— Fresno: 7-Day Sequoia, San Simeon, & Monterey Loop —
Big Sur's beaches are so romantic—even Tim may have held my hand!
Big Sur has some of the most picturesque coastline
Monterey Bay Aquarium jellyfish
You'll be dwarfed by the majestic sequoias
The road from Three Rivers to Sequoia National Park is breathtaking the day after a winter storm
Snowshoe through Tunnel Log
The drive up to Sequoia National Park from Three Rivers has some incredible overlooks
The lower elevations in Sequoia National Park typically don't have any snow
The extravagant Hearst Castle indoor pool
Creepy sculptures at Hearst Castle
Even ceilings are over-the-top at Hearst Castle (ha ha!)
The Hearst Castle guesthouse isn't any less ornate
Young male elephant seals hang out on the beach near San Simeon in December
Young elephant seals fighting—you gotta see it to believe how funny it is
Female elephant seals give birth & raise young on a beach rookery just north of San Simeon
Elephant seals fighting—the longer the snout the older the seal
An adorable young elephant seal trying to wiggle up out of the water
650 miles, 7 days, 14 hours driving Best Time to Go: Dec - Mar
Day 1: Arrive in Fresno, drive to Three Rivers, rent chains, and then head into Sequoia National Park, check out the giant General Sherman sequoia and other sites, then head back to your hotel in Three Rivers.
Day 2: Eat breakfast in town, and then drive back into Sequoia National Park, rent snowshoes at the lodge and take the shuttle to some trails near General Sherman tree or Tunnel Log. Return snowshoes and head back down the mountain to Three Rivers.
Day 3: Take a 2 hour and 15 minute scenic drive to Paso Robles wine country, sample wineries, shop, eat, and relax. Maybe see some museums—pioneer, air, or auto.
Day 4: Drive to San Simeon on the California coast, visit Hearst Castle, see elephant seals on the beach near Piedras Blancas, drive back to San Simeon for the night.
Day 5: See elephant seals one last time, walk among redwood trees, look for sand dollars on the beach, eat lunch on the coast, drive through Big Sur, and go for a hike. Spend the night in Monterey and hit Cannery Row for dinner.
Day 6: Go the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium, rent some kayaks, take a whale watching tour, or go for a 2-hour sailing tour. Then make the 2-1/2 hour drive back to Fresno.
Day 7: Spend whatever time you have before your flight exploring Fresno, then fly back home.
— Trip Details by Day —
Eat breakfast in town, and then drive back into Sequoia National Park. Rent snowshoes or cross country skis at the store/lodge. Then go to Wolverton Meadow to take the shuttle to some trails near either the General Sherman tree We really enjoyed the Congress Trail. We sort of made it into a loop (go figure!) with a couple other trails to maximize the number of sequoia groves we'd pass by.
Or, if you'd rather and have the extra energy you can take the shuttle a little farther down the road and hike into the Tunnel Log and Moro Rock. Just be super careful—people have slipped and died at Moro Rock before. These trails don't go by nearly as many sequoias.
When you're thoroughly exhausted, just return your snowshoes or skis and head back down the mountain to Three Rivers and return your chains.
Lodging: Stay in San Simeon. The hotels aren't great, but beggars can't be choosers.
Stop in and see the elephant seals one more time as you drive north on Route 1. Once is never enough of the hilariousness, plus they're more active in the mornings.
Then continue north to see the Southern Redwood Botanical Area. This is the farthest south Redwoods can be found in California. Take a walk through these majestic trees and be amazed. Redwoods are remotely related to sequoias, but live in very different climates. While sequoias only grow at high elevations, redwoods only grow on the coast because they need the humidity and mist coming off the ocean.
You can also stop at the Alder Creek Botanical Area or Sand Dollar Beach (one of the few worthy surf spots in Big Sur) before getting lunch around Lucia. Keep heading north on Route 1 and stop at any of the amazingly beautiful spots you see along the way and go for a hike at one of the many trailheads.
Drive to Monterey and have dinner on the infamous Cannery Row.
— Recommended Trip Variations —