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Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks

The botanic behemoths, Giant Sequoia trees, are the inspiration behind Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Standing next to these huge trees in their old growth forest, humans feel both small and awe-inspired. The gorgeous setting for the Sequoias ranges from the highest mountain in the continental USA to long, pristine caves winding for miles underground.

Inside of the Giant Forest live the General Sherman Tree, the largest tree on earth, and the General Grant Tree, which is the only living US National Shrine, a memorial to the men and women of the United States who have given their lives in service to their country. The ages of the General Sherman, General Grant and other large sequoias are unknown, but it is estimated that these 26-story tall giants are between 1800 and 2700 years old. They have seen civilization come and go, survived countless fires and long periods of drought, and continue to flourish -- inspiring yet another generation of admirers.

Abundant animal life can be found wandering among the huge Sequoia and other forests. Bobcats, foxes, ground squirrels, mule deer, rattlesnakes, pond turtles, black bears, occasionally mountain lions, wolverines, bighorn sheep, and many others are seen by sharp-eyed visitors.

Some lesser-known places within the parks include Crescent Meadow, Moro Rock, and the Mineral King areas.

An easy 1 1/2 mile trail circles Crescent Meadow, which is an excellent place to view wildflowers in the summer. Some lucky visitors to this and other meadows in the park may also have an opportunity to see a bear. About 1 mile from Crescent Meadow is Tharp's Log, a fallen sequoia that provided a rustic summer home for the Giant Forest's first Caucasian resident, Hale Tharp.

A steep 1/4 mile staircase climbs over 300' (91.4 meters) to the summit of this granite dome named Moro Rock. From the top, you will have spectacular views of the western half of Sequoia National Park and the Great Western Divide, which is a chain of mountains that runs north/south through the center of Sequoia National Park, "dividing" the watersheds of the Kaweah River to the west and the Kern River to the east.

The Mineral King area lies In the southern part of Sequoia National Park, a beautiful 7.5 mile (12 km)-long glacial valley. 30 caves, 15 springs, dozens of sinkholes, blind valleys, and sinking streams occur in this area.