After taking in the incredible panoramic views of the Sierra Nevada Foothills at Beetle Rock, we headed across the street to check out the Giant Forest Museum. But just as we walked up to the entrance, we watched a park shuttle pull up and unload. It was perfect timing to hop on the shuttle and head out to Moro Rock, Tunnel Log, Crescent Meadow, and Tharp’s Log.
As you enter Sequoia National Park from the Ash Mountain entrance in Three Rivers, a large granite dome called Moro Rock juts out of the mountain thousands of feet above the highway. Moro Rock rises to 6,725 feet elevation but to reach the top, you only have to climb the last 300 feet.
Moro Rock Trail
The free park shuttle dropped us off right at the Moro Rock Trailhead and it was clear that THIS was the place to be. The trailhead and what we could see of the narrow trail was totally packed with people.
Moro Rock Trail is a 0.25 mile, steep, narrow, out-and-back trail that totals 0.5 mile.
While some of the trail is a paved pathway, most of it is made up on rock-cut staircases. To climb the trail from start to summit, you’ll climb 400 stair steps and traverse a few narrow ledges with intense drop-offs! This is not a trail for those afraid of heights.
The Moro Rock Stairways
Built in 1917, the first stairway leading to the summit of Moro Rock was made of wood. It deteriorated significantly by the late 1920s, and was replaced by the present Moro Rock Stairway, designed by engineer Frank Diehl and landscape architect Merel Sager. Construction of the concrete and stone stairway took place over the summer of 1931. By the end of the summer, the new steps were complete, and for the first time casual visitors could access Moro Rock’s summit.
The 797 foot stairway blends nicely with the rock’s natural surfaces and handrails (added at a later date) make the climb safer.
As I mentioned, the trail was very crowded, so we had to stop fairly often to either let hikers traveling the opposite direction pass us or wait for hikers ahead of us to navigate a tight space. While the trail may seem a bit precarious, we did see several families with very young children climbing it together — they just went slow and were extra careful.
The Views From Moro Rock
Your legs may get tired climbing the 400 stairs to the summit of Moro Rock, but the breathtaking views along the way and the spectacular 360 degree views at the top are worth the effort.
- To the north you can see out over the top of Giant Forest and the Generals Highway weaving 3,000 feet up the side of the canyon to Alta Peak and Mount Silliman.
- To the west, you can see Hanging Rock balancing on the rim of the canyon and the city of Three Rivers, Lake Kaweah, and the hazy San Joaquin Valley at the bottom of the canyon.
- To the east, you can see up the Middle Fork of the Kaweah River toward the Great Western Divide of the High Sierra that divides the Kaweah River drainage and the Kern River drainage on the other side. This wall of mountains includes Triple Divide Peak, Loin Rock, Mount Stewart, Lawson Peak, Kaweah Queen, Black Kaweah, Lippincott Mountain, and Mount Eisen (from north to south).
Trail markers and signs provide details on the region’s geography, point out prominent peaks, and warn of lightning strikes. The climb up this twisting, turning rock staircase to the summit of Moro Rock is one of the best hikes in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
Know Before You Go
About Moro Rock:
- Moro Rock was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
- In summer, free park shuttles run from Giant Forest Museum to the Moro Rock parking area. On weekends, the road closes to private vehicles and shuttles are the only way to reach Moro Rock and Crescent Meadow. On weekdays, the road remains open, but the small parking area may fill.
- Peregrine falcons nest on Moro Rock in summer and there are usually climbing closures for technical rock climbers to protect nests. These closures don’t affect hikers using the stairway.
- Crescent Meadow Road: This narrow road winds through the Giant Forest Sequoia Grove. Along the way, drivers pass the Buttress Tree, Parker Group, and Tunnel Log. When the road is closed, you can park at Giant Forest Museum and ride the free shuttle to see these features.
- In winter, Moro Rock and Crescent Meadow Road closes due to snow and the stairway closes due to the danger of the icy or snowy steps.
About Sequoia National Park:
- Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park are basically treated as the same park — even the National Park Service combined both parks into one website.
- The combined area of these two parks is 865,952 acres. Most of it is wilderness back country.
- The parks are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Occasionally, winter storms will close roads leading into the parks until they can be plowed.
- Admission fees are good for seven days and both parks. They are $35.00/vehicle, $30.00/motorcycle, $20.00/individual entry on foot or bicycle, $15.00/person for a non-commercial group.
- There are five free admission days: the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., the first day of National Park Week, the National Park Service Birthday, National Public Lands Day, and Veterans Day.
- Weather varies a lot by season and elevation, which ranges from 1,370 feet to 14,494 feet. Bring layers and be prepared!
- Cell service is not available in most areas. You may get service in Grant Grove and at the Foothills Visitor Center. WiFi is available at the Foothills Visitor Center, the Grant Grove Visitor Center, and in the lobby of Wuksachi Lodge.
- Pets are not permitted on any trails at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. In campgrounds and picnic areas, pets must be kept on a leash of no more than six feet at all times.