Best Hikes Sequoia National Forest

8 Incredible Day Hikes In Sequoia National Forest

Sequoia National Forest is one of the best and easiest-to-access outdoor areas in Central California. Filled with dramatic mountains, lush trees, hidden hot springs, and roaring rivers, Sequoia National Forest is a true California gem for those who love the outdoors.

Not to be confused with Sequoia National Park, Sequoia National Forest is free to visit and offers many incredible hiking and camping options. This National Forest is a great weekend alternative if you want to experience seeing granite tower peaks and giant Sequoia trees without waiting in long lines or paying big entrance fees.

As Central California locals we’ve made frequent trips over the years to Sequoia National Forest in search of the best camping and hiking spots. In this blog post, we’ve highlighted some of our favorite trails at Sequoia National Forest and other helpful hiking tips to make the best of your trip there!

Here are 8 of the best day hikes in Sequoia National Forest:

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Visitor Tips

Before diving into the hike details, here are a few tips for visiting Sequoia National Forest:

  • There is limited to no reception at many of these trails. Before you head out on any of the hikes we suggest that you download an offline route on AllTrails or Maps.Me hiking apps to avoid getting lost or taking the wrong turn.
  • It’s free to visit and hike in Sequoia National Forest (except for the Trail of 100 Giants that does require a small fee for parking).
  • When heading on these hikes be sure to bring extra water and check the weather before leaving. The temperatures at Sequoia National Forest can be extremely hot, especially in the summer. I’ve underestimated the weather in this region before and it can lead to dangerous situations. If you’re hiking near water sources, I also recommend bringing a Sawyer water filter so you can replenish your drinking water.
  • Bring mineral sunscreenlip balmpolarized sunglasses, and a hiking hat as our California summers just keep getting hotter and hotter.
  • I always pack a first aid kitheadlamp, and a portable phone charger, even on quick day hikes. It’s always best to go prepared!
  • Most of the hikes that we cover in this post are easy to moderate in difficulty but trekking poles can always help, especially if you’re new to hiking.
Car camping in Sequoia National Forest

Sequoia National Forest is also very dog friendly and all of the hikes we cover in this post allow dogs. Here’s a couple of things that I bring along when hiking with my dog:

  • 2 Hounds No Pull Harness. I love this harness because it comes with multiple clip-on points providing more comfort for my dog and extra control for me when hiking.
  • Collapsible dog bowl. A collapsible bowl is very handy for hiking as it folds small and is lightweight so it can easily fit in a small backpack.
  • RUFFWEAR dog boots. The sand along these hikes can be burning hot especially in the summer months. I always keep these dog hiking boots in my backpack in case the sand gets too hot for my dog to walk on.
  • Biodegradable poop bags. Dog’s waste can be harmful to wild animals and nature. It’s always good practice to bring extra poop bags and carry dog waste out on day hikes. These waste bags are also biodegradable – even better for Earth!

Best Hikes In Sequoia National Forest:

Trail of 100 Giants

Trail of 100 Giants is without a doubt one of the best trails in Sequoia National Forest. This trail follows a short and paved 1.3-mile-long family-friendly route where you can experience seeing some of the oldest and tallest trees in California.

The Trail of 100 Giants is located in the northern part of Sequoia National Forest, near the border of Sequoia National Park. The scenery here is very similar to its National Park equivalent, minus the crowds, long entrance lines, and expensive fees.

Parking for visitors is available at a designated lot right across from the Trail Of 100 Giants trailhead. Currently, it costs $10 to park at the visitor’s lot and it works on a first-come, first-serve basis. This parking lot also has restrooms and some picnic tables so you can enjoy lunch after the hike.

Although the Trail of 100 Giants is relatively short, there are many informative signs along it describing more about these ancient Sequoia trees and their history.

It’s estimated that there are over 700 sequoia trees at this grove. Some of the most impressive trees along the Trail of 100 Giants include the Proclamation Tree that’s over 2000 years old, The Goose Pen that has a hollow opening in the middle, and a few fallen giants.

