Shortly after leaving the Foothills Visitor Center, as we began to climb the mountain into Sequoia National Park, we came upon a giant boulder perched above the road and people were standing underneath it and on top of it! Say what?!
Tunnel Rock is a giant, flat granite boulder that caps a tunnel dug by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1938 for the original roadway.
The tunnel, which is really a big balanced rock, was closed to vehicle traffic in the mid-1990s as cars and SUVs have just gotten too big to pass through it. Today the main road bypasses the tunnel and it’s now a tourist attraction.
Tunnel Rock sits on the left side of Generals Highway and on the right across the street, is a small roadside pullout used as a parking area. Visitors can park alongside the road and follow a paved path underneath the rock. If you’re adventurous, you can scramble up the embankment and walk out on top of Tunnel Rock for a great photo!
A little further up the highway is Hospital Rock, a large quartzite rock adorned with ancient pictographs. To check it out, we parked in the parking lot for the Hospital Rock Picnic Area. It has outdoor exhibits, water, grills, and flush toilets. This is the last chance for a break before the long winding climb to the popular Giant Forest area of the national park.
Across the street, where the highway intersects with the road to Buckeye Flat Campground, is the start of the super short trail to Hospital Rock.
Hospital Rock is the easiest place in Sequoia National Park to see authentic Native American pictographs and nearly 50 historic mortars where the Potwisha ground acorns into flour.
Evidence found by archeologists proves the area was once occupied by approximately 500 Native Americans belonging to the Potwisha sub-group of the Monache, or Western Mono Indians, as far back as 1350 A.D.
In 1860, Hale Tharp and his brother-in-law John Swanson were exploring the Giant Forest when Swanson sustained an injury to his leg. Swanson was transported to this area where the injury was treated by local Indians. In 1873, James Everton recovered from a gunshot wound at the same site, which resulted in Hale Tharp naming the spot Hospital Rock.
Know Before You Go
- Tunnel Rock and Hospital Rock are located directly off Generals Highway in Sequoia National Park in Three Rivers, California 93271.
- Hospital Rock was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.
- Near Hospital Rock, there is a short trail down to the banks of the Kaweah River. Be careful! Drowning is the main cause of death in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
- 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 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.
- 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.