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Sequoia National Park may be famous for, well, sequoias, but there’s lots more backcountry action in the epic park than tree-gazing. Take this moderate 11-mile loop: You won’t see any of the monster trees, but with all the open meadows and breathtaking views, you won’t miss ‘em. Begin among lodgepole pine, white fir, and incense cedar on the Lodgepole and Sherman Tree Trail. At mile 1.5, turn east on the Wolverton Trail, passing through sugar and ponderosa pines into a zone dominated by red fir.
Just past the junction with the Lakes Trail, turn south on the Long Meadow Loop Trail and hike a half-mile to the Alta Trail connector. Head east, climbing the wooded slopes to 8,640-foot Panther Gap. From this spectacular overlook, you’ll see jagged, snowy High Sierra summits to the east, Coast Range peaks 100 miles to the west, and the Middle Fork Kaweah River canyon, thousands of feet below. Scout for a campsite nearby (camping is only permitted in the Panther Gap area and no water is available; find water a mile east on the Alta Trail). The next morning, head down on the Lakes Trail, travel west to the Wolverton Trail, and retrace your steps to Lodgepole Campground.
Info: Bear canisters strongly recommended. $15 backcountry permit required. (559) 565-4480; nps.gov/seki
-Hike provided by Pamela Collins, Student Conservation Association alumna
Location: 36.6047744750977, -118.725814819336