A road trip from San Francisco to the Sequoia National Park: A day trip guide

I met my good old friend Anand to travel to the greatest trees of all time on the 2nd week of August 2020, located in the Sequoia National Park (SNP). SNP is home to Giant General Sherman Tree, which is considered as the largest tree in the world in terms of the volume. SNP is the second national park in America’s NPS system only after the great Yellow Stone National Park. No words or photos or videos can describe the true beauty of this park. The only way is to explore is by hiking along side these giant trees that would give you the true scale of such unique & magnificent giant forest. Our goal to visit this park was to capture its beauty through landscape and wildlife photography as well as for the youtube video production. I create short cinematic videos, and link to the video is provided below for your viewing.

We started at 7AM from San Jose (near SF) and reached SNP well past noon. Even during the COVID-19 times, there was big line of cars in front of us. Since we traveled on a weekend (Sat), the line was rather long, and it took almost 1 hour before we were able to pay park entrance fee and enter the park.

Line of cars at the park entrance

Although a day is a short period to explore the grandeur of this park, however we had to go back before dark, so we made sure we spent some quality time among these giants at key locations. I am really fond of large trees and have made couple of videos on my youtube channel featuring Redwood trees, but these trees are something else and extraordinary. When we reached the trail head to the General Sherman Tree, we were greeted by a unique cloud formation, that looked like an explosion. Everyone’s gaze was on this cloud formation, engulfing the redwood trees when looked from a distance.

Unique cloud formation at the trail head to General Sherman tree

Parking is difficult to get at the General Sherman Trail head (Main Trail is off the Wolverton Road), as it gets very crowded. We waited patiently for 20 minutes before we could park at one of the only available spots, with others fighting to get a spot. We parked our car, and went to a nearby place to make lunch. Anand showed me a sandwich recipe that contains a coconut chutney, cheese, cucumber slice, and tomato. It tasted wonderfully. To know more about his sandwich recipe, I have embedded youtube link at the end of the blog that he shared his recipe recently.

General Sherman Tree considered as the largest tree in the world with 275 feet (83 m) tall, and is over 36 feet (11 m) in diameter at the base.

The hike to General Sherman tree is a relatively short one (0.8 miles), and it’s uphill. We walked alongside Giant Forest sequoia grove. The tree can be easily identified because of the fence that surrounds it, also huge crowds usually occupy to get a selfie with the giant. Even during the COVID-19, the crowds were unusually large, and many without their masks. We spend only little time exploring the General Sherman, instead we focused on less crowed areas featuring the neighboring giant sequoia trees. If you have more time, you could explore the congress trail (2 mile loop), and big trees trail (1 mile loop) to further explore some of the oldest sequoia trees in the giant forest sequoia grove.

Wild yellow flowers surrounding giant sequoia grove

Just a few miles away from the Lodgepole parking, we found this place for ourselves for some photography of giant trees along with wild flowers. We found large number of flowers occupy the base of these trees, and it was fascinating to see how such large trees coexist with small wild flower plants.

Vignesh alongside an uprooted sequoia tree

Golden light on the fern

We then headed to the Crescent Meadows, we were greeted by two deers at the parking area. It was wonderful to see them very close by, as it seems they are accustomed to the presence of humans. I got my nikkor 200-500mm lens out to shoot some close up portraits.

Two Deers at Crescent meadows (top three pic and bottom)

The crescent meadow trail is a 1.7 mile loop featuring wild flowers and bird watching. We really enjoyed this trail as it was less crowded, with equally sweeping views of meadows as well the giant trees. I would highly recommend this trail, as its easy, fun, surrounded by greenery and wild flowers making this a wonderful hiking journey. We saw the low sunset, and I was particularly interested to capture the starbursts touching the trees. It’s featured in one of the pic from the below gallery.

Views of crescent meadows

We then measured ourself alongside one of the giant Sequoia. You could see below the size in comparison to two humans with their hands fully stretched. The scale of the trees are enormous, and it look small on picture when seen it alone.

Size comparison of Sequoia tree with humans

Further down the trail we were presented with so much photo opportunities where you can see groups of Sequoia trees standing tall amidst the recent fires. I found this spot on the tree trail, and we enjoyed walking along side with a beautiful four trees next to each other. They definitely put us in our place as a species due to their magnanimity.

Crescent meadows trail

We spent some quality time at the Crescent meadows till the sunset. Although I wanted to explore the Morro rock area for the sunset, Anand had some prior commitments, so we headed back to home. On the way to home, near the SNP we found this spot where we witnessed beautiful blue hour, and later we did some astrophotography over the hills. We found like minded astrophorographers on the hill, it was wonderful to chat with them and exploring the milkyway that was rising slowly from the left side of the hills. It was definitely a memorable moment of the short trip to the greatest trees of all time.

Sunset and dark skies near SNP while driving down the road.

I will stop it here and I will let you watch this video where we explore the park in slow motion, and share some of Anand’s homemade sandwich recipes. As you may know I usually travel alone, but going along with Anand was special because I can get some additional shots of us walking, exploring, and also some cool shots that otherwise would be difficult when all alone. I hope you will enjoy this video, and let me know in comments below if you like this video. Till then happy new week.

8 thoughts on “A road trip from San Francisco to the Sequoia National Park: A day trip guide

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