Sequoia National Park

There are so many other amazing distractions in California, it’s easy to forget that world’s largest tree, the General Sherman, lives only about 4 hours away from Los Angeles in Sequoia National Park.  That’s right – the world’s largest tree! (Sequoia is also home to Mt. Whitney, the highest mountain in the US, but it will be a few years before we can conquer that!) So add another entry to your bucket list because Sequoia is a must-see for residents of the Los Angeles area.

Sequoia is not a day trip destination, and two nights or more is ideal. Plans must be made well in advance to camp inside the park or stay in one of the lodges, but there is plenty of camping and lodging in Three Rivers, a town only about 10 minutes from the park entrance.

For families with younger kids, once a good place to start your tour is at the Giant Forest Museum. There is parking directly across from the museum. From there you can take a number of short hikes, including the 1.3-mile Big Trees trail, a paved path that leads you through a forest of giant Sequoias.

Look! A bear rock!!

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After the Big Trees hike, take the shuttle to the General Sherman tree viewing area. Marvel at it’s size, the largest tree (by volume) in the world. We’re talking about 100 feet wide, 275 feet tall, and it’s well over 2,000 years old. It’s a humbling experience. Once you’ve taken that in, hop back on the shuttle and go to Lodgepole where you can grab a bite in the cafe.

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With the family refueled, consider taking the 4.2-mile roundtrip hike to Tokopah Falls. It’s a fairly easy and picturesque hike alongside a rushing river for most of the way. At the end, the trail gets narrow and rocky, but it’s worth it for the view at the end. If you can’t make it to the end, you can still view the falls from other points on the trail.

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The park gets crowded on holidays and weekends during the summer, so arrive before 10 am. if you want to get a parking space. Avoid moving your car by taking the shuttle to different areas of the park. Make sure to take note of the last shuttle times, around 5 or 5:30 pm, otherwise you will have to hike back to your car.

 

The details:

Best time to go: May – October

Good for: Kids 5+

Watch out for: bears, icy ground certain times of the year, uneven/ rocky ground

Get there: Insterstate 5 north to CA 65 north

Wear: hiking boots, sunscreen, hat, shorts or jeans

Bring: lots of water, snacks, first aid kit, camera

Nearby eats: Lodgepole Deli; The Peaks Restaurant at Wuksachi Lodge; River View Restaurant outside the park in Three Rivers

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Joshua Tree Rocks!

Need to get away? Is it Spring or Fall? Is it the weekend of Coachella? If you answered Yes, Yes, No, then consider a daytrip to Joshua Tree National Monument. Known for its namesake trees and mounds of boulders, this park boasts a landscape unlike anywhere else in the world. And, it’s so vast, you won’t encounter any crowds.

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Under a bright blue sky, the visuals are stunning. In the spring, desert bloom can be found everywhere, sprouting from the Joshua Trees themselves or popping up from cracks. Rocks upon rocks upon rocks will incite questions from kids – how did these get here? So be prepared with an answer.

Well-maintained trails that start from the parking lots are flat and require little to no rock climbing. The popular Barker Dam trail is short and leads you to a picturesque water source (if it rained during the winter). But there’s no doubt you’ll be tempted to go off the path for some bouldering that ranges from beginner level to advanced.

With so many low boulder formations to climb on, this is a natural playground for ages 5 and older. Easy climbs will teach them a different kind of problem solving. When hiking with children, it’s best to stay close to the parking are and have them wear a bike or skate helmet for safety.

The environment can be harsh – extreme cold, extreme heat, prickly cactuses. Check the weather before you go and be prepared with layers of clothing, hats, sunglasses and sunscreen. Dress in jeans, a long-sleeved light shirt, a hat, hiking shoes or shoes with a good tread, a bandana to keep the sun off of their necks.

Eat before or after your day at the park at Crossroads Cafe, a local fave with an extensive menu.

Hey look, a hidden Mickey…IMG_4298.jpg

The details:

Best time to go: Spring or Fall

Good for: Kids 5+

Watch out for: Cactus spines, agave spikes, rattlesnakes, coyotes

Get there: Interstate 10 to Highway 62

Wear: hiking boots, sunscreen, hat, jeans

Bring: lots of water, snacks, first aid kit

Nearby eats: Crossroads Cafe

74485 National Park Drive 

Twentynine Palms, CA 92277-3597

Paradise Falls @ Wildwood Park

Yes, that’s water. Real water. And not just water, but a waterFALL?!  Add this: it’s not far from Los Angeles. One of a handful of waterfall hikes in Los Angeles, Paradise Falls hike in Wildwood Park is an easy-to-moderate 20-minute hike suitable for kids. Some adventurous parents of young kids might even be able to do the hike with strollers, but there are some fairly steep sets of steps.  In all, there are 14 hiking trails in Wildwood Park.

An easy flowing stream tumbles gently over boulder after boulder before it reaches a picturesque 40-foot drop known as Paradise Falls.  The falls can be reached from several directions, but for little legs the Teepee Trail might be the easiest and quickest. if you’ve got time, there are plenty of areas to explore in Wildwood Park, including a natural cave called Indian Cave.  The scenery is spectacular with mountains rising up on all sides, and the trails are lined with native coastal live oaks and the scent of 3 types of sage.

Wildwood Park is about 30 miles from Los Angles off the 101 Freeway in the city of Thousand Oaks. There are several picnic tables along the trails and water fountains. And another perk, there’s a great playground only minutes away from the park. Because nature is awesome, but to kids there’s nothing better than a playground.

The details:

Best time to go: Fall, Spring, Winter

Hours: 7am – sunset

Good for: Kids 4+

Watch out for: wildlife; mountain bikers.

Get there: 101 Freeway from central LA or the Valley; CA 23 from Santa Clarita and Simi Valley

Wear: hiking boots, sunscreen, hat

Bring: water, picnic, snacks, hiking stick, sling or carrier for younger children, first aid kit

928 W. Avenida de los Arboles
Thousand Oaks, CA  91360