Trail Summary:

Read More: Trail Of 100 Giants In Sequoia National Forest

Dome Rock Trail

Located just a short drive from the Trail of 100 Giants, Dome Rock Trail is another wonderful day hike in the northern part of Sequoia National Forest. You can easily combine and do both the Trail of 100 Giants and Dome Rock Trails on the same weekend trip.

This easily accessible drive-up viewpoint offers some of the best sights of the surrounding mountains, the valley below it, and the expansive forest as far as you can see.

Dome Rock is a popular place to visit because the trail that leads there is fairly easy, especially if you’re able to park at the furthest point down the forest road. After parking in the designated trailhead lot, you will see a gate to prevent cars from going further. Just walk past the gate and follow a small path that leads to the top of the Dome Rock.

Once you reach the top of the rock you have to be very careful because this giant granite rock slopes down with steep drop-offs below it. Hiking to the edge of it can be dangerous because there are no guard rails anywhere. Reaching this viewpoint can be a bit intimidating especially for those who don’t like heights – but there is plenty of space to enjoy the views from a safe distance away from the edge.

Dome Rock viewpoint is also a popular place to visit for sunset or even at night for stargazing into the wide-open space.

Trail Summary:

Read More: Dome Rock Trail In Sequoia National Forest

Johnsondale Bridge River Trail

Following next to the Kern River for the entire time, Johnsondale Bridge River Trail is one of the most scenic hikes in Sequoia National Forest. This moderate hike travels along a narrow path with rocky parts and exposed tree roots so good hiking shoes are highly recommended.

The Johnsondale Bridge River Trail is a popular spot for fly fishing and there are multiple river access points throughout the trail. Johnsondale Bridge is also the launching point for local white water rafting companies.

The River Trail starts at the Johnsondale Bridge off Mountain Highway 99. There is a large lot where visitors can park their cars for the hike.

After parking, you will need to walk across the footpath to the other side of Johnsondale Bridge. There will be a sign that says “River Trail” and stairs that lead down to the river. This is the starting point of the Johnsondale Bridge River Trail.

The hike starts with a slight climb but then for the most part it flattens out. If you want to shorten the hike, you can go as far as you wish and then turn around at any point, especially if the weather starts getting hot.

Trail Summary:

Read More: Hiking Johnsondale Bridge Trail In Sequoia National Forest

Unal Trail

Unal Trail is a great hike to do in the hotter months, especially for those who live around Bakersfield and Lake Isabella. When Central Valley temperatures start rising above 100 degrees in the summer, this mountain trail offers a much-needed escape and cooler weather.

Unal Trail starts at the small Alta Sierra mountain community just a short drive north of Lake Isabella. There is a designated area to park off Rancheria Road across from the USFS Summit Fire Station. This is a basic dirt parking lot with one porta-potty that is available for visitors and hikers.

Unal Trail goes in a loop so you can start and end the hike at the same spot. This hike does gain over 700 feet in elevation and climbs steadily up for the first part along a narrow path in a forest, but overall, the elevation gain is gradual so it’s not overly difficult.

This trail doesn’t offer many panoramic views along the way but it is very relaxing and a great hike for locals to do. 

Once you reach the top, you’ll be able to enjoy views of the surrounding mountains and forest. Here you will also find some benches for resting along with time capsule boxes that people have left over the years.

Trail Summary:

Read More: Hiking Unal Trail In Sequoia National Forest

Isabella Peak – Coso Mine Loop Trail

The Isabella Peak – Coso Mine Loop Trail is one of the most scenic hikes in the area and our personal favorite for the views that it offers. Isabella Peak – Coso Mine Loop Trail is a great day hike to do for anyone planning a weekend trip to Lake Isabella.

Isabella Peak/Coso Mine Loop Trail is located in the southern part of Sequoia National Forest. This trail leads to a stunning 360 viewpoint of Lake Isabella and the surrounding towns, passing Coso Mine along the way. Hence, some refer to this trail as Isabella Peak while others call it the Coso Mine Trail.

The Isabella Peak – Coso Mine Trailhead entrance starts directly to the left from the Hungry Gulch campground gate. Upon entering the trail you will see a sign that says Coso Mine Loop Trail which is the starting point.

