Warning: active bear area
The Giant Forest is part of the Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks in California. The oldest trees of the park are over 2000 years old and the biggest ones are over 84 meters high. The most famous giants are the General Sherman and General Grant tree. The Generals Highway connects these two respectable old men, over a distance of about 30 miles. The road is pendulum-like and it will take you over an hour to get from one point to another, but the views are worth it. Before your visit, you’d best check if the road is open: during winters and when snow has fallen it is usually closed, only to open again in summer.
When I visited Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, we entered the park through the south-west entrance, and started our visit at hospital rock. Hospital Rock is a large quartzite rock, located just off of the Generals Highway, on the Middle Fork of the Kaweah River. Here you can see drawings believed to have been left by the Monache Indians.
The Giant Forest
From Hospital Rock it is not very far to Amphitheatre point where you can enjoy a great view. When you continue your trip, the road will lead you to the Giant Forest with the General Sherman Tree. Lot’s of people come to visit this place, so if you would like to enjoy the forest without mass tourism, I can really recommend a (short and easy) hike like the Congress Trail. The Congress Trail is a paved, 2,9 mile loop starting at the General Sherman Tree. It was during this trail when I had my first encounter with a brown bear. A great experience!
From the General Sherman Tree we drove towards the start of a next hike starting at the Lodgepool campground: the Tokopah falls trail. This trail features a thundering river, immense granite canyon walls and alpine meadows and pine woods. During the 1,7 miles one way trail you will be walking alongside the roaring river. Don’t be tempted to get in: the river is very strong and cold. The trail crosses over a few streams and to reach the top of the fall you will have to climb some huge rocks. The falls, which are actually more of a huge cascade of water down a steep granite slope, come into view. The trail ends at a large flat area where you can rest and spot guinea pigs. It was at this trail when we spotted a mother bear and her two cubs.
General Grant Tree
Our last stop during our short visit was at the General Grant Tree. This tree was named in 1867 after Ulysses S. Grant, Union Army general and the 18th President of the United States. There is a very short round trip that will lead you to this giant tree. Of course there are many, many more interesting trails and hikes. For more info check out the official website of Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks.