The Sequoia National Forest is located in east central California and is comprised of 1,141,734 acres. There are 49 developed campgrounds of which 35 meet the selection criteria.
Sequoia - doesn't the word bring forth images of deep dark woods of enormous, towering trees? Well, the Sequoia National Forest has not only such groves but more. For example, there is a bright blue lake surrounded by rolling hills covered in golden grass, dusty green juniper and Pinyon pine woodlands, and a dark cavern filled with multi-colored stalactites and flowstones. Then, there is the Giant Sequoia National Monument; Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks; Kern River; and Golden Trout, South Sierra, and Dome Land wildernesses to enjoy along with the usual activities, such as hiking, fishing, and, of course, camping.
Although both Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are super places to visit, why camp within their borders when just a little way down the road are some great Forest Service campgrounds? Hume Lake campground, just above a small sapphire-blue lake of the same name, is one example. Car and tent camping sites are nestled under tall conifers and the chatter of squirrels and birds provide a natural morning wake-up call. Up the road, popular with recreational vehicle (RV) and motorhome camping enthusiasts is Princess campground. It hugs a wildflower-dotted meadow and although camp sites are tucked in a stand of mixed conifers, this campground has a more open feel. Princess is also closer to Kings Canyon and Boyden Cavern. For a more rustic (vault vs flush toilets) environment close to the Sequoia National Park, there are Ten Mile and Upper Stony Creek campgrounds.
However, if camping among old Sequoia trees is something you want, take the drive to Eshom campground. Just outside the Sequoia National Park's border, Eshom campground is a sweet little campground great for a family camping vacation and with an interesting history. In the past, Native American people used the level meadow as a camp site and would grind food stuff in the large rocks along Eshom Creek. Look for the bowl shape indents atop the boulders. A little over a hundred years ago, the once dense grove of Sequoia trees suffered a man-made flood that wiped out the stand. Today, recovery can be seen in the campground as several young examples of this magnificent tree can be found. How can you tell a Sequoia from a cedar? It isn't always easy but try this test - push on the bark. If it feels soggy soft, like a wet roll of paper towels, and not hard, the tree is probably a Sequoia. Another way to tell is to look at a branch hanging down - are the scales pointy or rounded? Rounded scales indicate a cedar. Of course, there is always the delightful, unmistakable cedar smell coming from the scales of an Incense cedar tree.
A very large portion of the Sequoia National Forest has been designated Giant Sequoia National Monument. This designation provides additional protection to more than 100 Sequoia groves scattered throughout these southern Sierra Nevada Mountains. While a few groves are convenient to roadways and campgrounds, some of the more spectacular require a map, good walking boots, and lunch. (Check with the Hume Lake or Tule River/Hot Springs Ranger District Offices for more information and maps.) But if time and inclinations are such that a long hike is not what you want, head for the Trail of 100 Giants, adjacent to Redwood campground. Here you can experience the magic of these ancient and magnificent trees and be home in time for tea.
Of course, there is more to this forest than Sequoia trees. In its southern reaches is Lake Isabella and Kern River. The Kern River attracts whitewater enthusiasts from around the world. A permit is needed to challenge the river and, there are many stretches that only the well-experienced should attempt - check with Cannell Ranger District Office for more information.
Six campgrounds line Kern River, each with sites overlooking its roaring waters. The river is interesting in that it flows from lush conifer forest through an arid canyon to Lake Isabella, a high desert lake. Limestone, the northern most developed campground, is located in an area of transition were conifers such as Jeffery and Gray pines begin to give way to oak. Fifteen miles south is Headquarters campground and here the vegetation is all sagebrush, juniper and oak. These six campgrounds offer only the most basic amenities and old vault toilets but the experience of camping along the Kern River is memorable.
A few miles south of Headquarters campground, the Kern River flows into Lake Isabella. Eleven developed campgrounds dot the shores of the lake. Sunny and warm, these campgrounds attract weekend campers for a day of water play. They come for a few hours of wind surfing, an afternoon of waterskiing, or a relaxing day of fishing. An added treat is the nearby towns of Kernville, Wofford Heights, and Lake Isabella and their attractions. (Check on the weekly dinner offered by the Elks Club in Wofford Heights - now that is good eating with a bunch of nice folks.)
Between the dark mystery of Sequoia groves and the bright sunshine of Lake Isabella are some sweet little, less used campgrounds. Campgrounds like Quaking Aspen, White River, and Fish Creek, are not as easy to get to but offer experiences not found at the better known, more popular campgrounds located near
water or a National Park. An example is the White River campground where campers enjoy the clear cold water of White River that is still creek-size and the mossy delights of a cedar tree grove. Fish Creek campground, close to South Sierra and Dome Land wildernesses for hikers, is also near an extensive network of trails for mountain bike & OHV enthusiasts. Quaking Aspen, one of the few Sequoia National Forest campgrounds with no fishing (nor Aspen trees) has a wonderful sense of solitude..
The magic of a Sequoia tree grove, the roar of a whitewater river, the scent of pine on a gentle wind, and the shout of joy young anglers makes when landing a "really big one," Sequoia National Forest is full of the sights, sounds, and smells of a forest experience. Come and discover some for yourself.
1839 South Newcomb St.
Porterville, California 93257
RANGER DISTRICT ADDRESSES
Kern River - Kernville Office
105 Whitney Rd.
Kernville, California 93238
Kern River - Lake Isabella Office
4875 Ponderosa Dr.
Lake Isabella, California 93240
35860 E. Kings Canyon Rd.
Dunlap, California 93621
32588 Hwy. 190
Springville, California 93265