9 things to do in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park…

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park in California is located high up in the Sierra Nevada mountain range.  There are two entrances into the park, the 198 from the Ash Mountain entrance is my favourite.  With 130 curves on the drive and 12 switchbacks it is quite an experience(!) and climbs quickly up in altitude (you can feel your ears popping) with some fantastic views of the mountains and further up the enormous trees.  It’s probably not the best route to take if travelling in a large RV though.  The other entrance, Big Stump is a slightly easier drive on the 180 from Fresno and a more direct route into Kings Canyon.  Entrance to the park costs $30 for 7 days, fuel up on the drive in, on the 180 there’s a fuel station at Clinton’s Junction or at Three Rivers on the 198.  Once in Sequoia there is no fuel except for Stony Creek Village in the summer.  The only other option is Hume Lake a short drive outside the national park boundary, if in dia need John Muir lodge provides fuel but at a price of around $8 per gallon!  Two parks in one Sequoia and Kings Canyon are famous for the huge trees which grace the high country forests here.  Sequoias are the largest trees in the world and live for thousands of years, some of them are so big you can walk through them.  Read on for my nine must do’s up in the High Sierra.


1. Climb Moro Rock
This huge dome-shaped rock has 400 steps carved into the rock face, climb them to reach the top at an elevation of 6725 feet.  If that doesn’t sound hard enough, there’s also the altitude to contend with, everything feels a lot harder work at this height!  The route up is an interesting one, the views are beautiful but I had to keep an eye on my feet!  At one point it looks like the path ends, instead you take a sharp right and continue through a narrow passage way between the rock. With only a tiny metal hand rail guarding the edges at some points and sometimes nothing guarding the edge it feels a little scary at times so be sure to wear some decent footwear and don’t be put off the 0.25 mile climb is well worth it.  There are plenty of spots to stop on the way up to admire the beautiful never-ending views and to catch your breath too.  Once at the top the panoramic views are breathtaking, walking along to the end of the rock feels like you are on top of the world.  The Great Western Divide, Mount Whitney, huge canyons and Highway 198, twisting and turning up the mountains side can all be seen.  Don’t venture up Moro Rock during thunder storms, it can be extremely dangerous as being so exposed the rock is a magnet for lightning strikes.


2. Drive through a tree
Driving through a tree certainly isn’t something you get to do everyday, Tunnel Log near Moro Rock fell over the road in 1937 and a tunnel 17 feet high and 8 feet high was cut through it.   Go early to avoid the crowds or slightly out of season to have the tree all to yourself.

3. Sleep in a cabin
A stay in a rustic cabin has to be the ultimate national park experience.  Up at 6589 feet surrounded by ancient trees and waking up to crisp, fresh mountain air is wonderful.  I loved staying in Grant Grove Cabins, located in Grant Grove village in Kings Canyon there’s a  shop, post office and a brand new restaurant which is due to be completed in April/May 2017.  No phone signal really makes you feel like you are in the wilderness, if you need to be connected to the world then a short stroll to John Muir Lodge for WiFi and a beer by a roaring fire-place is a nice way to warm up in the chillier months.  Whilst charming the cabin was a little bit rough around the edges, I wouldn’t recommend them for their cleanliness as it urggled more on the shabby than the chic!  Don’t get me wrong it didn’t ruin my stay, the cabins are in a fantastic location and I loved the quickness but a simple hoover, dust and scrub could have made our cabin feel a whole lot better.  Matt, Emily and I stayed in a duplex cabin with two double beds and a bathroom, there are other cabins too with outdoor log burners.  We would have loved to have stayed in one of these but with a baby decided it would be easier to have our own bathroom, as these ones have shared toilet and shower facilities.  Seeing raccoons near our front door was such a novelty, one evening we were having drink on our porch when we were joined by a family of nine, you don’t see that in England!


4. Stargaze
Little to no light pollution in the skies above Sequoia make it an awesome place for stargazing, standing outside our cabin at night I would stare up at the sky for an age not wanting to take my eyes off it for a moment incase I missed something.  Shooting stars and millions of twinkles in the fresh night sky with pretty much no light pollution is just incredible to witness.


5. Watch the sunset
Find a lookout out point and just take in the views of the Big Sierra as the colours change over the mountains and the sun goes down.  We stopped at a viewpoint along Generals Highway to capture these beauties…


6. Walk amongst huge trees
There are so many spots to see big trees, they are hard to miss!  General Sherman Tree in the Giant Forest is the worlds largest tree by volume, with a height of almost 275 feet and a circumference of 102.6 feet it’s a whooper!  To put it into perspective this makes it nearly the same height as the Statue of Liberty.  Grant Grove is home to the General Grant Tree, a short loop passes the tree which is known as ‘The Nation’s Christmas Tree’.  The Fallen Monarch is also on the same loop, take a stroll through a huge length of this fallen tree.  The tree trail can get quite busy but take a short stroll off the beaten track and admire these giants all by yourself.