It takes around 2 hours to complete the 2.3-mile-long Isabella Peak – Coso Mine Loop Trail. It gains around 500 feet in elevation with some steep sections that lead to two different panoramic overlooks.

In the summer months, this hike is best done in the early morning before it gets too hot. The second part of the trail travels through exposed hills with little to no shade.

Trail Summary:

Read More: Hiking Isabella Peak – Coso Mine Loop Trail In California

Remington Hot Spring Trail

If you’re looking for a shorter trail with a fun destination, the Remington Hot Spring Trail is a great option! Located within the Kern River Canyon, this hot spring is a wonderful hidden gem near Lake Isabella but finding it can be a bit tricky.

The drive to Remington Hot Springs is about an hour-long from Bakersfield and 15 minutes from Lake Isabella. There is a visitor parking lot off Cort 214/Kern Canyon Road that can be reached easily by most cars.

The trail down to the hot springs is only 0.2 miles long but it’s steep and made of loose dirt. Once you reach the end you will find the Remington Hot Springs tucked away next to the Kern River in between trees and large boulders.

Remington Hot Springs offers a few different pools for visitors to soak in with various temperatures – a coupe natural ones made of big rocks and a couple of man-made ones. Their scenic location is what makes them so popular with visitors and the local community!

Trail Summary:

Read More: 7 Wonderful Things To Do At Lake Isabella All Year Long

Mill Creek Trail

Mill Creek Trail is an excellent day hike in the southern part of Sequoia National Forest. Mill Creek Trail is located just 40 minutes East of Bakersfield making it one of the closest wilderness hikes in the area.

Situated within the Kern River Canyon, Mill Creek Trail is a favorite for many locals that are looking to get outside of the city to explore nature and get a good workout. This trail is best visited in the spring when the landscape is covered in beautiful wildflowers and the trail is less crowded.

Getting to the Mill Creek Trailhead is pretty easy. If you’re coming from Bakersfield, you can take Highway 178 which leads most of the way there. Then you will need to take a right turn off Highway 178 onto Kern Canyon Road/Cort 214 and the Mill Creek Trailhead will be on the right shortly after.

Mill Creek Trail all together is around 15 miles long but most people hike a portion of it as far as they can and turn around when they start feeling tired. The trail does climb up steadily for the entire time and gains around 4200 feet in elevation. Mill Creek Trail is not overly technical but it is very long.

Trail Summary:

Read More: Hiking Mill Creek Trail In California

Kern River Trail

Similar to Mill Creek Trail, the Kern River Trail is another great day hike within the Kern River Canyon. During this hike, you’ll walk alongside the Kern River showcasing stunning scenery and rolling hills filled with giant boulders and lush trees.  

This trail is only 6 miles long and is a great beginner hike within Sequoia National Forest, especially if you’re looking to avoid the crowds. It’s best visited in early spring when the trail is covered in beautiful wildflowers and temperatures are still moderate. I would not suggest attempting this trail in the hotter summer months as the temperatures in Kern Canyon can spike past 100 degrees.

Kern River Trail starts right off Highway 178. This highway runs through Kern Canyon and connects Bakersfield to Lake Isabella.

To hike the Kern River Trail, we parked at a pull-out next to Highway 178 across from the trailhead. Coming from Bakersfield this parking area will be to your right just past the Delonegha Day-Use Area.

After parking, you will need to cross Highway 178 and climb through a fence. Then you will see a trailhead sign for “Kern River Trail” which forks off to the left next to Kern River.

There will be some access points at the beginning of the trail to go down to the river but keep in mind that Kern River is a dangerous river and has a swift, powerful current.

Trail Summary:

  • Length: 6 miles out and back
  • Elevation Gain: 1000 feet
  • Time Needed: 3-4 hours
  • Difficulty Level: Moderate
  • Dogs Allowed? Yes
  • Location: CA-178, Bakersfield, CA 93306

Read More: Kern River Trail In Sequoia National Forest

I hope this list has helped you pick out some new hikes to explore in Central California. Have you done any of these hikes? Let us know your favorite ones in the comments below!

Looking for more things to do around California? Here are a few other popular California travel posts that you may like:

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