Sequoia National Park Then and Now

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In 1920, the National Park to Park Highway inaugural tour visited Sequoia National Park to see the largest trees in the world. Their tour brought them through Visalia in late October and unfortunately was cut short due to an unexpected snow storm. Still, their experience at Sequoia National Park has some similarities to what we experienced at this historic place.


National Park to Park Highway tour on Auto Log, 1920
Giant sequoia trees take thousands of years to grow. I have little doubt that if early national park advocates hadn’t acted to save the giant sequoia trees they would’ve been cut down and used for boring things like houses and firewood. Thanks to the foresight of previous generations, I get to see these beautiful wonders. 

More than in any other National Park, I felt a gratitude to people who came before me. I’m proud that at some point in our American history we made the good decision to protect these amazing natural wonders. Being in the giant forest reminded me that humans are just a small part of the natural world, even though our impact can be massive.
Auto Log
Why is driving through/on a tree so fun? In the 1920 National Park to Park Highway tour, the drivers parked on Auto Log for the iconic photo seen above. The massive Sequoia Log doesn’t allow cars on it anymore thanks to a car partially falling through on a rotten spot in the 1930s, but I still stopped to check it out. We loved Tunnel Log, the only tree you can drive through in Sequoia National Park. The Ultimate Adventure Vehiclebarely fit – the life jackets scraped through on the top.

Crystal Cave
The 1920 National Park to Park Highwaytour had planned a trip to Crystal Cave but was forced to change plans when an early snowstorm rolled in. We got to visit this unique subterranean space and really enjoyed it. The formations are truly impressive, some still shiny with the crystals that gave the cave its name. Some parts of the tour had tight spaces (nothing like at Mesa Verde) so baby carriers weren’t allowed, but Baby L did great in my arms.


Our favorite part of Sequoia National Park was swimming in Crystal Creek. I doubt the 1920s National Park to Park Highway group even considered this as an option since they visited in October. For us it was the highlight of the trip, even though it was a bushwhacked scramble to get there. The natural water slide empties into a clear cold pool. The creek flows over granite, tall trees grow all around and in the summer it’s a beautiful place to play.

Roughing it

Another similarity between the 1920s National Park to Park Highway tour and our stay at Sequoia National Park was the accommodations. The drivers on the inaugural trip mostly stayed in hotels and stopped in towns along the route, but here in Sequoia, the lodge was closed for the season so superintendent John R White gathered mattresses and blankets for the party to sleep on the floor. Our whole trip we’ve been sleeping on camp mats, so I can definitely relate.
General Sherman
Of course we hiked the General Sherman Trail to see the largest tree in the world. That’s the main attraction at Sequoia, and it’s definitely not to be missed. The General Sherman trail connects to several other hiking trails in the area. I was worried about crowds around the General Sherman tree, but the trails nearby circle other great trees so it seemed like the crowds were able to meander without becoming too thick. I loved that we each got to experience the peaceful forest together.

Me walking on Auto Log
Can You Feel It?
Visiting Sequoia National Park meant feeling awed walking under the largest trees in the world. Looking up takes on a new meaning when the trees seem to go on forever. Sequoia National Park was a special place back when the 1920 National Park to Park Highway tour visited and it’s a special place today. I’m glad I got a chance to experience it with my entire Mountain Family. People coming together for a cause can do great things. 

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Author: Mountain Mom

Hi! I'm Mountain Mom. I live with my husband and three young kids in the mountains near Sundance, Utah. When we're not hiking, biking, skiing and camping, I spend my time doing Mom stuff and reading. Summer of 2016 we traveled over 7,000 miles along the US National Park to Park Highway.

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