7. Go bear spotting
I have visited Sequoia National Park twice, on the first trip in August 2015 Matt and I were lucky to have three black bear sightings.  If camping be sure to keep all food and toiletries in a bear box provided to prevent them from being attracted to anything that is scented, not just food but also toiletries.  Anyway back to the sightings…the first sighting was actually in our campground, we had just arrived and parked up our van for the evening when we heard a lot of commotion coming from some other campers, it turns out a mother and baby had wandered into the campground.  One of the ways to get them to leave is by making a lot of noise; we just saw their backs as they disappeared.  The second sighting was a bear casually strolling a short distance away from our van while we were having breakfast and the third was on my birthday.  We were on our way back from a hike to Tokapah Falls when we spotted a bear along the river, we watched it cross over and pass the footpath we were on, it didn’t seem to notice us or if it did it luckily wasnt interested in us and foraged around in the undergrowth for a while before disappearing.  It was incredible and something I will remember for a long time to come!  For info on bear encounters and how to stay safe visit the Sequoia and Kings Canyon website: www.nps.gov


8. Admire the views
Apart from hiking another way to explore Sequoia is by car, spot huge trees to have selfies by and pull over for beautiful panoramic mountain and forest views.  Make time to stop at viewpoints on Generals Highway, there are some great spots with beautiful views of the High Sierra.  Panoramic Point at Grant Grove Village is the place to see Kings Canyon in all its glory at 7520ft it’s high up!  Mountain peaks, valleys and Hume Lake can all be spotted and benches are conveniently placed to sit and admire the view.  Hume lake in Sequoia National Forest is a 20 minute drive from Grant Grove Village its a nice area for lunch and a stroll.  The drive is also a very scenic one, there are incredible lookout points over Kings Canyon and the twisting Scenic Byway to Cedar Grove below.


9. Take a hike
There are so many places to walk in Sequoia from short strolls to overnight backcountry hikes.  My favourite walk has to be the trail to Tokopah Falls from Lodgepole campground, at just over 4 miles there and back it’s such a scenic hike. Huge granite cliffs tower high above as you pass through forest along the Kaweah river and by alpine meadows. A steady climb up to the falls through a glacial valley, there’s a point where the trail turns into a short clamber around some giant boulders, but that just adds to the fun!  The trail finishes at the falls, sit and just take it all in.  The water cascades down a steep rock face, look back towards the trail and the whole valley opens up, just beautiful.  Look out for bears too, Matt and I spotted one by the river on the walk back.  If this is the only walk you do while in Sequoia then you won’t be disappointed, it ticks all the outdoor adventure boxes!  Another nice walk is Dead Giant Loop which starts from the Grant Tree parking lot, it’s a nice walk to escape the General Grant Tree crowds and a short and straight forward one too.  A 2.2 mile round trip through forest and along Lion Meadow leads to a viewpoint overlooking Sequoia Lake.  It is a  very peaceful place to stop for lunch and although not a long walk it had a nice feeling of remoteness.

Iceland, America and a baby, 2016 has been a good’un!…

This year has been an incredible one, I’ve done less travelling than usual due to being on maternity leave but having Emily has made it the loveliest year for me and being able to take her on adventures around the world even better. I thought I’d look back on the travels and adventures of 2016 and reflect on the differences with a mini adventurer in tow!


January: Iceland
January started off with a trip to Iceland, being 6 months pregnant this was our ‘babymoon’ and the last time I planned to fly before my due date in April. Matt and I spent four days in the Arctic Circle, what an amazing place! We stayed at Loft Hostel in the centre of Reykjavík and explored a lot on foot, the views of the city from the top of the church, Hallgrimskirkja were one of my highlights here. We were lucky enough to see the northern lights on a super jeep tour, drinking hot chocolate while watching the aurora borealis dance across the night sky was an amazing experience. A trip to the south coast included a stop at Reynisfjara, the black sand beach near Vik, seeing waterfalls such as Skógafoss, one of Iceland’s largest and Eyjafjallajökull the volcano that erupted in 2010. My favourite sight on the south coast was walking along the base of a glacier, hearing it crack as it moved and taking photos of the ice blue formations was incredible. On a tour of the Golden Circle we walked between fault lines at Þingvellir National Park, watched the mighty Strokkur geyser explode every few minutes and took photos of Gullfoss waterfall in the freezing cold! The day was rounded up perfectly with a trip to the Secret Lagoon; the Blue Lagoon was closed during our trip so this was the next best thing. Unfortunately I couldn’t go into the hot pool as I was pregnant but Matt loved floating around in the steamy water.


