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Getting High in the Low Sierras

Posted on Aug 18, 2014

Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park, a mere 230 miles from the sprawl of Los Angeles, is one of the wonders of the world. Its 400,000 acres encompass 13,000 feet in vertical height. Mt.Whitney is the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states. The Sherman Tree, a giant sequoia, is the largest, single stem tree in the world, rising up the length of a football field. The tree is estimated to be 2,700-years-old.

You can appreciate Sequoia National Park without stepping down from your rental RV—the views are indescribable. You can hike parts of the park and never raise a sweat. You can do moderate half day hikes of six miles and be back “home” for the nightly news. (Why would one watch the nightly news, from Paradise?) The greatest advantage to adventuring in Sequoia National park is that it’s not Yosemite. It has all the scenery and half the traffic.

Where to start?

Let’s begin at the beginning, from the parking lot of 1st Choice RV, in Irvine. Take Interstate 5 northeast towards Bakersfield, 131 miles away. Your drive takes you through the Los Padres National Forest and the rim of the Central Valley. If you need a rest stop, Mt. Frazer has services and a rest area.

Stop in Bakersfield

Bakersfield is a good halfway stop, to stretch your legs or stay overnight. Five RV camps provide you with choices of where to stay. Believe it or not, Bakersfield is the third most important country music destination in the US.

If you’re a movie buff, you must visit the Kern Valley Museum. See the artifacts and photos of western movies such as “Stage Coach.” A partial list of films shot in and around Bakersfield include “The Grapes of Wrath,” “Psycho,” “Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” “Five Easy Pieces,” and “Thelma and Louise.”

Sequoia National Park is 150 miles from Bakersfield. You’ll travel along “The Grapevine,” named for the winding of the road through the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Turn right onto Route 198 and follow it into the park. There are five RV parks within its borders.

The Sierra Madre Mountains

The Sierra Madre Mountains, the longest mountain chain in the US, were formed 10,000,000 years ago. They are composed of salt and pepper granite of quartz, feldspar and mica. The mountains contain the southern-most glaciers in the country. The many caves are composed of marble. Indians explored the mountains 20,000 years ago.


  • Morro Rock, a giant granite dome on the mountain ridge, can be reached via a four hundred step stairway. From the top, you can see the park and the Great Western Divide.
  • Crescent Meadow, described by John Muir, as “The Gem of the Sierras,” is sequoia-rimmed and offers stunning views of Mt.Whitney. Combine your hike with a visit to the nearby GiantForestMuseum.
  • Tokopah Falls Trail is a 1.7 walk along the KaweahRiver to views of gorgeous granite canyons and the 1,200 feet waterfall.
  • Chrystal Cave, the only openly commercial cave in the park, is 2.42 miles long and home to beautiful calcite formations. The temperature is a constant 48 degrees; the marble makes it seem cooler. Guided tours only.
  • The Trail of 100 Giants is a popular and moderate hike featuring off-the-beaten-path splendor. The trail is kid friendly and handicapped accessible.
  • HeatherLake via the Lakes Trail is not for the timid. The trail is carved out of the rock and requires extreme concentration. Take food and water and take your time. The reward of this dizzying trail is unbelievable Alpine scenery and peace and quiet.
  • The Middle Fork Trail is a moderate hike of 11 miles round trip. You will hike from foothills to the giant sequoias. This trail is especially attractive in spring.
  • The Congress Trail is an easy 2.2 mile loop walk that begins at the awesome General Sherman Tree.

We end on a note of caution. Wild animals are called wild for a reason. A two mile walk in wilderness can kill you—if you’re not prepared. This writer once set out on a two hour hike, stepped into a yellow jacket nest, got stung over 200 times and spent three nights alone without food or water. As the Boy Scouts say, “Be Prepared.”

1st Choice RV offers delivery in the LA area and pickup and drop off at LAX.
For information on sizes of vehicles and what is most appropriate for your family needs, call (888) 703-0789.


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