Today Park Chasers is sharing another installment in our series on epic drives within the National Parks. Each year, thousands of Americans embark on road trips and driving adventures within the National Park Service. This series showcases the roads and scenic drives you don’t want to miss on your next National Park visit. Check out today’s post on the General’s Highway and our previous posts on Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park, Chain of Craters Road in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and Scenic Loop Road in Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
On September 25, 1890 the National Park Service established Sequoia National Park, our second national park. Within Sequoia’s park boundaries rests the largest tree on earth, a famous giant sequoia named General Sherman.
While many visitors hike the wilderness areas here, the most popular way to see the park is by car. The famous General’s Highway winds through Sequoia National Park, connecting with King’s Canyon National Park and the Sequoia National Forest.
For anyone interested in big trees, this is one of the “Great National Park Drives” you do not want to miss.
About The General’s Highway
The General’s Highway spans 32.5 miles (53.2 km) north and south in central California. Dedicated in 1935, the road was built to connect visitors with an easier route to see the giant trees in the area. The original construction cost $2.25 million.
By the 1940’s Giant Forest and General Sherman Monuments changed to present-day King’s Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. However the General’s Highway was continuing to draw more and more visitors to the area. The parks continue to be among the most popular in California.
In 2016, more than 1.2 million visitors traveled to see General Sherman and the other giant sequoia trees, nearly all traveling along a portion of the General’s Highway.
Traveling the General’s Highway
The park service recommends about 2 hours one-way to travel the length of the General’s Highway. This includes the minimum time for stopping. Park Chasers recommends allowing at least a half day to see the entire highway, visitor’s centers and scenic overlooks.
Some other travel notes:
- General’s Highway is narrow and windy. The route can be difficult driving and posted speed limits should always be followed.
- Expect road construction and heavy traffic during the busy summer travel months.
- There is no gasoline available in the national park.
- In the summer months, free and paid bus routes along the General’s Highway are available to reduce air pollution and traffic congestion. Take advantage of these for a better visitor experience.
- Parking and pullouts are common areas for accidents. Watch for pedestrians in these areas and be aware of other drivers who may be watching scenery instead of the road.
Stops Along the General’s Highway
Beginning from the southern entrance and traveling northbound, be sure to check out these stops along the way:
- Foothills Visitor’s Center – Just after crossing the southern park boundary, stop at the Foothills Visitor’s Center for your Passport Stamp and a park map. Check road construction conditions along the General’s Highway here as well.
- Hospital Rock – One of the first stops on the Highway, Hospital Rock has ancient pictographs and mortars from the Native Americans who lived among the Sequoias.
- Giant Forest Museum – One of the best ways to learn about sequoias in the park is through the exhibits at the Giant Forest Museum. Learn how these giant trees survive, how to identify different types of giant trees, and about the ongoing efforts to protect them. You can also park here and hike to General Sherman and Tunnel Log.
- Tunnel Log – While not on General’s Highway, Tunnel Log is one of the most famous and most photographed areas of the park.
- General Sherman Tree – Not only is General Sherman Tree the largest tree growing on earth, it is also the largest organism by volume. Scientists estimate the tree is about 2,100 years old and over 275 feet tall.
- Redwood Mountain Overlook – Continuing north towards King’s Canyon, another great stop is Redwood Mountain Overlook. On a clear day, visitors can look out over the world’s largest intact Sequoia Grove.
When nearing the end of General’s Highway, there is an option to turn onto King’s Canyon Scenic Byway. This drive ranks high among the Greatest National Park Drives, and allows visitors to look into one of the deepest canyons in the United States.