Sequoia & Kings Canyon, CA
Sequoia National Park
Moro Rock, copyright
National Park Service
The trees in California's oldest national park are so big, they've been named after four-star generals. Even your most hyperactive kids will stand still, necks turned upward, silently taking in this majestic hugeness.
Plan on spending a full day exploring the park. Here are some of the highlights:
- Giant Forest. The world's largest tree -- the General Sherman -- stands guard on the northern fringe of this forest. Nearby, you'll find the second largest tree on Earth, the Washington. Both are a five-minute stroll from the parking lot. For a great family walk, try the two-mile Congress Trail, which loops around the House, Congress, and other sequoia groves.
- Moro Rock. The hike to this 6,726-foot dome is a short one, about 3/10 of a mile. But the 400 steps (with railing) and high altitude can be taxing, even for hard bodies. Budget at least 30 minutes for the moderate climb. If you're bringing along young ones, make sure they can handle steps and factor in extra time. At the top, you'll be treated to sweeping views of the Great Western Divide. The hour drive to Moro Rock is a treat of its own. You can ride your car over Auto Log and through Tunnel Log, both of which are fallen sequoias. Don't forget the camera.
- Crescent Meadow. About 1.3 miles past Moro Rock along Moro-Crescent Meadow Road, you'll feel like you just stepped into the pages of a nature calendar. Emerald green grass, wildflowers, and birds prompted the 19th-century naturalist John Muir to call this the gem of the Sierra. Schedule at least an hour to walk through the meadow on any of the many hiking trails. A popular one-mile path leads to Tharp's Log, the former summer cabin of a cattle rancher built into the hollow of a fallen sequoia. Your kids will chalk this up to the coolest fort they've ever seen.
- Mineral King. Experienced hikers consider this glacial valley a slice of heaven. Eleven alpine trails begin at 7,500 feet and are pretty steep (not for beginners or smaller children or the out-of-shape).