What to do with four days in Iceland
Exploring Iceland’s South Coast
Adventures on the Golden Circle in Iceland
Chasing the Northern Lights in Iceland
Review: Loft Hostel Reykjavik, Iceland
Northern Lights Photography Tips



February: London
In February, Matt and I went to London for a few nights for a wedding and explored Islington, Shoreditch and the market at Spitalfields. Having lived in London for three years while I was at university it was nice to go back and visit areas I had not been to before. We tried out some really great restaurants and cafes and ate a lot of good food!
A foodie weekend in London



April: Emily
April saw the arrival of Emily Louise Dunkinson weighing 6lb 1oz and since then it’s been a whirlwind eight months! Matt and I have always said that we would carry on travelling with a baby but were a little apprehensive about how this would pan out. Once we’d got our heads around the extra packing (who knew someone so small could need so much) we were good to go!
Flying with a baby


August: Cornwall
We started off with a road trip to Cornwall in August; I had a surf and yoga day planned with professional surfer Corinne Evans in Newquay. It was the first time I had surfed since being pregnant, it was so nice to get back on a board and meet some like-minded ladies. Three nights in Cornwall meant there was time for lots of beach walks and relaxing too and Emily at four months old seemed to love her first trip away.
Surfing in Cornwall with Corinne Evans


September: Italy
In September we went to Italy for two weeks to explore the southern region of Puglia. This was Emily’s first flight and it took a while to get my head round all the palaver of what liquids we could take through airport security and how she would be on the flight. Thankfully she was such a good girl and slept a lot, leaving Mum and Dad time for a celebratory G & T! Puglia was beautiful; we stayed in a traditional trullo building and visited some gorgeous towns, swam in the turquoise Mediterranean, strolled around cobbled streets full of white washed buildings and enjoyed spending time with Emily and her grandparents. Eating and drinking was high on the agenda here too, with freshly picked figs and almonds from the trullo gardens and Aperol to be sipped by the pool it was a very indulgent two weeks!
How to spend two weeks in Puglia
Exploring the trulli town of Alberobello


October/November: America
During October and November we spent some time in America. Visiting family in California was so nice and Emily got to meet her cousins for the first time. Being in America for Halloween was fantastic, fancy dress and trick or treating in a neighbourhood that pulls all the stops out was an awesome experience! Matt, Emily and I also went on a road trip to Sequoia National Park. The 7 hours drive was well worth it as our rustic cabin high up in the Sierra Nevada Mountains at 6,500 feet was very welcoming. Stargazing, taking photos of giant trees, hiking with some incredible views, driving through a tree, watching the sunset behind the mountains and climbing the 400 steps to the top of Moro Rock are just some of the adventures we had there, all with Emily strapped to our backs! Back on the coast we watch surfers at Swamis, enjoyed brunch in Encinitas and visited Temecula for wine tasting and lunch. I was blown away with how well Emily coped with jetlag, she seemed to do better than me and she was so good on the long flights.
As any parent is aware it takes time to adjust to looking after a tiny human and it has been hard to keep up with writing on my blog along with my freelance work at the same time as being a Mum. I’ll often put Emily down for a nap with grand plans of getting some work done and a blog post, then I’ll hang some washing up, make a cuppa, sit down, feel all like ‘yeah I’ve got this being a Mum and writing thing nailed’ jot down a paragraph and then Emily will wake up!  I’m not complaining as I am completely in love with her, I think it’s just something I’m still learning to get used to. So my new years resolution is to stop beating myself up about it!


December: Somerset

I’m writing this today from Somerset, Matt, Emily and I are staying in a cosy cottage near Cheddar and will be seeing in the new year sat in front of the log burner in the lounge with a bottle of champagne. Travel plans for 2017 are already in motion with the first being a trip to France we’re going with friends by ferry from Portsmouth to Caen. We are staying in a lovely apartment in the fishing village of Port-en-Bessin-Huppain overlooking the seafront near Normandy which is famous for the D-Day Landings. I’ll be going back to work too, which right now seems like a terrifying prospect but at the same time I’m really look forward to flying again and visiting some new destinations, Peru, Costa Rica and Cape Town are just a few of the new routes I’ll be exploring when I return. As cabin crew I think I’ve never really got used to the idea of being ‘grounded’. Having said that I have got used to being in a ‘normal’ routine at home now so it will be interesting to see how I get on with weekly jetlag and 3am starts! But I’m sure surfing in Barbados, shopping in Orlando and a whole nights sleep all to myself will help me get through it! There will be at least one longhaul adventure for the three of us too, Matt and I are currently mulling over some options so watch this space.
Cheers to new adventures in 2017 and Happy New Year to you all!