The Giant Forest
The drive up to Wuksachi
The General Sherman Tree
There’s a tranquility that can only be found in the heart of the forest and there’s no better place to experience it than Sequoia National Park, located just under three hours from Santa Clarita Valley. With the crowds dissipated for the winter months, you and your family will find yourselves almost solo as you take in the giant sequoias, crisp mountain air, and blue skies that transform to a galaxy of sparkling stars when evening descends.
This winter as the mercury in the thermometer drops, so do the rates at the newly constructed Wuksachi Lodge. This rustic, yet elegant, motel-styled structure offers all the modern amenities a family could need. Yet within a few steps of your room you will access a network of hiking, snowshoeing, and cross-country ski trails.
A weekend in Sequoia provides a respite from the warm weather and weekend chores at home. After a day of snowshoeing in the Giant Forest, warm up in front of the lodge’s wood burning stove with a cup of hot chocolate while engaging the kids in board games (provided). Meander back to your room or set up your own telescope to take in the star-studded skis of the High Sierras.
Here are some ideas for creating some family memories that are guaranteed to be so much fun the kids won’t even miss their video games!
Pack your tire chains along with the sunscreen and sunglasses because you’ll encounter snow. (Chains can also be rented at the service station in Three Rivers if you forget them.) Take Hwy 5 North out of Santa Clarita and catch Hwy 99 out of Bakersfield, then swing over to Visalia on Hwy 198. (You may want to take Hwy 63 as a shortcut to Hwy 198.) Follow Hwy 198 to Three Rivers, where you’ll find restaurants, lodging, gas, and the park entrance. (Gasoline is not available within the park boundaries.)
Now your vacation starts as you begin your 50-minute climb to Wuksachi Lodge and the Giant Forest. You’ll encounter vistas at every turn, wildlife and waterfalls that will steal your breath. Be sure to look to the east where you’ll see Mt. Whitney, the highest mountain in the contiguous United States. Don’t forget the camera!
WHAT TO SEE AND DO
If you only have two days, you can leave Santa Clarita early Saturday morning and spend the night inside the park. You’ll get to play in the snow, see the big trees, and sample exquisite culinary delights. This is the perfect mini vacation to reconnect with the family. But be prepared: once in Sequoia, you’ll wish you had a week!
Walk through The Giant Forest, home to 8,000 enormous Sequoia trees including the General Sherman Tree standing at 274.9 feet with a circumference at ground level of 102.6 feet! The two-mile, two-hour loop is an easy trail and an awesome snowshoeing experience for everyone. (Snowshoes are available for rental at the Wuksachi Village.) You may even be lucky enough to join in a ranger-led snowshoe walk (snowshoes provided).
Warm up in the Giant Forest Museum. As you approach the museum, look down and you’ll find a ruler in the pavement indicating the height and diameter of the Sentinel Tree. It gives kids a chance to ‘step into’ the tree and get a realistic feel for the magnitude of the Sequoiadendron giganteum. You’ll learn everything there is to know about these giants through state-of-the-art interactive exhibits.
Check into your room at Wuksachi Village and Lodge and settle in for dinner where you’ll find specialty items like Lavendar Chicken on the menu along with traditional favorites of burgers and steak. Only the freshest ingredients of the season are used to prepare dishes you will recall long after you’ve forgotten the magnificence of the forest. A children’s menu including PB&J, grilled cheese and chicken fingers is also available. Request a table in front of the massive stone fireplace for a cozy experience in this impressively elegant, yet rustic, room.
The evening is not over yet. Before climbing into bed, chill out with some board games and hot cocoa in front of the lobby’s wood burning stove. The lounge serves adult beverages as well as kiddie cocktails. Or, attend the informative slide show that may be offered by the rangers.
As you wander back to your room under the light of the evening sky, consider driving the two miles south to Wolverton Recreation Area to set up your telescope for a closer look at our galaxy.
Begin your day with a hearty breakfast at Wuksachi. The view from the floor-to-ceiling windows of the Great Western Divide and big trees will inspire you for a day spent with nature. Before heading down to Wolverton Recreation Area to play in the snow, you can purchase snow discs at the lodge. Once a downhill ski area, you’ll find a wonderful slope for sledding.
If sledding isn’t your thing, rent some cross-country skis at Wuksachi and explore the many trails winding through the park. Keep your eyes open for mule deer, jack rabbits or even the rare black bear that may have come out of hibernation.
Before returning home, take the Moro Rock-Crescent Meadow Road where you’ll see Moro Rock and can drive through Tunnel Log. If you have an extra 30-minutes, you can climb the 400 steep steps to the top of Morro Rock for an unbelievable view of the Great Western Divide and its lush valleys. Want to get one more hike in? Head over to Crescent Meadow, which John Muir is quoted to describe as the “gem of the Sierra.” It is one-and-a-half miles east of the Moro Rock parking area. The trail around the meadow takes about an hour.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW BEFORE HEADING OUT
In 2006, $20 per vehicle or $30 for one calendar year. A $50 National Park Pass allows access to all national parks for one year.
Foothills Visitor Center:
Offers restroom facilities as well as exhibits on the foothills of Sequoia. (559) 565-3135
Ranger-guided snowshoe walks
are free and snowshoes are provided. Usually offered twice a day. (559) 565-4480
Road and Weather Conditions
for the Sequoia area: (559) 565-3341
Gasoline is not available in the parks, but emergency services through AAA are offered by calling (559) 565-4070 or call AAA directly if you are a member.
are offered most weekends at Wuksachi.
Snow play equipment,
including snowshoes, cross-country skis, boots and poles are available for rental; snow discs, are available for purchase.
It is important to remove all food and food-related items (chewing gum, toothpaste, etc.) from your vehicle upon checking into your room as
can cause considerable damage to your vehicle. If you encounter a
back away slowly; if attacked, wave, shout and throw rocks. Do not run. Watch your children closely. For more information on encountering California's Wildlife, visit our
Wuksachi Village and Lodge Reservations:
(888) 252-5757 or (559) 253-2199
Wuksachi Restaurant Hours:
Breakfast, 7:30-9:30 AM. Lunch, 11:30 AM -2:30 PM, Dinner 5:00-9:00 PM.
Lodging and Restaurant Reservations