Jackson and I love camping—the crisp morning air, unlimited hiking opportunities, sitting around the bonfire, you name it. A few months ago we went to Yosemite National Park and had the most AMAZING time. The only downside was that Yosemite is a very popular park and all the campgrounds were booked so we had to stay at an Airbnb a couple hours away. Although it was one of the best trips we’ve ever been on, we knew the next time we visited a national park we wanted to camp there.
We don’t usually get to go on vacations in September-March because of Jackson’s work schedule, but this year Jackson was able to sneak away between summer sessions ending and school starting up. Because we loved being among the tall evergreens in Yosemite, we decided to book a campsite at Sequoia National Park.
The days leading up to our trip were pretty stressful—food prepping, packing, getting everything squared away at work—but on the morning we left, we left all that stress behind.
The road was quite windy getting to the park, but it made sense since our campsite was at 6,700 ft of elevation and we live at 0 ft.
We pulled into the Lodgepole Campground and as soon as we stepped out of the car we were greeted with crisp fall weather—our favorite! We began setting up the tent and putting all our food and toiletries in the bear box.
Once everything was put away, we sat down at the picnic table for a chicken and bagged salad lunch. Somehow these taste even better in nature.
We meal prepped a ton of healthy food and tried to plan out our meals as best we could, but after we ate lunch we both felt a little bummed we didn’t pack more junk/snack foods. After all, that’s one of the best parts about camping!
We walked over to the park store and visitor center to plan out our hikes for the next few days. We were happy to find that the store had plenty of snacks, including ice cream, if we felt super desperate for something other than what we packed which put our stomachs at ease.
Because we’d been in the car for over six hours, we thought we’d go on an easy 4 mile hike to Tokopah Falls before making dinner. It was chillier than we expected, but refreshing all at the same time.
We got back to the campsite around 6:30 pm and started making dinner. We prepped a Mexican style sweet potato hash with black beans, corn, peppers, and onions. Jackson cooked it on our camping stove and we scooped it with tortilla chips and salsa drizzled on top. We ate this for the next three days and looked forward to it each night!
When we finally sat down to eat the sun was setting and with the dark came a whole lot of cold. This made us all the more grateful for a warm meal to enjoy. We were not prepared for 30℉ weather. As soon as we finished dinner, we rushed to the campground sink to wash our dishes and got ready for bed as quickly as possible. We would have made a fire but didn’t bring, purchase, or collect any wood at this point.
It wasn’t until we crawled into our sleeping bags and piled on the blankets that we felt the tiniest bit of relief from the cold.
The next morning we woke up at 6:30 am and nature was calling. We crawled out of our mound of blankets to get to the restrooms. We didn’t think it was possible, but it was even colder than the night before! But since we were awake, we figured we’d cook a hot breakfast to warm up a bit.
Jackson made an egg scramble with onions and peppers. It was delicious, but even warm food didn’t motivate us to get our hiking things together so we crawled back into the tent to warm up for a few hours.
At 9:30 am we finally got the courage to throw on our hiking packs and hike to Twin Lakes. This was a 14 mile round trip hike from 6,700 ft to 10,200 ft. of elevation. We weaved between large trees for most of the hike which was gorgeous! There were very few people on the trail, but we ran into a few friendly backpackers who said it was well worth the trek.
The last two miles to the lakes were rough. The elevation was steep and rocky, but once we made it we sat and enjoyed the view—and a few snacks of course.
We made it back around 3:30 pm and brought with us a few good branches to build a campfire. Jackson got started on the fire and it was the most incredible way to relax after a long day of hiking. We sat around the cozy fire to stay warm—talking about anything and everything, sitting in peaceful silence, and being fully present with each other.
We finished off the fire wood just in time to start making dinner. After the previous night’s cold spell, we were determined to have everything cleaned up before it got dark and cold. We crawled into the tent just after the sun went down and read until we couldn’t keep our eyes open anymore.
The next morning we delayed getting out of the tent as long as we could to avoid the cold which worked out pretty well. We were able to enjoy our egg scramble and overnight oats for breakfast as it started to warm up. The previous night had gone so much better than the first which made us all the more excited about staying for a third.
When we planned our trip we were only able to reserve a campsite for two out of our three nights since everything else was booked, but we figured we’d try to snag a walk up campsite for the final night. The park rangers suggested we try Dorst Creek Campground which was just a few miles up the road.
We packed up and headed to the campground around 10 am where we found quite a few open sites! The one we chose was much bigger than the rest with plenty of privacy.
Once our site was set up, Jackson collected and chopped wood so we could have a campfire that evening. We were really starting to get the hang of this cold weather camping thing.
Next, we set out to see the world’s largest tree, General Sherman. This is one of the most popular things to do at Sequoia National Park which meant the trails and parking lots were quite a bit busier than our previous hikes, but it was absolutely worth it. The General Sherman Tree was ginormous in every way, shape, and form. And all throughout the grove were plenty of giant sequoias, some of which you could even walk through.
The trees made us feel tiny—like hobbits away from the Shire or Hogwarts students in the Forbidden Forest, but with the sun shining of course.
The trail we took brought us to the Giant Forest Museum where we learned about the park’s history and chowed down on some snacks before heading back.
We hiked 6.5 miles that day, more than we expected but glad we did it. Jackson started the fire when we got back and we basked in the heat while it lasted.
As it got colder, we made our final Mexican sweet potato hash meal and rushed to the tent before the sun finished setting.
On our final morning in the park, we got creative with our breakfast since our food supply drastically dwindled. We made a green bean, tortilla chip, salsa, egg scramble—and it was surprisingly delicious!
After breakfast we packed up the car and decided to go for one final hike on Big Baldy Trail. It was a 4.5 mile hike in the frigid morning air—nothing a few layers, hat, and gloves couldn’t handle.
At the top of Big Baldy was a beautiful panoramic view of the sequoias. It was the perfect hike to end our trip.
From Big Baldy, we decided to make one final stop at General Grant—the second largest tree in the world. We made a quick loop through the General Grant Grove to see the large trees and headed back to reality.
We felt so refreshed and grateful for the time we got to spend away from responsibilities and cell service. It was almost painful turning our phones back on, but we figured it was time we let our friends and family know we weren’t completely off the grid.
Even though it was colder than we expected, there was a part of me that really enjoyed the 30-60°F fluctuations in temperature each day. It reminded me of home and how fun it is experience the changing seasons. Nonetheless, we are back in sunny and 75℉ days in Santa Barbara—and that’s quite alright with me.