Best Hikes in Sequoia National Forest (CA)

Sequoia National Forest Overview

The Sequoia National Forest is located in the southern Sierra Nevada mountain range, just below Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park. The forest is named for the world’s largest trees and has the greatest concentration of giant sequoia groves in the world. In addition to these giants, the remaining landscape has much to offer as well: glacier-carved canyons, lakes, rivers, and giant granite monoliths all lie within the forest’s boundaries. The forest is divided into 3 separate ranger districts: Hume Lake, Western Divide, and Kern River. Giant Sequoia National Monument, where 33 groves of sequoias are protected, is split within Hume Lake and Western Divide Ranger Districts. Most of the sequoia groves can be explored after short hikes off of the forest’s main roads. The best hikes in Sequoia National Forest are located below.

Nearest Metro AreaBakersfield, CA
Area Size1,193,315 acres
EstablishedJuly 1, 1908
Hiking Trails850 miles

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Trailhead Traveler’s Recommended Best Hikes in Sequoia National Forest

(*** = best hikes in Sequoia National Forest)

Camp Nelson Trail – 5.3 miles out and back

Low grade trail that ventures beyond the campground and offers beautiful scenery. 

Dome Rock Trail – 1.4 miles out and back

Short and easy hike to the top of Dome Rock where there are gorgeous panoramic views of the entire area. A good place to spend some time just sitting and gazing. 

Kern River Trail to Johnsondale Bridge – 10.2 miles out and back
Johnsondale Bridge
Johnsondale Bridge, Photo by David~O

This is a fun trail with views of the Kern River on a 4-5 mile trek to Johnsondale Bridge. The trail continues and merges with Rincon Trail for 15+ miles if you wanted to make an excellent overnight-backpack journey in this remote part of the Sequoia National forest. However, heading back where the Kern River Trail meets the Rincon Trail is a good turn around point.

Mill Creek Trail – 15.6 miles out and back

This trail is only recommended for those that are seeking a tough climb as this hike climbs over 4000’ in under 8 miles. Best explored in the spring when the wildflowers are in bloom. 

Needles Lookout Trail*** – 9.9 miles out and back
Trail to the top
Trail to the top, Photo by Christine Warner

There are amazing views of the Sierras along the way and especially at the top as you hike through varying levels of incline to the top of the Needles. Depending on where you are able to park, the trail may be shorter but you’ll need to go off-road to access the closer trailhead. 

Packsaddle Cave Trail – 5.7 miles out and back
Packsaddle Cave Trail
Paddlesack Cave Trail, Photo by Christine Warner

A somewhat steep and steady climb up to the cave – make sure to bring your flashlight so you can explore. This trail is overgrown in areas and can be difficult to stay on the path so be careful! 

Trail of 100 Giants*** – 1.3 mile loop
Trail of 100 Giants
Trail of 100 Giants, Photo by Brian

This is a simple stroll through a grove of giant sequoias on a paved trail that cannot be passed up. Easy enough for the whole family to enjoy, there are even informational plaques up along the way as you gaze in awe and the giants above you. 

Unal Trail – 3.4 mile loop

Not a very exciting trail but it is shaded with gentle slopes so it would be a good family hike if you’re in the area. There are great views to the north of Mount Whitney as well as interpretive markers along the way. 

Whiskey Flat Trail – 12.4 miles out and back

Simple and flat trail that parallels Kern River for a ways. You can continue on but heading back to the trailhead around 6 miles is a good turning point.

Featured Image: Sequoia National Forest, Photo by Matthew Dillon

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