As I’ve said before, if you live in Southern California, a day trip (or a weekend trip) to Sequoia National Park is a must. Spread out wide across from King’s Canyon National park and conveniently 3 ½ to 4 hours from Los Angeles is Sequoia, featuring miles of hiking trails, streams, cascades, wild life, caves, and the most impressive trees you will ever see.
When you arrive, plan to drive roughly 18 miles from the entrance (where you pay your drive-on fee of $30) to make it to the Giant Forest. Even if you’ve already visited the Giant Forest, most of the other must-sees in the park are in that area, as well. For instance, you can’t miss out on Crystal Cave or the Tokopah Valley trail to Tokopah Falls. (I mention this because you should ensure you have enough gas and allow enough time to make it up deep into the park.)
Crystal Cave Information
When planning a tour of Crystal Cave at Sequoia National Park, you need to do a little pre-planning. You must have a ticket for the tour, and the spaces go fast. If you don’t book a couple of days before, you probably won’t get into the tour. So, purchase your ticket online in advance. The link to purchase the very affordable tickets is on Sequoia’s website. They do sell tickets the same day in the visitor centers, but they don’t at the cave location, itself.
When you get there, they ask that you not bring in any items that have been in a cave in the last decade, as they don’t wish to spread White-Nose Syndrome to the bats. This may alarm people who have a phobia of bats, but don’t worry. You will not be seeing any bats, I assure you. They like to stay far away from the trail, as humans and their noises frighten and bother the sleeping bats. So come without items that have been in other caves with you.
The Crystal Cave Tour
The hike down to the cave entrance is relatively easy. It’s a pretty steep decline, but it’s only a half-mile trail, so there’s no strenuous hiking. Upon arriving at the gates of the cave, you meet your tour guide who slowly opens the spider-web-shaped gate for you to head into the cave entrance.
Though these caves are much smaller than the Grutas de Cacahuamilpa that I visited in June, they were still just as breathtakingly beautiful. There is running water falling all around you in the narrow passages of Crystal Cave. As you enter the cave formation, a stream of water cascades to your left. You follow a path past the water that takes you further up into the cave. It’s a pretty steep path up, but it’s worth it to see the beautiful caverns and still-forming stalactites and stalagmites. Our tour guide joked that you can easily remember the difference between these two formations as “stalactites cling tight to the ceiling and stalagmites are things you might trip over.”
We asked him questions about the history of the cave, and it seemed to be visited by Native Americans in the past as bones of two Natives were found a while back.
The trail loops out of the cave, and the hike back up, though a little more strenuous up-hill, is worth it as you tread past a beautiful waterfall. It’s definitely worth it to see Crystal Cave during one of your visits to Sequoia.
Tokopah Valley Trail
The other must-see trail at Sequoia is the Tokopah Valley Trail to Tokopah falls. This path is relatively easy, as there is only a very slight incline as you head up to the falls. Coming back is the easiest trail walk I’ve done. On your way to the falls, you will walk alongside an unbelievably clear and gorgeous river. You’ll see people fishing, camping next to the river, and just enjoying a swim. If you have a lot of time, I’d recommend a swim at the shallow end of the river near the camp. (Be advised of posted signs, as there are times swimming in the water is unsafe.)
As you go further towards the falls, you will see meadows of bright yellow flowers, peaks of very massive mountains nearby, and rocks standing in some pretty beautiful formations.
You can tell you are getting close to the falls as you begin to climb on rocks. The terrain right up to the falls becomes a rock trail. I’ve never seen a waterfall over such a jagged, rocky location before, and it was an absolutely glorious sight to see. Seeing this waterfall makes your entire day better. This is actually my favorite hiking trail that I’ve ever done. It’s also the perfect spot for a picnic.
That being said, I highly recommend you check out this trail when you visit Sequoia National Park.