Few experiences can top standing under some of the biggest living things on earth. The giant sequoia trees of Sequoia National Park have been growing there for thousands of years, and saying they tower over everything is an understatement. The biggest of them is General Sherman, the largest tree on the planet by volume, standing 275 feet fall. In Sequoia, the world is ancient and huge, giving you ample room to consider life from a different perspective and marvel at the scale of it all.
Before you head to Sequoia National Park, be sure to do some research. We compiled some answers to important questions about camping in Sequoia, along with some of the best campgrounds in the area to get you going.
#1 – Lodgepole Campground
If you want the best seats in the house, Lodgepole Campground is your spot. It’s located on the banks of the Middle Fork of Kaweah River, near the Giant Forest area of the park.
The Giant Forest is where some of the largest trees in the park are found, including General Sherman. The Giant Forest can be accessed via shuttle, which stops in the campground. Also on the edge of the campsite are several hiking trails. The campground itself is spacious, well shaded, and scattered with large boulders. Lodgepole is also conveniently close to Lodgepole Village. Without question, this is the best place in the park to camp.
There are 214 sites available in the campground during the summer. This number drops significantly in the fall and spring. Sites can be reserved from May until September, and it’s recommended you make a reservation as far in advance as possible. In the off-season, sites are first-come, first-served.
#2 – Buckeye Flat Campground
Further south is Buckeye Flat, a slightly more isolated and less crowded campground. There are 28 campsites available at Buckeye Flat, guaranteeing you fewer crowds and more peace and quiet.
You will have to drive a little further to get to the major attractions of the park, but there is still plenty to do here. Hospital Rock and several trailheads are just a stone’s throw from Buckeye Flat. If you want to distance yourself more from people and enjoy some of the less-traveled sights of the park, Buckeye Flat is a great spot to roll out your sleeping bag.
#3 – Dorst Creek Campground
In terms of access to the biggest and best spectacles in the park, Dorst Creek Campground is second only to Lodgepole. If you’re entering the park from the north, Dorst Creek will be the first campground you encounter. Its central location allows for easy access to Kings Canyon to the north, the Giant Forest to the east, and Muir Grove, another group of massive sequoias, right outside the campground. The park shuttle makes regular stops here as well, simplifying your commute.
Dorst Creek features 281 regular tent or RV sites, and four group sites. While the area is capable of accommodating even more visitors than Lodgepole, the simple difference of not having a functioning village right next door gives Dorst Creek a more laid back vibe overall.
#4 – Potwisha Campground
Potwisha Campground offers a very different experience from what you can expect at other campgrounds around the park. It’s located southwest of Buckeye Flat, in the Sierra Nevada foothills. The landscape here is completely different from what you’ll see as you approach the Giant Forest. The area is more open, with rolling, grassy hills strewn with oak trees for shade. It’s also the lowest campground in the park, at 2,100 feet elevation.
The location is convenient if you’re approaching from the south on the Generals Highway, and the drive to the park’s main attractions is great. Driving north along the Generals Highway, the scenery changes entirely. As you ascend out of the foothills, you’ll watch the ecosystem shift into towering evergreens, showing the full spectrum of life in the Sierra Nevada. This drive is just 15 miles. There are 42 campsites at Potwisha, making it a good backup plan for Lodgepole and Buckeye Flat.
#5 – South Fork Campground
If you’re after a more remote destination and a completely different experience in Sequoia, South Fork should be your go-to. The downside of camping at South Fork is its distance from the main attractions of the park. But, if you’ve already checked off the big sights and are looking to get away from crowds, South Fork is a different adventure entirely. It’s also the cheapest campground in the park, at just $6 per night.
Situated in the southernmost corner of Sequoia National Park, South Fork Campground is accessed by an unmaintained dirt road and sits at the transition between oak forest and evergreens. There are several beautiful hikes you can take from here, following the South Fork of Kaweah River into the mountains. If you want to see the backwoods of Sequoia, minus the crowds, this is the place to do it.
Camping Outside The Park
As mentioned above, there are some good alternative camping areas on the Hume Lake Ranger District of Sequoia National Forest. Aside from dispersed campsites around the forest, there are also several established campgrounds that are worth looking into. Stony Creek, Upper Stony Creek, and Big Meadow Campgrounds all offer scenic views and a good location.
These campgrounds are all above 5,000 feet in elevation as well, making them cooler in the summer than some of the more remote options in the park. They’re close enough to the park’s north entrance to make driving into the park every day viable, and offer their own selection of nearby trails and things to see.
How much does it cost to camp in Sequoia National Park?
Nightly fees vary per campsite. There are options to meet most budgets, from $6 per night at the most remote site to $22 at the sites closer to major attractions and amenities. Group camping ranges from $40-60 per night, depending on the group site you choose.
Campgrounds in Sequoia National Forest, just north of the park, range from $25 to $50 per night. However, the forest also offers dispersed camping, which is free. Between the campgrounds inside and outside the park, you should be able to find somewhere not only incredibly beautiful, but also affordable to post up your tent, hammock, or RV.
Can you camp anywhere in Sequoia National Park?
Short answer, no. Camping outside of established campgrounds, or “dispersed” camping is generally not allowed without a backcountry permit in any National Park. However, just to the north of Sequoia National Park is the Hume Lake Ranger District of Sequoia National Forest.
This is a top choice if the campgrounds in the park are full, or if you don’t want to pay for a site. The only bit of red tape is that you need to get a free permit before having a fire anywhere in the forest.
These permits can be acquired at any USFS ranger station on Hume Lake Ranger District and help the forest track fires in case one should get out of control. Remember to use good Leave No Trace practices while camping, especially as it relates to fire.
Are there showers in Sequoia National Park?
Yes! There are hot showers available for visitors at Lodgepole Village, near Lodgepole Campground. Other amenities available at the village include a market, a cafe, ATM, and a coin-op laundromat.
There are lots of other conveniences available around the park as well. The Wakusachi Lodge is noteworthy, having a restaurant, lounge, internet access, a gift shop, and gear rentals for winter activities. You can also stay there overnight. The lodge is open year-round, a great option for winter lodging if you don’t feel like taking the extra steps to winter camp.
To Be An Ant Among Giants
Wandering through the vast forest of Sequoia National Park will make you feel incredibly small. Observing the world from a new perspective, and appreciating the vast scale of nature in its primordial state is what Sequoia is all about. Taking a trip to the land of gentle giants is a rewarding venture, and something everyone should try to do at least once. Even if it’s not this week, or this month, the sequoias will be waiting, as they have for thousands of years.