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California: National Parks

Updated: Sep 16, 2023

Yosemite, giant sequoias, tallest trees in the world, mono lake, mass tourism, information and experiences.

Half dome yosemite

Sequoia national park + Kings Canyon

Certainly one of the most impressive parks in the world. Standing in front of these kings of nature will not leave you indifferent. The trip is worth it. If you want to visit ''General Grant'' and ''General Sherman'', they are about 1 hour away by car and the fastest road between them is a whole car journey! Personally this kind of driving amuses me but I went there in the summer. In winter, the road might be closed, and I completely understand why.

You may be surprised to learn that the fascinating grandeur of these trees is due to… fire! Indeed, the controlled fires of the groves help the young redwoods to obtain a little more light in this forest where breakthroughs are becoming increasingly rare. In the park, you can even observe huge redwoods that are half burned at their base.

It's probably hard to imagine how huge those trees are until you've seen a sequoia in your lifetime. Let's try to give you an idea.

Near General Sherman, the “redwood tunnel” will immediately give you an idea. As the title of the attraction says, there is a redwood tree lying on its side (unfortunately felled) and hollowed out in the center so we can walk upright inside without needing to bend over. But it's not the tallest tree, yet.

tunnel sequoia waling inside a tree
Sequoia Tunnel

General Sherman is considered the tallest tree in the world. You really feel insignificant next to him. I still remember my astonishment. I looked at the person who was having their picture taken directly in front, I let out a little sound of amazement and I put my hand over my mouth, moved. Then I started looking up at the sky to see how big it was. I had to bend my back backwards, the ideal would have been to kneel in front of this king of nature. At some point in my life, I have felt the power of mother nature. General Sherman was one of those moments. I thanked life for allowing us to see these natural beauties.

people near biggest tree in the world general sherman
General Sherman Base

General Sherman is 275 feet (83 m) tall. The equivalent of approximately 8 school buses. It takes up a space of 11 meters in diameter at its base (a school bus could hide behind and you would hardly see it). I was really looking forward to seeing his little brother, General Grant, who is only slightly shorter than General Sherman, 267 feet (81 meters), 29 feet (8 meters) at his base.

general grant head sequoia
General Grant head ( à 267 feets/81 meters)

Then imagine a forest filled with these giant trees. Because if we tell the exploits of these two giant brothers, we should not forget that they have at their side an army of soldiers, almost equaling them. It is a unique place on Earth. Although there are a lot of tourists in the place, everyone is a bit quieter, as if they don't want to wake up this army, ready to exterminate us from the face of the planet for all the crimes we have committed. Yes, I felt the shame they had towards us, they were so wise, having lived between 2000 and 3000 years.

If you plan to visit more than one national park in the United States

Money-saving tip: get the ''America the beautiful'' pass:

Please note that only national parks are included in this offer.

Which parks are included in the ''America the Beautiful'' pass?

Yosemite National Park

dear in the wood

One of the most popular parks in the United States, it is a victim of its beauty. In 2016 (the year I went), the park recorded a visitation record with 5 million visitors. I understand now why I felt like I had entered a carnival. Just to park was a demanding task, there was not enough to accommodate everyone. A reservation system was not yet in place. Now, it is necessary to book to climb on the famous half-dome. I also advise you to choose your season to visit the park as well as the day of the week, which could make a huge difference on your experience.

It was precisely for human reasons that visionary John Muir lobbied for Yosemite to be protected from redwood cutting and overgrazing, among other things. Yosemite is the grandfather of the world's national parks founded in 1890, along with Yellowstone National Park, founded in 1872.

mountain Half dome

Americans have a particular vision of their national parks and travel a lot in their own country as a family. Parents bequeath these landscapes and experiences to their children. Add to that foreign tourists, who are curious to also see these American marvels. With the growing world population, it is therefore normal to see an increase in visitors.

John Muir did not have it easy to realize his vision. Because even after the area was protected, imagine that people continued to destroy nature illegally. Patrols had to be reinforced. To do this, he created the Sierra Club, probably one of the first organizations for the protection of the environment in the United States, and invited President Theodore Roosevelt in 1903 to camp for 3 days near Glacier point hoping that falls in love with the park. And it worked, because there is definitely a particular energy there. But to find it, I think it would be necessary to camp there for almost a week, to immerse yourself in nature and what it has to communicate to you. Planning is the key to a successful stay in these lands sacred to Americans for over a century.

If you plan to visit more than one national park in the United States

Money-saving tip: get the ''America the beautiful'' pass:

Please note that only national parks are included in this offer.

Which parks are included in the ''America the Beautiful'' pass?

Mono Lake

Exceptional alkaline lake because its water is three times saltier than the ocean, it welcomes millions of migratory birds every year. Its ecosystem does not support fish in this lake, however, life has managed to settle there. Small shrimp unique in the world, the brine shrimp, have adapted to this environment located in this caldera (former mouth of a volcano). You can imagine that the birds love it. There is also a little fly named Ephydra hians who has found the secret to apnea. It surrounds itself with a small ball of air and can dive into the water to feed on micro-algae. In short, Mono Lake could just as well be located on another planet.

2 old barrils in lake for water level
Mono lake

Yet it is popular for a whole other reason: columns of tufas. They are volcanic geologies which, with the reaction of the heat attenuated by the cold of the water, were formed 750,000 years ago during a magmatic explosion. Since Mono Lake is rather opaque than clear, these peculiarly shaped towers are reflected in the water like a mirror.

rock mirror in lake mono
Mirror effect on Mono Lake

Unfortunately, four rivers were diverted to feed the Los Angeles Aqueduct, leaving only one river following its course towards Mono Lake. I fear that with the current environmental condition of the planet which is not improving, the water will continue to sink, depriving us of marveling at the beauty of the lake. During my visit, there were huge forest fires ravaging the area, which shrouded the lake in a mystical mist.

Leave everything and travel, become a nomad. Many people dream of it, but many also fear doing it. Be inspired by the adventures of an independent travel filmmaker who challenged herself to make 10 travel films around the world and become a full-time nomad.

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