While we don’t get this question often, they are mixed up quite a bit and understandably so, as they border each other and they have essentially the same name.
If you are asking this question then you are likely looking for the ‘hard facts’ of what makes them different and not so much the academic differences between the two managing agencies and how that translates to the park and the forest. In a future post I will dive into that subject.
Sequoia National Park is managed by the National Park Service and from Los Angeles is a 3.5 hour drive to the Foothills Visitor Center, which is the southernmost entrance. From here you are a one hour drive to the Giant Forest Grove, featuring the famous General Sherman Tree. General Sherman is known as “the largest living thing on earth.” From the starting point of our Kern River rafting trips, which are located in Wofford Heights, the drive to the Foothills Visitor Center is 2.5 hours. Keep in mind, the fee to enter the park is $35 per vehicle.
Sequoia National Forest is managed by the Forest Service and from Los Angeles is a 3 hour drive to the Kern River Ranger District Kernville Office, which is your best bet as a jumping off point. From the rangers office (which is very much like a small visitors center) you are a one hour drive to the Trail of 100 Giants, which offers a beautiful stroll through a large grove of Sequoias. Our Rafting Center is located seven minutes away from the Kernville Office and about an hour ten from the Trail of 100 Giants. While there is no visitors fee to enter Sequoia National Forest, there is a $10 parking fee at the Trail of 100 Giants parking lot.
Which one should you visit? From the perspective of a guest booked on one of our rafting trips, it makes far more sense to go explore the Trail of 100 Giants than to venture into Sequoia National Park, based on drive time alone.
I should note, that as a point of simplicity I’ve omitted the fact that the Trail of 100 Giants is technically located in Giant Sequoia Monument, which is different than both the National Forest and National Park.
My proofreader would also like me to mention that “hard” facts and “academic” facts are something I made up and sounds a bit ridiculous. So be it.