Arbor Day Done Right: Sequoia National Park

Arbor Day: the mysterious holiday of trees. No one knows who started it (J. Sterling Morton), when it was first created (1872), or when it’s going to happen (the last Friday in April). All we know is one day each year we’re supposed to be arboreal for 24 hours. How better to celebrate it than spending the weekend reveling in Earth’s most badass forest: Sequoia National Park?


Sequoias are the biggest trees on earth, no big deal, but their overachieving doesn’t stop there: they are also the largest single thing on the planet (by volume). As giant and red and majestic as they are, there’s only so much tree ogling you can do before you start making the park rangers uncomfortable. So, what else do you do with your 48 hours in Sequoia? See below:

Where to stay: John Muir Lodge


If you’re not looking to camp, check into the John Muir Lodge. It has a variety of accommodation options, from traditional hotel rooms to cabins to tent cabins that stare off into the Great Western Divide. The lodge is surrounded by huge public balconies for taking in the scenery, a roaring fire in the lobby, and  really shitty internet connection. It is definitely a comfortable, mostly unplugged, escape to nature.

What to do:

Well, we’ve established that there’s only so much staring at trees one can reasonably do– fortunately, Sequoia/Kings Canyon has myriad options for entertainment.

  • Hiking: There are dozens of trails to choose from, ranging in difficulty and even offering paved options. Cedar Grove Trails has a not-to-miss one: Mist Falls. It’s a relatively easy 8-mile round trip, but you get to see incredible rapids and the largest waterfall in the park. If you’d rather stay true to the tree theme of the weekend, check out the Grant Grove trails where you can see the famous General Grant Tree or get a phenomenal view of Redwood Canyon and the high Sierras.
  • Horseback Riding: If you’ve got your own steed, feel free to bring him/her, but BYOH is not a requirement. There are 1-2 hour guided trips that take you through varying routes. It’s a fun and exciting way to experience the park. Reservations are often required.
  • Rock Climbing: You can’t climb the trees, but if it’s hard to keep your feet on the ground, scale some giant rock walls instead. If you choose this option, it will take up most of your weekend as most climbing locations are about a day’s hike away. The options include Chimney Rock, immortalized in the pixels of “Oregon Trail.”
  • Fly Fishing: Sexy rubber overalls, standing waist deep in rolling water like the master of the river, and perfecting the 10-2 flick: frankly, fly fishing is the best fishing. Doesn’t matter your skill level, Sierra Fly Fisher will provide all the gear and instruction you need, offering half or full day fishing excursions in places like Lewis Creek, Bubbs Creek, or Hume Lake. Anyone 16 or older will need a fishing license (you can get one in the park).

Arbor Day only comes once a year, but National Parks are forever. While you should definitely visit them all (most have trees!), there are 410 of them, so the National Parks Service created the fantastically useful “Find Your Park” tool to help your find and care for your favorites.