As of September 11, 2015 the Rough Fire has burned the Lockwood, Evans, and Kennedy Groves, and the entire northern unit of the Sequoia National Monument is closed. The Cedar Grove area of Kings Canyon is also closed, but none of its structures have been damaged. Grant Grove and the Generals Highway are also closed due to smoke, although they're still several miles from the fire. The Giant Forest remains open.
Calaveras Big Trees State Park is also closed due to the Butte Fire.
Hiking the giant sequoia groves
This site is a guide to giant sequoia hiking trails that includes most old-growth sequoia groves with publicly-accessible trails. The site also includes coverage of other day hikes in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
Giant sequoias grow in sheltered folds and shallow basins about halfway up the western slope of the Sierra Nevada, mostly in a 70-mile-long band in and around Sequoia National Park. The trees are found in 67 isolated groves ranging in size from six trees to six square miles. About 40 of the groves are in old growth condition.
The sequoias' strikingly massive, stout trunks are an arresting sight, often elegantly fluted and with an appealing light tan or salmon color that seems to glow against the dark foliage and grey trunks of the other trees around it. The canopy is usually open enough that the distinctive appearance of the trees can be fully appreciated. But the big trees are are widely scattered, usually growing as individuals or in small groups, so the forest as a whole tends to look rather mundane &emdash; like an ordinary Sierra pine forest studded with the occasional huge tree.
Sequoia groves provide a much different hiking experience than coast redwoods. Redwood forests have a welcoming feel, enveloping you with their orderly garden-like appearance, lush green walls of redwood foliage, and redwood-needle-covered paths. Giant sequoia forests are less attractive overall, but there's a thrill at encountering the massive trees that you don't get in the redwood forest. Overall, it's hard to choose a favorite.
Lower-elevation groves tend to be densely wooded and lush, while higher elevation groves are more open and often have a stark, otherworldly appearance with little or no groundcover. In general the higher-elevation groves are more scenic, in part because there's more to see without the understory blocking the views.
Although they're in the Sierra Nevada, the groves don't look especially mountainous. For the most part, the middle elevations of the Sierra Nevada aren't especially dramatic; you have to go to the high country to get real mountain scenery. However, the groves do get large amounts of snow and the trails, for the most part, are snow-free only between June and October. What's more, June and July can sometimes be extremely buggy.
List of giant sequoia trails · List of coast redwood trails
Click on the links below to view the regional, park, and hike pages. Parks are listed from north to south. Each park and trail has been rated from one to five stars based on how enjoyable it is overall.
© 2012, 2014 David Baselt