Here’s my family-friendly guide to visiting California’s giant redwoods and giant sequoias. Now with SIX of our family’s favorites!
I will never forget the first time I saw a tree big enough to drive through. I was only five years old and beyond thrilled that our family road trip not only took us through the redwoods, but actually THROUGH a giant redwood tree.
If you are planning a family road trip to or through California, I hope you’ll be able to visit some of its oldest–and largest–inhabitants: giant sequoias and giant redwoods.
Here is a quick guide to
five SIX of our family’s favorite destinations for visiting California’s towering redwoods and giant sequoias. This post contains affiliate links.
1) The Chandelier Tree, a.k.a. the “drive-thru redwood tree”
Leggett, California – Cutting a car-size hole through ancient redwoods is, thankfully, no longer permitted. However, you can still drive your kids through the Chandelier Tree (above) at Leggett, California, where this enormous redwood continues to stand and grow in spite of its drive-thru traffic.
Just be sure to turn your side mirrors in to avoid spending more time in there than you’d like! The Chandelier Tree is just south of the intersection of Highway 101 and Coastal Highway 1, not far from the famed “Avenue of the Giants,” included below.
Follow this link for more information about the Chandelier drive-through redwood tree.
2) Calaveras Big Trees State Park
Summer 2021 UPDATE FOR CALAVERAS – The park is fully open again! For the latest on what’s open in Big Trees State Park, check the website here.
Angel’s Camp, California – We are very fond of “Big Trees” as it’s easy to reach in less than 3 hours from San Francisco or Berkeley, and has two groves of giant sequoias that simply do not disappoint.
In particular, the North Grove walking loop gets you up close to–and even inside of–jaw-droppingly delightful trees. And it’s easy enough to do with toddlers on foot, or you can push a buggy or stroller through if you like.
If you plan well in advance, you may be able to get a camping reservation here as well (see my tips for Camping at Big Trees here).
Otherwise, you can book a hotel room in nearby Angel’s Camp (my kids would recommend the Best Western Cedar Inn & Suites with swimming pool and complimentary hot breakfast).
3) Humboldt Redwoods State Park
Humbolt County, California – If it’s giant redwoods you want to see on your Northern California road trip, look no farther than Humboldt Redwoods State Park. Here you’ll find plenty of shady groves to explore and the 31-mile scenic detour beside Highway 101 called the “Avenue of Giants.”
If you’re not sure how your little ones will do on the meandering route, know that you can tour small sections of the Avenue of Giants without committing to the whole tour. There are plenty of places to stop and picnic and explore the giant redwoods along the way.
For a printable map of the Avenue of the Giants, click here, and to see descriptions and details of hikes at Humbolt Redwoods, click here.
For more information about Humboldt Redwoods State Park, including details about camping in the park, click here.
4) Mariposa Grove, Yosemite National Park
SUMMER 2021 UPDATE FOR YOSEMITE’S MARIPOSA GROVE – Yosemite and its Mariposa Grove are open – but with some limitations (it was closed to visitors due to downed trees from a major wind storm in January 2021). Yosemite is open to visitors with day use pass reservations only or overnight reservations (you must show proof).
Due to Covid-19, the shuttle bus is not running, so visitors can only reach the Mariposa Grove at this time via a 4-mile hike. Follow this link for more information and to reserve your 7-day park visitor pass. For more information about hiking into the Mariposa grove, click here.
Yosemite National Park, California – With so many other spectacles competing for your attention within Yosemite National Park, you might lose sight of its majestic resident trees.
Some of our favorites are the giant sequoias near the south entrance in the Mariposa Grove, which is home to some 500 mature giant sequoia trees. The massive “Grizzly Giant” can be seen on a 1.6-mile roundtrip hike from the parking area (see summer 2021 update above).
If you’re looking for lodgings in this area, Yosemite’s historic Wawona Hotel is just a 15-minute drive from the grove. Or click here to see Yosemite area vacation rentals available on your dates. You might also like the feature I wrote for Family Travel 411 – The 411 on Yosemite National Park with Kids.
Find more help and inspiration for your Yosemite family vacation on my Yosemite board on Pinterest.
5) The Parker Group, Sequoia National Park
2021 UPDATE FOR SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK – They are ready for your visit! For the latest information on Covid-19 updates at Sequoia, click here.
Sequoia National Park – If you want to see giant sequoias on the grandest scale there is, do not pass Go! Head directly to Sequoia National Park.
Sequoia is home to the General Sherman Tree, the world’s largest tree (based on volume)–but that’s not all. The park has mammoth sequoias and giant redwoods throughout the park.
While many are prominently mapped and made as accessible as possible, our favorites remain this stand called “The Parker Group” that is off the most beaten path, not far from Moro Rock, which you’ll want to be sure and visit while you’re there (see my tips for hiking Moro Rock with little kids here).
For help planning your trip to Sequoia National Park, click here to see the latest Park Newspaper with maps and updates (scroll down for the latest edition). Be sure to also read my important(!) tips for visiting Crystal Cave while you’re there. You might also like the feature I wrote for Family Travel 411 – The 411 on Sequoia National Park with Kids.
If you’re looking for lodgings, the well-appointed Wuksachi Lodge is close to many of the largest sequoias in Sequoia National Park.
Important note on camping: Only a few campgrounds in Sequoia accept reservations, with most being available on a first-come, first-served basis. More camping info here. You might also like the feature I wrote for Family Travel 411 – The 411 on Sequoia National Park with Kids.
6) General Grant Grove, Kings Canyon National Park
Kings Canyon National Park is Sequoia NP’s northern neighbor. Just over the border near the west entrance to Kings Canyon, you’ll find the Grant Grove, home to the world’s second largest tree based on volume and the Grove’s namesake: The General Grant Tree.
While a tree as wide as three freeway lanes is definitely impressive, your kids are likely to find other favorite giant sequoias here. Not to be missed: The Fallen Monarch tree, where you can walk through the length of its hollow core, which has doubled as a saloon and horse corral over time. And my son’s favorite: the hidden-cavern, climb-through Illinois Tree, which you’ll find just off the main grove path on the Michigan Tree Trail.
If camping isn’t your thing, the rustic Grant Grove Cabins at Grant Village are just a short hike away (and close to dining and a general store). See more photos from the Grant Grove in my Kings Canyon National Park gallery.
So how about it? Do you want to add any of these stops to your California bucket list? Be sure to check the California Travel Destinations page for more tips and recommendations for your family’s California vacation. And also here’s a Family Road Trip Safety Packing List with printable.
More destination ideas from our sister site, Family Travel 411: