be the best place to explore after climbing the Moro Rock, and the best place to spend your remaining time in the park before heading home. I highly recommend spending a decent amount of time in this area. You’ll see a lot of interesting stuff in here. And if you get lucky enough, you might see wild bears lounging around.

Crystal Cave would be included in this list, but I can’t say much about it as we haven’t been able to visit it. I will update this post as soon as we get a chance to explore the cave. 

P.S. We just visited SNP last week with Daniel's family, who were visiting us from Arkansas.

Again, here’s the rundown of the abovementioned locations for the one-day tour guide to Sequoia National Park.
  1. Indian Head
  2. Foothills Visitor Center
  3. Tunnel Rock
  4. Giant Forest Museum
  5. General Sherman Tree
  6. Auto Log
  7. Tunnel Log
  8. Hanging Rock
  9. Moro Rock
  10. Crescent and Log Meadows
  11. Crystal Cave

Have you been to Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks? How was your experience? Did we miss anything on this list? Let us know, and we would gladly visit your recommendations too.

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